Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Xavier Basora from Buscaraons has a good post on Kyoto and a couple of well-worth-reading responses to things we've said on this blog. Definitely check it out. Don't confuse Xavier, who runs the blog, lives in Canada, and has a Catalan name, with the other guy, Xabier, who lives in London and has a Basque name. I'm not sure what's eating Xabier. He's been reading this site for a while and once sent a quite friendly letter. I really didn't think that we'd said anything particularly offensive recently. Patronizing I have to admit to, but not unfair, I don't think. Also, it's only fair to point out that the Anglo-Americans outshine the French in business, war, and government, the Low Countries folk and Swiss have them beat at business and government, and the Germans are superior in business and war, but next in line come the French in all those categories. We could debate exactly where to rank every culture on everything, but you'd have to put the French ahead of the Spanish, Italians, Poles, and Russians at business, war, and government, not to mention every non-Western culture. The French outstrip everybody else in fields from painting and poetry to cooking and lifestyle. (You heard right. The Latin lifestyle really is more pleasant than the Anglo-American. I'd give the four big Latin countries top rank in way of life, tied perhaps with the Dutch and the Belgians and maybe even the Catholic Germans. Then the Anglo-Americans.) I'm not quite sure why they can't accept that their country is the nicest place in the world to live, but that it isn't quite as strong as some other Western cultures at some other things.

Cinderella Bloggerfeller gives the Maoists well-deserved hell. Check it out. Sasha Castel, who has been kind enough to link to the Monsieur Stinky Cheese Psychologist interview, has a hilarious bit that she found somewhere, President Bush and Condi Rice doing the old "Who's on First" routine. Atlético Rules keeps you up to date on the Galicia oil spill, which is turning out to be a huge mess. The Galician coast is beautiful and teeming with life, much of which ends up on tables all over Spain. If you like fish and seafood, you'll love Spanish food, especially up on the north coast, anywhere from Tuy to Fuenterrabia. If you go to Las Peñucas in the Puerto Pesquero in Santander, you can get paella de marisco, gambas a la plancha, and merluza a la vasca for literally twenty bucks, I am not exaggerating, and that includes the house wine or a pitcher of beer, all recently dragged out of the cold Atlantic. Not the wine, the fish. Galicia is famous for percebes, a mollusk that looks so gross that I refuse to eat it. It's said to be delicious, so if you can bring yourself to actually put such a thing in your mouth, you'll probably love it. Coquilles St. Jacques, the scallop dish, is really of Galician origin. Galician-style octopus is famous throughout Spain; any real Gallego bar has a large pink octopus under the glass on the bar. They also serve tiny octopi in olive oil, parsley, and garlic sauce. Most people think they're delicious. Octopus in any form also grosses me out, though I have tried it. I feel sorry for them; I've seen documentaries of scientists making friends with them and of octopi solving problems, like figuring out how to open a jar with food inside it. After you've seen an octopus using a tentacle to caress a guy in a diving suit who is scratching the big mollusk's "nose" above its beak, it's hard to want to eat one. (Full disclosure: I'm a speciesist. I won't eat mammals, birds, reptiles, or amphibians, and I generally avoid seafood--I eat it once a month or so. Anything lower than amphibians is probably too dumb to have a consciousness, I figure.)

Anyway, back to Galicia. The fisherpeople are doing everything they can to haul up all life forms before the ship's oil tanks blow. The ship has cracked in half and sunk, and its oil tanks are under extreme pressure since it's sunk to the bottom, which is like ten thousand feet down. Many places along the coast have already been contaminated by oil washing up on the beaches, and when the rest of the oil comes out, the whole Galician coast south of El Ferrol and maybe some of the Portuguese coast, too, is going to be a mess. No more percebes from there for a few years.

This is ridiculous. There has got to be some way to make oil tankers generally safe. I can't think of an oil tanker that belonged to a big company that's caused a big mess like this since the Exxon Valdez. They must have the capability to make their tankers virtually unsinkable, and I'm sure they do it, since safety measures have got to be cheaper than cleaning up cormorants. Oil tankers that do not meet the highest standards of safety should simply not be allowed to do business. This is one place where the good of the commons (a non-oily sea) is more important than the individual right of Joe Blow to sail whatever kind of ship he wants wherever he wants. America and Britain and Canada and Australia ought to get together with the rest of the European democracies and anyone else who wants to sign on and simply not permit any tanker that does not meet the minimum standards to take on or unload oil in their countries. I don't think that ought to be too hard to do. Tankers are pretty big and easy to spot; it's hard to be sneaky with something like that. And, no, there's no comparison with the Kyoto Treaty (which the Europeans are never going to abide by, either), since the science behind the global warming theory is still under question. There's no dispute about the bad stuff that spilling oil into the sea does.

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