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Saturday, September 27, 2008

On a clear day, you can indeed see Russia from Alaska

You'll learn about the difference between Ignaluk and Inalik in my latest guest-post on HughHewitt.com, plus find a link to a webcam from which, for one hour each day, you can literally peer into tomorrow.


[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

In the native language, it's called "Inalik," meaning "the other one" or "the one over there." In English, the town's name is "Diomede," and with a 2000 U.S. Census population of 146, it's part of "the Nome Census Area of the Unorganized Borough of the U.S. state of Alaska, located on the island of Little Diomede" (the smaller island itself being known as "Ignaluk" in the local language). Their state governor, of course, is Sarah Palin. And the "other other" impliedly referenced by the native name is undoubtedly the nearby island of Big Diomede, which is easily visible at less than three miles away — even though Big Diomede is part of Russia.

Here's a screencap (click to enlarge any of the pix in this post) from a pretty cool QuickTime VR diorama made at Diomede by students from the Bering Strait School District in April 2007. Yes, that's Russia (Big Diomede Island) across the water. Since it sticks up pretty high out of the water, it's kind of hard to miss.

Screencap from diorama taken from Little Diomede showing Big Diomede across less than three miles of water in the Bering Strait

In fact, the students have a live webcam set up in Diomede, so anyone with an internet connection can take a live look from the U.S. to Russia at their whim. But beware: "Because the International Date Line runs down the 4-km (2.5-mi) gap between the two islands, you can look from Alaska into 'tomorrow' in Russia."

[# More #] Here's a nice satellite photo of Big and Little Diomede Islands:

Satellite photo of Big and Little Diomede Islands

And for global perspective, here's a series from Google Maps going from zoomed-in to zoomed-out. The Diomedes Islands are just north of the zigzag in the international border. (Up that far north, it's pretty tricky to say which way is west and which way is east, though.)

Big and Little Diomede Islands

Big and Little Diomede Islands

Big and Little Diomede Islands

During and after World War II, the Soviets maintained a military base on Big Diomede, from which they would take captive anyone who wandered across the frozen strait. "[T]he two island communities, connected by Eskimo family kinships but separated by American/Russian politics, led parallel lives — pictures of Karl Marx hung in the Russian schools, pictures of Abraham Lincoln in the American."

I'm not saying that these photos and maps, by themselves, are any proof that Sarah Palin is ready to be a heartbeat from the presidency. I am saying that these photos and maps, by themselves, are indeed proof that she and others were telling the literal truth when they described Russia as sharing a border with, and being visible from, Alaska.

As for Gov. Palin's foreign affairs and national defense qualifications, however:

  1. No job fully prepares anyone for the foreign policy and national defense responsibilities that attend the office of POTUS because no job shares more than a fraction of those responsibilities — including jobs like "Secretary of State" or "Secretary of Defense" or "U.S. Senator."

  2. No new occupant of the office of POTUS has to undertake those responsibilities alone. Each is surrounded by advisers, including career professionals from the State and Defense Departments. In particular, any vice presidents who is suddenly elevated to the presidency is surrounded by advisers originally selected by their immediate predecessor, which would mean in the case of a hypothetical ascension by Sarah Palin to the presidency, advisers chosen by John McCain. As a former naval aviator and, then, commander of the Navy's largest air wing, and as a long-time senator with oversight responsibilities, active participation on the Senate Foreign Affairs committee, and — extraordinarily even for Senators — direct involvement in international negotiations (as when he led the United States' efforts to negotiate the resumption of diplomatic relations with the same regime that once tortured him as a POW) — John McCain's own foreign affairs and national defense credentials are among the most impressive held by anyone ever to run for president. He will put a sound system into place that would benefit a sudden successor, and he would also be a superb tutor of a co-executive in his administration whose own credentials on foreign affairs and national security are less deep than his own.

  3. Although border state governors have more interaction with foreign affairs and border security matters than other governors, in our federal system that commits overall commander-in-chief responsibility and foreign affairs (head of state) primacy to the federal Executive, no state governor has executive experience on these matters comparable to that which must be exercised by the POTUS. State governors are, however, executives, with experience running large organizations of a sort that mere legislators at any level — including U.S. Congressmen and Senators — don't acquire. That's part of the explanation for why America has so often elected state chief executive officers (governors) to become the federal chief executive officer (POTUS), often with salutary results (see, e.g., Ronald Reagan's victory in the Cold War).

  4. Even with the limited role that our system apportions to state governors as commanders-in-chief of their state national guards and the state executives ultimately responsible for law enforcement within their jurisdictions, those governors still have and wield executive authority that includes putting guard members' and law enforcement officers' lives on the line — in enforcement of criminal law, in handling civil disorders and riots, and in emergencies like forest fires and floods. They send them into harms' way; they direct their activities while there; and sometimes, they have go to the funerals and hand flags to grieving relatives. And among all state governors, the governor of Alaska — as the state leader with closest continual proximity to a hostile foreign state — does indeed have responsibilities and obtain defense briefings beyond those received by, for example, the governor of Arkansas (which need not fear hostile bomber overflights from Missouri). No one can seriously argue that this compares to actually being the POTUS. But it's not nothing, either. And of executive experience in general, or experience personally making decisions that have put anyone's lives on the line in particular, "nothing" is the exactly appropriate description for both Sens. Obama and Biden, because neither member of the Democratic Party's ticket can match Gov. Palin's experience of that sort (or any other state governor's, for that matter).

Obviously, Gov. Palin was selected not to augment McCain's own strengths, but to balance the ticket: A governor to complement a senator, someone with executive experience in government to complement an experienced federal legislator, youth and energy to complement age and experience. (The conspicuous exception is that they both share strong credentials as vigorous reformers.)

Sen. McCain did a great deal at last night's debate to dispel doubts about his age and mental crispness, and those who vote for him may do so with the full and reasonable expectation that he'll ably serve out at least one term. Gov. Palin's own record of accomplishments in office, along with her electoral appeal and the prospect that she will join him as a crusading reformer in Washington, amply justify her selection, and her gubernatorial experience will match that of another young and dynamic GOP vice presidential nominee upon assuming office — one T.R. Roosevelt of New York. And when he suddenly ascended to the top job, he only did well enough to get his face on Mt. Rushmore.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 06:54 PM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink


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