Howdy All, a few Interesting Items for your information. Enjoy –
In this issue:
- Student Loan
- Military. I never in my life thought I would be writing about the Military – Industrial Complex, but a pair of stories about General officers piqued my interest last week. First was an opinion piece by Admiral Stanley McRaven in the NYT calling for President Trump’s removal from office. McRaven is the former commander of the Special Operations Command. He received his fourth star in 2011 having been nominated by President O’Bama. Second was a speech by former SECDEF and retired four-star Marine General James Mattis at the annual Al Smith dinner in New York. He took a few pot shots at President Trump much to the delight of the assembled democrats. Everyone had a great time yucking it up. He received his fourth star under Bush 43 in 2007 and served another six years until he retired in 2013. So, what, if any is right or wrong with this? Historically, not a lot, as we Americans have a long history of commanding generals getting political, most recently Eisenhower, though nobody knew what party he supported until he ran for President. Even McRaven calling for Trump to be removed from office in the pages of the NYT doesn’t bother me a lot, as it lets everyone know precisely who he is and where he is coming from. In the military, once you get to the grade of Colonel and above, politics comes to be an important consideration. This why there are peacetime and wartime generals, though when the wars never end and aren’t intended to be won (a recent problem) the former starts to edge out the latter, which is a problem. The most interesting thing over the last month has been the lockstep reaction to Trump’s decision to pull 50 American troops out of northern Syria. Who would have thought that a decision to pull Americans out of an undeclared war in the Middle East would be a Good Thing rather than cause for sackcloth, ashes, wailing and gnashing of teeth? Who knew that democrats were suddenly the War Party (in this, it is back to the future, as they have always enjoyed starting them? Finishing what they start? Not so much. Limbaugh noted last week that there is very good money to be made fighting endless wars, which is what the swamp’s reaction to Trump’s pullout is really all about, though like most swampy things, nobody much wants to talk about it these days. Trump continues to pull the curtain aside and allow all of us to see what is truly behind it, pulling the levers; most importantly why they are being pulled.
- BuSab. I read a lot of science fiction growing up and enjoyed most of it. In recent years, there is a lot of dystopian stuff around and there is a growing problem with seeing the other side of the Singularity, so the heroic stories have really tailed off. I was reminded of two series of stories by the seemingly out of control California state government, firmly in the control of democrats, unions, and illegals that put them into office. They are passing and signing laws willy-nilly, with little heed to the impact of those laws on the citizenry. For example, just last month they passed and signed 18 new gun control laws. Each and every one was an assault on personal and constitutional liberties including an expansion of the Red Flag law, making it easier to drop a dime on your neighbor, friend and family member, giving them a pre-dawn visit by an armed and unfriendly constabulary. Chiefio, an unhappy Californian made a few comments about the foolishness of doing all this without anyone knowing the impact of what they passed last year. This reminded me of a series by Frank Herbert and another by Keith Laumer. Herbert, most famous for the Dune series, came up with the Bureau of Sabotage (BuSab), a response to a terrifyingly efficient government. Laws are conceived, passed, funded, executed and enforced in hours rather than months. The speed of government goes beyond sentient control. BuSab is an organization intended to slow down that flow so that lawmakers might have time to reflect on the error of their ways. Keith Laumer created Jame Retrief (fighter spelled backwards), as a vehicle to move an ossified diplomatic bureaucracy along from time to time. Both series attacked the notion of an unresponsive government – one that was going too fast and the other too slow to meet the needs of the general public. It occurs to me that California needs a BuSab, as its government is busily in the process of turning out the lights while burning it to the ground.
- Plastics. WUWT continues to follow the information string on ocean plastics. Last week Kip Hansen published a piece entitled Plastics: Science is Winning in WUWT. He passes along new data from a Woods Hole scientific team that indicates the long battle against anti-plastic advocacy may be turning, at least a bit. The paper describes how sunlight converts polystyrene to CO2 and dissolved organic carbon. Polystyrene is the plastic used in yogurt cups and disposable foam drink cups. Polystyrene is completely photochemically oxidized to CO2 and partly photochemically oxidized to dissolved organic carbon. And that oxidation happens much quicker than anyone would ever believe. This happens because plastics are long chain hydrocarbons, hydrogen and carbon combined into various configurations. Essentially, plastics are very simple natural structures. As such, they are food for the tiniest living things, which break them down, oxidize hydrocarbons and use them for the building blocks of their bodies. We saw this in the Gulf of Mexico after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident when microbes ate most of the 4.1 million barrels of crude oil spilled into the Gulf. Indeed, microbes in the Gulf are well suited to do this, as the oil-bearing portion of the Gulf of Mexico has hundreds to thousands of active oil seeps busily leaking oil and natural gas into the sea water. Plastics floating in the ocean are degraded by the sun, which structurally weakens them until they break into smaller and smaller pieces. Researchers have found that the number of pieces of plastic in the oceans does not increase as they get smaller. Rather, the number of pieces start decreasing when they get smaller than 5 mm, and approach zero less than 0.5 mm. This means that the action of biology removes, eats the very small plastic chunks, quickly cleaning the plastics from the ocean. It is not just microbes in the ocean that have the ability to eat plastics. We see it on land where a variety of caterpillars, mealworms and fungi have the ability to eat polystyrene. The process does take a while, as the action of sunlight on floating plastic debris does not do its magic immediately, but once the larger structure starts deteriorating, and the pieces get smaller, the process goes pretty quickly. One of the things we can do to help accelerate this a bit is look at plastics that degrade quicker once discarded. The problem with this is long-term storage of materials in the same plastics.
- Student Loan. This one is a couple weeks old, but worth reviewing. One of the (many) great mistakes made by the Reid – Pelosi congress under O’Bama was to nationalize the student loan system. The had the dual impact of removing all notion of economic limitations on higher education and impose no economic considerations on precisely what sort of coursework the students were pursuing. Rather than pursuing degrees that would allow them to get actual jobs to pay them afterwards, we saw a proliferation of various social justice studies and liberal arts degrees, all completely unemployable. Problem is that these degrees cost just as much as an engineering degree, but employment possibilities are far, far lower. Better yet, the democrat congress passed legislation that exempted student loans from bankruptcy proceedings, meaning that there was no way to discharge this debt other than pay it off. This protected the universities from the tender mercies of an actual marketplace, and in turn continued the propaganda mills for the left. For the last decade, democrat political candidates nationwide have promised to defease that debt in return for their vote. It turns out that the student loan crisis really isn’t a crisis after all. Granted that $1.6 trillion is a bit number, but it is not the only big number out there. For example, there are more than $1.2 trillion in outstanding auto loan debt and over $10 trillion in housing loan debt. Average student loan debt is just under $29,000 for the Class of 2017. It is a big number, but not an intractable problem.
- Tulsi. I always enjoy blue on blue food fights. The most recent one was Hillary going after Tulsi Gabbard (D, HI), calling her a Russian asset. For her part, Gabbard returned fire nicely, which makes us all on the political right smile a bit. But there is a problem, perhaps two of them. First is that Tulsi is not a conservative, not even close to one. Most recently, she was a Bernie Bro, endorsing him for president in 2016. There is no reason to believe that worldview has changed over the last three years. Kurt Schlichter wrote a cautionary column on this last week, warning conservatives that she is not on Our Side, even though from time to time she sounds slightly more rational than the other democrat presidential candidates. Still, she does not suffer fools gladly, having destroyed Kamala Harris on stage a couple democrat presidential debates ago. With the Clintons, you always have to be careful as there are wheels within wheels as part of their political machinations. For instance, they found and supported a primary opponent to Gabbard, one Kai Kahele who has managed to raise more money than Gabbard so far. Perhaps this is one reason she announced that she would not be running for reelection, instead focusing all her energies on her presidential run. Here’s where the wheels within wheels comes. There are polls out there that claim that Gabbard would pull more Trump voters than democrat voters if she runs for president as a third-party candidate. Perhaps Hilly et al are trying a bank shot, a push to get Gabbard to run as a third-party candidate so as to hurt Trump.
- Crockford. Dr. Susan Crockford is one of the leading international researchers on polar bears. She runs the polarbearscience web site which normally has a wealth of information. I have been reading her stuff for years, mostly via posts in WUWT. She also used to be an adjunct professor at the University of Victoria. This is an unpaid position that allows her to use her university affiliation for grants and research. She has done quite well over the years in that position, unmasking the fraud committed by the EPA and greens with polar bear populations (currently estimated around 39,000). As she has been effective, she became a target of greens, one of whom conducted an astroturf campaign of complaints against her aimed at the Anthropology Department at the University of Victoria, BC. A couple weeks ago, the university capitulated without explanation and terminated her adjunct status. Crockford has been a member of the university’s volunteer Speaker’s Bureau and has been speaking on polar bear science for years. The university and department were both very happy with the notoriety and speeches until May 2017, after 15 years of public speaking. No explanation from the university was given for this action either. Crockford believes that someone in Victoria with political clout heard about a question and answer session at the Heartland Institute posted April 5 and made a phone call, likely several phone calls. Like all university disciplinary actions these days, this one took place behind closed doors, in the dark, without including the target in their deliberations. Someone at WUWT got hold of a smirking post by a guy who claimed to have taken Crockford out, claiming another “scalp” silencing conservatives / skeptics in academic. He claimed to have at least three more in process. This was a political hit, a well-orchestrated one, that took advantage of the cowardice and liberalism of the university world these days. Sadly, it worked. It is always interesting when the university system can no longer tolerate the presence of an unpaid scientist doing world-class work.
More later –