Summer Time, and the Living is Easy

Thank you, Gershwin, for that song. My favorite version of it, by the way, is by Janis Joplin (wikipedia version), not who you would normally associate with Gershwin, but there you go. Gone too soon. Like Jim Morrison (the Doors) and Freddie Mercury (Queen). I was listening to a lot of Queen recently (it’s in my car CD player so I’ve heard the whole album about 5 times now). I stumbled across the wikipedia entry for Mercury and learned a whole lot I never knew about him when I was listening to him the first time around.

It’s been a slow time, partly because several of the steel bloggers have been on vacation (not just me – Steve was in Turkey) but also, it seems, because everything in steel is just SLOW these days.

I’ll do a review in the next few days of what came into my inbox while I was away, but trust me, it wasn’t much.

In the mean time, let me take some time to comment on some things I often don’t comment on. Other bloggers and other blogs and in some cases some of the material they’ve been blogging about.

The first thing I’ve been meaning to address for some time is a criticism that I often post news without much in the way of commentary, and I often post a fair bit of the news item.

Let me say that it’s not because I have no opinions. On the contrary – ask anyone who knows me personally. But I believe strongly in separating reporting from commentary. If I can’t make it clear which part is my comment, I’d rather put it in a separate entry.

In the beginning, when I started this Blog, it was as much an education for myself as anything else – I was having a hard time making a living in the stamping industry in the face of wildly fluctuating input costs for steel and copper – I’m still having a hard time trying to figure out how to price my products in this environment. I’ve been in this business now for about 15 years (this is my second career) and we’ve never seen such wild fluctuations (and such wild political interference making things worse) as the present. So in the beginning I often had no comment … I didn’t know what to make of the news myself.

Now I do know more and can comment, at least semi-intelligently, on most items I report on. However, I still do cut and paste a fair bit of the article. I do this because my primary news source is, well, news items. Unlike much of the internet, these tend to vanish in a few weeks to a few months, depending on the source, leaving the part I quoted as the only extant copy of the reportage. Since my archives have been kept forever (and I have a bit of space to spare on my server) this seemed like a good thing.

You may disagree, either with the reasons or with the result, but that is why I do it the way I do.


Over at the National Association of Manufacturers, their Blog has been giving Lou Dobbs a hard time. Poor guy. Personally, I never watch Lou. I like Larry King and I like Aron Brown, but Lou just doesn’t do it for me. So I haven’t a clue if NAMs objections to Lou are fair or not. But check them out for yourself if you watch Lou. They have a special section of their Blog called Dobbs Watch.

Oh, they really got a chuckle out of Lou’s program being knocked off the air by the latest windows 2000 PnP worm. I’ll comment on that later. Lou wasn’t the only guy caught with his Plug’n’Play down. Shame on all of them. The warnings signs were there for a week or more.

I did notice, though, that NAM came out heavily in favour of the new judge appointee Judge John Roberts. And they did an interesting set of articles about how he’s being put under more scrutiny than previous appointments.

Living in Canada, I don’t follow US politics much. One wishes US politics would stay on their own side of the border, but as bill 201 and the Byrd Ammendment proved, sillyness “south of the border” tends to leak across the border into Canada (not to mention handguns and bounty hunters).

However, I have noticed a certain nastyness in American politics in the last 10 years or so, a kind of “dirty tricks”, pull-no-punches, forget the fairness, we just have to win kinda thing. Look how hard they went after Clinton, for doing less in the oval office than, we are told, Kennedy or Roosevelt did. I don’t know why politics in the US has descended to this level, but it has. It’s really seems to gotten to the schoolyard level, the “my father’s bigger than your father” and “your mother wears army boots”.

It would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. Because it’s about real issues, though, we have to put up with it, and describe the indescribable.

It’s at times like this that you really realize that English is missing certain important words and concepts. In German, this manner of conducting oneself is called “Sweinerei” – piggishness or piggery. But the connotation is willfull conduct that is totally irresponsible, totally inexcusable and totally outside the boundaries of decent human conduct, even perhaps bordering on corrupt. In Hungarian, the word is the same, just translated – Disznosag (sorry, no accents on this keyboard). It’s enough to give pigs a bad name. In English the closest you can come is “dirty tricks”, but that’s wayyy too tame. “Pork Barrel” is closer, but only applies to, well, pork barrelling. (Postscript – I went for my walk, and realized that there’s a closer word in English – skullduggery. But that’s still not really bang on. It’s closer to the line from Hamlet “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”).

To us here in Canada, most of American politics seems to have devolved to this level now. Not just in appointments to the supreme court, or in silly impeachment proceedings against sitting presidents for whom they were sleeping with, but in everything. The WTO throws out the 14,000th appeal by the US, they re-appeal. Isn’t there a point when common decency says the world trade court has said a thousand ways we can’t conduct ourselves this way, let’s just take our lumps and move on?

Someone needs a Miss Manners for the American political system.

If they were to put as much energy into stopping the flow of guns into Canada as they have put into persuing Clinton over Monica (or whitewater), probably half of the shooting deaths in Toronto this year wouldn’t have happened. Now that’s a real issue, for the people who live here and the families and relatives of the slain. 25 lives. Where are the priorities?


Now, about that there computer worm.

Among those hit were offices on Capitol Hill, which is in the midst of August recess, and media organizations, including CNN, ABC and The New York Times. Caterpillar Inc., in Peoria, Illinois, reportedly also had problems.

According to WindowsITPRO, companies effected include companies such as ABC, Caterpillar Company, CNN, Daimler Chrysler, The Financial Times, Kraft Foods, The New York Times, The San Francisco International Airport, SBC Communications, United Parcel Service (UPS), and Walt Disney

Were all their IT departments asleep at the switch? The warnings had been there for at least a week!

Maybe they should do what I do. I subscribe to Yahoo News. Years ago they initiated a clipping service called Yahoo Alerts. One of the first phrases I gave it to check on was “Windows 2000”. Every day it sends me news about windows 2000. Mostly it’s boring, but I get notice of every new worm that’s out there as soon as any IT rag that Yahoo scans mentions it. Gives me generally several days to patch my systems. And I’m just a little guy.


Well, that’s enough rambling for today. The weather is nice out and I’m going for a walk. Queen sang

I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my bike
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride it where I like

but I can’t because the door to my bicycle locker is jammed and the supers haven’t fixed it yet, so I’m walking instead.

Time to go. See ya!

4 thoughts on “Summer Time, and the Living is Easy”

  1. It’s certainly slow at the moment in manufacturing generally. I keep hearing that the UK is moving away from a manufacturing economy to an information, service based economy. It might just be me, but when manufacturing has all but dissapeared and we have to import everything from China, what remains to drive our economy?

    Are we all going to be selling insurance, banking and burgers? if so to whom?

    Oh and I gave my bicycle away when I left Sheffield, dammit it’s a fine “biking” sort of day here.

    Ah well, I better get on the phone, someone, somewhere must need some steel!!

  2. when manufacturing has all but dissapeared and we have to import everything from China, what remains to drive our economy?

    Well, that’s the Lou Dobbs argument.

    The opposing argument, espoused by NAM and macro-economic theorists, is that we’ll all retrain and have good jobs and have cheap goods imported from China, so we’ll be better off. Eventually, the people in China or whereever will improve their standard of living and the wage difference will vanish and everything will equalize again and things will be made in the “best” place globally.

    I buy the macro-economic argument, to a point, but there’s an assumption to the macro-economic theory – that trade barriers aren’t distorting the situation. That’s certainly not true currently – China’s currency manipulation is a huge distortion, as is the US’s Byrd Ammendment and their repeated incorrect and illegal appeals to the WTO.

    A bigger issue is, if we let China (or any other place overseas and far away) make all of our (substitute your favorite widget here) for a generation, widget makers in our home lands will die out and no one will grow up learning the trade. That would be fine, provided (a) there were no wars and (b) transportation costs to get things from there to here didn’t change appreciably. Neither of those are safe assumptions.

  3. As a timely illustration, I picked up this story today:-

    “The European Union will impose tariffs of up to 37.8 percent on some U.S. and Russian steel used in the power industry to protect EU producers, including ThyssenKrupp, from cheaper imports.

    The five-year “anti-dumping” duties on silicon electrical steel target exporters such as AK Steel Corp., which faces a 31.5 percent levy, and Novolipetsk, which faces an 11.5 percent tariff.”

    It makes a nonsense of the “free” market, and illustrates why Theoretical Macro-economics can never be an exacting science in the real world.

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