No time for news or deep thoughts today, so instead have a look at something that the U.S. Army (of which I was once a proud member) seems to have overlooked (tip of the Stetson to loyal sidekick Rat for the link):
Interesting news from the world of science!
Have we found the biggest dinosaur ever? In true scientific fashion – science being by necessity a tentative discipline – the answer is “maybe.” Excerpt:
Paleontologists working in Argentina have uncovered the bones of what may be the largest dinosaur ever. I want to stress the uncertainty in that opening sentence. Despite various news outlets already calling the contest, we don’t yet know which titanic dinosaur wins the superlative of “biggest creature ever to walk the Earth.”
Don’t misunderstand me – the new find is certainly worth getting excited about. Found by a farm worker in the vicinity of La Flecha, Argentina, and excavated by a crew from the Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio, the 95 million year old site contains over 150 bones belonging to seven individuals of the same long-necked, heavy-bodied species. Even better, the dinosaur might be new to science, and the presence of so many specimens in one spot could yield detailed insights into the growth, ecology, and behavior of the dinosaur.
Mind you that behavior doesn’t fossilize, but fossils – and especially groups of fossils- can lead to insights about behavior. How? Herd makeup, for one thing, the ration of male to female, young to old, and so forth. Better still, sometimes paleontologists find preserved trackways, behavior literally recorded in time for us to decipher.
I remain as excited about dinosaurs as when I was a little tad. The new discoveries now are coming fast and furious, at least by the standards of the 1960s when I first started following dino-news. Who knows what they’ll find next?
Trigger warning: this post may offend the hyper-sensitive. (Fuck ’em.) Parental Guidance Requested. Excerpt:
Students have demanded trigger warnings at Oberlin College, Rutgers University, the University of Michigan and George Washington University as well as UCSB. The Times reproduces an excerpt from an Oberlin “draft guide,” which reads: “Triggers are not only relevant to sexual misconduct, but also to anything that might cause trauma. Be aware of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and other Issues of privilege and oppression. Realize that all forms of violence are traumatic, and that your students have lives before and outside your classroom, experiences you may not expect or understand.” (“Cissexism” refers to prejudice in favor of men and women who identify themselves, respectively, as men and women.)
Kudos, by the way, to article author James Taranto for looking up “cissexism;” I had not the slightest idea what that was. You learn something every day, eh?
But I digress. This story begs several questions, at least three of which are “what the fuck?” Are college students really so fragile, their poor little minds so insecure, that they are threatened by the fact that someone may disagree with them? Note that I’m not talking about rape victims or combat veterans who may well be set off by images of graphic violence; I’m talking about the precious little snowflakes who may be butthurt if someone expresses (gasp!) homophobia.
What good is an education – and I use the word in the broadest possible sense – if a student doesn’t learn to handle the fact that someone may not think like they do? The obvious answer to the rational purpose is “not much,” but apparently some students feel the need to be sheltered from anything that might make them feel a little uncomfortable.
When I was a young fella we had a word for people like that.
We called them pussies.
Two months shy of turning 40, the MIT astronomer Sara Seager decided to throw herself a highly unconventional birthday party. She rented a wood-paneled auditorium in the university’s Media Lab. She invited a few dozen colleagues, including an influential former astronaut and the director of the Space Telescope Science Institute. In lieu of presents, she asked 14 of her guests to respond to a challenge: help her plot a winning strategy to find another Earth, and do it within her lifetime.
“Hundreds or thousands of years from now, when people look back at our generation, they will remember us for being the first people who found the Earth-like worlds,” Seager began. She paced tightly, dressed all in black except for a long red-and-pink scarf, and spoke in her distinctive staccato voice into a hand-held microphone. “I’ve convened all of you here because we want to make an impact and we want to make that happen. We are on the verge of being those people, not individually but collectively.”
Think about this for a moment. Forget all the exoplanets we’ve found already – think of the implications of finding an Earth-size planet in another system, one in the habitable zone that shows spectral lines for water vapor and, say, chlorophyll in it’s atmosphere. Thing of what happens if we see spectra implying something is burning hydrocarbons in that atmosphere.
In fact, forget intelligent life. Imagine an exoplanet with evidence of any life at all. Think of the impact that will have on the world’s religious communities. Think of what it will mean to our perception of ourselves, knowing that in the broadest sense, we are not alone.
Isaac Asimov brilliantly titled one of his Empire novels The Stars, Like Dust. it will be amazing to find living beings on one of these otehr dust motes.
Let’s talk about energy, as though you might need an additional boost to go along with the refueling aspect of the Rule Five Friday totty. The young lady pictured here has no connection to the story and to our knowledge is not connected with the energy industry in any way; her appearance here is purely gratuitous.
But who does have a connection to the energy industry in the U.S. today? Harold Hamm does, and Forbes has his story. Excerpt:
Two Scotches in, with seats on the floor of Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Energy CHK -2.7% Arena, Harold Hamm is feeling good. And why not? His hometown Thunder is spending the evening whupping the Philadelphia 76ers. Earlier Hamm announced big bonuses for Continental Resources CLR +0.04% employees, courtesy of record oil production. And a judge’s ruling, revealed that morning, in Hamm’s divorce case suggested the energy tycoon would keep the Continental shares he already owned when he married soon-to-be-ex Sue Ann Hamm 26 years ago. With that chunk of stock, encompassing about $16 billion out of his $16.9 billion fortune, Hamm owns 70% of Continental.
As every wildcatter knows, such is life in the oil patch when you’re on a hot streak. And Hamm’s on perhaps the most epic one in domestic energy history, perhaps save for John D. Rockefeller’s. No one, aside from kings, dictators and post-Soviet kleptocrats, personally owns more black gold–Continental has proved reserves of 1 billion barrels, mostly locked underneath North Dakota. Hamm took the company public in 2007–and shares are up 600% since, as the revolution in horizontal drilling has given America a cheap energy booster shot, fueling factories, keeping a lid on gas prices and adding millions of jobs.
Of course, there are many more barrels locked up under public lands, where our supposed employees in the Imperial City refuse to allow drilling. But that’s another story.
Hamm seems a character straight out of an Ayn Rand novel; driven, innovative, passionate about his line of work. He started in the industry at the age of 16, pumping gas in a service station; now he controls more oil than anyone outside of the Middle East. A pioneer of horizontal drilling, he now has realized a net worth of $16.9 billion- and he’s earned every penny of it.
Why is a man like this not held up as a national hero? A man to be admired and emulated? Because he had a single-minded drive to success? Because he succeeded on his own merits, realized the rewards of hard work and enormous risks?
The Forbes article concludes:
Hubris–almost inevitable when you own 70% of a company–is also a concern. America’s richest oil baron has been catching flak recently for what appears to be self-dealing, including a $340 million purchase by Continental of another North Dakota oil company he co-owned and a five-year, $100 million contract Continental signed with a pipeline firm owned by Hamm and his family. (Hamm says both deals passed muster with the board and will boost Continental’s performance.)
But such headaches will prove ephemeral if Hamm wins his bet and delivers on his promise of unlimited oil and gas. Such results would surely make Hamm one of the 20 richest people in the world. And just as surely reshape America in the process.
And he will probably be reviled for greed, instead of admired as a uniquely American success story. Why?
Who is John Galt?
Hamm’s work has the potential to completely reshape the American economy for the better. He has created thousands, maybe tens of thousands of jobs directly and indirectly. He has made energy in the form of everything from gasoline to heating oil more abundant and therefore cheaper. He’s a man worthy of admiration.
Marriage: It’s Complicated. No shit. Mrs. Animal and yr. obdt. have been wed 22 years later this month. As of last March our own AnimalMom and the Old Man have passed 67 years of wedded bliss. Ask any of us, and with the perspective of long, happy marriages we’ll still all say “oh, hell yeah, it’s complicated.”
Mike McCurry Thinks Hillary Won’t Run. Personally I don’t think Mrs. Clinton is half the candidate many in her party seem to think she’d be. She’s carrying a lot of baggage – Benghazi, for one, is her baby; she was in charge, she owns it, and if anyone in the GOP has any brains (not something I’d be willing to bet on) they’ll hang it around her neck like a millstone. She’s not half the politician her husband is, and that’s a fact.
What is college is making people stupid? Well, 96% of them will think they’re smart. They be edumacated, after all.
Then again, maybe young folks don’t need college. Here are 16 great jobs that don’t require a 4-year degree. The idea that every youth needs to go to college is a canard; the great failure of our education system nowadays is neglect of the trades. Carpenters, pipefitters, mechanics and so forth can make a great living and they are honest, honorable trades – we need these people, and should encourage young folks to pursue those lines of work.
On that note, we return you to your Thursday, already in progress.
A couple of interesting Mittwoch tidbits from the folks at Reason.com this morning. First up: U.S. Customs Seize Kentucky-Bound Hemp Seeds. Not marijuana – hemp. Excerpt:
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials have seized a batch of hemp seeds heading from Italy to Kentucky’s Agriculture Department. As of earlier this year, cultivating hemp—a type of cannabis plant related to marijuana in form but not function—is no longer illegal in the United States, ending a hysterical, decades-long ban on growing this totally non-psychoactive plant. But apparently no one bothered to tell customs?
Of course nobody bothered to tell Customs – or perhaps Customs knew and just didn’t care.
What the hell was the problem with hemp, anyway? Marijuana at least is an intoxicant – although it’s unclear, at least to yr. obdt., why alcohol is legal and marijuana isn’t. But let’s set that aside for now, and focus on hemp.
My grandfather grew hemp during the First and Second World Wars, and somehow nobody was driven into a cannabis-fueled frenzy. Hemp has a wide variety of industrial uses, from rope to cloth to paper to biofuels. But because of it’s relation to marijuana – or more accurately marijuana being a type of hemp – the Imperial Federal government has decided to disallow it’s growth in the U.S.?
Someone explain why that makes any sense.
The second tidbit from Reason is more lighthearted: Are Video Games Art? Being a casual gamer myself, and having played games like Skyrim and it’s MMO successor The Elder Scrolls Online, I’d say yes, sure – there is an enormous amount of graphic and literary creativity that goes into these works. It’s one bright spot in American productivity right now – video games are making their creators a lot of money, and they’ve earned all of it.
Take a look at the Fraser Institute’s (A Canadian free-market think tank) report on the economic freedoms enjoyed in North America. Here’s the money quote:
One of the common criticisms of capitalism is that it allegedly increases income inequality. There is a growing body of literature at the country level that shows otherwise. There has been some state-level work as well. Ashby and Sobel (2008) examined income inequality. They found that both the level and growth of income in the lowest income quintile was positively associated with the growth in economic freedom. They found similar results for the middle quintile and the highest income quintile, but in the latter group only income growth (not income level) was statistically significant. They also found that the growth of economic freedom was negatively associated with the ratio of the highest income quintile’s income share to the lowest income quintile’s income share, meaning that increased freedom was associated with less income inequality.
Read the whole thing – it’s rather disturbing in that the United States is now well behind Canada in term of economic freedom. (At least one prescient author/philosopher saw this coming many years ago.)
The report speaks to several fallacies of income inequality, while yr. obdt. denies that income inequality is anything but a problem, but is rather an inevitable fact of human existence; what matters is overall standard of living, which is still very high in the U.S. – although it’s slipping.
How have we come to this pass? Why is this happening? What has happened to our country? Who is John Galt?
Another long day of travel yesterday, with a late night and an early morning today. There are occasions in this line of work when I have reason to doubt my own sanity.
Here’s an interesting tidbit from Mark Steyn, wherein he advocates a new “hashtag” (I had to look that up) #bringbackourballs. Excerpt:
It is hard not to have total contempt for a political culture that thinks the picture at right (Michelle Obama holding up a sign stating “#Bring Back Our Girls”) is a useful contribution to rescuing 276 schoolgirls kidnapped by jihadist savages in Nigeria. Yet some pajama boy at the White House evidently felt getting the First Lady to pose with this week’s Hashtag of Western Impotence would reflect well upon the Administration. The horrible thing is they may be right: Michelle showed she cared – on social media! – and that’s all that matters, isn’t it?
Just as the last floppo hashtag, #WeStandWithUkraine, didn’t actually involve standing with Ukraine, so #BringBackOurGirls doesn’t require bringing back our girls. There are only a half-dozen special forces around the planet capable of doing that without getting most or all of the hostages killed: the British, the French, the Americans, Israelis, Germans, Aussies, maybe a couple of others. So, unless something of that nature is being lined up, those schoolgirls are headed into slavery, and the wretched pleading passivity of Mrs Obama’s hashtag is just a form of moral preening.
The problem isn’t moral preening, although this administration has done plenty of that. The problem is America’s seeming impotence in the face of vicious, aggressive Islamic savagery. Boko Haram took these girls, who are almost certainly irretrievably lost into slavery or worse, because they knew neither America nor any other developed Western nation would do anything about it.
The proper response by the Western world would be to hunt these savages down like animals and kill them, but that won’t happen.
And Boko Haram knows that.