29 September, 2010

Fortress of If Endorsements

Eagle-eyed readers will notice that I have added an endorsement for Adam Kinzinger for Congress at left. Please give to his campaign, and if you live in the Illinois 11th District, vote for him to replace Debbie Halvorson. The Halvorson campaign's continued smearing of Adam Kinzinger has really pissed me off, and has made me conclude that Halvorson does not deserve to be a US Representative.

Another candidate who I think does not deserve to be re-elected is down in Florida. Alan Grayson represents the Orlando metropolitan area, and he has been smearing his opponent with twisted lies to such an extent that even FactCheck.Org has cried foul. So, here is my official endorsement of his opponent, Daniel Webster.


Over in California ("Kah-li-forn-ya"), Van Tran is fighting representative Loretta Sanchez... who has been responding to her opponent by waging a campaign tinged with racism.  Tensions between the the districts sizable Hispanic and Vietnamese communities have been rising for years, and Sanchez recently sought to take advantage of that by appealing to her Hispanic base, telling them that the Republicans and the Vietnamese were conspiring to steal the election from the Hispanics.  For this and other race-baiting transgressions, I would like to say: Van Tran for Congress:


Here's a guy who is basically in a longshot campaign.  Sean Bielat is running against Barney Franks in the Massachusetts 4th District.  Now, normally that would mean he was essentially the GOP sacrificial lamb.  But this year Franks goes into the election cycle wounded politically, in a year that is shaping up to be unkind to Democrats.  Whats more, he's in a district that heavily voted for Scott Brown earlier this year.  So if there is any year where a chance exists to unseat Barney Franks from his perch, this is it.

Sean Bielat for Congress (Massachusetts, 4th District)

 Sean Duffy gets my endorsement for his wonderful ads:

Joel Demos likewise gets my endorsement for the same reason (though he is campaigning in a district so heavily Democrat that he is basically tilting at windmills):


That's it for the moment.  Gonna think about whether or not to make some other endorsements, particularly in various Senate races.

28 September, 2010

Communism's Nuremburg (City Journal)

Guy Sorman at City Journal (a blog which, I must confess, I had not heard of until now) has a very interesting piece on the trials of Communist Khmer Rouge leaders, currently going on in Cambodia.

What the Khmer Rouge brought to Cambodia was in fact real Communism. There was no radical distinction, either conceptually or concretely, between the rule of the Khmer Rouge and that of Stalinism, Maoism, Castroism, or the North Korean regime. All Communist regimes follow strangely similar trajectories, barely colored by local traditions. In every case, these regimes seek to make a blank slate of the past and to forge a new humanity. In every case, the “rich,” intellectuals, and skeptics wind up exterminated. The Khmer Rouge rounded up urban and rural populations in agricultural communities based on precedents both Russian (the Kolkhozy) and Chinese (the popular communes), and they acted for the same ideological reasons and with the same result: famine. There is no such thing as real Communism without massacre, torture, concentration camps, gulags, or laogai. And if there has never been any such thing, then we must conclude that there could be no other outcome: Communist ideology leads necessarily to mass violence, because the masses do not want real Communism. This is as true in the rice fields of Cambodia as in the plains of Ukraine or under Cuban palms.

He also observes:

Nazism’s trial took place in Nuremberg beginning in late 1945, and Japanese fascism’s in Tokyo the following year. But until now, we have had no trial for Communism, though real Communism killed or mutilated more victims than Nazism and Fascism combined. Communism’s trial has never taken place, outside the intellectual sphere, for two reasons. First, Communism enjoys a kind of ideological immunity because it claims to be on the side of progress. Second, Communists remain in power in Beijing, Pyongyang, Hanoi, and Havana.

To this I would also add a third reason: Communism still enjoys a fair degree of support among certain prominent intellectuals, though they now tend to cloak their leanings in other terms to disguise their ideology. Nevertheless, Revolutionary Marxist and Communism have never gained the stigma that Fascism and Nazism have in our culture, even though history has proven them to be a far deadlier strain of Totalitarianism. By all rights Stalin, Lenin, and Mao should be as reviled by the world as Hitler is today, as synonymous with notions of evil as Auschwitz is. I find it appalling that twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the opening up of Eastern Europe, we are still ignoring its murderous legacy and giving a pass to its atrocities.

Election 2010 tidbits

* The US Federal Seventh Circuit has upheld the exclusion of Sen. Roland Burris (IL-Blago) from the Illinois senatorial Special Election. This means that, no matter who wins in November, Sen. Burris will be leaving during the lame duck session and not after it. Nice discussion about the decision here. This means his entire US Senate career will have lasted around 22 months. Good riddance. (Hat Tip: The Volokh Conspiracy)

* New polls out today for both the Kirk vs. Giannoulias and Brady vs. Quinn races, this time from Pulse Opinion Research/Fox News. In the Senate race, Kirk is ahead by two percentage points 42-40, while in the Governor race Brady is ahead 46-36. Mildly worried about the narrowing in the Kirk vs. Giannoulias race, but its probably to be expected. I still expect Kirk to win, but have been saying it was likely to be closer than I would like. As for Brady, it looks likely he will essentially walk away with this election; Quinn is getting very little, if any, traction against him.

* Another sign that Quinn is in trouble: He has virtually no support downstate.

25 September, 2010

RCP Strangeness

Weird.

Real Clear Politics has suddenly changed their Poll Averages on both the Kirk vs. Giannoulias and Brady vs. Quinn races -- without there having been any new polls released.

RCP currently has Mark Kirk at +2.0, when they used to have it at +1.3. Bill Brady is currently listed as +9.3, when it used to be +9.2. And like I said, neither race has had a poll released to explain the changes.

Best guess is, RCP discovered some discrepancy in their math, and have now corrected it. I noticed earlier this week that Kirk's RCP average actually went down (from 1.9 to 1.3) with the last Rasmussen poll, despite the fact that the poll showed Kirk up by 3 percentage points. However, I took that as a sign that more numeric weight was being attached to the previous poll (which showed Kirk with a 4-point lead on a sampling almost double Rasmussen's), and hence an overall narrowing of the average. But I guess something still wasn't funky, so it appears RCP took a look to see what was going on.

Now. Watch the Giannoulias campaign accuse RCP of trying to tip the election in Kirk's favor by "cooking the polling books", as it were.

24 September, 2010

Cutest Political Ad of the Year

00:25 is just "Awww...."

More Illinois Election 2010 roundups

These are basically stolen and stolen again from National Review Online's Battle '10 blog, so a tip of the hat to them:

Governor's Race:
Pat Quinn has some questionable financial dealings he perhaps needs to explain. (Daily Herald & Northwest Herald)

Former Governor Jim Edgar thinks Bill Brady's platform of a 10% state budget cuts might not be cutting deep enough. (WBEZ)

The Peoria Journal Star thinks Pat Quinn is essentially giving the race to Bill Brady. (Peoria Journal-Star)

Bill Brady is also definitely bugging the hell out of Pat Quinn. (Peoria Journal-Star)

Senate Race:
Mitt Romney to speak on Mark Kirk's behalf. (Chicago Sun-Times)

(There are some other links on the Battle '10 posts linked above, but these are the only ones I thought were actually of some news)

Karma Bites Communist Professor On The Ass

William Ayers, the retired University of Illinois at Chicago professor who was also a Weather Underground radical, has been unanimously denied Emeritus status by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

The reason?

It seems that the chairman of the U of I Board of Trustees is one Christopher Kennedy. His father was a certain Robert F. Kennedy. The same Robert F. Kennedy who, on June 5 1968, was cut down by a bullet fired by Sirhan Sirhan. The same Sirhan Sirhan who, in 1974, William Ayers partially dedicated his book Prairie Fires to.

From Christopher Kennedy's statement:
"[I cannot in good conscience] confer the title to a man whose body of work includes a book dedicated in part to the man who murdered my father."

Paybacks a bitch, ain't it?

EDIT:
This gives me a good excuse to post this:

22 September, 2010

Kirk vs. Giannoulias Update

As predicted, Rasmussen has released a poll on the Kirk vs. Giannoulias US Senate race -- and it shows Kirk ahead by 3 percentage points, 44-41.

The Giannoulias campaign has launched some negative ads this week in hopes of eroding that lead. But frankly, if the electorate mood I'm feeling is any indication, it won't be enough. Gut feeling is that Kirk has the momentum, if such a thing can be said about this race.

20 September, 2010

Illinois Races updates

With six weeks to go, things are starting to heat up.

* Pat Quinn is starting to sound very, very frustrated that his challenger Bill Brady has a double-digit lead, and is starting to lash out at him. (Link Source: Peoria Journal-Star)

* More and more, media outlets are asking if Illinois is turning purple. (Link Source: St. Louis Today)

* Alexi Giannoulias is complaining about a series of attack ads about to air in Illinois before they are even aired. (Link Source: Fox News Chicago) (oh, come on, Mr. Giannoulias!! Your campaign is running those Kirk Lied ads, which are a complete load of BULLSHIT!)

* But Giannoulias now has another problem he has to contend with: another person connected with his campaign has once more been linked to the Mob. (Link Source: Fox News)

Hat Tip for all of the above: Illinois Today, by Mytheos Holt (Battle '10 Blog, NRO)

Rasmussen should have another poll out this week on the Senate race, probably on Tuesday or Wednesday. Best bet is that it will still show a close race, but with Kirk ahead around 4 percentage points.

Also of interest:

* Democratic candidate Debbie Halvorson (IL-11) has some explaining to do. It seems several people from her campaign were caught on video participating in a rather disgusting, hate-filled protest of Sarah Palin. Halvorson herself has condemned the antics of this group, but other websites have identified members of the protest has being people closely associated with Halvorson's campaign... including her Campaign Manager. Several of her supporters are coming to her aid, with sometimes unintentionally funny results. Meanwhile, the question has to he asked.... how come its always big news if a Democrat is depicted with a Hitler mustache, but the long-standing Left tradition of depicting Republicans as Nazi's goes almost unreported?

EDIT:
By the way, one of the reasons why the Halvorson campaign might be a little angry and frustrated right now is... her Republican challenger Kinzinger currently leads by 20 percentage points. This in a district the Democrats confidently thought was "safe" only a few months ago.

Yamato, Hasshin!

More live-action Space Cruiser Yamato trailers have been released. This is looking really, really cool!



18 September, 2010

New Poll: Brady Up by 10

We Ask America has issued another poll on an Illinois race, and found Republican candidate Bill Brady is leading by 10 percentage points, 42-32. Sampling is the largest of any poll so far, 1,330 Likely Voters.

At the FiveThirtyEight blog at the New York Times, Nate Silver has calculated an 86.3% probability that Bill Brady will be the next governor of Illinois.

RCP currently has the race listed as "Leans Republican", with Bill Brady up by 9.2. If Bill Brady maintains these kinds of leads the closer we get to election day, it will only be a matter of time before the race is moved one more notch to the right to "Likely Republican".

17 September, 2010

New Poll Still Puts Kirk Ahead

A new poll has come out which once more puts Mark Kirk in the lead, 39-36.

On the one hand, this is a clear indication once more that the momentum in this campaign has swung back to Mark Kirk. This particular poll used the largest sample (1,379 Likely Voters) so far of any polls to date, and still found that Kirk was clearly the preference. But on the other... I've got to admit, I know nothing about the organization behind this poll (We Ask America), and so I really don't have a good feel on their methodology, much less their track record. So while I'm pleased to see another poll with Kirk ahead, I'm a little inclined to suggest that perhaps this poll should carry a little less significant weight than one conducted by an organization with a more proven track record. Still, we take the good news where we can find it.

Still expecting a PPP poll on this race any day now. I'm also mildly surprised that no other major polling organization has chimed in, though I expect that will undoubtedly change soon.

15 September, 2010

Glenn Beck, Progressives and Me (Wall Street Journal)

History professor Ronald J. Pestritto, in today's Wall Street Journal:

"The progressive movement did indeed repudiate the principles of individual liberty and limited government that were the basis of the American republic. America's original progressives were convinced that the country faced a set of social and economic problems demanding a sharp increase in federal power. They also said that there was too much emphasis placed on protecting the liberty of individuals at the expense of broader social justice."

Source:
Glenn Beck, Progressives and Me, by Ronald J. Pestritto (Wall Street Journal)

13 September, 2010

New Poll: Brady Up by 13

Oh my.

Rasmussen has today released a poll showing that Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady has opened up a 13 point lead over Pat Quinn, 50-37.

I've been noting for months that Pat Quinn's support in this state has been anemic at best, so this shouldn't come as a big surprise. Perhaps even more ominously for Pat Quinn, independent candidate Scott Lee Cohen is starting to eat into Quinn's support, as Cohen seems to be taking most of his votes from Quinn and not from Brady. It would not surprise me if this trend continues. Brady with a 20% + lead in the polls by this time next month? Perhaps not out of the question.

New Polls, Kirk vs. Giannoulias

As long time readers (all three of you!) of this blog know, I've been saying for months that summer polling data is generally unreliable, and that most voters don't start paying attention to upcoming elections until late August at the earliest, and sometime after Labor Day for the majority. I've also been predicting that Mark Kirk will rebound from his stumbles from earlier in the summer, and that he will start to pull ahead in the polling once September rolled around.

Well, two polls that have come out in the last couple of weeks are giving clear indications that the start of that shift has now occurred.

The Chicago Tribune has issued a poll of 600 Likely Voters, and found the race tied at 34-34. And now, Rasmussen has released a poll (750 Likely Voters) which has Kirk leading by 4 percentage points, 41-37 (with 9 points for the Green Party candidate!).

I still think this race will be end up close, but with Kirk prevailing in the end. My read is, if Kirk wins it will be only by 2-3 percentage points. On the other hand, if Giannoulias wins, it will be by an ultra-thin margin, possibly with even less than 1% of the vote. In any case, its very clear that after being handed their best shot at gaining ground over Kirk, the Giannoulias campaign has failed to gain momentum and appears to be in danger of stalling.

The next Rasmussen poll should be out around September 20-22. We're also probably about due for a PPP poll any day now. If the next several poll show Kirk ahead, and especially if they show Kirk's lead increasing, then I think panic will start to set in among Democrats over this race.

01 September, 2010

I Guess He Wasn't A Fan of Mythbusters

James Jay Lee, the Discovery Channel hostage taker, is was apparently a radical, leftwing, eco-Nutjob.

Some choice quotes from a Manifesto and a protest flyer of his:

"2. All programs on Discovery Health-TLC must stop encouraging the birth of any more parasitic human infants and the false heroics behind those actions. In those programs' places, programs encouraging human sterilization and infertility must be pushed. All former pro-birth programs must now push in the direction of stopping human birth, not encouraging it."

"4. Civilization must be exposed for the filth it is. That, and all its disgusting religious-cultural roots and greed. Broadcast this message until the pollution in the planet is reversed and the human population goes down! This is your obligation. If you think it isn't, then get hell off the planet! Breathe Oil! It is the moral obligation of everyone living otherwise what good are they??"

"We are running out of time to save this planet and the Discovery Channel is a big part of the problem, not the solution. Instead of showing successful solutions, their broadcast programs seem to be doing the opposite. Shows like “Cash Cab” and “Dirty Jobs” serve as diversions to keep the focus off what is really important, which is Global Warming and Animal Extinction. Why do they broadcast a show like “Future Weapons” that only promise to destroy the planet even more? And their new lineup “Planet Green” is all about more products and other substandard solutions. Do we really need shows like these when the planet is in crisis? No, instead the focus should be on coming up with new formulas that actually work. Why would the broadcasters and programmers focus more on the destruction of the planet rather than saving it?"

Sounds like this guy really did reject our reality and substitute his own.



EDIT:
Politically incorrect, but here are some choice 'tweets from Jim Geraghty of National Review Online on the Discovery Channel Hostage taker:

"All I'm saying, Montgomery County Sheriff's Office Special Response Team, is that the Sig Sauer 556 rifle is a fine, fine weapon."
"This guy's rampage is near a day care center? F*** him, shoot to kill."
"Discovery channel gunman James Lee was shot at 4:48 p.m., because even the SWAT team doesn't want to fight rush hour traffic."
"Somebody on the Special Response Team just saved Montgomery County taxpayers a great deal in court costs."

Source:
Jim Geraghty Twitter Feed

Edit II
Wow.  James Jay Lee is the nutcase who keeps on giving.

The Blast has a rundown of some of the whackjob postings he's made on the internet.

31 August, 2010

The Media Loses Viewers to its Own Radicalism (Sultan Knish)

Why they're losing readership/viewership.

"Whether it's Newsweek being sold to the husband of a Democratic congresswoman for a dollar, or ABC deciding to turn This Week into a BBC program by turning over to Christiane Amanpour, last week the dying media itself provided us with two examples of why it's dying. By choosing radicalism over readers, the media continues narrowing its own readership and viewership, pursuing ideological purity, not only over integrity, but even over its own profits and future viability."

The Media Loses Readers and Viewers to its Own Radicalism, by Daniel Greenfield (Sultan Knish blog)

Hat Tip: Ace of Spades blog

I Want Your Money

Gotta be better than the crap Michael Moore puts out.

Panorama: What Happened on the Flotilla to Gaza (BBC)

The BBC news program Panorama takes a look at the Gaza Flotilla incident from May of this year, and calls "Shenanigans" not on the Israeli commandos but on the activists behind the incident.





I particularly liked the news reporter's comments towards the end when, after looking over the "humanitarian aid" that the activists were supposedly trying to ship to Gaza, she discovered that over 2/3rds of the drugs being transported were already past their "use by" dates before they even left the Turkish port, and were therefore useless. (thanks to MZ for pointing that little detail out!)

Looks to me like this was hardly a "peaceful" protest, but instead a blatant provocation designed to prod the Israeli's into an armed confrontation.

Hatred and Racism on Display

I judge Al Sharpton not on the color of his skin but on the content of his character, and I find him to be a bigoted, hateful, racist, con-artist.

Gallup Gives the Democrats More Bad News

According to a poll released by Gallup on Monday, Republicans in 2010 lead Democrats by 10 percentage points among Registered Voters, as to who they would prefer to vote for in the upcoming election. That's the largest disparity between the parties ever. Even more worrisome for Democrats, Republican voters have a 25 point lead on "enthusiasm", which means that they are much more likely (twice as likely, according to Gallup's figures) than Democrats to be "very enthusiastic" about their candidates, and hence much more likely to come out and vote. I've commented elsewhere about the enthusiasm gap (particularly in the Kirk vs. Gianoulias race) among the voters I've been encountering, and this poll seems to bear that out.

Again, we're still two months away, and there's no telling what will happen between now and November 2. But going into Labor Day with these numbers, Democrats and their supporters across the country have to be very, very nervous.

EDIT:
On the other hand, Newsweek has handed the Democrats a poll that says the race is dead even and that they are in much better shape than (just about all the other) polls are claiming. In commentator Andrew Malcolm's words,

"So it all comes down to which poll do you believe: the one by the troubled weekly magazine that was just sold for $1 to a 92-year-old businessman who’s married to a Democratic congresswoman? Or the one by the 75-year-old, highly-respected professional polling organization?"

Hat Tip:
Newsweek Polls, the Gas-Station Sushi of American Psephology -- Jonah Goldberg, NRO The Corner

29 August, 2010

Review: Chaco Canyon - Archaeology and Archaeologists


Chaco Canyon: Archaeology and Archaeologists
by Robert H. Lister & Florence C. Lister


Those who are hoping for an overview of the Anasazi and the ruins they left behind in Chaco Canyon may be a little disappointed with this book. To begin with, the book is not so much a discussion of the archeology and anthropology of the Chaco Canyon remains, as it is a history of the various archeological digs that have taken place there. Beginning with their discovery in the late 19th century, this volume chronicles the major expeditions up to 1980 in fair detail – outlining not only what each group found, but the techniques they used, the formation of these expeditions, and even some discussion of their trials and tribulations. While this book might appeal to those who would like to know more about the process of archeological discovery or are interested in the history of a little-known area of 20th century archeology, as an overview of the Anasazi remains the book is sometimes frustratingly inadequate.

To be sure, the history of the Anasazi is discussed. Efforts are made to explain how major discoveries fit in the context of the ancient Southwest, and there is one long chapter offered summing up a general overview of the entire Chaco Canyon region. But yet, the emphasis on the book is still less on the archeology and more on the archeologists, which may limit its appeal.

Another problem is that the book, while still printed and sold at many outlets (one can readily find it in the bookstores at most National Park visitor centers in the Southwest), is a tad out of date. Its original publication was 1981, and it has not been updated even though that was almost 30 years ago. Since that time there have been considerable changes in our understanding of Anasazi and early Pueblo culture, as well as break-throughs in technology which have shed new light. It would have been nice to see some of this discussed.

Chaco Canyon: Archeology and Archeologists is illustrated with many black-and-white photographs, culled from expeditions and hard-to-find publications, as well as many maps of individual archeological sites. There is also an extensive appendix listing each known archeological site and (at least, as of around 1981) what is known about them individually. The writing is clear and concise, and for those interested in archeology, reasonably entertaining. Overall the book is an adequate, if dated, introduction to the archeology of Chaco Canyon, though individuals looking for more scientific and anthropological substance on the subject may find it somewhat lacking.

28 August, 2010

Kirk vs. Giannoulias -- Latest polls

The three latest polls are giving mixed signals.

As I thought, Rasmussen has put this race on a two-week cycle of polling. Their latest poll has the race tied at 45-45.

Public Policy Polling has Gianoulias up by two, at 37-35. What is significant here is that they are claiming 28% of Likely Voters (both PPP and Rasmussen's polls are of "Likely Voters") as still undecided, which seems rather high to me (Rasmussen has consistently placed the Likely Voter undecided in the area of 10%). PPP is a Democratic pollster organization, so chances are their sampling size skews Democrat to begin with. Also, many observers have pointed out that PPP tends to be overly optimistic when it comes to estimating Democratic turn out; in a year where the Democrats are clearly in bad shape, heavy Democratic turnout for any race this year is not a given.

Finally, there's a poll put out by some group called We Ask America, which has Kirk up by six points among Registered Voters, 39-33. This poll also has a large undecided percentage (28%), but since its among Registered Voters rather than Likely Voters, that's to be expected (Just because you're registered doesn't necessarily mean you're likely to vote). However, it should also be pointed out that this poll had a larger sampling than either of the other polls mentioned above, so in theory its results may be closer to the general reality. Still, even these pollsters think this race will tighten up "sooner rather than later".

At a guess, I'm going to say the race is essentially tied right now, but leaning Kirk's way. I'm still not seeing any evidence that people are getting behind Gianoulias because they think he's a great choice, just the one who happens to have a (D) after his name. That's a vast difference from the people I'm seeing who are expressing their support for Kirk. In a year where the Democrats prospects appear to be on the wane, that might not be enough to overcome.

BTW, over on the Governor's race, I've just noticed that Real Clear Politics has moved Illinois to "Leans Republican". Latest Rasmussen poll has Brady leading by eight points, 48-41.

27 August, 2010

We're Screwed

Maybe I should just start doing a daily roundup of links highlighting the steadily worsening economy.

The Most Fiscally Irresponsible Government in U.S. History, by Mort Zuckerman (US News & World Report)
Snapshot of economy about to get a lot bleaker, by Christopher S. Rugaber (MyWay)
What Biden didn't mention on stimulus, by Garance Burke (AP)
Latest growth data show recovery is losing momentum (MSNBC)
FACT CHECK: Stimulus assessments overly optimistic, by Frederic J. Frommer (AP)

26 August, 2010

Politics and Miss Universe

Missed by just about everyone in this country (except probably by Oliver Stone), the outgoing Miss Universe -- Stefania Fernandez of Venezuala -- made something of a political statement last Monday night, as she passed the crown to Jimena Navarrete of Mexico.

She went on the stage... bearing an older, pre-Hugo Chavez version of her country's flag, rather than the current one that she has had to carry since she was originally crowned Miss Venezuala.


In other words, she just gave a big F-U to the regime running her country into the ground. And since the pageant ran live on state-run television in Venezuala, you can bet the gesture was not lost on her country's viewers.

Source:
The Killing Fields Of Caracas (Investor's Business Daily)
(Hat tip: The killing fields of Caracas - Power Line blog)

Oh, and according to statistics released this week... it is actually safer now to live in Iraq than it is to live in the Venezuala of Huga Chavez. In 2009, for instance, there were 4,644 "violent civilian deaths" in Iraq; but according to the Venezuela Observatory of Violence, the number was 16,047 in Venezuala.

Socialist mecca my ass. And the William Duranty-types in this country who excuse, apologize, and vehemently support this regime should be ashamed of themselves.

25 August, 2010

Another Depressing Forecast

We're screwed.

Morgan Stanley Says Government Defaults Inevitable, by Matthew Brown (Bloomberg)

Economy Caught in Depression, Not Recession: Rosenberg (CNBC)

According to Jeff Cox, economist David Rosenberg thinks we're in a Depression and not a Recession.

"The 1929-33 recession saw six quarterly bounces in GDP with an average gain of 8 percent, sending the stock market to a 50 percent rally in early 1930 as investors thought the worst had passed.

"False premise," Rosenberg said. "And guess what? We may well be reliving history here. If you're keeping score, we have recorded four quarterly advances in real GDP, and the average is only 3%.""


Source:
Economy Caught in Depression, Not Recession: Rosenberg, by Jeff Cox (CNBC)

**********

More and more, I'm seeing people entertaining the notion that we have entered a Depresson -- and with each bad unemployment report, each bad sales report, each dip in the GDP report, the feeling is getting hard to shake that we're still not even close to finding a way out of this.

Official unemployment figures are likely to top 10% before the year is out (and if you count "underemployed" and those people who are out-of-work and who have stopped looking, the figure is actually probably around 18-20%). When that happens... things are gonna get ugly.

24 August, 2010

Messenger Sends a Post Card

The MESSENGER probe to Mercury has send us an image of the Earth and the Moon... from 114 Million Miles away.


That's the Earth on the left, and the Moon on the right, amid a back drop of stars.

Source:
You are here: Incredible photo of the 'twin star' that is the Earth and Moon taken from 114 million miles away (Daily Mail Online)

Also, check out the Messenger Mission to Mercury home page at JPL

War on the Cheap

According to Mark Tapscott at the Washington Examiner, and according to CBO numbers, the entire War in Iraq cost US Taxpayers about $709 Billion. A lot of money to be sure, to say nothing of the blood spilled. But still... that was over seven years, and is dwarfed by the trillions of dollars that the Obama administration paid in its (now pretty much acknowledged by everyone to have failed) stimulus plan.

Add caption

Some other statistics quoted in the article:

"* Obama's stimulus, passed in his first month in office, will cost more than the entire Iraq War -- more than $100 billion (15%) more.

* Just the first two years of Obama's stimulus cost more than the entire cost of the Iraq War under President Bush, or six years of that war.

* Iraq War spending accounted for just 3.2% of all federal spending while it lasted.

* Iraq War spending was not even one quarter of what we spent on Medicare in the same time frame.

* Iraq War spending was not even 15% of the total deficit spending in that time frame. The cumulative deficit, 2003-2010, would have been four-point-something trillion dollars with or without the Iraq War.

* The Iraq War accounts for less than 8% of the federal debt held by the public at the end of 2010 ($9.031 trillion).

* During Bush's Iraq years, 2003-2008, the federal government spent more on education that it did on the Iraq War. (State and local governments spent about ten times more.)"

Source:
Little-known fact: Obama's failed stimulus program cost more than the Iraq war, by Mark Tapscott (Washington Examiner)
Iraq: The War That Broke Us -- Not, by Randall Hoven (The American Thinker)

23 August, 2010

Bury Keynesian Voodoo Before It Can Bury Us All (Bloomberg)

Good op-ed by Kevin Hassett at Bloomberg today:

"Why is the left so profoundly committed to stimulus-by-spending, even though there is scant evidence that it succeeds?

Joe the Plumber knows the answer: The left has become religiously Keynesian because that is the only corner of economics consistent with its redistributive ideology. "

Bury Keynesian Voodoo Before It Can Bury Us All, by Kevin Bassett (Bloomberg Financial News)

Sunday With Mark Kirk

I attended a small political rally at a private residence on Sunday for US Senate candidate Mark Kirk.



Mr. Kirk was as gracious and friendly as he always is, talking enthusiastically with the guests and answering their questions. Granted, I doubt there were any in the audience who were not already planning to vote for him, so I think it unlikely any minds were actually changed at this get together. But I do think most came away with a renewed sense of purpose to work towards his election. Which is good, because all the signs are that this is going to be a pretty tight race.

In speaking of which, according to Mark Kirk's campaign chair, Alexi Gianoulias's campaign is so short on funds right now that they've canceled their ad buys for the rest of the month to conserve resources and may not be running ads again until after Labor Day. If that's true, then that's a major sign things aren't going well for his fund raising; even though the campaigns have yet to go into high gear, its a bad sign when one race concedes the advertising race to their opponent at the very time when people are starting to come to their decisions as to who to support. For the moment, the Kirk campaign appears to have the upper hand in terms of finances; however, they do not expect that to last. The Democrats are widely expected to put the Kirk-Gianoulias race at the top of their agenda in terms of funds allocation, because they don't want Obama's old seat to fall into Republican hands.

Add to this is the curious fact that, due to a recent court decision regarding the Illinois Senate election, it is likely that whoever wins will be seated within weeks of being certified rather than months as normal. This is an important development because the Democrats may have to face 42 Republicans in the Senate rather than 41 when the Lame Duck session starts after the election. The Democrats know they're going to lose seats this year; how many remains to be determined. Any hopes they may have of being able to shove through legislation during the lame duck session (like, say, a VAT tax) may rest on preventing Kirk from becoming the 42nd Republican vote in the Senate. Therefore, this race is taking on even more significance. The Democrats desperately don't want to lose this seat, and they will do whatever they can to keep it theirs.

For the moment, the Kirk campaign says their own internal poll numbers say that the race is close but the trends are "not going Gianoulias' way". While I will note that all campaigns pretty much say things like that, the evidence I'm seeing in Illinois suggests they are correct: what little support I see for Alexi Gianoulias is luke-warm at best, while by far people are expressing interest and enthusiasm for Mark Kirk. I expect that to continue the closer we get to the election, and baring any major ground-shaking revelations, I am at this time going to predict a close-but-certain win for Mark Kirk.

As a side note, Pat Quinn's race for a full term as governor isn't going too well either. On Friday he fired the PR firm running his campaign -- which at this time before an election, is a sure sign that a campaign is imploding. He is evidently having more problems than Gianoulias raising cash, and without the impetus of national implications, his race is barely registering among Democrats. Again, unless something earth shattering happens between now and November 2, I think Bill Brady will be the next Governor of Illinois, and one who will win by a comfortable margin. But as ever, there's still 2 1/2 months left before the election, and anything can happen between now and then.

Terrorist Suspect Still Loose After 40 Years On The Run

Leftist Radical Leo Burt, who helped bomb a research facility at the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 1970 (killing a scientist/husband/father of three who was working at that time), is still at large as the 40th Anniversary of the bombing is marked.  And some of his fellow conspirators think he should be forgiven, because the bombing "was the right thing to do at the time".

Personally, I think the more appropriate way to mark this anniversary would be with this:


I hear Timothy McVeigh's old cell isn't being used anymore...

Source:
40 years later, Wis. bomber is a 'ghost' (AP)
TERROR AT STERLING HALL: 40 Years Later, Fugitive Search Continues (FBI.Gov)

22 August, 2010

Review: CSI-Sin City, by Max Allan Collins


CSI: Sin City
by Max Allan Collins

Media tie-in novels generally fall into two categories: those that seek to accurately replicate the feel of the original source material in book form, and those that attempt to use the original source material as a stepping off point to explore that source material’s characters or even concepts. Sin City very much falls in the first of these categories – not necessarily a bad thing, but not necessarily a good thing either.

Like an episode of CSI, the book follows two murder investigations simultaneously: one the murder of a church-going housewife, the other of a stripper at a Las Vegas strip joint. Both stories are handled fairly straight-forward, in basic prose that rarely even remotely aspires to literature. The unfortunate consequence of this is that many of the series regulars (the book is set roughly during CSI’s first few seasons, so that means Grissom, Catherine, Brass, Warrick, Stokes, and Sara) come off as rather flat and cartoonish, with little or no depth or personality; anyone reading this book not already familiar with them from the TV series would probably have a difficult time keeping track of who the characters were, much less why we should care for them. This is probably the books’ greatest weakness, and is likely to disappoint those fans who pick up tie-in novels hoping for a more in-depth look at their favorite characters. On the other hand, the unencumbered prose does make for an exceedingly quick read, and the mysteries themselves -- while a little predictable -- are at least presented in an engaging enough manner to satisfy most fans of CSI.

Bottom line is, it’s a media tie-in novel, so unless you are a fan of CSI or at least reasonably familiar with its conventions, this book probably isn’t for you. But if you are a fan and are interested in what is essentially a no-frills police procedural, Sin City is at least worth the few hours of diversion-among-familiar-friends the novel will give you.

Rating: ***

20 August, 2010

Bill Millin & The Bagpipes of Sword Beach

Bill Millin, a private who landed on Sword Beach with the British Army's First Special Service Brigade, has died. He achieved fame during the war as the man who came ashore on D-Day armed not with a rifle, but with a set of bagpipes... which he played while under fire to boost the morale of his mostly Scottish unit.  His musical feat was immortalized in one of my favorite sequences from The Longest Day (which is in turn, one of my all-time favorite movies):



Rest In Peace, Mr. Millin. And thank you for your service.

Obituary:
Bill Millin, Scottish D-Day Piper, Dies at 88 (The Times of London)

Rod Blagojevich Cartoon Star!

17 August, 2010

When you've lost Ray Bradbury....

The Obama administration has lost legendary SF writer Ray Bradbury.

"Ray Bradbury is mad at President Obama, but it’s not about the economy, the war or the plan to a construct a mosque near Ground Zero in New York City.

“He should be announcing that we should go back to the moon,” says the iconic author, whose 90th birthday on Aug. 22 will be marked in Los Angeles with more than week’s worth of Bradbury film and TV screenings, tributes and other events. “We should never have left there. We should go to the moon and prepare a base to fire a rocket off to Mars and then go to Mars and colonize Mars. Then when wedo that, we will live forever.”

The man who wrote “Fahrenheit 451,” “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” “The Martian Chronicles,” “Dandelion Wine”and “The Illustrated Man” has been called one of America’s great dreamers, but his imagination takes him to some dark places when it comes to contemporary politics.

“I think our country is in need of a revolution,” Bradbury said. “There is too much government today. We’ve got to remember the government should be by the people, of the people and for the people.”"

Source
Los Angeles Times: Hero Complex August 16, 2010

15 August, 2010

Review: The Call of Cthulu and Other Weird Stories


The Call of Cthulu and Other Weird Stories
By H.P. Lovecraft
Edited, With an Introduction & Endnotes by S.T. Joshi

Quick Review: You can tell that the works of H.P. Lovecraft have entered the stuffy realm of “literature” when Penguin/Viking feels compelled to produce releases of his work under their Penguin Classics banner. The Call of Cthulu and Other Weird Stories is the first of (so far) three volumes of Lovecraft’s tales to appear under this imprint, and it serves admirably as both a good introduction for those unfamiliar with his work, or as a good assemblage for those more familiar with him and are seeking a decent, comprehensive collection with annotation.

This collection contains a mixture of tales from both his early and later periods, both long and short works, with several lesser known and harder to find stories thrown in for good measure. Most of the stories directly concerning Cthulu or its followers are here collected (“Dagon”, “The Call of Cthulu”, “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”), as well as many other tales that have long been considered classics in the Lovecraft corpus (“The Colour Out of Space”, “The Whisperer in the Darkness”, “Herbert West - Reanimator”, “The Rats in the Walls”). What’s more, the collection also contains extensive endnotes by editor S.T. Joshi, who not only provides insights into the writing of these works but also explains obscure references and even points out how many of Lovecraft’s stories directly relate to one another; even those reasonably familiar with Lovecraft’s work will find new insights and connections that they hadn’t realized existed.

Overall I think this is a very good collection, among the best Lovecraft anthologies currently in release. I would recommend it to anyone interested in H.P. Lovecraft with absolutely no reservations.

Rating: *****

14 August, 2010

30 Years Ago Today


On this day in 1980, Lech Walesa led labor strikes in the Gdansk shipyards against the Soviet-backed Communist government in Poland, forming the first independent (non-government run) trade union in Eastern Europe -- Solidarity (Polish: Solidarnosc) -- and ultimately challenging Communist authoritarian rule. It was the first visible crack in the Iron Curtain that the Soviets couldn't stop (well, brutally suppress with tanks and firing squads), and was the first domino to fall that would result nine years later in the complete collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe.

Solidarnosc still lives on.

Useful Idiots (BBC Radio)

The term "Useful Idiots" was a term used by Lenin and Stalin to describe otherwise intelligent people, usually Westerners, who nevertheless turned a blind eye to the genocides and brutal repression practiced by the Communists. These individuals invariably became the mouthpieces for Communism in the west, vocally promoting the Soviet Union and later Mao's China as shining examples of Socialist Equality and either dismissing or even suppressing mounting evidence to the contrary. Individuals such as George Bernard Shaw, Walter Duranty, Doris Lessing, Simone de Beauvoir, and many others not only sympathized with the Soviet Union and its aims, but were adamant in their efforts to make excuses, apologize, or even outright suppress dissenting views -- branding all those who opposed them as Fascists or Racists (sound familiar?), and in many cases either obfuscating or even destroying evidence to the contrary. Even when evidence was laid at their feet of the atrocities committed by Stalin and his cohorts, these individuals would either publicly deny it or lie to the world about its significance. To them the ends justified the means, and if the cost of attaining a true Socialist World Order were the lives of a few (tens of) millions of individuals standing in the way, that was a small price to pay.

BBC Radio has put together a documentary about these individuals, one that does not pull any punches and places Stalin's victims squarely at their feet. Its well worth listening to. You can listen to it online, or download it as a podcast directly from the BBC.

Useful Idiots: The Full Documentary (Listen Online @ BBC World Service)
Useful Idiots: Part One (Download)
Useful Idiots: Part Two (Download)

13 August, 2010

The Race Card is Maxed Out (Daily Show with Jon Stewart)

Maybe its just me, but I've been hearing a number of liberals complain lately that The Daily Show has "ceased to be funny". Maybe its because of things like this:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Race Card Is Maxed Out
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Truth hurts too much, perhaps?

12 August, 2010

North Korea Temper Tantrums

Remember in June, when I commented on what might be North Korea's reactions to their soccer team's dreadful performance at the World Cup?

Seems it may not have been too far off the mark.

Daily Mail Online:
North Korea probed over claims World Cup flops were tortured after early exit from tournament

Some players were evidently subjected to "harsh ideological criticism" (a Stalinist term for "beating the living crap out of someone"), and the head coach and his family were sentenced to hard labor at one of Kim Jong Il's "re-education" facilities (which human rights observers have long deemed probably the most inhumane prisons on the planet).

Someone, please, get rid of these asswipes running that country. Shoot. Every. Fucking. Last. One. Of. Them.

ESA's Rosetta at 21 Lutetia

I was so busy on vacation that I totally missed news about this encounter: the European Space Agency's unmanned Rosetta spacecraft performed a flyby of the asteroid 21 Lutetia on July 10, and sent back images.


Link: Rosetta Spacecraft Lutetia Flyby (ESA Official Website)

Next up for Rosetta will be an encounter with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in early 2014, where it will land on the comet and accompany it around the sun, sending out data the entire time.

For those who are wondering, according to the official numbering system for minor planets, the number 21 before the name Lutetia means that this object was the 21st minor planet discovered.

Additional Links:
21 Lutetia (Wikipedia)
ESA Main homepage

U.S. Is Bankrupt and We Don't Even Know It (Bloomberg)

Possibly the most depressing thing I've read all day.

"Most likely we will see a combination of all three responses with dramatic increases in poverty, tax, interest rates and consumer prices. This is an awful, downhill road to follow, but it’s the one we are on. And bond traders will kick us miles down our road once they wake up and realize the U.S. is in worse fiscal shape than Greece."

U.S. Is Bankrupt and We Don't Even Know It, by Laurence Kotlikoff (Bloomberg)

Kirk vs. Giannoulias -- The State of the Race

Rasmussen has released their August poll, and it shows Mark Kirk and Alexi Giannoulias in a dead heat (40-40) for the Illinois Senate seat. This comes on the heals of two July Rasmussen polls, which showed Giannoulias with a slim leads of +1 (Kirk 39; Giannoulias 40) on the July 7 poll, and a slightly larger lead of +2 (Kirk 41; Giannoulias 43) on the July 26 poll (can't find the direct links to the polls, mostly because I was with crappy internet access at the time they came out, so you'll have to settle for the RCP Poll recap).

While both of the July polls were well within the margin of error for this race, the fact that Kirk has come back from the two-point deficit is a very good sign. Kirk's stumbling on the questions concerning his military record did hurt him, and the Giannoulias campaign has managed to be more visible with their candidate than they have in previous months, both of which served to raise his profile somewhat among voters. But as I've been saying for months now, polls conducted over the summer generally amount to little more than bragging rights, and that any true snapshot of the way this race is going won't be available until the late August and early Septembers polls start coming out.

I note that in July, several other polls (mostly Gallup) came out apparently showing a swing in sentiment among voters towards the Democrats, a trend which utterly evaporated once the August polls started coming out. One common theory going around is that Republicans tend to take July off for vacation, and that may have helped skew polling data towards the Democrats. If this is true (and I do think there may be some truth to this, though perhaps no more than a kernel), then that might partially explain the swing to and from Giannoulias between July and August. In any case, I will also note that I warned months ago that there would be some polling showing Giannoulias ahead at some point over the summer, and that everyone needed to wait until summer shenanigans were over before voters begin to settle down.

Rasmussen appears to have now switched to a twice-a-month schedule for polling on this race, which means that I would expect another Kirk vs. Giannoulias poll to be released before the month is out (say, around the 25th). My prediction is that it will show either a tie or Kirk with a slim lead.

EDIT:
More good news for Kirk.

"Voters in the 13 Battleground Senate seats – five held by Republicans, eight by Democrats – want to vote for Republicans. Voters in the four seats held by Democratic incumbents are unhappy with those incumbents and are in a mood for change."

U.S. SENATE BATTLEGROUND SURVEY (Public Opinion Stategies/Crossroads)
Crossroads poll: Dem Senate in peril, by Alexander Burns (Politico)

Whether You Liked Him Or Hated Him, This Shows Class

Former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura showed up today unscheduled and unannounced at the USO receiving area in the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, and greeted a group of troops returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.


According to several news reports today, Mr. Bush has done this several times since leaving office, as well as visited wounded soldiers at Dallas area VA hospitals and nearby Fort Hood -- all unannounced, with very little news coverage, and virtually no fanfare. Which is exactly the way he wants it.

11 August, 2010

Coming Soon Not to A Theater Near You (Unless you live in Japan)

Day 4

July 11, 2010
Well, that’s annoying.

I’ve found one thing to complain about this KOA: for some reason their internet won’t let me in to Blogger to post my Day Three report. I spent a good deal of time trying to get into it last night but to no avail, and today doesn’t seem to be much better. What’s more, internet access in general seems a little hinky and slow. It could be because we’re at the far end of the campground from their router, so perhaps that’s affecting my access. But that doesn’t explain why I can’t log in to Blogger. I mention this because if this continues I may have to wait until the next place before posting these updates on this trip. Grumble.

We didn’t do much today. This morning we got into the truck and drove to Salida to pick up some food and drinks, then came back to camp. This afternoon I took the boys to the pool and let them swim while I read some H.P. Lovecraft. This evening the boys and I played some Magic-The Gathering. No cable at this camp ground so I can’t hook up the tv (thank goodness for small blessings).


Cotopaxi KOA, along Highway 50, near Cotopaxi, CO and along the Arkansas River.

Cotopaxi KOA campsite.

Cotopaxi KOA campground.

Tomorrow will be a big day -- in the morning we will be taking a river rafting tour down the Arkansas River, in the afternoon we will be taking our first train ride, with the Royal Gorge Railroad.

Day 3

July 10, 2010
We left Limon early and headed across the plains of Eastern Colorado towards Colorado Springs. Eastern Colorado is typical high-plains country, which means miles and miles of expansive grasslands and not much of anything else. Occasional towns, but mostly just grasslands. Even the roads are few and far between.

The Eastern Colorado Experience

We drove through Colorado Springs -- a pleasant town, and another one I wish to spend time in (lets me honest here; I’d like to spend time in most towns out in the Western US) -- but didn’t stop. We took US 24 through and out of town and up into the mountains, encountered the inevitable traffic-congesting small town arts festival in Manitou Springs, and finally made our way to the first touristy target of the trip.

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
Link: Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument Homepage (NPS.gov)


I love the US National Park system. Every year I buy an annual pass, because I know that I will visit so many National Parks that the hefty cost of the pass (around $100.00 these days) is actually the cheaper alternative to paying the entrance fees everywhere I go. While I will spend time at the big, well-known parks that everyone is familiar with (Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, etc.), it’s the little-known, out of the way places that hold my greater interest. They tend to be smaller, more intimate places – with far less tourists and more hands-on interaction than the larger, more famous parks.

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument (near Florissant, Colorado) is a park set aside to preserve a rich vein of fossil plants, insects, and some animals, all from an epoch when the Rocky Mountains were roughly half their present age and size. At the time average temperatures were much warmer than they are today; we know this because of the fossil insect evidence, and because of the petrified redwood tree stumps found in the park (redwoods only thrive where the temperatures are – on average – warmer than they are today). Certainly, the elevation was also lower than the present-day 8,400 feet. The fossils resulted from the eruption of one or more volcanoes in the region approximately 34 Million years ago, which blanketed the area in soot, ash, and pumice, burying everything and preserving it for aeons – until the uplift of the Rockies and ordinary erosion exposed the petrified remains.

Historical accounts indicate that when settlers first moved into the area in the late 19th century, the ground was littered with petrified wood. Most of it was carted away and sold as geologic curiosities, predominantly back on the east coast. With the advent of tourism, several enterprising families set up tourist hotels and lodges in the area to showcase the petrified stumps too large to be broken up and carted away, one lodge even going to so far as to be built around one of the largest stumps so that it could be showcased in the living room of the establishment. These activities continued until as late as 1961, when the last of them closed shop (evidently because of the death of the owner, not because of financial loss) and the family decided to sell the holding to the government. By then fossils were beginning to be found in and around the area, and so in 1969 some 6,000 acres were set aside and handed over to the park service as a National Monument.

Like most National Monuments of its type and size, the visitor center is small and manned both by local volunteers and only a few park rangers (I only saw two, and that may have been the extent of NPS staff at the facility). There are several walking paths looping around and back from the visitor center, allowing visitors to go to most of the known petrified remains as well as to the areas most of the fossil remains have been found. A preserved 19th Century homestead and a school building are also on the park grounds, as well as the usual assortment of high-altitude wildlife.

We took a loop trail that begins in front of the visitor center and ends behind it. All told, its about a one mile walk, which means it takes about a half hour to do even if you’re out of shape (like I am. Blah!). The trail takes you to some of the more impressive petrified remnants, such as The Big Stump, and the equally well-known grouping of Three Stumps.

The Big Stump. This was the petrified stump that the Colorado Petrified Forest Lodge had at one time been built around. The lodge was torn down by the park service in 1971, so as to return the stump to its “original” setting.


These petrified stumps are under a canopy so as to preserve them from further erosion. Note the metal bands affixed to help hold the formation together. Note also the scale of the tree remains in relation to their visitors.


The canopy for The Three Stumps can be seen in the distance at right, and at center is the visitor center.

Time spent at this location was about two hours, which is more than enough to take in most of the major points of this park.

*******

After leaving Florissant, we headed south and then west to Cotopaxi, Colorado and our next campsite. Along the way we passed at least two llama farms. What in the world are llama farms doing in the middle of Colorado?

*******

We’re now checked in at the Cotopaxi KOA. The place is fairly packed due to it being the weekend, but I like the relative remoteness of the place, nestled as it is in the Arkansas River canyon. Tomorrow will be an off-day, the first day we haven’t been moving since the trip began.

The Best Laid Plans

Well, I am back from my vacation. Unfortunately, everywhere I went I had lousy internet access. Sometimes it was just an abysmally slow connect, other times the places I stayed at didn't offer WiFi. One of them had passable connectivity, but for some reason wouldn't let me into Blogger. Several places only offered WiFi if you paid extra.

The upsot of all of this is that I was unable to keep my promise of posting while on the road. The couple times I tried I either couldn't get into Blogger, or I literally had to wait two or three minutes per click in order for the computer system to respond (thus dragging out for hours that which normally takes only a few minutes). The good news is that I did more or less keep a diary of the trip with the intention of posting when better connectivity became available, but that ended up never really happening. But now that I am home I can go through my entries and post them.  So over the next few days, I hope to catch up and bore everyone with vacation stuff. Be very afraid.

I've also got some thoughts on various things and some other miscellaneous links to post up.  Perhaps someone out there will find them of some interest.

10 July, 2010

Vaction Pics - Days One & Two

What would a boring vacation monologue be without vacation pics?

DAY ONE

Start of the trip: the beat up truck and the beat up camper.


Some views of the windmill farm along I-80 near Walnut, IA. Oh, how exciting!

DAY TWO
The campsite in Limon, CO with the boys (Limon, KOA),


A thunderstorm on the plains. I tried to get a picture with lightning, but kept being too late.

Hopefully better pictures for Day Three.

Day 2

Usually when I am going through Nebraska, it is at the end of a trip. Thus, my usual voyage though the state goes from west to east, starting at either the Wyoming or Colorado borders, and heading toward Omaha and the state of Iowa. But today was something of an anomaly; rather than use it as a stepping stone home, I instead used it as a leg of my journey westwards. Have you ever noticed that things look different when you approach them from another direction? Nebraska didn’t look like the Nebraska I’m used to today, in large part because I was approaching it from an (for me) unusual angle. All the usual pit stops and turn offs looked the same, but the highway looked and felt different this time. It was a strange experience to be driving what felt like the first time on a highway I know very well.

One of the things I’ve found about driving across Nebraska on I-80 is that the major cities and landmarks are all just about one hours drive apart. Starting at the I-80 & I-76 split (which is roughly a mile away from the Nebraska/Colorado border) and going east, the first major city one encounters is North Platte; an hour or so east from there, Kearney; an hour more east, Grand Island; an hour east more, Lincoln; finally another hour, and you’re in Omaha. To be sure these are only approximates; the distance between North Platte and Kearney is about 80 miles, while Kearney to Grand Island is about 50. But the average works out pretty well, and it gives you a good picture how much longer you have to drive to get across the state just by knowing which cities/landmarks you’ve passed. And of course, if you’re heading westward-ho rather than east, the timing works just as well in reverse. A little tidbit of useless knowledge, for those interested. Oh, and before anyone asks, if you’re heading to Wyoming through Nebraska or starting at Wyoming heading east, the Wyoming border to I-80/I-76 split segment takes about an hour and a half to run, and is the only part of the rubric that doesn’t fit.

Anyway... Nebraska. I like Nebraska. It has an open expanse, no nonsense feel to it that doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. When you’re in Nebraska, you’re in “the country”, and Nebraskans wouldn’t have it any other way. As you head west, the grasslands become more dominant and the tress become fewer and fewer, until finally near the Colorado border they disappear almost completely. By then the grass has become all pervasive, covering plain and hills alike for as far as the eye can see. Only an occasional farmhouse disrupts the sea of grass, and even then only occasionally. Along the way across Nebraska, the Platte River runs mostly parallel to the interstate, but occasionally crosses underneath it. The Platte is a wide and long river, but very shallow; one can wade across it for much of its length. In the summer especially, when the spring rains are no more and much of the rest of the flow is being taken for irrigation.

As for the trek across Nebraska itself, mostly we just drove, trying to finish the trip there and thus have less traveling to worry about. There are a lot of tourist-trappy places I’ve always wanted to stop at along the way in Nebraska but never seem to find the time, much less convince the people in my vehicle they were good places to stop. The Pioneer museum in Kearney, for instance (which is in a building that goes over the interstate like a gateway). Or the Heartland Military Museum , with all of its decommissioned ordinance set outside. One of these days I’ll get the chance to drop by these places, perhaps even at the tail end of this trip. But sadly, today was not that day. This trip will be about mountain ranges, ruins, railroads.

Right now we’re camped out the KOA in Limon, Colorado, which is the first official bit of camping this trip. Nice campground, and one that is surprisingly crowded for an out-of-the-way town. Tomorrow we’ll be heading for the next KOA (in Cotopaxi, which is near Royal Gorge). But before that I think we’ll visit Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, which will be our first real piece of touristy activity.

Cross your fingers that the program I’ve downloaded works. I’ve been wanting to post some pictures, but the picture size the digital camera I have produces is way too large to be practical to post tot he blog. I’m hoping to edit them into something more usable.

08 July, 2010

Day 1

Today was essentially a driving day.

My usual method on these trips is to spend the first day or two getting the bulk of the driving out of the way. Since I live in Chicago, even the closest areas of what I would consider "the West" are at least a good days drive away, and the areas I like to frequent (Wyoming, Utah, Arizona) are another good day beyond that. As just a straight roadtrip, you can do it in one continuous drive -- from Chicago, Denver or Cheyenne are only about 15-16 hours away. But with children and towing a camper, that isn't practical.

No real sightseeing today, unless you count whatever it is one can catch by looking outside the car window.  We crossed the Mississippi River at Davenport in the early afternoon, and the Missouri River at Omaha at about sundown.  Illinois along I-80 is mostly flat and green, but Iowa at least has the virtue of rolling hills and occasional valleys.  Much more interesting a drive west than taking I-90 through southern Minnesota, a route which I consider to be possibly the Most Boring Highway in the United States.

Windmills are sprouting up everywhere in Western Iowa.  It wasn't so long ago (3-4 years ago) that the only windmill you could find along I-80 was a towering one at Adair that never seemed to be working.  I'd often wondered what the deal with that windmill was, since every time I drove by it I never saw its arms rotating, just frozen stock still.  The only purpose I could ever see it performing was to advertise the town along the busy highway, since you could see the thing for miles before the exit.  But nowadays, not only is it working at generating electricity, but there are dozens -- perhaps even more than a hundred -- of similar size standing right along with it in the Adair area.  And not only Adair, but further west in and around the town of Walnut, another wind farm is sprouting up that looks like it may grow to be just as large.  Walnut -- which I've been visiting for years, since its better known as having the largest concentration of antique stores and antique malls in Iowa -- appears to be becoming something of a boom town, a rare thing these days.  The Wind Rush is on, and it looks like towns like Adair and Walnut are looking to capitalize, with still more towns joining in as well (truck convoys carrying those huge windmill blades have become an exceedingly common sight on I-80 through Iowa; I counted four on today's drive alone).  I wish them all good luck, though I am still skeptical that wind power will ever amount to anything more than a drop in the bucket when it comes to fulfilling our country's energy needs.

Tomorrow we head across dusty Nebraska and into even dustier Eastern Colorado, with the ultimate aim being the town of Limon and its KOA.