Thursday, February 22, 2007

BLATHER 22.II.2007

A Diary by John McCaughey

Blather [magazine] is here. As we advance to make our bow, you will look in vain for signs of servility or for any evidence of a slavish desire to please. We are an arrogant and depraved body of men. Blather doesn't care. A sardonic laugh escapes us as we bow, cruel and cynical hounds that we are. It is a terrible laugh, the laugh of lost men. Do you get the smell of porter?

---Flann O'Brien, Dublin, 1934
None of us can really be sure that we exist. My whole life, as this Diary shows, is a lie. All the characters in it are invented, none bears any resemblance to anyone living or dead. People who claim to find themselves here must know that the only real existence we can any of us claim is in the imagination of God.

---Auberon Waugh, Diaries 1972-1985

Last Exit to Brooklyn

David Lochbaum, a safety engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists (it has few scientists and is concerned mostly about dues income), claims to have identified a serious new radiation threat.

This is the ubiquitous and seemingly-harmless "Exit" signs seen on any American highway.

Prodnose Lochbaum has discovered that the signs contain radioactive tritium which allows them to glow in the dark. And also that they are disposed off in ordinary landfills.

This means, he explains, that high levels of tritium could be contained in the water leaking from landfills---water that is technically called "leachate". So Prodnose wants the NRC, EPA and other fed regulators to monitor landfill sites and to solve the problem.

Just how this can be done remains a mystery. As is the mystery of who, in any case, drinks "leachate".

Lie Back and Enjoy It

The cant word of the moment is "resource nationalism". But in various forms it has been around for a long time: the practice of governments nationalizing foreign-owned enterprises on their soil, invariably at a low price (sometimes approaching zero). Confiscation, expropriation or theft might be better words for it, because, as it usually an oil facility or a coal mine or the like, the foreign owner is unable to pick up his marbles and run.

The current champion of the art is Venezuelan President Hugo "Fidel Light" Chavez who a month or so ago announced that he would nationalize key telecommunications, utility and oil ventures in his socialist Banana Republic, which now has an inflation rate of nearly 20 percent and is, in any case, seeing a huge flight from the country of oil industry professionals and drilling rigs.

Nothing unusual about the confiscations: in the trade it's called a "political risk" that a foreign buyer should have evaluated and taken into consideration before making his investment.

Thus, Arlington-based AES had little choice but to sell its 82 percent stake in EDC, Venezuela's largest private electric utility, back to Chavez's entirely-corrupt government for $739 million.

Sounds like a lot of money? Er, not quite. It is less than half of the $1.7 billion that AES spent to acquire the shares some seven years ago.

What is, perhaps, a trifle unusual is the saintly forebearance of AES chief executive Paul Hanrahan.

"I think this deal is a fair one," he told a news conference in Caracas shown on state-owned Globovision. He added that the deal had "respected the rights of investors....It's with a heavy heart that we part with EDC. We understand that it was a strategic decision of the Venezuelan government and we respect that."

It's difficult to negotiate with a gun at your head so Hanrahan's forebearance may perhaps be understood (and bugger the AES shareholders). But it does remind one rather of the anxious upper-class English woman who enquired what she should do if the island were invaded by Hitler and she was about to be raped by a Nazi storm-trooper.

"Oh, I shouldn't worry about that," replied her companion. "If you're going to be raped, just lie back and enjoy it."

Heatwave in Tibet

To Tibet, land of 46,000 glaciers and the world's highest mountains, for a weekend break. There, in the Karo-la Pass, our old friend Tsawang Dumi, the shepherd, reports delightedly that global warming has arrived. As a result, far fewer of his sheep and goats have died this winter. Tsawang lives on the 24,000 foot mountain of Nozing Kangtsang between the Tibetan capital city of Lhasa and Mount Everest.

To celebrate the global warming, Tsawang and Blather mount their yaks and descend a few thousand feet to the nearest public house, known as The Himalayan Hillside, where we partake of Hot Toddies made with fermented yak milk.

"I have heard of global warming," says Tsawang, "although I don't really understand what it means." Solemnly, we drink to this. Better to remain in ignorance.

The Answer is Blowing in the Wind

Czechoslovakia, previously only known as a country that gave the world the beautiful city of Prague, has now achieved new fame. Visiting the city the other day, we dined with Czech president Vaclav Klaus (Blather always makes a point of meeting with political leaders when travelling abroad) and we were delighted when Vaclav told us that fears of catastrophic man-made global warming were "a myth" and that the UN IPCC process was just gotten up by a bunch of politicised hacks who are in it for the money.

It is good to know that Czechoslovakia is in such sensible hands. Perhaps too the pendulum is beginning to swing and the steam to go out of the global warming scare, as it went out of alar on apples, EMF fields and a score of other scares in recent decades.

Next to Rome to ask dear old Joe Ratzinger what are his views on the issue.

Unhappy Valentine's Day

British enviros marked Valentine's Day by complaining that air-freighting flowers to the country (they claim that the average bunch has flown 33,800 miles to reach Blighty) has "serious implications" for climate change in terms of carbon dioxide emissions from aeroplanes.

"We don't want to be killjoys, because receiving flowers can be lovely. But why not grow your own gift?" says Vicky Hird of Friends of the Earth.

Because roses don't grow in Britain in winter, you silly girl.

Here Comes the Sun

The little town of Viganella in Italy (close to the Swiss border) has a problem. It lives in the shadow of a steep mountain that blocks the sun's rays for most of the winter months.

Enter Emilio Barlocco, an engineer. At his suggestion, a 430-square-foot mirror was placed on the mountainside 2,900 feet above the town to deflect the sun's rays into the town square in winter.

The mirror is motorised, controlled by a computer in the town hall and is so versatile that the rays can be directed specifically---at the church for a baptism, for example, or the local bar for a wedding feast. It doesn't generate a lot of heat, Mayor Pierfranco Midali admits, but it may be helping the few hundred town inhabitants to lose their customary ghastly winter pallor.

It is also helping the local economy and is offsetting its $130,000 cost by attracting tourists, the media and the curious to the town. "More persons have passed through Viganella in the last two years than in the past two centuries," says the Mayor.

Aren't our engineers wonderful?


"The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a slim summary today trimming down thousands of pages of its massive overall Fourth Scientific Assessment on global warming, which will be released in May...Hundreds of scientists have been involved in the review process, and it is safe to say that means hundreds of bored scientists, because there is very little in it that is scientifically new....In summary, what's not new in today's IPCC report---that humans are warming the planet---will be treated as big news, while what is new--that sea levels are not likely to rise as much as previously predicted---will be ignored, at least by everyone except the extremist fringe."

----Patrick J. Michaels, The Cato Institute

"When a lover once complained to him that, for a poet, he was not very romantic, Auden replied: 'If it's romance you're looking for, go f--- a journalist...' "

-----James Fenton, London Guardian newspaper, February 2007, on the English poet W.H. Auden. The poet was a bachelor.

"The loudest voices are those of the hardcore alarmists, with their 'moral' urge to compel us to consume less and fly less. H.L. Mencken observed astutely that 'The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the population alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.'

"Where aviation and emissions are concerned, we should be very wary of politicians who brandish moralistic arguments to justify taxes which will ultimately yield few gains to us or to the environment."

----Kendra Okonski, environment program director, International Policy Network, London, on why punitive taxes on air fares and fuel will do little or nothing to save the planet.

"In the time of Henry Luce, information wasn't dispersed as quickly. Now, everyone has turned into a news reporter. It really is a different world and these legacy businesses are going through a wrenching transition. They have to run the old business while building the new one."

-----Harold Vogel, Vogel Capital Management, New York on the news that Time Inc is eliminating nearly 300 magazine jobs and closing numerous bureaux in big cities.

"Exercitatio optimus es magister"

Practice is the best teacher.

"Diabolus me coegit peccare!"

The Devil made me do it {always a good excuse when you've screwed up}.

"Procrastina rem nunc"

Procrastinate now...

"Industriae nil impossibile"

Nothing is impossible with industry...

-----from Blather's "Bluffer's Guide to Latin."

Our Hispanic Cousins

"There is nothing to say of Murillo* but that his pictures are very good furniture for sacred buildings. From any other standpoint they are profoundly insignificant. He has a pleasing talent for composition, his colour is soft and pretty; he is loose, sentimental, graceful and superficial. And yet when you see these paintings in the places for which they were painted, dimly lit and magnificently framed, in a chapel of which the rich tones complete their colour, you cannot deny that they have something. They appeal to an over-wrought, sickly devotion, the other side of the Spanish violence, crudity and brutishness. They appeal to the faculty of shedding abundant tears, the love of children, the casual admiration of a pretty girl and the half superstitious charitableness, which are to be found in the average Spaniard."

----W. Somerset Maugham "A Writer's Notebook" 1933

*Bartolome Esteban Murillo (1617-1682), a Spanish painter who believed in God and worked for the Franciscans.


Anonymous florapro said...

Let's 33,800 miles from where to where and what route did they fly to get there. Must have been flying in circles. Is that stretching it just a bit??

February 23, 2007  
Anonymous florapro said...

What is the circumference of the Earth? How far around is the Earth?

The average radius of the Earth is 3,959 miles (6,374 kilometers). The equatorial diameter of the Earth (distance from one side of the Earth to the other at the equator) is about 7,926 miles.

The ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle (circumference/diameter) is written as the symbol pi. Pi is approximately 3.141592. 3.14159265 3.1415926535

Therefore, to determine the circumference from the diameter given above: equatorial diameter x 3.141592 = equitorial circumference | | 7,926 x 3.141592 = 24,900 | | The earth has a circumference of approximately 24,900 miles.

More precisely the circumference of the earth at the equator is 24,902 mi / 40,076 km.

February 23, 2007  
Blogger The Washington Pest said...

Thank you for explaining pi, we have always wondered about it. Mind you 3 seems a good value in most cases we pests deal with.

As for the big miles number, this blog is what we laughingly (hopefully) call satire. Think of it as a verbal cartoon with a pointed point. Artful exaggeration is part of the game. Sorry for the confusion.

February 24, 2007  
Anonymous Greg S. said...


Czechoslovakia no longer exists. I think you were in the Czech Republic....


March 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Greg, glad to hear it, but I did not write that. I've never been east of Inverness. John McCaughey is real, most of the time. Given that saturday was St.Green Beer's Day there may be a delay in his reality.


March 19, 2007  
Anonymous Greg S. said...

Oops my bad. I do note, however, that no matter how pleasant a Brit might be, his/her reality is always quite a bit different from mine.... and oftentimes it's a better reality!


March 19, 2007  

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