What went wrong with the POTUS

An opinion piece1 in the New York Times written by someone who apparently voted for Obama and was enthusiastic about his presidency, concludes with a few hypotheses to account for what went wrong. I found this one most likely:

A second possibility is that he [Obama] is simply not up to the task by virtue of his lack of experience and a character defect that might not have been so debilitating at some other time in history. Those of us who were bewitched by his eloquence on the campaign trail chose to ignore some disquieting aspects of his biography: that he had accomplished very little before he ran for president, having never run a business or a state; that he had a singularly unremarkable career as a law professor, publishing nothing in 12 years at the University of Chicago other than an autobiography; and that, before joining the United States Senate, he had voted “present” (instead of “yea” or “nay”) 130 times, sometimes dodging difficult issues.

1. Hat tip Friedman

Wag More, Bark Less

There I stood, looking out over the world, wondering what to make of it.

The nation’s credit rating – according to S&P anyway – went from AAA to AA+. What happened to AAA-? I overheard Master say to a friend before the so-called crisis was averted, “Just watch, if we default, the Dow will go up.” Everyone who heard this chuckled. Quietly he predicted the opposite too, that the Dow would plummet if the crisis was averted, but he didn’t say this out loud. Too bad, his foresight would never again be questioned. Of course, we will never really know the direction the Dow would have gone had the crisis not been averted, but in any case the unexpected reaction by investors underscores the caprice of markets. Which was kinda the point.

Our latest batch of house guests arrived in July. First Kevin, aka “Kdog”, was here for a brief visit, just enough time to get in a mountain bike ride on the Lost Lake trail, a favorite on the Kenai Peninsula. Here they are, he and Master, after the gnarly climb (1820′) to the summit in front of Lost Lake, which evidently isn’t.

Lucy and I were in the car with Mom, intending to pick them up on the other end of the 15 mile trail and then spend the night in Seward. But the alternator failed and left us stranded at the base of Turnagain Pass. Mom’s coolheadedness averted an accident. So they descended the same side of the trail they had just climbed, got in Master’s car and back to Anchorage they went. We had to be towed. Two days later, after Kdog left, the next guests arrived, Bob ‘n Hope from Cleveland, who, not surprisingly, we refer to by the monomial “BobHope”. Just before they arrived Master bought a new car – Subaru Outback (6-cyl/256 HP!) – because, well, the Mercedes was showing her age (221K miles). Eventually, more money would need to be spent to keep her going another 200K, but when cars get that old you start to question if your affections aren’t misplaced. Sold the old girl to a young woman for a $1000. She seemed delighted to have her. Don’t ask me why cars are “shes”, it’s just always been that way.

Anyway, down to Seward we all went, us, BobHope, the repaired Honda, and the new Subaru. Biblical rain for two days but we had fun. Presently BobHope and Mom are on their way home from Denali National Park. Wildlife seen: lynx, squirrels, fox, moose, caribou and many bears. No wolves, though. On their drive home they experienced an unseasonable and convincing snowfall! By comparison, in Anchorage, it’s sixty degrees.  Go figure.

It’s hard to square finicky weather with the tocsin of global warming (GW). We get “literature” in the mail warning us that polar bears are in peril due to GW. Most of that mail, as well as relevant web sites, are emphatic that less sea ice and shortened winters have a “big” impact on polar bear survival. But evidently the biggest threat to polar bears has been and continues to be hunting, not GW. In Canada alone, for example, it is estimated that 700 bears are killed by hunters each year. Given the estimate of 20-25K bears globally, and assuming an additional 300 bears are killed by hunters annually elsewhere in the world besides Canada (seems reasonable), then hunting alone would wipe out the species in about a quarter century. I have not seen an estimate of the number of polar bears that die each year due to the effects of GW. Supposedly, polar bears have the slowest turnover (birthrate) of any mammal – they breed only five times per lifetime and litters are typically only two cubs. Motherless cubs face certain death. So killing bears, more so than other mammals, really threatens their long term survival. If the concern of the people who send us this “literature” by mail were really for the polar bears, I would expect they would advocate much more loudly for an end to hunting polar bears worldwide, instead of unquantified claims that GW is the biggest threat to their survival.

Are there not already too many real problems in the world without imagining new ones?

Don’t raise the ceiling, lower the floor.

Ron Paul’s solution to the debt ceiling impasse. It would buy the government more time to continue arguing over how to bring about a more permanent fix.

So far as I understand the plan: Imagine one day you loan yourself a considerable sum of money. Months or years later you find you can no longer pay all your bills, which includes the interest on the loan you made to yourself, because 1) over the years you’ve over-committed yourself (bought too much stuff), and 2) there’s no longer enough revenue coming in to pay all your bills – maybe you lost your job. Instead of borrowing on your Visa to pay your bills, you merely forgive the loan you made to yourself, thus you no longer have to pay the interest, and this leaves you with enough money to pay your other bills. In the case of the government and the Fed (Federal Reserve), the “loan” was made in the form of a bond sale, the Fed bought the bonds from the government.

Paul’s suggestion is to have congress tell the Fed – whose assets belong to the government – to destroy the bonds. This would lower the government’s debt by $1.6 trillion, effectively “lowering the floor” and leaving the ceiling unchanged, and allow the government to borrow more money now.

Brilliant. So far as it goes anyway.

The real problem is to get the government to stop over committing itself. Paul has some ideas for that as well.

Red Slayers

Flies meticulously tied with generations old wisdom. The fly rod balanced, perfect, well-worn but ready. Alone, you weave your way along the bank of a serene stream. A warm breeze ripples the water. Your secret hole cuddles a cut bank. The philosophical arc of the line; your first cast. The fly lights on the water, disappears in a sun glinted eddy. Drift. You wait, expectant. All is calm. Until, that first strike!

The quintessential fishing experience, right? Not ours! Instead, we – my bride and I – donned our chest waders, put on our slop boots, slogged along a muddy bank at low tide, stepped into the icy, silty water of the Kasilof river where it empties into Cook Inlet, shouldered our way into position among countless other netters, and noisily awaited the push of red (sockeye) salmon.

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For an hour or more all we did is sift water. We felt foolish, outwitted by the fish. Because you can’t see them run, the water is too murky. Someone standing next to me claimed he felt one bump into his leg. And I thought, “Maybe they’re swimming upstream behind us!” Clever suckers. Nutty Alaskan kids running barefoot through the surf. It was a mystery how they avoided turning blue.

But the weather was fabulous!

Mount Redoubt Volcano looms in the distance.

Dip netting is a uniquely Alaskan experience, as only Alaskans are legally allowed to dip net for personal use catch, which is 25 per person, and an additional 10 for each household member, none of whom need be present to fish for themselves. My bride and I fished the evening high tide, spent a sleepless night camped on the beach, thanks to the all night partiers camped next to us, and then I trundled out of the tent early (3 am!) and fished the morning high tide. We came home with ten in the cooler, just like these:

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When you consider we had to clean, fillet, vacuum seal and freeze these bad boys (actually, 3 were female) ourselves… well, it was a blessing we didn’t get more. Should last us through winter.

Next year, as Arnold says, “We’ll be back.”

End of the Road

Oh, for the time when I shall sleep
Without identity.

~Emily Bronte

Salmon Slayers

Nibbe Family: Fish fear them. At least they do now.

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Not bad for six hours of fishing. Everyone in the family hooked and landed an Alaskan King Salmon.

Nibbes left to right: Master, Mother, Sister, Brother, Father.

Today in Seward. Another crummy day in Alaska.

The view from our digs at Lowell Point:

So Long Sol

Behold: His ‘n Her Copper River red salmon fillets. Lightly brushed with evo and dusted with Johnny’s seasoning salt. Mine with a sprinkle of tarragon, hers without. Hot grill ~12 minutes.

They account for not even a smidgen of the total commercial harvest this year from the Copper River. And this one made it past the gauntlet of commercial nets, thinking it was on its way to reproductive success, only to be thwarted by a sport fisher further upstream.

We are over the solstice hump; the sun set ~30 seconds earlier than yesterday. And still you could tee off at 8 pm and easily get in 18 holes. I am famous infamous among friends for the reminder each year that the days are getting shorter. This year I made the announcement on a friend’s backyard deck during the first hour of one of our frequent soirees. Under bluesky and beaming sunlight, and having just emptied the bottle of Tempranillo Reserve (2004) I had brought, the annual indiscretion went almost unnoticed, receiving only a mild scolding from the person who heard it. Good food, friends, and wine can compensate for a number of bad behaviors. All were present in abundance that evening.

A Brief Theory of Origin

At first there was nothing. And nothing happened to nothing. Until, by chance, something happened to nothing. Which gave rise to everything. From nothing.


Desert Nostalgia

Reading around the web today got me to thinking about creative writing. How much I used to enjoy it. Here’s a quiet essay I wrote about fourteen years ago that got some nice comments, and was even selected for publication in a University anthology. One person commented that it read like a prayer. After all these years it still gives me goosebumps to read it.