Thursday, March 22, 2007
Two British Submariners Die off Coast of Alaska
It has been nearly fifteen years since I left the submarine force, but whenever I hear about something like this, the memories come flooding back.
This is an inherently dangerous line of work. During a junior officer tour whose sea time was cut short by a trip to the shipyard for decommissioning, I got to see a small fire and a collision at sea, but fortunately, no deaths or serious injuries.
It takes a navy's best sailors in terms of intellect and character to man a submarine. I remember what good men we had back then, and I think of them any time something like this happens. Furthermore, submarine crews are not that large, which means that the loss will not just be professional for their shipmates, but personal as well. My deepest condolences go to the crew of the HMS Tireless and to their families.
Bubblehead posts more at the Ultraquiet No More group blog, and further news can also be found, as always, at The Sub Report.
Bush and Chavez, the Two Amigos
On the heels of my disappointment with President Bush's recent performance as "opening act" for Hugo Chavez in South America, the Ayn Rand Institute published a press release that summarized the spectacle and its deeper meaning quite nicely.
As President Bush ends his tour of Latin America, he has vowed to deliver "social justice" to poor Latin Americans.Interestingly enough, a few other recent news stories point to how pitifully close our nation is to following Chavez's footsteps.
"In announcing his commitment to achieving 'social justice' in Latin America," said Dr. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, "President Bush is following in the footsteps, not of Thomas Jefferson, but of Hugo Chavez.
"'Social justice' is the notion that everyone deserves an equal share of the wealth that exists in a nation -- regardless of how productive he is. Justice, on this view, consists of seizing the wealth of the productive and giving it to the unproductive. This is the ideal preached and conscientiously put into practice by leftist dictators like Chavez.
"But it is precisely this type of envy-driven philosophy that is responsible for the wretched conditions in Latin America. It is no mystery why a nation that shackles and loots its most productive citizens should be weighed down by poverty and stagnation.
"President Bush should tell the people of Latin America to reject the immoral goal of 'social justice' and embrace the American principles of freedom and capitalism."
First, The Economist paints a scary portrait of the Venezuelan economy already in serious trouble due to Chavez's meddling. (HT: Noumenal Self)
The economy is showing some signs of strain. The inflation rate, at 17% last year, was the highest in Latin America -- even though Venezuela's currency is overvalued. Despite the oil bonanza, the government has run a fiscal deficit in most of Mr Chavez's time in power: this year that deficit may reach 3% of GDP.Aside from other foolishness planned by Chavez and outlined there, he has started tinkering with the currency.
First, Mr. Chavez said the authorities would remove three zeroes from the denomination of the currency, the bolivar. Then he said the new bolivar, worth 1,000 old bolivars, would be renamed the "bolivar fuerte," or strong bolivar.A Hugo Faria put it, "Anyone who sees a 12 1/2-cent coin as a remedy for this country's problems isn't thinking too clearly." This is charitable almost to the point of injustice. I would say that anyone who thinks that magically declaring that tokens and pieces of paper are valuable isn't thinking clearly.
Finally, at the behest of Mr. Chavez, the central bank said this week that it would reintroduce a 12.5-cent coin, a symbol of Venezuela's prosperity in the 1960s and 1970s before freewheeling oil booms ended in abrupt devaluations, after three decades out of circulation.
Mr. Chavez champions these ideas, which will take effect in January, as ways to combat inflation, which in recent weeks crept up to 20 percent, the highest in Latin America. Officials blame "hoarders" for shortages of basic goods and price increases for food on the black market. Mr. Chavez says the renaming and redenominating the currency will instill confidence in it.
But that would upset the many people in America itself who also think that fiat currency is a good idea. Quick. What four-letter word appears only as a word for a color in this article on why we should dump the greenback? Hint: I would call it the only objective basis for "confidence" in any currency. The article is interesting, but the real story isn't that metal tokens wear out more slowly than pieces of paper. It's that our currency has no backing and buys considerably less all the time.
And if America and Venezuela are both dabbling in their own variants of anti-capitalist economics, does John McCain offer hope when he warns against the spread of socialism?
The Arizona senator said that "everyone should understand the connections" between Chavez, Morales and communist Cuban President Fidel Castro.No, not when his track record on freedom of speech at home comes to mind, he does not. In this respect, he is also an amigo of Chavez.
"They inspire each other. They assist each other. They get ideas from each other," McCain said. "It's very disturbing."
Cuban-Americans are a key voting bloc in electoral-rich Florida and typically cast their ballots for Republicans.
As president, McCain said he would work on political, diplomatic and economic fronts to counter the rise of socialism, including efforts to spread free trade. Yet the United States must also stress the advantages of capitalism and democracy to win "a war of ideas" in the region, he said. [bold added]
This champion of creeping censorship (not to mention shrinking protection of property rights) in the guise of campaign finance "reform" has apparently already forgotten that any war of ideas involves the ability to exercise free speech among private citizens at home. McCain is right that we must fight a battle of ideas, but he either does not understand the meaning of the words he spoke or is engaging in the most cynical of pandering. I suspect the latter.
Spring Has Sprung
It has become my custom each year to mark the arrival of spring here by poking affectionate fun at the semitropical metropolis I call home. One year, it was my first mosquito sighting. The next, my first anthill. I may have even mentioned spotting my first gecko of the year in the trash.
This year, I knew spring had arrived when, as I was taking out the trash one morning a week or so ago, I walked into my first huge spider web of the year! I look forward to firing up the barbecue pit and doing some light reading any day now!
The wildflowers in our back yard are also beginning to bloom. One year, a succession of busy weekends caused me to neglect mowing our back yard for long enough that a stunning number and variety of wild flowers go the chance to bloom in the small, enclosed space, which I see every morning when I open the window for Jerome. I enjoyed it so much that I now intentionally allow the yard to grow wild during the first few weeks of spring.
I don't have pictures to post of that, but they wouldn't hold a candle to Amit Ghate's orchids, or to this shot of flower stalls I found via Isaac Schrodinger's blog anyway, so I direct your attention elsewhere. Enjoy!
PS: A commenter notes a problem with this page loading via Internet Explorer. If you use IE and notice the problem he describes (which is distinct from a problem some users have with how it displays comments), please drop me a line.
Today: Minor edits, added PS.