Ross Mackenzie

Then there's ethanol. Both the president and his congressional rubber-stamps are gaga over the stuff. They favor corn-derived ethanol as a gasoline additive that will drive down U.S. foreign petroleum dependence.

Yet: (1) Federal subsidies for ethanol drive up the cost of food (last year by about $1 trillion worldwide). And (2) last year ethanol displaced maybe 3 percent of domestic oil usage -- a figure requiring the dedication of 300 million acres of cropland to producing corn not to feed human beings but to help power their cars.

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Oh, great. During the past month computer spies hacked into the Pentagon's $300 billion Joint Strike Fighter project -- the nation's costliest weapons system ever. Hackers also penetrated (stole?) the database of Virginia's Prescription Monitoring Program -- containing not only 35 million prescriptions but the patient records of Virginians by the millions.

So, seductive as digitizing the medical records of every American may sound, perhaps those harboring privacy/security concerns have a telling point.

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Think times are not tough for newspapers? Consider these numbers for the Boston Globe, long one of the country's premier journalistic properties. The New York Times bought The Globe in 1993 for $1.1 billion -- at that time the most ever paid for any newspaper. In 2006 The Times rejected a $550 million offer for The Globe -- half the 1993 purchase price -- as too low.

With The Times now wrestling with Globe unions for concessions to keep the presses rolling, the paper's estimated value: $12-$20 million.


Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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