Tuesday, December 06, 2016

It's a frightening world out there!

I always check the Hazardous Weather Warning on the National Weather Service site. This morning's is especially poignant. Isn't it comforting that someone in the government is worried that my front step might be slippery?

REFREEZING OF MELTED SNOW AND SLUSH IS EXPECTED TO PRODUCE PATCHY BLACK ICE ON UNTREATED ROADS AND WALKWAYS THROUGH EARLY THIS MORNING. EARLY MORNING COMMUTERS SHOULD EXERCISE CAUTION ESPECIALLY ON SECONDARY ROADS. PEOPLE SHOULD ALSO BE CAREFUL WHEN JUST STEPPING OUTSIDE EARLY IN THE MORNING AS STEPS AND DRIVEWAYS MAY HAVE BECOME ICY OVERNIGHT.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Peak Oil redux

Forty years ago, Aristotle Onassis wanted to build an oil refinery in my backyard, and of course we all banded together to stop him. One of our refrains (a popular one at the time) was that the world was running out of oil, so what was the point of building a refinery that by the year 2000 would have nothing to refine? Didn't happen that way! Each decade, the experts had to reset the day of Peak Oil, when production would begin to decline, pushing doomsday further into the future.

And this morning the Wall Street Journal is fretting anew, but this time about Peak Oil Demand. It's not a shortage of oil that's the new fear, but customers for all that oil. One Eastern European oil company sees demand flattening about 2030 and falling thereafter. The giants -- Exxon, BP, Saudi Arabia -- likewise anticipate a time when they will have to make their profit instead from petrochemicals, natural gas, and even (are you ready?) solar power!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The globalized American chicken

We eat a lot of chicken and turkey breasts in this house, and I have often wondered: who eats the legs? This morning, the Wall Street Journal provides the answer. American chicken legs go to Africa, where they are favored because they are cheaper than breast meat. In 2014, our exports of frozen poultry to Ghana, Angola, and Congo came to more than half a billion dollars, which is not chicken feed.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Making Volkswagen pay

There used to be a fond joke about who shall pay for a needed improvement--a bridge to Nowhere, let's say. How will we raise the money? "Well," says the little girl, "why doesn't the government do it?" Because government money, in her view, is free.

Now governments have reached the same conclusion: they can let business pay! So billion-dollar settlements are simply announced--by the president of the United States, by federal agencies, by attorney generals, and of course by governmental agencies in other countries who know a good thing when they see it. The latest victim of these pile-ons has been Volkswagen, the naughty German company that tweaked its engines so that they'd behave differently when being tested for emissions. Aha! A pinata that rained money upon politicians everywhere, without the bother of a judge and jury!

Alas, there is no free money. To recoup its finances, Volkswagen has announced a restructuring plan that, among other things, will result in the lay-off of thirty thousand VW workers around the world. Perhaps some of them can find jobs at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Something amazing happened yesterday, and

I'm not talking about politics. The featured review in The New Yorker -- the last of our upscale magazines with any claim to mass attention -- is about Jack Reacher!

Well, no, of course it isn't about the indomitable Reacher himself. This is TNY, after all! Instead, what we get is eight columns of type and a garish color illustration about the British author who invented this American on steroids, our turn-of-the-21st-century equivalent of Lew Wetzel, Natty Bumpo, the Lone Ranger, and The Man With No Name. And there's a reference in the second line to Coleridge's "willing suspension of disbelief," just to reassure us that this essay is serious stuff and not about lad lit at all.

So my secret vice has been validated. Reacher rules! (And no, he doesn't look anything at all like Tom Cruise.)

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

May you live in interesting times ...

I've refrained from blogging, these past six weeks, figuring the country had enough nastiness without my adding to it. Now that it's over, I am reminded of the Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times. Indeed, that seems to be our fate.

Congratulations, Mr Trump! I hope you understand the magnitude of what happened last night: a nation of 320 million people rolled the dice and came up with you. Please don't betray them, as so many politicians have.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The perils of Julian

Poor Julian Assange!  Like Cardinal Mindszenty in the US Embassy in Budapest, he is under self-imposed housed arrest in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, hiding out from the authorities while he pursues his life's goal of releasing documents to embarrass the United States. (Well, the cardinal of course was not a document-leaker. He was, as his Wikipedia biography describes him, a Servant of God.) Bad enough to be confined to a room, dependent upon the kindness of strangers, but now Ecuador has shut Mr Assange off from the internet!

The Wall Street Journal phrases it nicely:

Mr. Assange’s predicament is unique because his origins and activities cut across at least six countries. He was born in Australia, lives now at Ecuador’s U.K. embassy, is publishing documents allegedly stolen by Russia that affect the U.S. election, and is being pursued by law enforcement in Sweden over sexual-assault allegations that Mr. Assange denies.
The Wiki-leaker has been holed up for four years now. The cardinal toughed it out for fifteen, 1956-1971. And he didn't have wi-fi!