Evidently Twitter Doesn’t Like My Post on Trump and Palm Beach Clubs

One of the most popular posts I have on this site is Trump Opens the Club to Blacks and Jews? Not Quite, which is about two years old.  It’s gotten a good deal of traffic and the gamut of reactions.  I’m glad to inject a little Palm Beach perspective to this question, because both what Trump did and Palm Beach’s social system run against a lot of conventional wisdom out there.

One @RobertBarber64 liked my piece enough to attempt to tweet it.  On my Twitter laptop notifications, it looked like this:

But when I looked on my iPhone Twitter app, this is what greeted me:

My, my, I think it’s Twitter that’s sensitive, at least in a schizophrenic sense.  Maybe their mobile app people think one way and their desktop people another…

I’ve had commenters go postal on me when I challenge conventional wisdom, but this is the first time a social media organisation has done so, AFAIK.

I’m certainly bothered by the apparent censorship going on here.  But that’s what happens when you hand over the internet to a few organisations; they run things to suit themselves.  We can invoke law all we went, but tech has thrived by basically outrunning the law.  I’ve always assumed that sooner or later the powers that be would start shutting down their opposition (or at least try to) and they’re busy doing that these days.  That’s especially true of Google, whose offensive against their former employee is probably lawyer-driven by attorneys attempting to fend off the feds.

My Facebook Rant re the White “Supremacists”

I was kind of nudged by one of my illustrious relatives (who is now in the Old Country) on the subject of our Confederate ancestors, and this is what I came back with:

I think that what’s been neglected in this debate is an answer to the simple question “How did the ‘Lost Cause’ lose?” The answer to that goes a long way to clearing up many of the “rural legends” that surround the whole issue of the war here in the South.

The Confederacy went into the war with the better part of the U.S. Army, the better part of West Point’s graduates, etc. (The Navy was another story altogether.) It was in a defensive position, forcing the North to slog through a vast, underdeveloped territory with few railroads, making it difficult to move large numbers of troops around. (Napoleon, Kaiser and Hitler alike faced the same geography problem when invading Russia, albeit on an even larger scale.)

But the underdevelopment of the South was its undoing. While Southern grandees contented themselves with living off the sweat of black slaves, their Northern industrial counterparts were building a modern economy based on making things and improving productivity. When Lincoln was elected and the South reacted impulsively by seceding, they were in no position to defend themselves in a long, protracted modern war. And, once the North figured out how to make it work (and that did take a while,) the result was a disaster.

For me personally, what that means was that, while one set of ancestors were producing cannons and ammunition to send southward, the others were on the receiving end of all this, and the result wasn’t pretty.

And I must say that, after living in this part of the country for nearly two score, I can see how this happened. (And this in a part of TN that was divided over secession, many fought for the Union.) White “supremacists” don’t have anything to be supreme about, their ancestors wouldn’t have lost the war if they had. All of the rural legends they’ve spread around only covers up their past and present failures.

It’s disheartening to live in a country that goes off on one moral crusade after another without stopping to think what’s really necessary to preserve and move forward the general welfare and the strength of the nation, to preserve its integrity. To me the Confederate monuments are a reminder of what happens when you allow hotheads to drag a region into a war it wasn’t prepared to fight, and that’s defeat.

One of the “supremacist” protesters from this area expressed his pro-Nazi sentiments in school and wondered what it would have been like if Hitler had won. That assumes that Hitler would have recognised these people as fellow Aryans, and that’s unlikely. (Just ask the Slavs.) My guess is that, in the end, the white “supremacists” would have put a victorious Hitler in the same category as William Tecumseh Sherman, and that’s a name that doesn’t get mentioned too often in polite company around here.

Given the general level of ignorance about American history, this debate seldom gets past the level of platitudes, but it’s still worth a try to change that.

It Takes More Than the Russian Scandal to Connect With Voters

The Democrats need to weigh their options carefully:

“We need to talk about what people think about when they wake up in the morning, and it’s not Russia,” Sragow said. “The more we talk about stuff that voters don’t truly care about in their daily lives … it confirms that the Democratic Party’s brain has been eaten by the elites in Washington who have been sitting fat and happy for a lot of years while working Americans have lost their jobs and lost confidence in the future.”

I’ve always felt that the push over the Russia scandal was bizarre.  The whole concept of a foreign state influencing a country which is still as mentally insular and provincial as this one is strange to begin with. It gets stranger when we profess moral outrage over someone else influencing our elections while at the same time we meddle in others.  And, of course, we’ve always been unjustifiably obsessed with the Russians.  They just don’t have as strong of a hand as it looks to us.

I think the Democrats have it in their minds that if they can conjure images of the Cold War in the old white voters that put Trump in the White House, they can sink him, and at the same time put their own reputation as soft on national security behind them.  But that’s fighting yesterday’s war.  The best they can hope for is to hog airtime with this campaign of theirs.

The biggest problem the Democrat left has had my entire adult lifetime is what we used to call the “limousine liberal” phenomenon, i.e., an elite-directed party trying to connect with people who are entirely different from them in outlook.  That’s another place where the trials of the Anglican-Episcopal world are instructive.  In the 1960’s and 1970’s we had the likes of Ian Mitchell and my prep school chaplain trying to raise the social consciousness of an élite institution, and ending up with an institution that is still élite and now in decline.  Until they figure that out, the Democrats’ dream of closing the deal with the American people and making this country a de facto one-party state will remain beyond their grasp.

Revisiting the Adventure of Offshore Oil

It may seem that posts on this blog are slowing down, but elsewhere it’s another story.  There are actually four sites to this “family” and one of them, vulcanhammer.info, is being moved to WordPress hosting.  (The other two, vulcanhammer.net and Chet Aero Marine, were moved around the first of the year.)

Moving a site that large is a major task, especially with all the photos and documents.  It’s had to be done pieces; the piece that’s just been completed is Vulcan: the Offshore ExperienceMy brother said that it was the “experience of a lifetime,” and I’m inclined to agree with him.  There’s a lot of history in offshore oil, history that’s not well-known, and that was one of the reasons the series was first put up in 2003.  I want to focus on two aspects in particular: offshore oil as a form of “inner space” and how years in the industry is a cure for much of the conventional wisdom that plagues our “deep state” types and their hangers-on these days.


To its credit, the oil industry likes to recount its history.  There’s an entire museum in Galveston dedicated to the history of offshore oil, and it’s definitely worth the visit.  The involvement of my family business, Vulcan Iron Works, was primarily in the platform installation segment of the business, and for a long time it got the short shrift in the story.  That’s been remedied to some degree, and I think the contribution of the construction side of the industry is getting its due.

It’s easy, with all the really large coastal projects out there, to forget just what a challenge it was to fabricate and build platforms to extract oil offshore.  Onshore oil had advanced technologies such as deep drilling and geophysical exploration methods, and these had spin-offs in the construction industry.  But offshore, with conventional platforms sometimes exceeding 300 m in depth, it was necessary to develop advanced fabrication and installation techniques.  Without the benefits of directional/horizontal drilling and underwater completion, that meant lots of platforms to the surface, and the Gulf of Mexico–on both the American and Mexican sides, I might add–was a busy place in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  These projects helped to advanced the technology of construction in many ways which still benefit construction not only of large onshore and marine projects but also for offshore wind farms.

The Gulf, however, along with Southeast Asia and the Persian Gulf, were relatively easy places to build and install platforms compared to the North Sea.  The Europeans “drew the short straws” in finding oil in a place as challenging to do anything as the North Sea, especially in the area between Scotland and Norway where much of the oil was located.  But thanks to their lack of easily accessible onshore oil deposits (before fracking) and the unstable situation in the Middle East, they had little choice.  Facing a harsh environment coupled with a short construction season, another set of new technologies were developed or improved, including gravity platforms, improved safety equipment in marine environments, quick connectors for pile add-ons, finite element analysis for earth structures, and underwater pile driving.

Although most of these technologies are unfamiliar to most people, they contribute to the improved standard of living that many take for granted.  The outer space program contributed to the advance of general technology and science, and so did the “inner space” program of offshore oil.


Bringing up the Europeans leads one to consider the relationship of their governments to the enterprise.  Like most industries in the US, the oil industry operated in the legal framework with a minimum of government direction.  The Minerals Management Service was the chief agency of interest, but otherwise the enterprise was pretty much self-funded and directed.  When countries such as the UK, Norway and the Netherlands got involved, it was a different story.  We’d see their national exhibits at the Offshore Technology Conference, we’d wonder why this was necessary and sometimes thought their method was mad.

But there was method in their madness.  For one thing, as Dr. Adel Rizkalla of McDermott explained to my brother and me in 1980, their idea was to stretch out the extraction of oil and not only prevent overwhelming their economy with the revenue (something we’d soon learn the virtue of the hard way,) but also to offer benefits from that revenue for a longer time and for a great good to the country.  For another, their approach was part and parcel with the European concept of industrial policy.  Implicit in that approach is that the oil industry was of value to the country.  We’d soon find out that this was better than the alternative, a country whose ruling elites believed that the oil industry was an existential threat to them.

Vulcan 3100 hammer installing piles for Exxon’s Hondo platform off of Santa Barbara, California. In 1752 Bishop Erich Pontippidan noted that “The North Sea has a curious property. In addition to its salinity it also possesses oiliness. It is likely that here or there the sea, just as the earth, ejects oil flows, or streams of petroleum, naptha, sulphur, coal tar and other bituminous and oily juices.” Similar things were noted off of California, without the offshore drilling that is supposed to be the sole cause of this.

Offshore oil came into the big picture in the 1960’s, at the same time that the American left first let out the primal scream which has echoed down the halls of history to the present time.  They first tried to put the stall on the leasing process, an on-again, off-again process that only delayed the advance of offshore oil in Louisiana and Texas.  They did manage to keep it out of the rest of the East Coast and eventually got it shut down in California.  The environmental movement was a large part of that; as happened with manufacturing, the oil industry has had to improve its techniques to prevent environmental impact, and that’s another place where the North Sea experience was helpful.

But it was more than the environment that drove the left against the oil industry; it was their other pet peeve, suburbia.  Suburbia wouldn’t exist without oil, not only because of the automobile and commuting, but also because of the economic development that made suburbia possible.  The two were part of a fork that has stuck in the left’s craw for more than half a century, and as the left oozed its way into the nation’s intelligentsia, the potential for the oil industry to hit the wall in the US increased.

Not that there weren’t alternatives.  The most serious was nuclear power, which if it had been implemented on a relative scale to the French, could have solved most of the balance of payments problem and avoided the costly wars we’ve fought in the Middle East.  But that was (and is) unacceptable to most of the environmental community, and in any case would only perpetuate suburbia.

The left’s hope of high prices for a commodity in short supply–the shortness enhanced by their regulatory and legal efforts–never quite panned out; the oil and gas industry has proven more resilient than they thought.  And the forward march of technology, even in the industry’s lean years, has helped.  We got directional drilling and subsea completions, which reduced the cost of offshore oil.  But the biggest game changer has been fracking, which found the left “asleep at the switch” to stop.  It has shifted hydrocarbon based energy towards natural gas, at one time a “luxury” fuel, which is much cleaner to burn.  As a result the need for coal or offshore oil has been reduced, turning the U.S. to become a net fossil fuel energy producer for the first time since the days of the primal scream.

Offshore crews generally worked twelve hour on/twelve hour off for two weeks at a stretch. There was thus some idle time offshore; one favourite pastime was fishing. Derrick barge crews discovered what environmentalists hate to admit: offshore platforms are natural habitats for all kinds of fish and other marine life, which made for good fishing. Welding wire was a favourite type of fishing line, though other materials would get the job done too.

Today we find Europeans following the siren sound against nuclear power and fracking, leaving the wisdom of the past generation behind and embracing yet another American neurosis.  Many of the platforms which helped bring this oil out of the sea floor are being dismantled, their field lives ended; some are left as artificial reefs for fishing, another one of those unintended consequences.  Offshore oil isn’t what it used to be, but it set the stage for better things, and made life good when it was possible, and for that it should be remembered positively.

Another Good Reason Why They Filmed Lord of the Rings in New Zealand

It seems that it, too, is the residual of a sunken continent:

In a paper published in the Geological Society of America’s Journal GSA Today in February, researchers made the case that it should be considered a new continent.

They said it was a distinct geological entity that met all the criteria applied to Earth’s other continents, including elevation above the surrounding area, distinctive geology, a well-defined area and a crust much thicker than that found on the ocean floor.

Covering 1.9 million square miles, it extends from south of New Zealand northward to New Caledonia and west to the Kenn Plateau off Australia’s east.

Readers of The Silmarillion will recall that, after the First Age, most of the western land mass of Middle Earth sunk into the sea.  Places like the Grey Havens, a port for the departure of the Fellowship to the Undying Lands, were very landlocked in the First Age.

So, when Peter Jackson and his troupe were filming the Lord of the Rings, they too were closer to a sea coast then they would have been long ago…

Harvard’s Clubs: So Much for Faculty Governance

The right to take a vote doesn’t make the result meaningful, as one committee at Harvard found out:

On Friday, the Crimson reported that the surprising recommendation to ban all social organizations received only 7 votes from the 27-member Committee on the Unrecognized Single-Gender Social Organizations, which had been empaneled to review implementation of last year’s plan to blacklist members of off-campus single-gender clubs. And according to the Crimson, despite other proposals garnering more support, the committee “never conducted another vote.”

The whole saga of Harvard and social organisations has been a sorry one.  They started by attempting to ban students from single-sex organisations (how that would play out with the trangender business is a subject in its own right) but that got pushback.  Then they proposed to ban all social organisations, which is also getting pushback.  Now we see that the “voting” and “committee” business has been sidetracked.

Most accreditation processes make faculty governance a requirement, but anyone involved in academia knows that this is often honoured in the breach.  Conservatives generally regard faculty governance as giving the inmates control over the asylum, but that assumption needs to be re-examined in view of this.

Anti-discrimination legislation and regulation is giving freedom of association the squeeze these days.  The long-term effect–perhaps desired–of pushing social organisations out of college life is to make the only focus of the students the college itself.  In a world where civic and even private life is cornered in this way, the result will be like the Ottoman “slave institution,” the Janissaries, whose loyalty (in theory) was only to the Sultan.  In a country where an Ivy League education is the necessary ticket to the top in so many fields, this will only accelerate an unfortunate trend.

Personally I had little use for social fraternities, and went to a school (Texas A&M) where they were virtually nonexistent.  But that was the result of the school’s compulsory military status, one not even a decade past when I started.  But I think that a person should have the choice to opt in or out of such a system.

The Turks refer to the end of the Janissaries as “auspicious.”  If Harvard and the other Ivy League schools don’t desist from social engineering like this–which they will then push on the rest of us–they may find their own auspicious moment.

Keeping a Watch on Diversity

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s Provost, Jerald Ainsworth, sent out this directive today:

Funding for diversity initiatives has transitioned to Academic Affairs as of July 1, 2017; therefore, requests for funding will be received, reviewed, and funded from the Provost’s Office. The Office for Equity and Diversity will monitor funding and audit our efforts for the purpose of reporting our efforts to the UT System and other agencies.

All proposals will be evaluated by an ad hoc faculty group who will provide a recommendation regarding funding. The funding is available in three categories: Faculty Development, Faculty Opportunity Hiring, and Promoting Equity and Diversity. The link below will take you to a website that provides a detailed description for each of the categories, an application form, and the rubric that will be used to evaluate proposals.

https://www.utc.edu/academic-affairs/provosts-page/diversity.php

Contact the Provost Office if you have questions.

My guess is that the administration wants to keep the funding of this group of people under scrutiny.  Given UT Knoxville’s boffo performances in this regard (with the legislature striking back) that’s not a bad idea.

One think the Diversity people could do that just might be constructive is to feature departments with non-white and/or female leadership, like this one.  But then they would have to admit that they did not contribute to the diversity that resulted, and that would be hard pill to swallow.

If California Can’t Pass Single Payer, the Democrats Will Never Really Win

Most of the attention these days on Congress (the opposite of progress) has centred on the Senate’s inability to pass a replacement for the misnamed Affordable Care Act.  Let me make my first stipulation: the “repeal and replace” business is pure political theatre, has been from the start, and in a sense Donald Trump has called their bluff on it.  (That’s why I dropped the subject when the ACA was passed.)  If I were Trump, I’d let it go down the tube and figure out a “Plan B” to manoeuvre Congress into doing something really worthwhile.

But there’s another legislative drama going on about health care, and it’s in California:

Supporters of a stalled single-payer healthcare bill returned to the Capitol in Sacramento on Monday to express their anger that Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) shelved the measure more than a week ago.

Backers of the bill, SB 562, disrupted a separate hearing on the Assembly floor by unfurling a banner from the gallery before being escorted out. They also attended a hearing of the Assembly Rules Committee, the panel in which Rendon held back the bill, holding up signs on which they’d written personal healthcare stories. And a small contingent staged a “sit-in” near Rendon’s office, chanting “SB 562.”

Single-payer is the left’s “holy grail” from a political standpoint.  But they didn’t pass it when the ACA was enacted and the California Senate can’t bring it self to do it.  Jerry “Governor Moonbeam” Brown doesn’t like it either.  This doesn’t make sense, especially in the single-party state that California has become.

The goal of single-payer is to have mediocre health care for everyone at around 10% of GDP, and the ACA got us half of that.  (Guess which half?)  Under single-payer, people who want something better will have to sneak out of the country for it, hoping that they won’t be caught in a shame/honour reaction the way Charlie Gard did.

Some people say that single-payer is unaffordable. But that’s simply not true.  Once the single entity gets control of the checkbook, if that entity has the political will, they can spend as much or as little as they like to the extent they can stand the political blowback.  That is one of the big “ifs;” the current system allows for blame shifting to outside entities, which is one reason many on the left oppose single-payer, even though they’re loathe to admit it.

At this point in American history, it is my idea that the American people are so deeply into their entitlement mentality and tired of running around for all the “choices” they have in health care that single-payer is what we will, in the end, have.  Politically the left have a winner if they play their cards and pull themselves together long enough to pull it off.

If the Democrats, who are just about the only game in the state, can’t pass single-payer, the nirvana they’ve promised us is a mirage.  And that’s something to think about as we stumble through another election cycle.

The Campus Corporatists Run Scared on Free Speech

A editorial from the University of Maryland lays it out:

Colleges should “screen” speakers to ensure that they are not giving a platform to “intolerant perspectives,” a University of Maryland student argues in a recent op-ed.

“There is nothing inherently wrong with screening speakers, teachers and even students on the campus,” sophomore Moshe Klein declares in an op-ed for The Diamondback, arguing that “intolerant” points of view “prevent certain groups of people from participating in campus life safely.”

There’s a great deal of noise on this subject about the “snowflakes,” but I think the current campus inhabitants’ aversion to free speech (not universal, I might add) stems from two things.

The first is a decidedly corporatist mentality towards education and life itself.  We’ve sold college education–and inspired a generation to go deep into hock for it–as the road to a good-paying job, never mind that many of the majors these people take are dead-ends in that search.  If people come on campus to “rock the boat,” that puts the careerist enterprise in jeopardy.  The boat the students have been on all their lives is one that steers to port most of the time, so it’s no surprise right-wing speakers get attacked the most.

The second stems from the unstable underpinnings of millennial life.  Raised in families that disintegrate on a whim, living in a society that constantly hectors them to “reinvent themselves” while pulling the rug out from under the new reinvention, exhorted to “seek their dream” which may or may not make it possible for them to eat, watching technology blow away entire industries and sectors of the economy, it’s little wonder that stability is highly prized by these people.  My own students are attracted to government positions and, in civil engineering, that’s entirely sensible, and I encourage them to consider that.

I think that the Millennials are making a mistake wanting to suppress free speech, but until people are more secure in who they are and less inclined to seek validation in a corporatist world, that attitude isn’t going to change.

Sailing the Last Voyage with Newton and Pascal

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