Unexpectedly had to drive for five hours today, but fortunately there doesn't seem to be much going on in the world. The president has arrived in Saudi Arabia, where so far he hasn't committed any public faux-pas. Give him time, I suppose. And anyway, he's among friends.
Meanwhile, someone is selling out our Chinese intelligence assets. I sure hope it's not him.
Travel site Frommer's reports that foreign travel to the U.S. has plummeted since the inauguration, for obvious reasons:
[T]he prestigious Travel Weekly magazine (as close to an “official” travel publication as they come) has set the decline in foreign tourism at 6.8%. And the fall-off is not limited to Muslim travelers, but also extends to all incoming foreign tourists. Apparently, an attack on one group of tourists is regarded as an assault on all.
As far as travel by distinct religious groups, flight passengers from the seven Muslim-majority nations named by Trump were down by 80% in the last week of January and first week of February, according to Forward Keys, a well-known firm of travel statisticians. On the web, flight searches for trips heading to the U.S. out of all international locations was recently down by 17%.
A drop of that magnitude, if continued, would reduce the value of foreign travel within the U.S. by billions of dollars. And the number of jobs supported by foreign tourists and their expenditures in the United States—and thus lost—would easily exceed hundreds of thousands of workers in hotels, restaurants, transportation, stores, tour operations, travel agencies, and the like.
Wow, didn't see that one coming. But hey, with the euro at $1.05 and Sterling at $1.24, maybe it's time to check airfares?
Welcome to February, in which I hope to increase my pathetic blogging rate (currently 1.23 per day for the last 12 months). Of course, even taking a day off to catch up on things doesn't seem to be helping, because I have all of these articles to read:
So, a lot to read. And still almost no time to read it.
The Economist has found that craft breweries are inversely correlated with religiosity in the US:
Some states are craftier than others. Atop the list of craft breweries per capita is Vermont, with 44 of them crammed into one of the nation’s smallest and least populated states. In addition to being better liquored, Vermonters are a good bit more godless than the national average. This reflects a broader trend: there is a markedly negative correlation between a state’s religiosity and breweries per person.
Local regulations determine the level of production much more than demographic characteristics such as income or education, says Bart Watson, chief economist of the Brewers Association, a craft-beer trade organisation. And religious legislators may get a bit overzealous. Utah, a state populated with many teetotaling Mormons, strictly limits the strength of draught beers and cocktails.
As you'd expect from that newspaper, they have a cool chart, too.
Stuff to read later:
OK, conference call is ending. Time to perambulate the pooch.
After the criminal gang known as ISIS held the Mosul Dam in Iraq last year, it did not follow the campsite rule when it fled the Iraqi government's counter-attack. Consequently, engineers say the dam is in danger of imminent collapse:
[P]ressure on the dam’s compromised structure was building up rapidly as winter snows melted and more water flowed into the reservoir, bringing it up to its maximum capacity, while the sluice gates normally used to relieve that pressure were jammed shut.
The Iraqi engineers also said the failure to replace machinery or assemble a full workforce more than a year after Islamic State temporarily held the dam means that the chasms in the porous rock under the dam were getting bigger and more dangerous every day.
Nasrat Adamo, the dam’s former chief engineer who spent most of his professional career shoring it up in the face of fundamental flaws in its construction, said that the structure would only survive with round-the-clock work with teams filling in holes in the porous bedrock under the structure, a process known as grouting. But that level of maintenance, dating back to just after the dam’s construction in 1984, evaporated after the Isis occupation.
People are worried that the rise of Donald Trump in the polls here in the U.S. signals a new dumbing-down of our country. But nothing beats the destructive power of religiously-fueled anti-intellectualism of the kind that ISIS and, even better, Boko Haram perpetrate on innocents.
Also, let's not forget who is most responsible for the chaos Iraq has suffered for the last 12 years: us. This is one more legacy of George W. Bush's needless war.
Zach Weinersmith has abridged the Bible "Beyond the Point of Usefulness." And he has given this work a Creative Commons 3.0 BY-NC license, which lets me post it right here for you (281 k, PDF). Enjoy.
Genesis: God made everything, but humans keep screwing it up; some Jews move to Egypt, which seemed like a good idea at the time.
Amos: Amos becomes, like, the 14,000th prophet to note that Israel is making God mad and when you make God mad things go bad.
Acts: Finding the market for Jewish converts to be quite limited, the apostles branch out to gentiles. In the process, Steve gets killed, but it’s okay because it gets Paul to convert. Paul does a great job, until the Romans get mad.
Seriously, download the book and you'll have read the entire Bible in 15 minutes.
That's not exactly the question Richard Posner and Eric Segall raise, but it's not that far off:
Justice Scalia ... predicted in his dissent [in Lawrence v. Texas] that the court would eventually rule that the Constitution protects the right to same-sex marriage. This June, Justice Scalia’s prediction came true in Obergefell v. Hodges. He has vented even more than his usual anger over this decision. It has become apparent that his colleagues’ gay rights decisions have driven him to an extreme position concerning the role of the Supreme Court.
In a recent speech to law students at Georgetown, he argued that there is no principled basis for distinguishing child molesters from homosexuals, since both are minorities and, further, that the protection of minorities should be the responsibility of legislatures, not courts. After all, he remarked sarcastically, child abusers are also a “deserving minority,” and added, “nobody loves them.”
The logic of his position is that the Supreme Court should get out of the business of enforcing the Constitution altogether, for enforcing it overrides legislation, which is the product of elected officials, and hence of democracy.
The entire op-ed is worth a read.
The good: A new study shows that drinking 3-5 cups of coffee a day has measurable health benefits.
The bad: A black resident of Santa Monica, Calif., got hauled out of her apartment at gunpoint by 19 police officers after a white neighbor reported someone trying to break in.
The ugly: Yale law student Omar Aziz writes about the soul of a Jihadist.
And the neutral, which could be ugly: forecasters predict 15-30 cm of snow in Chicago tomorrow night into Saturday morning.
I haven't commented on Friday night's attacks in Paris for a number of reasons, none of which is relevant right now. I would like to call attention to some of the better responses I've read in the last couple of days:
- Paul Krugman reminds us that if we fear ISIS, they're succeeding—not the other way around.
- Professor Olivier Roy of the European University Institute in Florence says the Paris attacks reveal ISIS' strategic limitations, not their strength.
- President Obama sharply criticized Republican governors (including our own asshat Bruce Rauner) for saying their states won't accept Syrian refugees anymore. (Because of course they were flocking to Alabama, right?) The governors presumably know that this is a foreign-policy issue entirely within Article III and states have no authority here.
- French president François Hollande has declared "terrorism will not destroy the Republic." Of course not; the National Front, which could destroy the Republic, is widely recognized as being a racist, reactionary organization, unlike the U.S. Republican Party.
French reactions are instructive. The French people are pissed as hell, not scared. They understand that the attacks Friday were the work of assholes, not "Islam," and they're responding rationally. Flipping out and transforming France into an armed camp would support the thugs' agenda.
Also instructive is this article from last March explaining that ISIS really are religious nutters first and strategists second, and they really are trying to bring about the end of the world so that the last remaining few dozen of them can go to heaven with Jesus. I am not making this up, though I admit I might not fully understand it, in the same way that I don't always understand the ramblings of four-year-old children either.