Sunday, November 28, 2021

Self-defense?

Kyle Rittenhouse, who killed two people with an AK-47 he illegally carried to a demonstration, claiming he killed them in self-defense, has now become the darling of Fox pundit Tucker Carlson. They are both disgusting piles of excrement.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Thanksgiving

Enjoy the interesting story in Atlas Obscura of how Thanksgiving became a national holiday. 

Oddly, the post Civil War South regarded Thanksgiving as an evil northern plot and for many years a number of states below the Mason-Dixon Line refused to observe it.

Having just spent three nights in the hospital with GI problems, I am thankful that I will be fully able to enjoy the Thanksgiving dinner the family has planned for tomorrow.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Dreadful news about the supply chain.

 Read the following article and weep: 

I’m A Twenty Year Truck Driver, I Will Tell You Why America’s “Shipping Crisis” Will Not End


We are screwed because corporations controlling each link of the supply chain have no incentive to change the current structure, and strong incentives to keep things as they are.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Puritan China

Wired Magazine ran an article today on the Chinese government’s crackdown on teenage celebrity-worship. To American eyes, the government and the Communist Party appear to be attempting to create their own version of John Calvin’s 16th Century Geneva on the Yongding. Puritan rulers are often successful for a time until the people tire of compelled righteousness and revert back to their old indulgent ways. It is unlikely that the current leadership will live to see China blackslide into a more liberal nation, but it will happen, provided that we do not blow ourselves up or allow global warming to do us in.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Food Waste and Global Warming

Many years ago, I read of a charity in the Washington, DC area that held a memorable fundraising banquet to which they invited some well-heeled donors. After everyone had finished, they were informed that restaurants and institutional food services had previously discarded everything they had just eaten. Some of the food came from (choke!) dumpsters. I don’t recall whether that experience had a significant effect on contributions, but it dramatically illustrated how much food is wasted in the course of ordinary business.

A recent issue of Bon App├ętit Magazine carried a disturbing article about how food waste contributes significantly to global warming due to the amount of atmospheric carbon it generates. It also suggests some actions we can take to reduce the waste and redirect food otherwise destined for landfills to institutions and people in need.

Humans throw away about 1.3 billion tons of food every year. That’s one-third of all the food in the world. If you loaded that year’s worth of discarded food on trucks, they would stretch bumper to bumper around the globe seven times.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Adam Schiff’s new book reviewed

Today Vanity Fair published an excerpt from Adam Schiff’s new book, Midnight in Washington, recounting the terrible events of January 6, 2021 and how the nation came to such a posture. Required reading. As far as I can ascertain, Schiff is a good and honest person; we should take to heart what he has written.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

What’s Happening to the US Postal Service?

Today, I received an email from my bank informing me that the USPO will start delivering first class mail to addresses more than 300 miles away as much as two days later than it does now. The email contained a link to the post office explaining what it is all about.

The Postal Service will increase time-in-transit standards by 1 or 2 days for certain mail that is traveling longer distances [>300 miles]. By doing so, the Postal Service can entrust its ground network to deliver more First-Class Mail …

USPS explains why it is doing this:

The service standard changes that we have determined to implement are a necessary step towards achieving our goal of consistently meeting 95 percent service performance.

In other words, since it can’t meet its current service standards it will relax the standards rather than bring its service up to par. The real reason for this downgrading is that

In 2006, Congress passed a law that imposed extraordinary costs on the U.S. Postal Service. Title VIII of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) required the USPS to create a $72 billion fund to pay for the cost of its post-retirement health care costs, 75 years into the future. This burden applies to no other federal agency or private corporation.

It’s highly probable that the Republican majority in Congress intended to privatize the US Post Office, much like the United Kingdom privatized the Royal Mail Service. Instead of a public service, the Republicans in Congress anticipated that the USPS would ultimately to go bankrupt, to be sold to a profit-seeking corporation or financial institution. In the United Kingdom, the financial institutions that purchased the British post office saw a huge increase in its stock value in a single day: from 330p to 455p. In essence, the British government “effectively gave away £1 billion in public assets to those who already had money going spare.” I wonder how much money the future buyer of the USPS will net when when the buyer flips it the next day. Suppose a Chinese bank made the highest bid. What happens then?

Needless to say, the Royal Mail service is being cut back as this article is being written.

The cutback in service announced by the USPS is the direct (and predictable) result of the financial distress incurred by the post office in fulfilling requirements imposed by Congress that it fully fund employees’ pensions. Were the Postal Service required to fund pensions in accordance with commercially-accepted practices (pay as you go), it would have been making a profit instead of incurring the losses that it has been needlessly experiencing.

Under the current rules imposed by Congress, the postal service can only become worse and worse as it cuts back on services in order to make excessive payments to its pension fund. Unfortunately, the American public is uninformed of the change in the law, and even if it were informed, most persons would not understand its implications. All the public will know is that postal service is becoming less reliable and more expensive. The Murdoch media (Fox network and the WallStreet Journal) will blame this on the inherent “inefficiency“ of government services in general and will do their best to convince their readers and listeners that the only way it can be “saved” is to privatize it.

Only Congress can cancel these ill-advised plans and it will do so only if it feels public pressure to do so.