The Utica Shale Effect

The latest report from the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services confirms what everyone living in eastern Ohio already knows:  the development of the Utica Shale formation far underground is producing an economic boom.

Although the just-released information is, inexplicably, almost a year old, it tells a powerful story about what the discovery and extraction of natural resources can do.  In the first quarter of 2012, jobs produced in the oil and gas industry increased 17 percent over jobs created in the same period in 2011.  There were more than 5,800 jobs in core industries like pipeline construction and oil drilling and ancillary businesses like freight trucking and environmental consulting.  Moreover, the jobs paid well:  the core industry jobs averaged annual salaries of almost $74,000 and the ancillary industry jobs paid, on average, almost $59,000 a year. Equally important, these are jobs that won’t be moved overseas, and they will last as long as there is shale oil and gas to extract, which is expected to be decades.

Those good-paying jobs were created by private companies footing the bill to collect a commodity that has a proven market, without the need for government programs or government direction.  If we want to grow our way out of our economic doldrums, we’d be well advised to pay attention to what is happening in eastern Ohio and in the Dakotas and letting private companies focus on finding, developing, and selling our natural resources — and employing our workers as they do so.

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Horrors! Horsemeat!

There’s an interesting scandal playing out in Europe.  Products marketed as beef in fact contain horsemeat, and consumers and governments are outraged.

IMG_0445In all, “beef” products sold in 16 different countries have been found to contain horsemeat.  Efforts to trace the source of the horsemeat follow a tortured path from British stores to France, Luxembourg, Cyprus, and the Netherlands.  Ultimately, the trail leads to Romania, where officials disclaim any role in a fraud:  if Romanian slaughterhouses are producing horsemeat, they say, it is forthrightly labeled as horsemeat.  No one, therefore, quite seems to know how horsemeat got into the  “beef” product chain.  That’s why the British Environment Secretary says the scandal involves some kind of international criminal conspiracy.  No one has gotten sick — although health ministers want to test products to make sure they don’t include an animal painkiller that could pose risks for humans — and the fraud claims all relate to simply mislabeling horsemeat as beef.

At bottom, the issue seems to boil down to squeamishness about eating horsemeat.  No one wants to eat My Friend Flicka.  Why is there a cultural taboo in some countries about eating a horse?  We eat cows, chickens, buffalo, pigs, goats, sheep, lambs, ducks, geese, and other birds.  Why should those animals be knocked off to enhance the food supply, but not horses?

I’ve never eaten horsemeat — at least, I don’t think I have, although as this EU scandal indicates, you never really know — but I wouldn’t hesitate to give it a try.  Meat is meat, and meat is protein.  In my view, the fact that it once wore a saddle doesn’t change the analysis.

The F Word

Some time ago a friend gave me The F Word by Jesse Sheidlower.  Published by the Oxford University Press, of all places, the book is both a history of the Queen Mother of Curses and a dictionary of its many uses.  It’s a fascinating read.

IMG_3084The origin of the f word is muddled by urban legend.  It’s not an acronym (sorry, Van Halen!) nor does it have anything to do with the French taunting English archers by encouraging them to pluck their yew bows.  Instead, the word is related to terms found in German, Dutch, Swedish, and Flemish with meanings like “to strike,” to “move back and forth,” and “to cheat.”  Although the precise source of the word is shrouded in the mists of time, it entered the English language (pun intended) in the fifteenth century.  It immediately became taboo — and also replaced the Middle English vulgarity for sexual intercourse, which was “swive.”  Powerless against the curtness and bluntness of the f word, “swive” fell into total disuse.  The f word went on to become the most obscene word in the English language, banned during the Victorian era and the most reviled of the “seven dirty words” George Carlin addressed.  Recently, as barriers to indecent speech have fallen and even Vice Presidents have lapsed into regrettable coarseness when congratulating Presidents, the use of the word in American society has become much more common.

The F Word provides an exhaustive listing of the many different uses of the f word.  As someone who tries to avoid casual obscenity — and fails utterly when referees make a bad call against my team in a big game — I was amazed by the broad utility of the word.  In addition to adding emphasis by being dropped, in its gerund form, into various parts of sentences (consider the different meanings conveyed by the question “When are you going to move your car?” if the f word is placed before “when,” “going,” “move,” and “car”) the word has been used to convey hundreds of different connotations, always with that shocking edge.

As the dictionary component of The F Word demonstrates, the versatility of this vulgar word is astonishing.  How many other words have been combined with “bum” to refer to a remote location, “cluster” to denote a disorganized mess, “flying” to signify a minimal amount, “holy” to indicate surprise, and “off” to tell someone to get away?  And, of course, those are only a few of the inventive applications of this powerful word.

The F Word is worth reading.  Just be sure to keep it away from your teenagers.