Thursday, November 30, 2006- - -
It's a poor workman who blames his tools
Hey! The InstaPundit quoted my email! He spelled my name wrong, but at least he didn't make it Swineson as many Kentuckians were wont to do. They don't have a lot of scandahoovians down that way I guess.
His 'zombies' comment is interesting, especially considering how many police reports describe the targets of police shootings as 'acting like a zombie'. Under the circumstances the discription is apt, although they're not undead, they're just not really quite sincerely dead.
My comment was mostly in response to the police officer who'd related putting 6 shots from a .38 "into the 10-ring" of an assailant as he was being stabbed. The guy didn't go down and from this he implies that the .38 revolver is inadequate. While I didn't go into it in detail, it's my feeling that it was his technique that was inadequate. A heavily loaded .45 acp or even the InstaPundit's 12 gauge might not have done any better if employed in that fashion. When Taylor was talking about 'knockdown power' he was referring to elephant guns used for brain shots. No handgun on earth will knock someone down (or it would knock you down when you shoot it, it's a physics thing).
It seems that we Americans have a real predisposition for substituting technology for skill. If 6 shots from a .38 won't do the job, perhaps 18 shots from a high-capacity 9mm will make 'glockamole' out of 'em, eh? Problem is, even a shot from a highpowered rifle that turns everything in the chest cavity into something resembling that red jello and whipped cream stuff your great aunt Agnes brought to Thanksgiving dinner often will not put a target down immediately. At some point putting more shots into the chest cavity is just stirrin' the jello and we need to go for the central nervous system, which will put your assailant down instantly. Trouble is, it's hard to hit the head or upper spine of a moving target, so first you put one or two shots into the center chest. At least then if you miss the head they'll find your assailant's body not too far from yours.
Two shots center chest followed by a shot to the head is Colonel Cooper's Mozambique Stroke. It works on zombies, cranksters, and those clad in bulletproof vests. The Colonel advocated the technique even when using a .45, but it works near equally well with a .25 acp. It also requires considerable training and discipline, which would go a long way toward stopping the spraying & praying we've seen in so many police shootings the last few years.
I sympathize with the .38-wielding officer. It must be horrifying to empty your gun into an assailant and have him keep coming. But we should not be surprised by this. Rather, we should be surprised that the officer was surprised. Or not. As long as our police receive pitiful wages and minimal training this is exactly what we should expect and we have little room to complain when they panic and fill the air with lead.
Update: Oh, ouch! A root canal? No wonder the Instant One's spelling is out of wack today. I also wonder if he wasn't checking his email from a remote location using the new IE 7. I just did that a bit ago and notice that the default font makes a 'W' look very much like a 'V'. Sometimes it really is the tool.
It seems Microsoft is releasing a new operating system today, Vista. Along with this comes Office 2007, which promises major upgrades to Word, Outlook, Excel, and PowerPoint. [Sigh]
Far as I'm concerned, the only way to improve on PowerPoint is to take it off the market. Most PowerPoint presentations I've seen have been pretty lame, but then most of the people who've made those presentations have been pretty lame, so PowerPoint only exacerbated the problem. On the other hand, turning down the lights for a PowerPoint show makes it easier to sleep while some bureaucrat spends the day reading you the handout he gave you while flashing each paragraph on the screen.
Update: I did just upgrad to Microsoft's new Internet Exorer 7. It looks a little different but works pretty much the same as IE 6. However, it annoingly seems to disable the typing buffer so that momentary interruptions in the internt onnection cause words and letters to drop out as I type.
The paragraph above is just as I typed it. It's infuriating to me to be forced to go back over everything I've written and edit it word for word to fix these little glitches. An improvement? I think not.
We're setting a new record
WASHINGTON - A record 7 million people _ or one in every 32 American adults _ were behind bars, on probation or on parole by the end of last year, according to the Justice Department. Of those, 2.2 million were in prison or jail, an increase of 2.7 percent over the previous year, according to a report released Wednesday.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006- - -
Did the Chicxulub impact off the coast of Yucatan kill off the dinosaurs? Or was it massive volcanism in India? Or the Boltysh impact in the Ukraine? or the Silverpit impact in the North Sea? Or global warming? Or the Eagle Butte impact in Alberta? Or maybe even the Vista Alegre impact in Brazil? Or all of the above? Or none of the above? It seems there's a bit of disagreement. Here's an excellent wrap-up of all the competing theories and competing theorists.
Says one of the papers: "The only thing that everyone can agree on is that the dinosaurs became extinct." Um, well no. Some folks think the descendants of the dinosaurs are still around. We call them birds.
The short answer is "No"
The long answer is "No, because you're idiots and it's an inherent conflict of interest." The question, posed in today's Casper Star, is "Should Wyo invest in pipe, wire?" Meaning, should the state be investing in oil & gas and electric transmission facilities? The state's constitution currently forbids the state from loaning or donating money to private entities, and some want that changed.
One of the first investments they want to make is in CO2 pipelines for enhanced oil recovery in some of our aging oil fields. That's just a great idea, considering that emerging technologies for enhanced recovery are threatening to make CO2 injection obsolete and new technologies for extracting oil shale may well make it uneconomical. I'm not at all surprised that my cronies in the oil & gas industry aren't much interested in CO2 injection. On the other hand, if CO2 sequestration becomes a big thing -- global warming, blah, blah, blah -- there may yet be a future in CO2 injection, if only because we might as well get some use out of it. My chrystal ball is a bit foggy on this one. Suffice it to say that I wouldn't invest my money in CO2 injection projects right now.
Even worse, one of the stated reasons for wanting to get into this business is to mess with the economic forces that decide where investments in development should go. Just what we need, a mindless investor with millions to spend screwing up the markets, who isn't even investing with the principle intent of making a profit.
The governments' record on picking winners in industry aside though, the potential for conflicts of interest is immense. The State of Wyoming is already conflicted over the environmental laws, constantly caviling at the federal land managing agencies over real or imagined environmental degradation on federal lands while steadfastly refusing to consider any sort of environmental regulation on state lands. Can't do that, it might cut back on the state's mineral revenues. How hard will the state look at environmental impacts that they have a financial interest in?
Bottom line, the state simply shouldn't be involved in both regulating and financing development. If two pipeline companies propose to construct competing pipelines and the state is invested in one of the two, there would be every incentive to stick out their foot and trip the other -- their competitor -- at every opportunity. It's hard enough to find a level playing field, let's not tilt things even more.
Update: A more likely scenario: The Governor has blessed some bit of development and the state has invested heavily in it. The developers want to start construction immediately, but it's the middle of the winter and the proposed work is right in the middle of critical mule deer winter range. You're the Game & Fish guy who reviews and occasionally approves such incursions into critical habitat. Might you be just a bit more likely to approve this construction knowing you'll incur the wrath of the Gov and your fellow state agencies if you don't? Having approved this bit of construction, would you then be more likely to disapprove some other development in the area on the grounds that the mule deer have to have somewhere to go?
Considering how critical energy development is to Wyoming's economy, and with high national demand for our energy, there are already tremendous pressures on our state and federal regulatory agencies not to impede development for any reason. This would certainly add to the pressure.
Does "boat" have one syllable or two?
This quiz says I've got a standard Midland accent, but they didn't ask the questions that define a scandinavian accent.
Vive la difference!
From the too dumb to reproduce files, Pajamas Media points to a Tammy Bruce post on some bozos who've just discovered that men and women are different.
You know you've got a problem when ..
Even Popular Mechanics is publishing negative articles on SWAT teams and the militarization of our police.
Many jurisdictions have stringent rules on police high speed pursuits because they recognize that a high speed pursuit in a populated area can needlessly endanger bystanders in an effort to apprehend someone for a petty crime. Perhaps it is time to consider parallel rules for SWAT teams; something to the effect that they will only be employed when citizens lives are immediately in danger.
I think it would also be a good idea to reconsider the amount of firepower we provide the average cop -- high capacity handguns, full-auto assault rifles, sub-guns, etc., are an invitation to fill the air with lead. It's called fire discipline, and it extends beyond police work. Even while hunting I've observed that the guy with a singleshot tends to hit his target with one effective shot, while the guy with a semi-auto tends to empty the gun, reload, empty it again, and often as not shoot nothing but Maggie's drawers*.
Update: In related news, the Kathryn Johnston shooting in Atlanta has taken another odd twist: Now the police' confidential informant says he never told the police he'd purchased drugs at her house, and was asked to lie by the police. Given that the warrant was supposedly issued on the basis of the informant's alleged drug buy, this seems more than strange. I seriously doubt that the police picked Johnston's residence by throwing a dart at a city map. Of course, a big part of the problem here is the police & city spokesmen offering explanations before they know the facts. It raises perhaps unwarranted suspicions when your story keeps changing, but the changing story seems to be as much inept PR as an attempt to cover butts.
*Another update: A delightful term that could perhaps use a bit of explanation. At longer ranges in high power rifle shooting you can't see the bullet holes in the target even with a very powerful spotting scope. Thus, you've often got a 'pit crew' who work behind a berm -- the target butts -- at the targets to mark shots. Fancier ranges usually have targets that can be run up and down so they can be pulled down behind the butts and each shot marked with a spotting disk. Less fancy ranges sometimes have fixed targets, with the pit crew reaching up to mark each shot with a spotting disk on a long stick. At these later ranges a complete miss is signalled by waving a red flag, which soon fades to pink, in front of the target. It's pink, it looks like a woman's underwear, and we call it Maggie's drawers.
Yet another update: I got to wondering how common the term "Maggie's drawers" is and in the process of googling it I've discovered that the invaluable Gun Parts Corp., will even sell you a ready-made version. All I've ever seen were just long sticks with a piece of cloth stapled in place. Given the name, I'll leave you to imagine what sort of cloth.
To live, not merely survive..
Wouldn't flavored be best?
Tuesday, November 28, 2006- - -
"It's water that causes fights." Or so the saying goes out here in the arid and now drought-ridden Rocky Mountain west. A proposed agreement between Wyoming, Colorado, and Nebraska seeks to insure sufficient water for wildlife habitat in the Platte River Basin, and particularly in Nebraska, where critical habitat for the whooping crane, piping plover, least tern, and pallid sturgeon, all truly endangered species, is drying out.
Problem is, there's more folks who hold rights to the water than there is water, and the farmers are rightly concerned that they'll be the next endangered species. So the fight is on.
There is one point on which the Casper Star's reports are a bit muddled. They characterize the current system thus: "Prior appropriation is a doctrine of water law that allocates the rights to use water on a first-come, first-served basis." This makes is sound like a 'tragedy of the commons' situation, where whoever syphons off the most water wins, but that's not really the way it works. As I understand it, the "first come" part refers to whoever holds the oldest right [don't quote me on this, water law is complex and arcane, and I'm not a lawyer]. In times of drought the State Water Boards try to portion out the water so that everyone gets just enough, but when there isn't enough to do that, those with the most recent water right get cut off first. With the drought this has left some farmers high and dry, particularly along the South Platte, where the farmers are competing for water with Denver and it's 'burbs. [My inlaws' farm is on the South Platte, so I've got a personal interest in this.]
Where the problem arises is that there isn't a similar system of rights between the states. The North Platte originates in Colorado and then flows through Wyoming before it gets to Nebraska, while the South Platte flows directly from Colorado to Nebraska. Dams and reservoirs along the way contain so much of the water that there's barely a trickle left by the time Nebraska sees it and this has been a major point of contention between Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming for many years. What this agreement appears to do is create a prior right to the water for wildlife that had not existed before, and a right that extends across state boundaries, which is a new wrinkle. Considering that a major portion of the value of land in the arid west is based on the water rights attached to that land, this agreement could very well have a negative effect on agricultural property values all down the North and South Platte drainages, so it's no wonder the farmers are reaching for their pitchforks.
Well slap my ass & call me Sally! West, the Band, best little band in the Bighorn Basin, is celebrating their 30th anniversary. That makes me feel old.
A friend went to school with these guys and back when we used to party down on their old bus. Fortunately, we've all grown up a bit since then. They've parked the bus and bought a restaurant, and I won't drive 100 miles to dance the night away in some smokey bar, so our paths don't cross much anymore. Glad to hear they're doing well. And playing Vegas? My, my. Good for them.
Monday, November 27, 2006- - -
Proving the Colonel right
The shootings occurred at about 4 a.m. Saturday outside the Kalua Cabaret, a strip club where Bell's bachelor party was held. The survivors were Joseph Guzman, 31, who was shot at least 11 times, and Trent Benefield, 23, who was hit three times. Guzman was in critical condition Sunday and Benefield was stable.Whatever else may come of this, it certainly tends to support Jeff Cooper's observation that the average police officer can't be trusted with more firepower than is provided by a 6-shot revolver. Thirty-one shots? Spray & pray brother, spray & pray. Nevermind the innocent bystanders, they're just civilians after all.
The car, driven by Bell, was struck by 21 of the police bullets after the vehicle rammed an undercover officer and hit an unmarked NYPD minivan. Other shots hit nearby homes and shattered windows at a train station, though no one else was injured.
The officer who had followed the group on foot was apparently the first to open fire, Kelly said. That officer had served on the force for five years. One 12-year veteran fired his weapon 31 times, emptying two full magazines, [Police Commissioner Raymond] Kelly said.
In total, it is believed 50 bullets were fired, Kelly said. It was the first time any of the officers, who all carried 9 mm handguns, had been involved in a shooting, Kelly said.
Sunday, November 26, 2006- - -
Thinking in the box
The InstaPundit links to an interesting article by Ronald Bailey on the future of energy production. The picture painted is bleak, but also makes one huge assumption that I think is unwarranted: That energy production 50 years from now will continue to follow the model of major multinational energy corporations producing energy and selling it over a global distribution network. That's how it's been done to date, so that's how it will continue to be done. I disagree.
I know darn well that with a windcharger, a couple solar panels, and a bank of batteries I could provide electricity for a home, especially if that home relied largely on 12 volt DC to power flourescent lighting. Make that home solar-heated and add a hydrogen generator for a hydrogen fuel cell car, and you're pretty well completely off the grid for home heat and light, and short-range transportation. The technology is there. Considering the cost of a new home, what's another ten grand to provide heat and light for that home for the next 20 years? What if you could generate your own motor fuel for all those short jaunts around town?
The problem with this is largely inertia. There's a big up-front cost, compared to the relatively minimal cost of buying your power from the grid and at the local gasorama, so folks in developed nations just aren't much interested. But, what about all those undeveloped nations? They don't have a grid to buy power off of; they don't have a mini-mart to sell them gasoline. There, if it were marketed properly, I can see home-scale renewable energy as a big seller, if only because the folks in Timbuktu could have it now and not wait for the grid to get to them. And if the demand were there, the economies of scale would make the technology cheaper for all of us.
Certainly this isn't the only answer to our growing energy problems and home-scale energy production will probably remain more attractive in rural areas where people have room for wind chargers and solar cells. This isn't going to put the energy companies out of business. In fact, to my knowledge, a couple of my energy company clients are heavily into experimental solar and wind generation, as we speak. But then energy is their business, it's not surprising that they're way out ahead of our government planners and talking heads.
After 30 years of working and living outdoors you'd think I'd have this stuff down, but I'm still learnin'. The latest lesson: Corduroy does not layer. I wore a new fleece-lined corduroy shirt out to the hills yesterday, intending to layer it under a Filson wool vest, with a fleece-lined Duluth Trading grab jacket over the whole works. Ever try to pull on a fleece-lined jacket over a corduroy shirt? Neither had I, and I still haven't succeeded. I finally gave up trying to get the sleeves of the shirt down inside the sleeves of the jacket and left the corduroy shirt in the jeep, wearing a T-shirt, wool vest, and grab jacket.
I was still plenty warm, but I'm darn glad I didn't discover the problem after lugging a corduroy shirt up Struggle-up Trail.
Saturday, November 25, 2006- - -
It was Dark Friday here in Riverton, Wyoming. We were out tromping in the hills all day and returned to town to find that trouble at an electric substation had blacked out half the town. According to the folks at the RV park, power had been out all day. We saw police directing traffic on the main intersections down toward the business district -- the traffic lights were out -- so I'm assuming that at least some part of downtown was without power. What a bummer for those businesses, having their biggest shopping day shut down.
It was only a bit of a bad time for us: While our RV doesn't have a generator, we can run the forced-air furnace and lights off our big honkin' deep cycle battery, at least for awhile. We turned the heat down far as it would go -- about 50 -- kept the lights off as much as possible to conserve the battery, and were cool but comfortable until the power was restored around 5:30.
Friday, November 24, 2006- - -
Now Fox & Friends has some Democratic strategist promising us a non-stop political campaign until November, 2008. I feel my brain melting as we speak.
My recommendation to the Repubs: Make sure Nancy Pelosi gets lots of camera time.. ... ... Okay, I guess I won't post a photo of our moonbat queen. The internet seems to be a bit wacked this morning and BlogSpot is no exception, as usual.
Update: And what's all this about Trent Lott making a comeback? Would someone please drive a stake through his heart, or at least hide his toupe? Obviously the Repubs think we have awfully short memories.
"We call it ICE"
Now Fox & Friends has some authority figure lecturing on the connection between illegal immigration and meth smuggling. He sounds very knowledgable when he informs us that "ice" is the common slang for crank. Unfortunately, the film clip of a drug bust played opposite the guy's speech shows a bunch of officers dressed in raid gear, including vests that proclaim "Police ICE". Of course, in this context ICE stands for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The guy may know exactly what he's talking about, "ice" is apparently one of the half-a-bazillion slang terms* for chrystal, but in context with the film clip they've made him look like a boob. Watching the piece I'd say he didn't need any help in that regard.
*Of course, I base all this on a web site that tells us "anything going on?" is dummy dust jargon. If you're at all inclined toward paranoia I'd recommend you drop the term "what's happening?" from your vocabulary and for god's sake, never mention "Scooby snacks" again. Scooby snacks? Whatever.
HeHe, while I was searching for slang terms for zip, I got the usual sponsored links, including a couple that said something to the effect of 'Looking for meth? Find exactly what you want on eBay'! I seriously doubt that they'll fulfill that promise, but with eBay you never know..
And speaking of bizarre..
I'm watching Fox & Friends and they've just noted something odd: WalMart is apparently advertising "on-line only" sales for Black Friday*. However, when you log on to WalMart.com you get this:
Walmart.com Scheduled MaintenanceAs our Friends at Fox note, why would you schedule maintenance to coincide with an advertised sale? I think I know the answer: Programmers can't predict all the various ways that their computer systems can malfunction so they create a series of generic error messages. What this error message should be saying is something to the effect of 'Aaargh! We're so overloaded with shoppers that our servers have melted down!'
Walmart.com is temporarily unavailable while we make important upgrades to our site. We appreciate your patience and invite you to return soon.
Ha! And now someone has emailed our Friends with the same explanation. They're not buying it. I suppose we shouldn't attribute to technical failure what can be explained by simple stupidity, but I'm inclined to think that WalMart's management is smarter than that and I bet they are swamped. Blame it on our Friends, they just had a shopping expert explain that if you can't find that PlayStation III or PMS Elmo [Update: T.M.X. Elmo? Well, it's only a matter of time..] at your local stores you should look on-line at places like.. yes, WalMart.com.
Update: Saturday morning, 24 hours later, Fox says sure 'nough, WalMart is reporting that heavier than expected traffic crashed their servers. Score one for us computer geeks.
*What's with "Black Friday"? How is it that a term that's been used historically to refer to episodes of major economic collapse has transmogrified into a term referring to the biggest retail sales day of the year? Perhaps it derives from the same sort of reasoning that our MSM employs when they look at a Dow over 12,000, booming retail sales, and unemployment under 5%, and conclude that the economy is tanking?
It looks like somebody needs to reset the internal clock over at BlogSpot World Headquarters. I'm posting this at 5:22am local, not even close to the time stamp that provides a permalink to this post.
Update: Harrrummph! Okay, make a liar out of me. Do note though that I posted the Yellowstone bit below at about 5:15am, bizarre indeed.
Keep an eye on that thing!
Here's an interesting article on geological monitoring of the Yellowstone supervolcano in today's Casper Star. We recently visited the new visiter education center* at Canyon, where they do a great job of explaining Yellowstone's geology. Among the fascinating details, they explain that the supervolcano has blown three times, about 2.1 million years ago, 1. 3 million years ago, and 640,000 years ago. Catch that pattern? Yes, it's due any day now! Or not. Not to worry, despite predictions of eminent doom (the guvmint is keepin' the truth from us, don't you know?), it appears that all the magma accumulating prior to a major blast raises a dome that may be up to 70,000 feet high [that's what we call gollyology!]. Don't worry, I think we'll notice that. Of course noticing it won't do us a lot of good; the blast of a supervolcano would almost certainly be teotwawki**.
*Don't miss it when you visit. Not only is it highly educational, they've got one of the world's largest lava lamps!
**te-ought-wow-kee; "The End Of The World As We Know It;" an event so often predicted of late that I've adopted the acronym as a time-saving device in discussion. Try it! While waving your arms over your head repeat after me: "If the Democrats win the elections in 2008 it will be teotwawki!" See, it saves time.
Thursday, November 23, 2006- - -
This tweeks my distal humerus
"A new Harvard study shows that red wine can help prolong the lives of obese mice ... while ignoring the question ... of how we happen to be the only nation in the world with a mouse-obesity problem..."Too bad red wine doesn't go well with turkey. Happy Thanksgiving!!
Wednesday, November 22, 2006- - -
My big questions: Since when is the US Secretary of Education considered a celebrity? And why should people expect her to be any more intelligent than most of the rest of the beltway crowd, or "celebrities" in general for that matter?
The Jeopardy answer crew certainly knew what to expect from celebrities, the final Jeopardy answer was something to the effect of "A 1962 play based on a famous Harper Lee novel". Even the Sec of Ed answered "What is To Kill a Mockingbird?" I was eavesdropping from the next room and, while I didn't hear them answer "He's buried in Grant's tomb" the rest of the answers were about on that par. Striking out at slow pitch, that's what's embarrassing.
"The highways of America are built chiefly of politics ..."
"... whereas the proper material is crushed rock, or concrete." So said Carl G. Fisher in September of 1912. Fisher had a better idea, he wanted a transcontinental improved highway. In a twist that would appear novel today, he thought the highway ought to be paid for by donations from auto enthusiasts and car manufacturers.
He began actively promoting his dream, a transcontinental highway, in 1912. On September 10, he held a dinner meeting with many of his automobile industry friends in the Deutsches Haus in Indianapolis, his home town. He called for a coast-to-coast rock highway to be completed by May 1, 1915, in time for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. The project would cost about $10 million, he said. "Let's build it," he told the group, "before we're too old to enjoy it!"[Nice to know we have Henry Ford to thank for that, eh?] By July 1, 1913, a name had been chosen for the road -- Fisher rejected "Fisher Highway" -- and the Lincoln Highway Association was formed. That same day a trail blazer expedition departed Detroit to select a route for the road, arriving in San Francisco 34 days later.
Within a month, Fisher's auto industry friends had pledged $1 million. Henry Ford, the biggest automaker of his day, was a notable exception. He refused to contribute in spite of a personal plea by Fisher over a pigpen at the State Fair in Detroit. Ford believed the government, not private individuals or companies, should build the Nation's roads.
On September 14, 1913, a description of the route was announced and on October 31, 1913, the route was dedicated. The first transcontinental highway was born. The route remained little more than a dream for some time, prompting the Lincoln Highway Association's 1916 Official Road Guide to warn "Don't wear new shoes." And that wasn't the half of it. All the infrastructure we take for granted wasn't there; filling stations and garages were few and far between, and public accomodations were sometimes spotty. One intrepid young woman, traveling across Wyoming on the Lincoln Highway in 1920, describes the conditions of the inn and saloon in Walcott as so disgusting that they slept in their Model T. (The photo is the Walcott Saloon as it appears today, not much improved.)
Actually, one of the Lincoln Highway's greatest contributions to future highway development occurred in 1919, when the U.S. Army undertook its first transcontinental motor convoy. The highly publicized convoy, promoted by the LHA, was intended, in part, to dramatize the need for better main highways and continued Federal-aid. The convoy left the Ellipse south of the White House in Washington on July 7 and headed for Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. From there, it followed the Lincoln Highway to San Francisco. Bridges cracked and were rebuilt, vehicles became stuck in mud, and equipment broke, but the convoy was greeted warmly by communities across the country. The convoy reached San Francisco on September 5.Yes, 50 years ago this month President Dwight Eisenhower - being a bit less reticent than Fisher -- signed an act creating the Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways. (Although, as I've outlined, pax the InstaPundit, this didn't exactly create the first interstate highways. Today, Interstate 80 follows the general route of the Lincoln Highway, fulfilling the dreams of Fisher and Eisenhower.
The LHA considered the convoy a great success. Extensive publicity promoted the Lincoln Highway and good roads everywhere. According to the LHA's official history, the convoy led directly to favorable action on many county bond issues for highway building. However, the greatest result of the convoy was not realized until the 1950's.
One participant in the convoy was a bored young Army officer, Lt. Colonel Dwight David Eisenhower. The convoy was memorable enough for him to include a chapter on the trip, "Through Darkest America With Truck and Tank," in At Ease: Stories I Tell to Friends (Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1967). "The trip had been difficult, tiring, and fun," he said. That experience plus his observations of the German auto-bahn network during World War II convinced him to support construction of the Interstate System when he became President. "The old convoy had started me thinking about good, two-lane highways, but Germany had made me see the wisdom of broader ribbons across the land." His "Grand Plan" for highways, announced in 1954, led to the 1956 legislative breakthrough that created the Highway Trust Fund to accelerate construction of the Interstate System.
Sunday, November 19, 2006- - -
I'm sure it's out of this world
From the folks who brought us Grey Cigar (flying saucer) wine.
All oil is not created equal
Working in the oil patch, we're always interested in new developments, so we've been watching the experimental oil shale work going on in NW Colorado. It's only a matter of time until they come up with an economically viable way of tapping this resource.
The InstaPundit links to this IMRA piece on Isreali claims that they can produce synthetic oil from low quality shale at $17 a barrel, which would certainly make production economical. It sounds like their technique will only recover the lightest fraction of the hydrocarbons present though. This may explain the low cost, but highgrading the deposit would also be a bit wasteful, and there are costs other than monetary in producing this stuff.
Earlier, the InstaPundit had quoted another article making the famous claim that the Green River shale deposits in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming contain 1.5 trillion to 1.8 trillion barrels of oil, nearly triple the proven oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. Considering the extent of the deposits and that they are often hundreds of feet thick, I've no doubt this estimate is fairly accurate, it's a huge untapped resource. But..
The Canadian term for this stuff -- tar sands -- gives a hint what we're after. This is principally thick, gooey stuff, high in asphalt and tar, and low in the lighter fractions that make motor fuels and heating oil. If it had a higher concentration of lighter oil and gas it would flow out of the rock like.. well, oil. Still, it's far from worthless. There is some light material, as the Isreali experiments show, and asphalt is also a valuable commodity, which is why I'd be opposed to any recovery effort that left the less valuable stuff in the ground. The environmental side-effects of production would likely be about the same either way, so it behooves us to recover as much of the product as possible. Highgrading also makes future recovery of the remainder all that much less economically viable.
And the environmental side-effects could be considerable. The photo above depicts the Gates of Lodore. Among the rocks forming the cliffs are the Green River Shale deposits. It's spectacularly scenic and outrageously difficult terrain to navigate. Balancing development against tourism, wildlife issues, wilderness issues, archaeological, historic, and paleontological resource issues, and all the other values that must be taken into consideration won't be easy. However, the potential rewards are vast.
Dangerous Toys for Dangerous Boys
Over at Defense Tech they're hosting a discussion on Earth's Most Lethal Gadgetry. First up is the latest version of the personal jet pack. Just strap it to your back and soar like an eagle. Next up, Trainer offers the "smart gun", which is only dangerous when it fails to function properly, unlike the jet pack which can kill you while working perfectly.
Next, David Hardy suggests a muzzleloading cannon, because of the exposure to highly explosive black powder, which must be rammed down a hot bore that might contain sparks from the previous shot. As he notes, the "Rammer" (flunky of the core cannon team lead by the Gunner and supplied by a Loader) pushes a wet swap down the bore to extinguish any sparks. But, having considerable experience firing a 6-pounder, that swab is heavy with water. Cannon powder is coarse stuff, about like peppercorns, and leaves a lot of residue in the bore from incomplete combustion of the primitive propellant. This first swab loosens the residues and ought to squirt water out the touch hole if the mop is wet enough. Then the swab is withdrawn and traded for a big brush which is run through the bore as many times as experience indicates to loosen any remaining sulfuric goo. The brush is traded for the swab (the brush and swab are left rinsing in a bucket of water) which is wrung and shook out as dry as possible, and the bore is wiped clean. The residual heat from the first shot dries the film of water quite handily.
While this is going on, the Gunner reams the touch hole with a twisted metal gimlet, and brushes and swabs it clean, and the Loader retrieves the powder and ball for the next shot from a magazine placed a safe distance away. The Rammer retrieves his rammer from a rack on the side of the gun and stands by to ram the powder, wad, and projectile into the gun as they're placed in the bore by the Loader. Rammer and loader then stand clear while the gunner runs his gimlet deep into the powder charge to give maximum combustible surface to the priming mixture, pours fine priming mixture into the touch hole and then installs a primer, or picks up his match. At this point the Gunner gives the order to stand clear, while visually inspecting the recoil area and his crew to make sure they're clear of recoil and blast. Finally, he either tugs on a cord firing the primer into the main charge, or touchs the touch hole with his smoldering match. The resulting concussion, blast, and cloud of sulfurous smoke is indeed impressive.
The cannon certainly fulfills the 'fun' part of the fun but deadly gadget criteria. With careful drill and proper technique it's not nearly so dangerous to the cannon crew as David Hardy suggests, but a line of infantrymen facing its load of grape would testify that it's also very deadly on the receiving end.
But wait! This is a contest to identify fun but deadly gadgets so I'd better come up with a suggestion or two. Smart guns, cannon, and matchlock muskets have been named, but of course they're all specific varieties of that funnest and deadliest gadget, the gun. It kills when employed as designed, rather than as a byproduct of mishap. That would be my first, but not terribly original nominee.
For something original, how about heavy machinery of all kinds? Darn few things more entertaining than pushing piles of dirt around with a D9 (at least if you don't have to do it every day, I suppose), but there's few things more final than being mashed by one. When on foot near heavy machinery the rule is to never approach too closely, never take your eyes off it, and don't count on the operator to see you because you're down there on the ground in a cloud of his dust. Nevertheless, we always wear hard hats and blaze-colored clothing around the great metal beasts.
Farm machinery is just as bad, providing dozens of ways to lose a limb, or just a few fingers. Of course, if you fall into the big baler it's like to put half of you in one bale and the other half in the next. Don't fall asleep on the tractor and fall off that spring seat under the plow or they'll be searching for bits of you with a rake. Don't stand too close to the haystack, a 1200# bail falling off the top can squash you like a bug. And then there's augers.. Brrrr!! A 10" bore with a spiraling blade that can suck you in and deposit you on the other end neatly sliced and diced under several horsepower of force like a piece of flank steak run through the meat grinder. Yep, farming is dangerous work. If it weren't so glamorous nobody'd do it.
Then there's drilling rigs. Everything about a drilling rig is dangerous. It's sheer size and irresistible force, with a lot of moving parts, swinging chains, giant pulleys, whipping cables, and such like pinchy things. When the tower man drops his 36" pipe wrench your hard hat might save you. Or not. It's going to hurt though. When he drops a 40' length of drill stem on you the hurt will most likely be permanent. Expand this to all the other ways you can be killed in the oilfield, from being run over by the previously mentioned dozer to being overcome by a whiff of H2S, having something heavy dropped on you or falling from a height, boiled by superheated steam or dissolved by industrial chemicals, and the oilfield is a scary, fun place.
Still, most folks who die working in the oilfield are killed on the way to work, on the highway. Fast cars and faster women. Those are dangerous too. And a jealous husband can be most dangerous of all.
Update: Noah Shachtman from Defense Tech writes:
Thanks so much for the links to -- and the write-up about -- Defense Tech's deadly gadget contest. I saw your note abut heavy machinery; I think you've hit the nail on the head. But I'm wondering if you can point to a *particularly* hazardous heavy machine? I'll be happy to provide links a-plenty back to you, if so.What? You mean I have to pick just one? Hmm.. Okay. I've already mentioned oil drilling rigs and hay bailers, perhaps the two most dangerous gadgets in these parts, but of all the really cool and really deadly gadgets, I've got to vote for this one: The A-10 Warthog. First time I ever saw one in action my reaction was "Holy Shit! Glad they're on our side." Now that's heavy.
Saturday, November 18, 2006- - -
It's an anatomical marvel!
Business is picking up and it looks like we'll be living in the 5th wheel on turkey day, so we're doing one early. Plenty of leftovers will make for easy cooking later and when we've been outside in subfreezing temperatures all day (where were these guys in June?) we don't care if the food's monotonous, as long as it's plentiful and hot. So..
I opened up the bird and it must be one of those bioengineered frankenfowl -- it had only half a gizard, and three hearts. Earthworm genes perhaps?
So it's settled then
A couple days ago our environmental groups upped the ante:
CHEYENNE -- A coalition of environmental and conservation groups has filed court papers to help fight a lawsuit by Wyoming to get the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to accept its plan for managing wolves.Friday, the Wyoming Game & Fish called and raised:
"Wyoming seeks to turn back the clock on wolf recovery," Steve Thomas of the Wyoming Sierra Club's Sheridan office said in a statement Wednesday. "Wyoming's plan would reinstate wolf policies that brought wolves to the brink of extinction in the first place."
SUNDANCE -- Wolves have a taste for elk in the greater Yellowstone region, which has worked out well for both species -- for the time being.The game's not over, but it's looking like the state will rake the pot. Hunting is Wyoming's most sacred cow.. well, next to cows anyway. You don't mess with our hunting opportunities or our public lands access. It looks like the State of Wyoming is prepared to bet the limit on wolf reintroduction, as there's sure no issue that will get more irate letters to the editor and calls to our congressmen than a threat to hunting. Heheh, now all we need is for the wolves to eat somebody -- I hope it isn't me. [For the record, I've not heard of any human/wolf incidents.]
However, if there's no resolution to the state's dispute with the federal government over removing the animal from protection under the Endangered Species Act, the wolf's taste for elk may diminish hunting opportunities, according to Wyoming Game and Fish Department Director Terry Cleveland.
"Let there be no doubt: If we don't get wolves delisted, the elk hunting opportunity in this state is going to decline," Cleveland said.
Update: There's been some grumbling that the recalcitrance of the State of Wyoming is holding up de-listing. If only we'd get on-board with a management plan like Montana & Idaho's, wolves would be delisted and the state could begin to not manage the wolves, pretty much as the feds are not managing them now. By holding up the process the State of Wyoming is exacerbating the problem!
But wait! The worse the problem gets, the better Wyoming's plan looks. The ranchers are already pretty much up in arms (literally). The locals are grumbling about the shortened seasons and lack of game (that would be me, but let's put the lion's share of the blame on the drought). When the hunters from Minnesota pay our truly outrageous out-of-state license fees (and why shouldn't they be outrageous?) they want to see elk all day, not hear wolves howling all night. Even our Bear Flag ex-pats out Jackson way get irate when something eats their llamas. Time is on our side.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing for the wolves either: Delaying delisting will give them a better chance to get established, to better survive Wyoming's [cough] management [cough] plan.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006- - -
A strange and twisted tale
It seems that the U of Wyo is attempting to fire tenured professor Steven J. Torok for being "... an arrogant and crass professor who disrespected and intimidated his peers, used profane language in class, flipped coins for grades, assigned grading to students, made flagrant sexual remarks, and even once asked female students if anyone in class had a tampon. One student claimed that Torok had talked about sex on the Internet between priests and nuns." Unfortunately, he's not an anthropologist, where such behavior isn't particularly unusual, he's teaching Ag Economics. This is the first time in ten years that a tenured faculty member has been dismissed and it's causing UW to rethink its tenure policies.
According to his attorney, Torok was diagnosed last year with bipolar disorder and has suffered other disabilities, including Kallman’s syndrome*. Torok claims that his illness was misdiagnosed and medication was misprescribed causing him to "... go off the deep end." Now, with the proper medication, Torok says he's again capable of performing his job.
A strange situation. Torok was hired in 1985 and his colleagues thought highly enough of him to grant him tenure in 1992. His misbehavior didn't occur until 2003-2004. So apparently this guy performed acceptably for 18 years before his behavior radically changed, or at least that's how I read this. Obviously there's a whole lot more to this story than meets the eye and, being a 'personnel matter', we're not going to hear a lot of the gory details.
Here's my speculation:
As an employer, if someone had been working for me for 18 years, performing adequately, and then suddenly went bonkers, I'd like to think that I'd be more concerned with the employee's health than with tweeking my employment rules to more quietly and easily dump such troublemakers. It seems passing strange that a university, ultimate bastion of liberal PC, would so quickly throw a mentally ill faculty member to the wolves. Where's their compassion? Why aren't they all singing Kumbaya in the faculty lounge and holding bake sales to pay for his meds?
On the other hand, faculty in-fighting is a vicious business and the Ag department is one of the last beleagered enclaves of manly men on campus. It's entirely possible that Torok's behavior hasn't really changed, but rather had been condoned by the good old boys. It would be interesting to see if the composition of the Ag faculty changed significantly ca. 2003, throwing the balance of power to younger and more PC members of the department.
That would certainly follow the path of the anthro departments I've seen, where the hairy-chested and often decidedly, even shockingly sexist old boys have been under fire for 30 years by the birkenstock & gray wool sock crowd. Nothing Torok is accused of would have been unusual behavior in an anthro department 35 years ago (Hell, outrageous behavior was encouraged and obviously I learned my lessons well), but as the balance of power has shifted toward a younger and more PC faculty the more egregious of the good old boys have been weeded out, often with blood-letting reminiscent of the Torok situation. Of course, our good old boys weren't mentally ill, unless you consider Peter Pan syndrome a mental illness. Personally, I've always thought that a bit of the Peter Pan syndrome is a job prerequisite in my business -- I still play with bows and arrows, and make fires by rubbing sticks together (or try to), how else would you explain that?
As I note, this is entirely speculation. State employee personnel matters are generally sealed affairs and we'll never know the details. Still, it seems Torok isn't the only one exhibiting unusual behavior in this situation. Mental illness is a powerful trump card to play in a personnel dispute against those whose greatest desire is to appear enlightened. I'm astonished that it's not running the table and I'm wondering why out loud.
*Interesting. Among the symptoms of Kallman's syndrome is delayed puberty, so it has certain parallels to Peter Pan syndrome.
Monday, November 13, 2006- - -
Wasting no time..
Jeff Soyer reports that the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, aka Handgun Control, Inc., is ready to revive the Assault Weapons Ban. Seems like just a couple weeks ago we were being assured that the Dems had dropped the gun control issue.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006- - -
This is going to be interesting..
Update: I see I'm not the only one having a little fun at Nancy Pelosi's expense. (HT: InstaPundit)
Tuesday, November 07, 2006- - -
Don't tell the US Fish & Wildlife!
I didn't find any gremlins [read on for the whole tale of woe] but I did find a family of dust bunnies. Now I'll have to maintain the old byte box as essential habitat..
What!? You say you've seen the occasional dust bunny too? How can that be? They're rare and endangered, or at least no one admits maintaining dust bunny habitat.
We're experiencing technical difficulties..
This gives whole new meaning to the words "bare bones", but it's not quite dead yet. Stupid spring-loaded plastic rod on the front of the case that reaches back and punches on the actual on-off switch just plain wore out. First I removed the plastic face plate, but discovered I still couldn't hit the switch with my finger, so I removed the side plate. Now I can reach inside and push the button (and jiggle the wires!). The wreck is three years old (isn't that about 120 in computer years?) and now it'll probably run another three years when I'd prefer it would just die so I can justify a new one.
I'll leave you to contemplate the meaning of the fact that the on-off switches on two of my pieces of electronics have acted up, if not quite died, within 24 hours.
Can't blame the computer on the GOTVers who, at the least, haven't contributed to my phone's longevity the last few days, so.. Could it be proximity? That is the blinkered wireless handset perched on top of the external DVD drive. Could it be dust? We're toward the end of the harvest season here in Worland and the farmers have been stirring it up. Or is it gremlins...
Tomorrow I get my telephone back from the GOTVers. To the polls with you! May the
least worst best man or woman win!! And now..
A drum roll please...
Monday, November 06, 2006- - -
Get out the vote!
Get Off My Back! I note that Hugh Hewitt is asking people to join the hords already wearing out my phone** with their GOTV efforts. I signed up to post a comment* to the effect that 'I'm on your side! Stop it already!' Scanning the comments I saw that Varifrank had already expressed that sentiment, and I'd be surprised if they haven't gotten more complaints since. Varifrank has written the InstaPundit expressing the same sentiment: The first call or two were okay. The next dozen were increasingly annoying, and I'm braced for a real on-slaught today-tomorrow. As with Varifrank, I've received most of my calls from Republicans, but I'm a registered Republican so that's no surprise. While I appreciate the enthusiasm, this phone calling is being really overdone.
Update: Oh, and guys? If you hire a telemarketer to call people and read a spiel about how the Democrats are going to let the illegals take over the country? Make sure their callers speak English as a first language, okay?
Another update: Monday afternoon and the callers are starting to sound ever more like telemarketers; They've got that 'please don't scream at me' wary tone in their voices. It's one of the perqs of the job for the paid callers, but it seems like sore abuse of one's supporters to ask volunteers to subject themselves to this.
*In one of the more annoying attempts to ward off spam, Townhall has a registration system that issues commenters a 10-character password of random numbers and letters. You have a better memory than I if you can remember such things, so I just re-register, it's easier than keeping track of their passwords. Makes you wonder about their readership figures..
**AAaaarrrgh!! I forgot to knock on wood and now the on-off switch on my wireless handset is acting up. No shit. Guess they'll have to talk to the answering machine today. I hate when that happens.
Things that make you go Hmmmm...
InstaPundit readers are showing a remarkable degree of optimism on the eve of the election. In a reader poll he asks: How do you think tomorrow's elections will turn out? the options are: Republicans win both houses; Republicans win one, Democrats the other; and Democrats win both houses. With 264 votes in, 64% call for a Republican sweep, an amazing statistic given the drumbeat of doom being sounded by the press and many pundits.
This poll is interesting for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that nobody knows what's going to happen tomorrow. By asking what people think will happen, you're going to get respondents who tell you what they think -- which ought to be tempered with a good deal of pessimism for anyone who's even marginally paying attention -- and other respondents who tell you what they hope will happen. That's what I did when I answered the poll by voting for a Republican sweep, I hope it happens but my money's on a split, with the Republicans retaining the Senate but losing the House.
So consider this: It would not be surprising for 64% of Reynolds' respondents to vote for the sweep if he'd asked what they hope happens. He's running a conservative/libertarian pro-war blog and this does say something about his audience. It is surprising that such a high percentage still think the Republicans can pull it out considering how little support that hope is given by the MSM and most political pundits. An excess of optimism? We shall see.
On another level this underscores the problem with polls. While Reynolds' question is carefully neutral, it's not really asking what he thinks it is. I'd rephrase the question to either ask what people hope will happen or, if I really want to know people's pragmatic thoughts, divorced of emotion and partisanship, I'd ask: If you had $20 to bet*, which of these outcomes would you put money on?
*Of course this question might also skew the results by excluding the stick-up-their-butts contingent who find even virtual gambling sinful.
Sunday, November 05, 2006- - -
In the process of skewering John Kerry, Austin Bay makes an interesting point:
“If they think Bush is stupid, and he went to Yale, what do guys like Kerry think of me?”I'd recommend you read it all, but haven't we had about enough of John Friggin' Kerry?
An excess of partisanship?
You don't say! Glenn Reynolds quotes Orson Scott Card's observations on the election:
But there are no values that matter to me that will not be gravely endangered if we lose this war. And since the Democratic Party seems hellbent on losing it -- and in the most damaging possible way -- I have no choice but to advocate that my party be kept from getting its hands on the reins of national power, until it proves itself once again to be capable of recognizing our core national interests instead of its own temporary partisan advantages.Of course, this would be a more effective argument if the Republicans had proven themselves capable of recognizing our core national interests. Since both parties have lost sight of anything beyond their own political welfare, it would seem to be a wash.
Much later: I rarely read something twice, particularly an article as long as Orson Scott Card's. However, Card provides a detailed strategic overview of the War or Terror that is well worth study. In his first five paragraphs, Card seems to imply that if the Democrats gain control of the House on Tuesday there will be no chance that we can achieve success in the WOT. On the contrary, as he expands his thesis he shows himself to be pretty much of the same opinion that I am, that a Democratic win of the House would likely prolong the war and make it more costly in terms of cash and blood. Regardless of who controls the American government the ultimate outcome of the WOT is far from clear.*
Card is a bit more optimistic for our short-term prospects than I if the Republicans retain control, as he sees that President Bush has a plan for success. I'm not sure how much of the strategic plan Card outlines is accurate, but if he's correct it sounds like a good plan and it's terribly unfortunate that the Bush administration hasn't done a better job of expressing that plan (or any plan, please!) to the American people. "Stay the course" just doesn't make it. We need to know what the course is, and we need to see progress being made.
*Update: What is clear is that pulling out of Iraq will not end the WOT. If we retreat, if we give any quarter, the terrorists will advance, they will take advantage; that's normal in the give and take of war. Remember, they were the original agressors in this conflict, unless you believe the 'America had it coming' crowd. There is no place to hide from an agressor bent on global domination. Eventually we will fight or America as we know it will cease to exist. September 11th was a challenge to us to get on our feet or on our knees. We will, inevitably, make that choice.
It ain't polite to Google people!
Unless you really want to know what they've been up to. Seems Patty was googling son Cal and found my story about the ill-fated Calamaran. After reading that she'll probably never let him out of her sight again. And she probably hasn't even read this one, about our latest aquatic adventures.
Back when I wrote the original piece Blogger didn't support photos in any usable fashion, so I didn't post a pic of the beast, truly one of the more unlikely watercraft ever to set sail (and it did sail when we were foolish enough to put a tarp up on that frame for a sun shade!). It floated too. Only thing it didn't do was steer, which added an interesting touch to the voyage.
I've thought since that we need to revive the Calamaran, but there's not enough water in the Bighorn to float a single canoe. Maybe we could put wheels on it? Or tow it with the celebrated jumping mule! Now there's a thought. And it reminds me that I've got to talk Cal into giving me a set of photos of the mule in action. That's a death-defying stunt that deserves documentation! Hmm.. Actually Calvin should tell that one himself. No one will believe it and I don't want you thinkin' I'm lying to you.
Back when I wrote all this Cal and Sally didn't have a functioning internet hookup, so they've never seen any of this. Now they're on-line (and they'll shortly be chasing me with a stick when they see what I've written about them). Of course Duane could have told them, but Duane Groshart hates me* so he didn't.
*And that's another story. A re-named play actually, written by J. Holtham, to be presented at Worland High School mid-month. Duane is a real live professional journalist -- a sports writer, that department of journalism where getting your facts right still matters -- and he also teaches at the local high school, which probably gives him plenty of reasons to hate the little punks. We'll have to go to the play to find out why he hates these particular characters though. Probably couldn't pry the tongues out of their cheeks with a tire iron.
Saturday, November 04, 2006- - -
An understandable mistake
Knoxville, Nashville, what's the difference, give or take a few banjos?
Fear and loathing..
Here's a prediction: After being told by all the polls that the Dems are going to win big, the only thing worse than giving a mandate to them when they've run on nothing much beyond being the Anti-Bush Party would be if the Repubs manage to hold the line. The shrieks of "Robbery! Conspiracy! Fraud!" would be deafening. The moonbats would be out in broad daylight and their cries would not be ultrasonic, only nearly so.
As far as the welfare of the country, I'm not sure it much matters which party wins on Tuesday, since I'm not sure I buy the "Democrats would be worse!" argument. The Republicans have been worse than the Democrats ever thought of being on spending and domestic issues, and that takes a lot. On national defense the Repubs appear to have lost their resolve, so where's their advantage? Whether the Dems pull us out of Iraq or the Repubs continue to dink around ineffectually doesn't ultimately matter in the greater war on terror.
Why is that? While we may have lost interest in Islamic extremists they haven't lost interest in us. Until we do find some way to deal effectively with them we will be fighting them somewhere. Also, can you imagine the wrath of the Dems if they do gain power, perhaps even win the presidency in 2008, and then have their dreams of happy coexistence dashed by another major terror attack here in the US? On their watch? That wouldn't just be an attack on America, it would be an attack on them. Hell hath no fury and I would hope that if the WOT lands in the Dem's laps the Republicans would be smart enough to hold their coats (not exactly a foregone conclusion but we know the reverse doesn't work).
If the Dems win the coming election their hooting will be annoying, but the Repubs just might learn a valuable lesson. If they lose, defined as not making gains as big as they think they're due, the volume of hystrionics will be unlike anything we've ever heard before, including the aftermath of the 2000 election. That might be entertaining in a morbid sort of way. Either way, the outcome 20 years down the road will be a wash, because we're not driving international events, they're driving us.
That probably won't change until the first mushroom cloud goes up and then the gloves will come off, especially if the Dems are in power when it happens. Interesting times we live in, eh?
Can't catch the sunshine in your hand
[Gubernatorial candidate Ray] Hunkins said the state needs to plan in advance on how to handle impact from development that transcends county lines.Those men living in tents and man camps are working in the energy industry. They're not here to "build a community", they're here for the boom and they'll leave like a fire drill (again) when we inevitably* go bust (again). Thousands of ghost towns throughout the west have been built this way, but you don't see a hell of a lot of stable communities built on such dreams. How to cope with a large transient workforce is surely a problem, but trying to incorporate them into a community is a fool's errand. Personally, I like Halliburton's approach. There in Sublette County they've just built a beautiful 200-room hotel. Right now they're using it to house their employees, but come the bust it can be used as accomodation for the public. As close as they are to Jackson Hole and Yellowstone that's a darn smart idea.
"I've been in Sublette County and have seen men living in tents and seen men living in man camps during the week and they travel by plane back to their homes every 10 days or so," Hunkins said.
"But that's not how you build a community, and it can create problems. That's part of our methamphetamine problem."
Oilfield work is extremely dangerous, and drugs and booze on the job have killed a lot of people over the years. Unsurprisingly, it's now just about impossible to operate a business in the oilfield without a huge liability insurance policy and you won't get insurance without a stringent drug policy and testing program. Yes, booze and drugs in the oilfield used to be a hell of a problem. Now using drugs or drinking to excess will make you unemployable. No doubt there's still some meth in the oilfield along with all the other drugs, and the hands can still drink a snoot-full [although showing up for work with even the tiniest trace of alcohol in your system is a firing offense], but if the goal is to reduce drug use the energy industry is the last sector to pick on.
We've cleaned up our act. We had to. And we've had at least 150 years to figure out how to deal with transient labor in this state; adaptive reuse like the "Halliburton Hotel" isn't just a good idea, it's an old idea that works well. Mr. Hunkins is tilting at the shadows of windmills here. (Not to mention being more than a bit insulting to some of the most highly trained, well-paid professional/technical workers in the state. But hey, maybe they're not "real republicans".)
*Every time we have an energy boom 'It's not a boom, it's sustained growth!' Then when we go bust we see bumperstickers with the boomer's prayer: "Dear God, please let there be another boom and I promise not to piss it all away this time." The realists among us even try to keep that promise. The short-sighted let the good times roll.
Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
Royalties from booming oil and gas development have the state of Wyoming rolling in bucks, taking in hundreds of millions more each year* than they'd anticipated or budgeted to spend. Thus, reports that the state highway department is running out of money and even suggesting borrowing from the state's permanent mineral trust fund seem passing strange. Even stranger, we're told that our highways are in simply awful condition. Take a drive to any of our bordering states and you'll see that our highways are in relatively great condition. As WYDOT is asking for an increase in state funding, I've assumed that they're just employing a bit of exaggeration to get their noses in the trough of surplus mineral money. Of course, the cost of materials has gone up, so they're not being entirely piggish.
Now, in today's Casper Star, we're told that both our governor, who's running for a second term, and his opponent have plans for tax relief measures to return some of the state's budget surplus to the citizens.
So, on one hand we have a state agency claiming a serious deficit, so bad that they want money from a permanent fund that's not supposed to be spent. On the other we have such a surplus of state funds that our gubernatorial candidates want to 'give some back'. I've taken the cynical interpretation that with the election looming it's only natural that politicians would try to buy a few votes. Today's article also discusses the gubers' proposals for giving more money to local governments, more money to schools and more for vocational training, and more for just about every possible constituency, reinforcing my opinion that this is just a bit of last-minute vote-buying.
Oddly, neither candidate says a word about funding for the poor, financially strapped highway department despite WYDOT's recent and frequent trumpets of doom. Again, I cynically assume that after the election talk of tax relief will become vague memories** while the surplus money goes to WYDOT to pay their red-headed stepchildren to lean on their shovels+. Thus has it always been. However, it does seem extraordinarily tin-eared of our gubers not to at least mention greasing our squeekiest wheel when discussing the budget surplus.
I should also note that in past times of budget surplus the state established the permanent mineral trust fund and socked a good deal of money away. Returns on this far-sighted investment have been used to keep the state government afloat when the energy boom inevitably went bust. Now we're not only not talking about saving any of the surplus, we've got some who want to dip into rainy day funds while the sun is shining brighter than ever. Even Lewis Carroll couldn't have conceived of the lunatics running this asylum.
*$800 million(!) is the figure currently cited, although it's unclear whether that's for this year, for the fiscal biennium, or just what they have in the checking account.
**It's not entirely talk. Gov. Freudenthal has pumped a lot of money into education and we have been given a two-year moratorium on sales taxes on food, which both gubers are talking about making permanent. Whether this 'investment in education' will pay off in a more highly trained workforce or simply give more Wyomingites the skills they need to get a job in Denver remains to be seen but, funding aside, I'm generally in favor of more, better education. I think there's something to the observation that you can spend your money on education or you can spend it on prisons.
+The Worland office of WYDOT recently had a bit of a snafu: The work crew drove clean to the other side of the county before discovering that they'd forgotten their shovels. The dispatcher sent another truck out with a load of shovels, instructing the work crew to lean on each other until they got there.
Friday, November 03, 2006- - -
"Who Deserves the Libertarian Vote?"
Reason's Katherine Mangu-Ward and David Weigel ask a variety of Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian movers & shakers why we should support them, in the December 2006 print edition. With the sort of political acumen that's gotten the Libertarian Party where it is today, the article won't be on-line until well after the election, which is too bad because these folks have some interesting things to say.
The article will appear on their website eventually and I recommend it. In the mean time, I do take issue with comments by Markos Moulitsas regarding the evil energy industry in Wyoming:
"Where I'll differ markedly from traditional libertarians is that I don't believe corporations are inherently benign to our liberty interests. They invade our privacy by collecting data about us. They pollute our air, foul our water. They can invade our property interests. In Wyoming, for example, energy companies can set up smelly, noisy machinery to drill underneath your property without redress. And unlike government, these corporations aren't accountable to us. So sometimes government is necessary to ensure that corporations don't invade our liberty interests."And now for the rest of the story: The conflict between land owners and energy companies has its roots in the "split estate", an artifact of the homesteading era, when homesteaders and land buyers were granted ownership of the surface estate, while the government retained ownership of the mineral rights. For a fee, the government leases the mineral rights to an energy company, usually for a period of 10 years. If the energy company drills on the lease, produces a well, and begins making royalty payments to the government the lease will be extended, but if the energy company doesn't drill within the 10-year lease period the government will reclaim the lease and lease it to someone who will drill it.
The problem is, the land has two owners, both of whom have rights to develop it in ways that inherently conflict. The energy company is a tenant, under a mandate from one of the land owners to drill or begone. Thus, the energy company will get along with the private surface owner precisely as well, or as poorly, as the federal land managing agency insists they do. Yet, the scenario Moulitsas describes is largely true. The energy companies sometimes do invade the surface owner's domain. But they do it at the behest of the government and they are very much accountable to the government, which can pull their lease and send them packing for a variety of reasons.
So, is it the land managing agency that's unaccountable? Hardly. They are being held to account by about a bazillian Californians who decided they didn't like sitting in the dark and wrote their congressmen, by all the people of the country who objected to $3 a gallon gasoline and called their congressmen, and by all the folks who just got a $400 heating bill and emailed their congressmen. Their congressmen cast a hairy eyeball on the land managing agencies, and the bulldozers get to work. We all kind of admire those quaint Wyoming ranchers, but the pressure is on to produce oil and gas 'cause we want our MTV.
This is precisely the sort of blind mob democracy that Markos and the kossacks epitomize (power to the peepul!) so it's ironic that he complains of the unintended consequences of government kowtowing to the mindless masses.
Of course I should point out that I'm a consultant to the energy industry so I could be a bit biased.
Update: While I'm not surprised that Mangu-Ward and Weigel don't pick up on the split estate issue -- land and minerals law is pretty arcane -- I am surprised that they let Moulitsas characterize libertarians as believing that corporations are inherently benign. A corporation is a thing; like a gun, it's neither good nor bad. The corporation is a totally amoral entity that can be used by bad people for their own ends just like bad people use guns for bad things. The corporation is not responsible any more than the gun is responsible, the individuals controlling the corporation or the gun are responsible. This seems like pretty basic libertarian doctrine but perhaps I'm wrong, it might be that democratic libertarians subscribe to the 'industry bad, government good' philosophy of the Democrats. [As opposed to the 'industry good but government better' philosophy of the current batch of Republicans, I suppose.]
Thursday, November 02, 2006- - -
Issues? Very dangerous. You go first!
"What's lost in all this is any genuine discussion of the issue. Have we made mistakes in Iraq? Where should we go now? The questions have instead become, 'Is John Kerry disrespectful to troops?' and 'Is George Bush stupid?" Steven Cohen, political analyst and a professor of public policy at Columbia University