Interesting Items 03/26

Howdy All, a few Interesting Items for your information.  Enjoy –

In this issue:

  1. Omnibus
  2. FB
  3. McCabe
  4. FIU Bridge
  5. ER Bridge
  6. Salmon

  1. Omnibus. The Swamp struck back late last week with a $1.3 Trillion omnibus spending bill, a mere 2,200+ pages long monstrosity to fund the government for another six months.  Despite an initial threat to veto it, President Trump signed the legislation under protest.  Related question:  Why does it always take the swamp 2,000+ pages to pass something horrendous?  Included are O’BamaCare, Dodd – Frank, O’Bama’s Porkulous, and now this.  The political game here is that senate democrats insist on doing omnibus funding bills rather than the historical 12 budget bills that the House passes yearly because the budget bills passed as part of regular order take the filibuster off the table.  And senate democrats use the filibuster early, often, and gleefully.  They don’t want to give up that particular weapon.  This will continue until the senate changes its filibuster rules or until we change the senate.  The legislation was passed out of the senate with democrat votes, as 31 of 52 Republicans voted against it.  At his signing ceremony, President Trump expressed his displeasure and promised it would not happen again.  Cue the expected cries of outrage on the political right.  At first glance, this is a slam-dunk win for the swamp, as it not only refused to fund Trump priorities, but it specifically prohibited him from doing many of the things he wants to do.  The only Trump win was increased DoD funding.  Upon further review, things are not so dire.  Make no mistake, this legislation was specifically crafted to separate Trump from his base in hopes of turning over control of one of both houses of congress to democrats in November.  The problem with this is that it is only six months long, meaning they get to do it all over again the end of September, just in time for the last 5 – 6 weeks of the election campaign.  This time around, I don’t think that the swamp is going to get the result that they want.  The other thing that seems to be in play are provisions that allow Trump to get the things that he wants via DoD funding. This includes the wall and most of the immigration stuff that was specifically prohibited.  Complaints over the weekend about this started from the left.  Given the ongoing voter registration marches against firearms and their expected continuation throughout the summer and fall as the left ramps up their turnout efforts, toss in an old-fashioned government shutdown and budget fight, and we will see how many of the red state democrats up for reelection will be up for the fight.  We may also have a SCOTUS seat open with the rumored retirement of Justice Kennedy.  Should be a fun summer.  Nine of those red state democrat senators are already in big trouble.  https://www.c-span.org/video/?442932-1/senate-passes-13-trillion-omnibus-spending-bill-65-32

 

  1. FB. FakeBook got itself in trouble over the course of the last couple weeks with the breaking story that Cambridge Analytica exploited the data of 50 million FakeBook profiles to target Americans voters.  The media was shocked, simply shocked at such a thing taking place with a breathless article in The Guardian calling it “frightening.”  There were immediate calls from all the usual suspects for investigations, regulation, and punishment.  Methinks the concern is overblown, as the Usual Suspects are all upset at Republicans figuring out how to use the data mining products available from FB and Goolag, products they freely and happily GAVE to the O’Bama WH and campaign for eight solid years.  They were lauded and celebrated for this effort in the 2012 campaign.  Apparently Hilly’s campaign either didn’t take advantage of that pre-built capability, or O’Bama did not make it available to her.  Cambridge Analytica is a British data mining firm that works mainly conservative campaigns, causes and candidates.  They figured out how to access FB’s data stream.  That access was used as the basis of the Trump campaign data operation.  Silicon Valley is a hard-left operation.  The democrats own it.  They take advantage of their products and are upset that they no longer have exclusive monopoly on the use of the data gathered over the last decade or two.  That anger leads to calls to investigate, regulate, and punish FB.  For his part, being a smart little weasel, Mark Zuckerberg is asking for the feds to regulate FB like a public utility, something that would essentially shut down all its competition from new companies that would provide similar services.  Simultaneous with this are new FB algorithms on the news feed that pump up leftist content and eliminate conservative content.  FB is censoring, happily, things they don’t agree with.  What is the basic lesson from this?  It is that when you aren’t paying for a service, you are the product, as that service will harvest, bundle, and make your data, literally everything about you and your network of contacts, available to either the highest bidder, any bidder, or the political party they most closely identify with (in FB’s case, democrats).  Never, ever forget this.  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/18/facebook-extremist-content-user-data

 

  1. McCabe. Yet another example of what a sniveling little, self-serving political hack that Andrew McCabe is comes via the news that he conducted an investigation into Attorney General Jeff Sessions following Sessions’ testimony about contact with Russia during his confirmation hearings in the senate.  The investigation took place in response to a letter from Patrick Leahy and Al Franken to refer a perjury investigation to the FIB.  McCabe dutifully conducted the investigation and has so far refused to comment on the story.  Interesting, as he has chosen to comment on most everything else about his firing including a piece written over the weekend expressing his shock and dismay with what transpired.  http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/fbi/379591-mccabe-oversaw-criminal-probe-into-sessions-over-testimony-on

 

  1. FIU Bridge Collapse. A newly constructed pedestrian bridge at Florida International University collapsed over a busy street last week, killing at least six, though the death toll is likely to rise.  The $14 million project was supposed to take advantage of a cheaper, faster, safer method of bridge building promoted by the university.  Generally getting two out of three on that list right isn’t bad, though in this case not getting safety right is deadly.  The span was to be supported from above with a tall, off center tower, though that tower was not yet constructed, or support cables connected.  It was unclear what the temporary supports were in place at the time of the collapse.  Bridge collapses are not all that common, and when one takes place, especially when there are deaths as a result, analysis and corrective action in the civil engineering community is little short of ruthless.  In this case, I am a bit skeptical of that result.  There were two companies involved in the construction of the bridge – Figg and MCM.  Alicia Sherron writing in Squawker blasted MCM for being more interested in sexual diversity than in competence.  The company is owned by five brothers, but the second and subsequent levels of leadership are heavily female, something the company makes a big deal of when it suits them.  The company was slapped with a lawsuit by an injured worker at the expansion of the Fort Lauderdale Airport that collapsed under his own weight for being “incompetent, unskilled or careless.”  Apparently, this problem runs company-wide as the MCM Project Executive, Leonor Flores is quoted that her number one priority when building bridges is to make sure they look pretty.  Safety, not so much.  She is further quoted:

“It’s very important for me as a woman and an engineer to be able to promote that to my daughter because I think women have a different perspective. We’re able to put in an artistic touch and we’re able to build too.”

Note to self:  A pretty bridge that collapses is just another pile of crushed rock.  Crushed vehicles underneath are newly made paperweights.  And the dead people who won’t be coming home to their families just don’t matter as long as the bridge was pretty.  If this is the different perspective of women in construction, perhaps we need less of it and perhaps an explanation why there wasn’t more of it in the past.  The company prides itself on how many women it hires, and its steps towards gender equality.  How’s that working out for you so far?  Sounds like this company values gender equality over civil engineering competence.  As such, they will be destroyed in the courts via wrongful death lawsuits as there is no reason these people had to die.  To be fair, the Squawker article is a bit of a rant / screed.  But the writer does make a point that you must never, ever sacrifice competence on the altar of political correctness and diversity.  https://squawker.org/culture-wars/a-female-led-construction-company-built-the-florida-bridge-that-collapsed/

 

  1. ER Bridge. Two bridge stories in the same week?  We had our own bridge story here north of Anchorage when an oversized tractor – trailer rig hit a bridge in Eagle River, sheared off the top of the load, and broke one of the reinforced concrete beams supporting the bridge.  As this is the only route between Anchorage and the MatSu and gets 30 – 35,000 commuters into and out of town daily, traffic was stacked up nicely, from 1.5 – 3 hours just to get thru Eagle River.  One of the things Alaska lacks is basic infrastructure, specifically roads and bridges.  This ends up funneling most of the road traffic to a few well-known and well used places rather than spreading out the activity over lots of places.  Today, other than air, there is only one way out of Anchorage to the north and one to the south.  For many years there has been an effort to build a second route out of town to the north called the Knik Arm Bridge.  Over the course of the last decade, this has turned into a political football, with the anti-development crowd (democrats) in opposition and the pro-development crowd (Republicans) in support of it.  And we elect democrats just often enough to delay a long-lead time project like this bridge enough that it has not yet been built.  Ted Stevens had it funded, with federal money in the budget in 2008.  Newly elected governor Sarah Palin foolishly, stupidly grandstanded over the money, refused to build the bridge and then spent the money on other projects.  A few years ago, newly elected Governor Bill Walker cancelled the project again leaving commuters in the lurch.  I did a bit of math of what sort of lost time at work the traffic jam last Wednesday cost commuters.  The total is in the vicinity of $1 million, call it Bill Walker’s Traffic Jam.  Perhaps actually helping commuters have another option getting into and out of Anchorage is something a governor ought to be interested in doing.  http://www.ktuu.com/content/news/Traffic-slows-to-a-crawl-on-the-way-into-Anchorage-as-Glenn-shutdown-continues-477640143.html

 

  1. Salmon. Fresh salmon from Florida?  No way.  Yes, way.  Story from my favorite local outdoors writer Craig Medred last week about a Norwegian firm in the process of constructing a $130 million, environmentally friendly land-based salmon farm.  The plant is estimated to come online by 2027 and will produce perhaps 10% of total US market (90,000 metric tons per year).  The water is purified via filtration systems.  The fish are never exposed to parasites or wild fish diseases and they swim in a steady current.  They are half a world away from wild fish with wild fish parasites and diseases.  Waste generated is used as fertilizer and biogas generation for powering the operation.  Historically, farmed salmon are raised in the cold waters and flown around.  If this operation is successful, there will be fresh salmon locally available worldwide.  Salmon will be Atlantic salmon and raised to about 10 pounds in 22 months.  The plant is under construction near Homestead, FL.  If successful, this will be yet another coffin nail in the protectionist Alaskan commercial salmon fishing business.  Alaska commfish can only produce a fixed amount of fish.  The farmed salmon guys, especially if they figure out how to do this sort of land-based operation have not yet approached the upper limit of what they can produce, and this will only serve to suppress salmon prices per pound worldwide, further crushing Alaskan commfish in the global marketplace.  Note to self:  Protectionism never, ever works.  https://craigmedred.news/2018/03/19/florida-fresh/

More later –

– AG

 

 

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