Potpourri. I first learned that word watching “Jeopardy!” long ago, when Art Fleming was the star and Don Pardo the announcer. I always liked that category because even though the main definition of the word potpourri has to do with a collection of fragrant dried flowers, on “Jeopardy!” it meant the game show questions could be about any subject.

That’s pretty much where this column is headed this week. The first item in this assorted package concerns the skyrocketing price of petrol of late. How did a $.20-$.30 or more per gallon hike happen so fast? As in overnight. Yes, I know last week there was a terrorist drone attack on oil-producing sites in Saudi Arabia. Supposedly the damage cut the Saudis’ daily oil output in half. But correct me if I’m wrong. They don’t pull the oil out of the ground one day and deliver the refined product to our gas pumps the next. It takes at least a little while to load a few million gallons of crude onto giant tankers, steam across an ocean, hit the refinery, run the result through a pipeline, fill up a truck, and deliver it to the station where we insert the nozzle into our gas tanks.

Why wouldn’t gas prices remain pretty stable until somewhere down the line? Isn’t the crude being refined now still the cheaper stuff that flowed out of the ground weeks or months ago? I’m just wondering, that’s all. No doubt somebody’s counting a pile of extra profit somewhere. And how long do you think it will take for the prices to head downward once the production increases again?

Next up: The New York Times. Since 1897, the words “All the News That’s Fit to Print” have appeared on the paper’s masthead. Recently, however, the Times has been accused of altering that slogan to read, “All the News (some real, some not-so-real) That We Want to Print.” Once the bastion of straightforward journalism, “The Gray Lady” has taken a few hits of late to its impartiality of reporting the facts. Opinions that were once the sole purview of the editorial pages have now found their way into regular stories.

The latest assault on journalistic integrity caused some liberal commentators to be spookily in agreement with Rush Limbaugh for just a quick kumbaya moment. It concerned a story this week about Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and a purported sexual misconduct incident that supposedly occurred at a dorm party while he was in college more than 30 years ago (different from last summer’s confirmation hearing claim). Turns out there was no corroboration available from either the female student involved or her friends who said she told them she didn’t recall the incident. There was a retraction printed by an editor, but as of this writing, no apology. And the reporters blamed the editors.

Thomas Jefferson was so high on the importance of a free press keeping government power in check that he suggested he would prefer “newspapers without government” to “government without newspapers.” Since the Times is certainly not the only news outlet to inject opinion and a slanting of facts into its stories today, one wonders if Mr. Jefferson might have a different take on things were he observing the press in all its current forms.

Thirdly: UFOs. You knew this was coming, didn’t you? The Navy has let the cat — or the alien as it were — out of the bag/saucer. For the first time ever, there is acknowledgement from our military that three recently released UFO videos are truly of “unidentified” objects. Now, to be sure, The New York Times also published these photos, so take that with a grain of salt. The videos were captured about two months apart in late 2014 and early 2015, and the objects seen have been discounted as drones or balloons. Sounds to me as if Earth might have been a vacation destination. Maybe we’re a port stop on a Milky Way cruise line. There would be plenty of shore excursions available. Apparently President Trump was asked about the findings earlier this year. His response about the possibility of people seeing UFOs? “Do I believe it? Not particularly.”

Given that response, should this story gain momentum, can we expect all 20 of the Democratic presidential candidates to disagree as per norm and say they absolutely believe we’ve been visited by outer space aliens? Now that would make for an interesting question or two at the next debate. “So, in your opinion, is ET real?” And, “Would he be welcome in the U.S.?”

That’s all for now. My thanks to “Jeopardy!” for the inspiration.

Bill Lewis is a freelance writer in Marietta.

See more of his work at www.wordsmith-at-large.com.

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