San Diego –Quite a few things to chat about from events of this week. From school to my hot car to Egypt to Reagan’s birthday, topics come leaping out so lets get this underway.
Well, we made it through the second week of the Spring Semester without major angst. Unfortunately i had to turn down an amazing number of second week requests to crash some of my classes as they were simply full and there was no room. I was able to let a few into some classes that were nearly full but not yet to overflowing and the early attrition did open up a couple of seats here and there. Now that period is over and the crush for seats in class is over. I was chastised for not showing proper respect to our IT team but in truth i have none to show nor will I facilitate their incompetence by pretending they are good at it. As I keep saying over and over, you cannot fix a problem you will not admit exists.
Field Trip/Workshop Dates: In the Landscape Class i finally got back information on availability for lodging for our field trips and those are now set. The three day trip to Lone Pine and Alabama Hills will be March 11-13 and the four day trip to Yosemite will be April 28-May 1. i gave out data on where i was able to arrange discounts in class this week so people can start to get their reservations in early. We will also be doing a Saturday afternoon workshop for students interested in printing on Canvas on Feb 19th at 1 pm – 4pm +/-. Sign up is through the Check Out room. If the canvas workshop is successful then we may do more during the semester.
Jag Progress: This has been a time of trying to “beta test” the Jag’s engine work. I have had very little time and in any case it is necessary to work carefully since I’ve not been able to get into DMV for the temp permit to go to a California Smog referee for a new ID/Compliance sticker. My old one is in the engine compartment and consequently it has faded over the years. You can still read the numbers but cannot scan the bar code with a reader and the law is that it must be scanned. That has to have been in order to sell more scanners; some legislature cleaned up big time when they got that law passed. It showed me one problem from the first drive back from the shop. The tuner had set it up for serious competition driving not for daily freeway stuff. The shift points were placed high at the top of the “power band” so the car simply would not shift into High (and then overdrive). I ran it to 90 mph quickly but still it did not shift. The Tach was right in the power band at that point at about 3,000 RPM… but it was in third gear. OK, Note one for tweaking…
Anyway, yesterday I drove to Barrett Junction for lunch because the old Highway 94 road can be a fun one to drive. There was too much local traffic to really play with it seriously but it was obviously now a much stronger car especially in the mid range. However as I was returning, the engine cut out. It then returned to fire and then cut out again. It did this on and off a few time until I was almost back to campus but just past the Highway 125 interchange it cut out and… did NOT come back. I drifted over to the side and checked the engine for anything that seems to have become unplugged. it was obviously an electrical problem because when it cut out all gauges and lights died with it. But the battery was connected, coil was connected, at the junction box for ignition all was connected yet it was still dead as the proverbial doorknob. (Note: does anyone know a live doorknob? They must have very short life spans…) i called Lawton at Top Flight Corvette/Racing where it had been worked on and he went through a series of checks on the phone with me, none of which led anywhere so he called a tow truck for me.
Once back at the shop they were stumped until one of the mechanics noticed there was no wire running into the alternator. In fact there was no connector post on the alternator AT ALL. And there, dangling down was the post, still connected to the wire that had come completely out of the alternator. In fact it had arced and spot welded itself to the engine and almost looked like it belonged there. The guys jumped on it and quickly swapped it for an alternator they had on the shelf, charged the battery and the car was fine. None of them had ever seen anything quite like it so even though it was an irritation I at least kept my reputation for not bringing them anything normal.
I would be remiss in not including a plug here. That shop is wonderful and it has one of those rarities I have come to find in very short supply: an honest and skilled mechanic. Alan Curtis who first built the car was one of them but he retired. Now Lawton at Top flight has taken over care of the car and he is like Alan (without the British accent): skilled to the point of being creative and artistic and scrupulously honest. As a race driver of long standing and experience himself, and as head of a racing team he does understand high performance cars and loves them. His shop is always filled — and I mean FILLED — with wonderful and powerful cars. And his son is following in his hard to fill footsteps. I’m telling you, if you have any form of muscle car or other high performance American iron trust me on this; here is where you need to take it. Let me know and I’ll put you in contact.
Geopolitics: The unrest in Egypt continues. As has become typical, our would-be erstwhile leadership has responded based not on facts or history or even the country’s best interests, but on the basis of what their own party’s leaders have done in the past vis-a-vis connections with various foreign governments. Those from the parties that supported and still funnel money to Mubarak see nothing positive in the protests as they focus only on what they see as the inevitable disaster to flow from this. Meantime those who hated the leaders that supported Mubarak see the protestors as the new voices of democracy to be backed. In doing so they show the same lack of knowledge about the players and regional issues as they did in the first Iranian revolution when they dumped the Shaw and lately in the unrest over the past elections.
When the Shah was overthrown in a coup by a “democratic” revolution that democratic ideal, as much as there was of it in a land that knew nothing about Jeffersonian Democracy and only about the far less messy (if far more painful) monarchies, autocracies and tyrannies, was short lived and soon taken over by the Islamic extremists to bring about a complete Theocracy — something we helped to facilitate and then got our hand bitten by way of thanks. When the protestors then took to the streets in the last election to defeat the current Iranian President, a person clearly in need of defeating, our own political idiocracy saw the opposition as potential allies of the U.S. but never bothered, apparently, to study the make up of them. The argument in Iran was not over pro or anti U.S. policy, that was but a convenient and handy bone to the political dogs slobbering at their feet tossed out to try to lure us into their court. The truth was the only real argument was theologically dogmatic and the protestors saw a different role and status in government authority vested in the clergy and Ayatollahs. That was utterly meaningless and not even remoptely understandable to and by us, but was a critical distinction to them, worthy of risky protest. But the protestors were not ever or remotely about regaining a secular society much less a democracy.
Now in regards to Egypt the same reaction is taking place in the hallowed halls of our government and the spewings of the mainstream press and its pundits. And it is seen through the same willful blinders as before. The regime of the current President is remarkable mainly for its corruption and ill treatment of the Egyptians themselves; of that there is no doubt. We stupidly pour tons of money into their economy and then say nothing when it is skimmed off by the elite but rarely makes its way back to the streets where we pretend it is intended. We spend a statistically important part of our taxes to support the extravagances of foreign despots. In some cases, and this was one of them, they did some of our bidding and helped a little with the current issues of terrorists even though that was mostly in their own self interests. So some supported him without question and other opposed him without context.
Sadly Egypt is hardly a stand out case for this idiocy, virtually every tin hat dictator we readily support does the same thing. And so certainly the ranks of the protestors contain those who would like to make of Egypt a more democratic society dedicated to serving the needs of its people and also to maintain their status as a secular government, not wanting to return to Taliban-like suppression of human rights and especially women’s rights. But behind the scenes, just as there was in Iran when their pro-democrativ movement was taken over and subverted by Islamic extremists, funneling money into the movement and waiting in the wings is another extreme Islamic group, the Islamic Brotherhood. Though not listed as a terrorist group themselves it is generally agreed that they exist to support and funnel money to groups that ARE terrorists from Al Qaeda to Hamas to Hezbollah. Their own charter and surrogates make it impossible to ignore their real goals and purposes and it is open for anyone to read if they will take the time.
History in the region has given us several examples of Middle Eastern/Arabic and North African protests that turned into revolutions and overthrew the existing regime: Iran, Yeman, Oman as a few examples. There are exceptions as there always are, but the trend has been that the ‘democratic’ movement, or just the movement crying for change and better treatment by the people, initially succeeded but was so poorly led, funded, and/or organized that once the major power was eliminated and it was safe for them to emerge, the extremists moved in to set up their end goal from the start: an Islamic Theocracy. This situation in Egypt is far more complex and has far more potential dangers than either side of our aisle of entrenched political morons seems willing to admit or address.
On one hand that is none of our business. If that is what the people want then let them live with it. That is what democracy is supposed to mean. But when a newly formed government threatens the stability of the area and, by extension, the world, then it unfortunately becomes our business. This is why it is SO important for us, in the short term as we look for workable affordable alternatives, to make use of our own fossil fuel resources so that those savages over there can be free to hack each other to pieces, burn wells, close canals, and force $10/gallon gas to their black heart’s content… but not on us.
Except for politicians with money to be made, no one in the energy business questions that oil, especially middle eastern oil is running out. The easy and cheap to get “sweet” oil has already run out over most of the middle east and only so-called “sour” crude which is very expensive to extract and refine, remains. We can ignore it all we want but there is no getting around the fact that it was oil and oil alone that allowed our planet to double its population and more in the years since it was discovered and turned to our use. It was oil and oil alone that allowed our incredible growth in a standard of living.
Not just gasoline, but most of our lives and life styles are dependent utterly on by-products of oil. And even for gasoline and vehicle fuel, it is oil and oil alone that allows for relatively cheap transportation and flow of goods around the country and the world. North America has vast reserves that are untapped. Bringing them online takes time. If we continue to delay then the loss of oil from other sources may happen in a time span shorter than what it would take to start replacing it with domestic oil and if that happens we will see an impact on our lives like none other that has happened before in history. The sad truth remains that we could bring our own oil reserves online faster than we can start from where we are now and fully augment alternative energy technologies for direct use in heating and fuel. But even if we could, there is no other product that can yield, things like the plastics and other compounds that while generally ignored, actually make our lives livable as they are now. imagine a world without oil-based plastic and I will show you the 18th and early 19th century.
Yes, of course, we should start an earnest program to explore the alternatives and find substitutes as quickly as we can. But we also need to address and prepare for the shorter term in which oil, not just for us, but for the world starts to either run out or be so tightly controlled by antagonistic regimes as to functionally cease to be available. We get most of our oil from Canada and Mexico now but what if pretty much all of the industrial world started knocking on their doors because their supply of middle east oil was no longer available for whatever reason? Governments and their people are, in unfortunate fact, so utterly dependent on the products that flow, at the moment, only from oil, that if the supplies are shut down there will be major world wide upheaval, and countries will. in fact, go to war over access to it. They may not want to, but they will have to in order to maintain some semblance of their former standards of living. We need to make sure we are not in such a vulnerable position and now is the time to start to work on ALL fronts.
Of course we will not do that… and to make matters worse, as money is cut from education the individuals who could become the future scientists to find our solutions will be missing in action here because they were never created int he first place or supported when they were; but not in places overseas that realize how important education is. Think about where that will place us in terms of world leverage in influence… or standards of living costs.
Reagan’s Birthday: Much political hay has been made over the birthdate of Ronald Reagan this past week. He has become the icon for one side and the bogeyman for the other. And one of the main cores of the arguments swirling around him and his accomplishments is the issue of tax cuts. One side says he had the largest tax cuts in history and the other that he has the largest tax increases in history. Good grief… so who is right? The answer is they both are. Early in his presidency he put through an enormous tax cut that was, in fact, the largest since we started imposing a “temporary and voluntary” income tax in the first place to pay for war. But in his own autobiography, he admits that given the times and other issues he went too far and too fast. So he started putting into place a series of tax hikes that also constituted the largest set of tax hikes ever done. But what is missing from both sides of the argument is that his tax hikes only replaced about HALF of the tax cuts he had made in the first place. And that was enough to get the rest of his agenda through including bankrupting the Soviet Union and still bring some enormous productivity to the home shores. His cuts in government spending were also significant. They actually negatively effected me directly when money was lost for an NEA grant. But it was the right thing to do and I never regreted the policy even though I bemoaned the loss of our own grant money.
So, yeah, interesting week…