October 29, 2007

Go west, old man

It's 6.30am. I'm about to leave my London flat for Gatwick, then Newark for a few weeks stay in the US. I've carry-on only, as ever, stuffed with camera gear mostly. I set my alarm for 3am to allow time to pack and, more important, riffle thru a multi-month pile of bureaucratic envelopes, selecting the ones that look like they'll cost me if I ignore to jam into my bag so that I can continue to procrastinate in the States. I'm still somewhat elated from my recent whale shark trip and some fine games of soccer (I played fine, that is) and I'm elated at the prospect of some family delights later today and Utah in a few days. A sort of glow has been cast on it all by a call last night from a very old Sherpa friend (now an eminent sirdar and mountaineer in Kathmandu) to discuss a long dreamed of expedition to Kanjiroba Himal in the far West of Nepal, a return to a moumtain I failed to make a first ascent on in 1984. So I also jammed some old rudimentary Himalayan trekking maps on top of the tax demands. Jersey, I'm on my way.

October 28, 2007

Why they hate us..

Chatting with a young, educated Russian I was struck how thoroughly his policy choices were inspired by lust to do down America, a psychological condition distinct from a cold-eyed assessment of Russia's self-interest. He agreed when I said so, but straightway reverted to glee at America's supposed humiliations at the hands of Putin and Islamists. He believes US policy is constructed to humiliate Russia. He's not interested in collaborating with the US on the more proximate threats to Russia from Islam and China.

I've seen the same obsession in a Russian emigrée who's lived many years in the US. Despite her in-depth exposure to the US and close American friends, she believes what she wants to believe. She can do no other.

The same hurt-collecting sense of shame at their own failures motivates many educated people everywhere, even a fair number of Britons, tho I reckon the tide has turned especially since the BBC's bias became so widely acknowledged, and the British variant is relatively superficial.

I dub myself an honorary American in order to say: they hate us because they are ashamed.

October 27, 2007


I love this:
..consultants at McKinsey & Company released a report in January, which argued that the tough regulatory environment in the United States was driving private equity and initial public offerings across the Atlantic. But this morning .... Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg — fresh from a visit to England, during which he stayed at his London apartment...
I doubt if 'Red Ken' Livingstone, the execrable Mayor of London, has an apartment in New York, tho possibly in Caracas or Havana. By the way the jew Bloomberg might reflect on Livingstone's notorious anti-semitism and Islamofascistophilia.

In a comment here I wrote:
Anyone who alleges that NYC is the centre of the world is stuck in a time warp. It's London. Reasons why: time-zone, globalization of the US economy, immigrant energy, tax-breaks for non-residents, Russian and Indian billionaires, Sarbanes-Oxley. Polish accents are everywhere, but so are American accents and French and German and Russian and,and. NYC is the financial hub of America in America, but London is the financial hub of America in the world. London is still creating a new past. NYC is maintaining its old past. Having grown up in London I'd say it's the best of times now especially in the East End. I'll give myself a break by flying to Newark on Monday for a couple of months in the boonies of NYC and environs.
This must have provoked Mayor Bloomberg whose lackey wrote (from London) the next day:
Whenever the media pick up on a trend in financial markets, it is usually much too late.

This month, the New York Times ran a long article explaining how New York had surrendered its status as the world's financial center to London.

Right on schedule, the very opposite appears to be true.

After at least five years during which London pulled ahead as a finance hub, several catastrophic mistakes by the British capital are about to put that into reverse.

London has blown its lead. The way is now clear for New York to stage a recovery.

There is little question that London enjoyed higher status..
Actually I agree with Lynn's underlying thesis that London's status is undermined by the government's incompetence, but today the FT reports that Mayor B, Hank Paulson et al realise that it's not a zero-sum game:
Michael Snyder, the City of London Corporation’s policy chairman, attended the meeting at Gracie Mansion, Mr Bloomberg’s official residence .

He said: “’London versus New York’ is often how the show is billed - but the real game is ’efficiency versus economic drag’....“Clearly if we are to get deeply liquid markets, we need to be as joined up as possible and that will help in engaging with and indeed helping the markets in Mumbai, Shanghai or Hong Kong,”
"Engaging with and indeed helping" is snotspeak for "undermining".

A little lateral thinking yields a plan: let New York City secede from the USA and thrive as part of NyLon Inc, UK plc, a binary city of colossal financial might. New Yorkers would be rid of the hated Bush and the threat of a conservative successor. They could taste the rancid fruit of social democracy and depraved culture that most of them vote for AND the money fruit of barrow-boy capitalism. It would be a good deal for the rest of America too ..... if you insist we'll hold our nose and take Hillary in the package. She can be Queen.

For a complementary view see 'New York, not my kind of town'.

October 24, 2007

Djibouti notes

1. There's little alcohol in this poor,mostly Muslim country and the social ether feels healthier for it. I noticed the same thing in Tehran a few years back. I expect the West to sober up in general as the career and mental health benefits become more acutely recognised. Good whisky, of course, stands alone. Perhaps I should give khat a try.

2. I don't take underwater photographs. I feel that I have nothing new to show, I don't need the extra clobber to interfere with the delight of neutral buoyancy and, above all, I'm repelled by the use of flash on fish and turtles.

3. I've put up a gallery here.

October 22, 2007

Altogether elsewhere, vast..

Djust back from Djibouti diving from a liveaboard with my number 3 daughter as buddy. The whale sharks were findable in the plankton soup and sometimes curious about us in a dolphinesque way. We looked for these, the biggest fish, in our rubber dinghies. When a fin was spotted, we headed that way fast, tumbled into the ocean and finned like hell toward the massive presence which would glide by in glory. Oh, boy! One day helicopters of the French Foreign Legion acted as our spotters in between amphibious exercises. Vive la France! I take back my sneer about the Legionnaires' deployment to model tight-fitting shorts above their waxed and shaven legs. We didn't go within sight of the island volcano off Yemen which is on the other side of the entrance to the Red Sea, but a combined diving and land trip to Yemen is now on my agenda.

October 10, 2007

The Horn of Africa

I fly to Djibouti tonight for a week's diving where the Red Sea meets the Indian Ocean. My nr 3 daughter will be my buddy. She's a far more knowledgable diver than I. I'm just a warm-water, follow my leader guy. She trained in the cold water and strong currents around the UK. We'll be looking for whale sharks, the largest fish, which congregate in an algae-rich bay. I also hope to see the volcano which blew up last week on an island off Yemen. This is my third liveaboard trip in the Red Sea. The ease of access from the UK is striking with 5 hour direct flights to the relevant ports of Hurghada and Marsa Alam in Egypt. Djibouti's a little further, but still just a normal magic carpet ride away. Poof! The morning will find us in an enclave surrounded by Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Yemen along with 2,000 soldiers of the French Foreign Legion, but I add without irony that I'll find it refreshing to interact with friendly Moslems. On liveaboards there's nothing to do except dive, eat, sleep and read, so the vacation doesn't get ruined by sightseeing apart from a final 24 hours ashore to de-fizz before the flight home.  A couple of weeks after I get back I'll be in Escalante, Utah, with London and New York in between. The best thing of all is that I don't deserve my lifestyle and haven't earned it by hard work. Toodlepip.

October 05, 2007

Ruminating on Romney

John Hawkins has a good piece against Romney for GOP nominee. Polls suggest that many Americans, especially Christians, especially Christians who'd vote Republican, will not vote for a Mormon. Mick's thoughts are here and I don't buy this poll just as I don't buy polls which suggest that Americans want to surrender in Iraq. It's contextually-manipulated polling, asking questions in a setting which suggests the preferred answer and then headlining that answer at the expense of other answers which would severely modify the policy takeaway from the poll.

Anyway the GOP nomination process is a narrow-mesh filter for the religious-test proposition that Mormonism disqualifies Romney from winning the general election. My instinct is that almost no-one who isn't a locked-in liberal has a problem with a man who follows his parents' religion, doesn't bring its specifics into his campaign, acts on general Christian principles, is personally tolerant, refuses to disavow his faith and has a great family. All religious sects have their cultish aspects, The Church of Liberalism most of all.

Hawkins is right that the MSM will love to mock Mormonism's absurdities, but they'll lash Giuliani's love-life. I bet if a distinguished US general were running for the GOP, they'd call him traitor. A non-RINO needs a rhino's hide whatever his background.

Hawkins deals fairly fairly with Romney's supposed flipfloppery. He concludes that Romney is probably a conservative but
The idea, I suppose, is that conservatives should get him into the White House and then we'll find out where he really stands.
Well Romney's policy statements are clearly conservative, his personal life is clearly conservative, his record as governor of a liberal state is clearly conservative. I don't really have a problem with a President who has evolved into conservatism - isn't that normal?

Hawkins notes that Romney trails in national polls:
Once you get outside of Iowa and New Hampshire, where he has been spending much of his time and campaign war chest, Mitt's numbers are frighteningly bad.
Another way to say that is that Romney appears to be the candidate who can campaign most effectively. If Romney is nominated he'll get the national exposure. If you believe like Hawkins that Romney's a great campaigner, you have to believe that's a winning combination with exposure.

My imaginary vote still goes to Romney over Giuliani because of his competence and stability, tho Giuliani as President sounds dandy too. I'd change my mind if Romney started to trim left.

An afterthought is that Giuliani is far more likely to have secrets in his personal life which are being hoarded by the media. This is a critical election (they all seem to be now that the Democrats have become so treacherous) and should be the dirtiest on record. Romney may have an important edge if you believe that a candidate's personal life can translate to votes. Tho I have many daughters, I'm a dunderhead on female psychology, but I'd have thought Romney's looks and demeanour would appeal to women more than Giuliani's and far,far more than Hillary Clinton's and without the preponderance of the female vote the Dems are sunk. I imagine I'm an expert on male psychology and I can't imagine any man, anywhere, ever voting for Hillary Clinton over Romney (or Giuliani) unless he's a member of some liberal group (government employee, racial identity group, lawyer, academic, student...), but that may be my wishful thinking.

October 04, 2007

PJ Harvey

Having seen Prince, I found that another music hero was giving a single concert in London, so I coughed up for PJ Harvey. This little genius has been a star for about 14 years. I prefer her early albums, especially 4-Track Demos, but she is a knockout live act. Here's an early clip from the Tonight Show...can't imagine what the Leno audience made of her but they seemed to like it.