Saturday, April 30, 2005

Cuomo: World Is Coming To An End ... Again

Mario Cuomo, the one man who has the distinction of managing to lose an election to the most inept, bumbling, inarticulate politician alive today, has advice for Republicans. I'll bet they're all ears.

Cuomo Warns Against Filibuster Changes

New York (AP) -- If Republicans rewrite Senate rules to more easily end filibusters, the country will experience "exactly the kind of `tyranny of the majority' that James Madison had in mind," former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo said Saturday.

Cuomo, in the Democratic Party's weekly radio address, said Senate Republicans "are threatening to claim ownership of the Supreme Court and other federal courts, hoping to achieve political results on subjects like abortion, stem cells, the environment and civil rights that they cannot get from the proper political bodies."

"How will they do this? By destroying the so-called filibuster, a vital part of the 200-year-old system of checks and balances in the Senate," Cuomo said.

"The Republicans say it would assure dominance by the majority in the Senate," he said. "That sounds democratic until you remember that the Bill of Rights was adopted, as James Madison pointed out, to protect all of Americans from what he called the `tyranny of the majority.'"

"It sounds nearly absurd when you learn that the minority Democrats in the Senate actually represent more Americans than the majority Republicans do," Cuomo said. (Link)

I was not going to include that last sentence but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to offer up a little scorn to Mr. Cuomo, the passionate liberal who most jounalists thought should have run for president in 1938. "Nearly absurd?" What does that mean? Is nearly absurd the same as darn-near obtuse? Kinda un-okay? Sorta pregnant?

The Republicans will surely take your advice under consideration there, Mario. As will all of America. As we always do.

End Global Warming. Toss the Necktie.

This makes about as much sense as any other global warming theory.
Are dress codes key to global warming?
By ERIKO ARITA, Staff writer, Japan Times

Just as a 1,000-km journey begins with a single step, it seems that the arduous process of reducing Japan's greenhouse gas emissions starts with the simple removal of a few neckties. A sales clerk explains how to wear a jacket and shirt without the hassle of a necktie at Aoki International Co.'s shop in Yokohama's Tsuzuki Ward.

Environment Minister Yuriko Koike holds up a panel showing how to wear a suit fashionably without a necktie at the Environment Ministry on Wednesday.

This, at least, appears to be the thinking behind the government's latest initiative to tackle global warming.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told all his Cabinet ministers and central government bureaucrats to shed their neckties and jackets between June 1 and Sept. 30 (except during official functions) as a means of reducing air conditioner use and thus saving energy.

"The move is meant to show (the government's) resolve to achieve Japan's target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent" as pledged in the Kyoto Protocol, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda explained.

The previous day, the Environment Ministry dubbed this the "Cool Biz" initiative, with the name selected by a nine-member panel out of some 3,200 that were submitted by the general public. (
The removal of neckties is going to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions ...

Isn't this the same bunch that thought Godzilla was a 100 foot rubber monster that had, in fact, attacked and destroyed Tokyo? With that understanding, their credibility as it relates to climate change theory becomes rather circumspect, I think.

Booze Is Back

I normally read my hardcopy version of Barron's in the evening over dinner. But when I read the article entitled, "Booze is Back," I had to get the online version and to make mention of it. The article introduces the startling news that people here in the USA are drinking more hard liquor. As they should.

What caught my attention, though, and destroyed any credibility that the author, Andrew Bary, may have had, is the information contained in the accompanying graph above (you'll need to click on it and enlarge it to appreciate it).

The first graph lists the top ten brands of liquor purchased in the United States, a list that is probably accurate. But here's the mistake made by these apparent tea-totallers; Jack Daniel's is listed as a bourbon. Excuse me?

I am a connoisseur of fine bourbon. In my lifetime (so far), I have to be in the top one percentile in terms of overall bourbon consumption, not that volume is a good indicator of expertise level. And I've sipped most, if not all, of them, from the finest brew on earth - Makers Mark - to the near perfect - Wild Turkey, Old Granddad, Jim Beam, Old Forester, Woodford Reserve.

But Jack Daniel's ain't on my list. Why? Because it ain't a bourbon. It's a Tennessee sour mash whiskey. Jeesh.

Jack Daniel's Old Number 7 is a simple reminder that some things just never change. And shouldn't. This is the old-time whiskey made as our fathers made it. Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 Brand Old-Time Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey is a whiskey and not a bourbon. Unlike bourbon, Jack Daniel's is charcoal-mellowed smooth, drop by drop through 10 feet of charcoal made from sugar maple. (link)
And it tastes like swamp water; they forgot to mention that. But everyone knows the distinction between the two, right? If not, now you do.

  • Bourbon and Tennessee whiskies are straight whiskies, meaning they are not blended with other whiskies or neutral grain spirits.
  • Bourbon must be made from mash containing between 51% and 79% corn and aged at least two years in new, charred oak barrels. It can be made anywhere in the U.S., but most is made in Kentucky. Bourbon's flavor is influenced by the mash (up to four types of grain are used), the level of char in the barrels (there are four degrees) and how long it is aged.
  • Tennessee whiskey is similar to bourbon, but is filtered through maple charcoal before aging.
  • Corn whiskey is made principally from corn (content of more than 79%), and is not aged. It got the name "moonshine" during Prohibition after the light by which mash men tended their illegal stills.
  • Rye, another distinct style of whiskey, uses mostly rye in the mash. Only three major distillers still make rye whiskies (Wild Turkey, Heaven Hill and Buffalo Trace's Sazerac), but the style is now being micro-distilled by people such as Fritz Maytag at Anchor Steam Brewing.
  • Sour mash refers to the use of at least 25% of the previous distillation's spent mash in the new fermentation to provide consistency from batch to batch. A sweet mash uses only fresh yeast for fermentation. (link)
If you get to the point in your life when you can call the waiter over and return to him the mixed drink he just brought you and demand another, telling him the contents aren't bourbon, that they're sour mash whiskey, you're ... well, you're probably a drunk.

But at least you have good taste.

Click on image to enlarge
Graph courtesy of Barron'sPosted by Hello

So It Is Written. So Shall It Be Done.

If wishes were horses then beggars would ride ...
The New York Times today chastises George W Bush's energy plan because he failed to include a Clintonian promise to wave his magic wand and decree that all cars and trucks, from this day forward, shall achieve astounding fuel economy standards.

Why not.

Energy Follies

It was fascinating to watch President Bush lay out intelligent approaches to pressing problems at his news conference on Thursday night, and then urge Congress to pass bills that would do almost nothing to solve them. Social Security was one case in point, but another egregious example was energy, an issue that has moved to center stage in the White House because of public concern over high prices for oil and gasoline at the pump. Mr. Bush had trouble with this issue all week, beginning with an embarrassing effort to persuade the Saudis to gin up production. He then stumbled through an almost incoherent presentation of his larger energy strategy in a speech on Wednesday at a Small Business Administration conference.

... he completely ignored the surest way to reduce demand and thus oil dependency, which is to improve the fuel efficiency of America's cars and trucks. Indeed, everything Mr. Bush said seemed designed to divert attention from this simple and technologically feasible idea, which nevertheless seems to terrify both him and the Congress. (link)

I guess my only issue with their proclaiming breakthroughs in internal combustion engine design, allowing for dramatically improved fuel economy, is that those scientific breakthroughs have only occurred in the boardroom at the New York Times.

I suppose, if we had a Democrat in the White House, he - or she - could get together with Congress and demand that automobile manufacturers start churning out only hybrid and electric-powered vehicles. But it seems, if memory serves, the state of California made quota demands on the industry several years ago, and then had to back off, because the idealism in Democratic ranks exceeded the technological know-how of the people who were expected to make the legislators' dreams come true.

So wish what you will, Times editors. Wishing won't make it so.

If wishes were like bubbles,
and really did come true,
I'd rid this world of troubles
yes, that is what I'd do.
I'd make a bubble double,
yet large enough to view,
and fill it with your troubles
then paint it subtle blue.
We'd keep on making bubbles
and wouldn't have to stop
until to end our troubles
the bubbles we would POP!

Karen Sarnecki, 2003

The Chestnut Tree Returns To The Landscape

Under a spreading chestnut tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.

Many of you may not be aware of this, but chestnut trees, once plentiful in this area of the country, have died out completely, the result of a fungus having been imported from Japan decades ago that destroyed every living one.

Well, there is good news. The chestnut may soon be returning - in hybrid, fungus-resistant form.
Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree

San Francisco - TO celebrate Arbor Day yesterday, President Bush added a new tree to the White House grounds - an American chestnut. At first glance it may seem an odd choice, since chestnuts have been largely absent from the American landscape for more than half a century. Yet if any species can help us see the importance of trees to humanity, it is the American chestnut, and its story makes it the perfect emblem for Arbor Day.

Chestnuts were once so plentiful along the East Coast that according to legend a squirrel could travel the chestnut canopy from Georgia to Maine without ever touching the ground. The trees grew tall, fast and straight. Many considered it the perfect tree: it produced nourishing food and a rot-resistant wood that was used for everything from furniture to fence posts. Chestnut ties were the sturdy foundation of the ever-expanding railroad lines; chestnut poles held up the lengthening miles of electrical and telephone wire.

Then in the early 20th century a deadly fungus imported from Japan hit American forests. Within 40 years this fast and merciless fungus spread over some 200 million acres and killed nearly four billion trees. The blight brought the chestnut to the brink of extinction. Even today new sprouts continue to shoot up from the roots of seemingly dead trees only to be attacked again by the fungus before they can flower and reproduce.

It is not yet clear whether Americans have the will or a way to preserve the many threatened species of trees that have helped define our communities. But the chestnut, which has inspired valiant efforts to pull it back from the edge of oblivion, suggests we might. The American Chestnut Foundation has been patiently interbreeding the American chestnuts with its blight-resistant Asian cousins to come up with a hybrid that looks like an American chestnut, but fights the fungus Asian-style. The foundation says it hopes to have its first crop of blight-resistant nuts ready by next year for trial plantings in forests. The White House chestnut tree is one of these hybrids. (link)
You can count on me to be planting seedlings on the hillsides here when they become available. I'll not be around to stand in their shade, but my grandchildren will. And that will be a good thing. And if, in appreciation of the beauty of the trees and the shade they provide on a warm summer day, they think of me, that would be good too.