Saturday, January 31, 2015

Movies In History: American Sniper

Given that it probably seems to those who stop in here that I see every "war movie" going, it will probably come as a surprise that: 1) I don't, and 2) I wasn't particularly inclined to see this one, but I don't really know why.  It may be because I've known a couple of men, one particularly well, who had been snipers and they were profoundly unlikely to discuss it, which makes me feel just slightly odd about one who does. That isn't intended as a criticism, it's just a comment.

But I did see it last night, and because my wife wanted to, which is even more of a surprise.  She recently read Chris Kyle's book, another surprise, and like it.  I haven't read the book. Because she read the book, she wanted to see the movie.

Because I haven't read the book, I can't comment at all on how accurately the film depicts the events of the book.  And I'm also not going to comment much on the surprising amount of controversy this film is generating, and from surprising quarters.  I will say, however, that some of the criticism strikes me as very "parlor" in nature, i.e., the sort of slightly leftist commentary that comes from people whose view of conflict is very antiseptic. War is nasty, and that's just the way it.  To depict that honestly, and to write about it, isn't something that deserves criticism.  Nor does a person deserve criticism because they took an active part in it, which seems to be the basis of at least some criticism.  It's interesting, indeed, how we're now at a point where that sort of criticism is not too uncommon in some quarters, when in earlier eras that would have been regarded as rather dishonorable.

Anyhow, what I will note is that this film, which depicts a lot of urban comment, is correct in material details, which it should be.  It's pretty darned graphic, but not grossly over the top for the most part.  Equipment appears to be generally correct with perhaps a few minor errors.

It depicts urban combat in a very gritty fashion, and it reminded me to a slight extent of Black Hawk Down, which in my view is the most accurate combat movie ever filmed.  It's not Black Hawk Down, but it does a nice job with this story.

Blog Mirror: Engines of the Red Army in WW2, and Engines of the Wehrmacht

Engines of the Red Army in WW2

Interesting site featuring the owner's depictions of World War Two Red Army vehicles.

And "Engines of the Wehrmacht"


I fear that accurately listing every vehicle used by the German army would require listing every vehicle that existed in the 1910 to 1945 time frame, no matter where made.

And if you were the History Channel, you'd have to have a special category for "Secret Vehicles of the Wehrmacht", or "Alien Automobiles of the Wehrmacht".

As an aide, and its a complete aside, the author of this blog notes the correct name for the  Red Army on his site, which is the first time I've ever seen what the correct name was.  And, fwiw, I'd note that the meaning of "Wehrmacht" is commonly misunderstood, even by historians who should know better. The Wehrmacht were the German armed forces, not the Army. The German Army was (and is) the "Heer".  The Wehrmacht included all of the German armed forces; including the Heer (Army), the Luftwaffe (the air force), the Kreigsmarine (the navy) and the Waffen SS (the "armed" SS).  On that last group, the Waffen SS, the SS is an organization that's so complicated that its really difficult to actually define it other than that it was the uniformed branch of the Nazi party.  Not all SS, however, were Waffen SS.  The Waffen SS was essentially a rival armed force to the Heer, made up of volunteers (until the very end, when some were conscripted or transferred into the SS, but that was at the very end of the war), with the privso that if they were German (by culture), they had to be members of the Nazi party. That criteria would seem self evident, but there were also SS units made up of foreign Nazis, such as the Wiking (viking) division, which was made up of Norwegian volunteers, or SS units that were made up of odd cultures here and there that the Germans took into service, such as, ultimately, Cossacks serving with the Germans, in part, who were not members of the Nazi party but who were incorporated into the German armed forces (Wehrmacht) in SS formations.

That all leaves aside, of course, SS units that were basically interior Nazi elements, or the entire nasty subject of camp guards, which were also SS units. 

Senate File 108 and the addressing of the unnecessary.

While I'm sure the Legislature gets more heat than it deserves, it is occasionally really hard not to cringe at certain legislative acts.  

Indeed, it's hard not to cringe at certain legislative commentary.  This year, for example, the local paper has been really upset by a couple of bills that seek to carve out a freedom of conscience defense for people who feel that they cannot perform services at same gender weddings, in spite of that having already been proven to be an issue in other states, but there's been no commentary in the paper, as far as I'm aware (and due to business travel, I may have missed it) seeking to restrict the Game and Fish from doing what it already cannot do.  

That bill, Senate File 108, seeks to prevent Game Wardens from entering private lands without the permission of the landowners.  In other words, it seeks to restrict what already can't be done.  The draft bill states.

What motivates this is unclear, but a law enforcement officer already can't just walk onto private lands, so this bill is wholly unnecessary.   Why somebody was worked up enough about this to write a bill preventing what's already prevented is not clear to me, but by taking this step, the law actually would preclude a Game Warden from entering any private land, such as Walmart for example, or the local sporting goods store. Clearly, that isn't what was meant, but the law in seeking to address a situation that doesn't need to be addressed, by extension could be acting to create a legal oddity that's a bit absurd.

Hopefully this bill will fail.


Just because its free, doesn't mean you have to take it (but then there's no harm in doing so).

More on air travel.

 

It's always been the case that when you fly in a plane, they give you the chance to have something to drink.

They used to also give you something to eat, if only peanuts. Truly.

Of course, flights used to be really long. The air time between Casper and Denver is now 35 minutes. Really short.  When you had to take a prop aircraft, it was at least an hour.   Even Denver to Tampa is just four hours, not really all that long.

Now, on a four hour flight, offering you something to drink makes a lot of sense.  On a 35 minute flight, it really doesn't, but they do it anyhow.  And as an observer of people, I notice that a very large percentage of people take it.  I'm not really sure why, as they attendant barely has time to give you the drink, for you to drink it, and then to pick up the refuse.  Indeed, on at least one occasion I've seen the drink distribution run into the final approach, to be followed, therefore by an immediate pick up.

Surely, you don't really normally need something to drink on a flight that short.  It's really short.  But probably over half the passengers on a plane take something to drink, no matter how short, or rough, the flight is. A person barely has enough time to get their drink, drink it, and have the attendant pick it up.  And on a rough flight, and I've been on a few, more than a few people seem too dazed to notice that their drink is about to go flying on to their neighbor at any one time.

On the other hand, it's harmless too, usually, and probably a remnant of that day when air travel was slower, and you always got something to eat.  Some people look back on that fondly, but frankly I'm so impressed by the modern speed of aircraft its not even funny.  Casper to Denver in 35 minutes?  Wow. And even a trip from Denver to Tampa or Toronto just doesn't take that long anymore.  That's truly amazing.

Update: Today In Wyoming's History: January 30

Today In Wyoming's History: January 30: 2015  The Federal government announced the sale of the Rocky Mountain Oil and Gas Center grounds, formerly the Teapot Dome Naval Petroleum Reserve, to Standard Oil Resources Corporation. Teapot Dome, of course, is famously known in most places of the scandal that occurred during Warren G. Harding's administration.

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Window Seat


When you book a flight, you get to choose your seat, unless you book too late and end up getting simply what's left. When that occurs, you almost invariably get an aisle seat, or if the plane is big enough, a middle seat.

Which raises this question, why do people who book window seats close their windows so they don't have to look out them?

I hate flying.  I like airplanes, but I do not like riding in them.  Nonetheless, I do a fair amount, and when I do, if I can, I book a window seat.  That's because I'm fascinated by terrain and geology, and you get to see a lot of that from the air.

But this view isn't universally shared, however, and I've noticed of late a fair number of people will rapidly shut their windows so they don't have to look out them, which then means that the trip has all the joy of traveling in a can.

Oddly, the window seat is otherwise one of the most uncomfortable seats.  It's hard to get in and out of.  the aisle seat is the easiest.  If you don't want to see something, why not take that one?

Indeed, I've noticed some people can be aggressive about this.  Recently I was on a really long flight and got up to use the facilities (it was hours and hours long).  When I got back to my seat, the guy in the aisle, who was a really fussy traveler anyhow, had mostly closed my window. As I try not to be rude, I just looked out the remaining 1/5th that was available.

Anyhow, commercial air travel is a really grim experience, by and large, but getting to look out the window is neat.  If you don't like doing that, leave the window for somebody who does.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

President Obama's Community College Proposal

Note:  I started this post before the recent State of the Union Address. That means that the tax aspects of that speech, which are really another topic, had not been made yet.  As its hard to discuss this topic, without discussing that one, I thought I'd note that.
 ____________________________________________________________________________________

 
 Casper College Geomorphology class, field trip, 1983.

As everyone surely knows, the President recently proposed that the Federal government should fund two years at a community college for every American.  I imagine that this will have some qualifiers, such as you need to be qualified by having a high school degree or a GED, and you can't be 51 years old, but that's the general idea.

As folks here know, or no doubt suspect, I read things quickly which means I can read a lot, and of the things I've been reading a lot of is criticism of this idea.  I've frankly been surprised by some of the quarters I've seen that criticism coming from.  I understand a general conservative opposition to it, based on the view that Federal funding of many things is out of control and needs to be reigned in, but I've also been surprised, for example, in reading the comments by people who are what I'd regard as religious conservatives, or social conservatives, who are, in some cases, extremely worked up about this, as I'd otherwise suspect that this proposal fits in with their greater social views.

Well, let me note that where I live it basically doesn't matter, as here in Republican Wyoming, bastion of conservatism and free enterprise, we already fund college and even university for our resident high school graduates.  On this one, we're as socialist as can be.  Drag out the red banner Wyoming!

Now, I'm not criticizing my native land, which I truly love.  I think this is a good thing.  I only note that as if this fails, it doesn't impact the people I know. We're already on board with this one, here.

But I also point it out because, living in a state that's adopted this, to use some of our oil largess (which is now declining, of course) I've seen it up close and personal.  This didn't exist back in when I was a young college student.  At that time, there was only one state institution that was funding college education, and that state entity was:

Me, in 1986.  I'd just graduated from University when this photo was taken in South Korea. Being in the Guard meant that I qualified for tuition assistance, and they even sometimes paid for my books.

The National Guard.

Yes, the Wyoming Army National Guard and Air National Guard provided tuition assistance to its troops, and if well funded, they even provided funds for books.  And of course, you also got a monthly paycheck.

Of course, you had to do something in return, which was agree to be shot at, if need be. But, I did it, and I frankly really liked it.  One of the big mistakes I've made in my life was dropping out of the Guard when my enlistment was up.  I wish I hadn't, and had kept on and done twenty. But that's water under the bridge now.

Now, of course, a person who was looking for college cash wouldn't need to consider the Guard as Wyoming will pay.  

Okay, well so what? Well, frankly, the state helping to educate its young is one of the best things that this state does.  Our economy is cyclical, and we're heading into a bust. When the photo above was taken, I was a Sergeant in the Army National Guard.  I was also the holder of a Bachelor in Science in geology and couldn't find a job as we were in a bust.  You could argue that I'd panned unwisely, but I"d also note that my Guard unit was full of men who were unemployed from the oilfield.  Their life was tougher, as their jobs were gone, and the Guard was helping them hold on.  Indeed, at that time our Guard unit was a collection of middle aged Vietnam veterans, a tough, intelligent, and lively bunch of men who, in some instances, had fallen on hard times.  If we had to fight, it was comforting to know that a lot of those men had indeed fought before, and they were pretty experienced fellows.

Point being, however, is that even back in 1986 having an education at least got you somewhere, in a state that was having a depression.  I went on to law school, and after graduating in 1990, I've never been out of work.  I'm not rich, and I never will be, but without my education, I'd be in a hard spot for sure.  I'd probably have had to leave the state in the 80s to look for work elsewhere, which many people did.  And right now, many people are probably about to do.

The big difference between then and now, quite frankly, is that in 1986 there were still jobs in the US for men who had just a high school degree. Getting into the Army was pretty easy in 86, as we had a big Army, and Navy, and Air Force.  You could get into police work with an Army discharge.  You could work for the Fire Department with a high school diploma, if you could get in. And nationwide there were still jobs that didn't require much more than a high school diploma.  Here, in town, you could work for one of the three refineries we then had, for example.

Well, those jobs have really evaporated for the most part, the recent batch of oilfield jobs notwithstanding.  Now, in this country, without some post high school education, you're going to work a service job and that's the way it is.  And it's not going to pay well.

Indeed, even all the old jobs that remain, that didn't require post high school training, now do.  There's certification for everything. And even jobs like the police department's now require at least a two year degree.  You need an education, young man (or woman) if you don't want to be stuck working at the convenience store. 

Our international competitors already know this.  In Canada, the government already funds what amounts to two years of post high school study.  A German college of mine keeps urging my son to look at Germany as a place to study, as four years, he says, would be gratis.    We live in a competitive world, and we have to decide if we want a first world workforce, or a third world one.  And I mean third world.  Already the third world is coming up, and education to the high school level isn't a rare thing there anymore.

So this is a direction I feel we should go in, and we probably need to.  Yes, I know its expensive, as much as $60,000,000,000 over a decade, but then I also know that this fiscal year the United States will spend $337,000,000 on our small fleet of F35 fighters.  The two are not, of course, analogous, and we are constantly in debt, but a nation that feels that it can spend the way we do on all sort of things, can invest presumably in education.

But if we do so, and we should, there are of course some things to keep in mind.

The nature of Community Colleges.

It's important to keep in mind here that the proposal isn't to fund "a college education", but rather to fund two years at community college.  It's easy for some to confuse the two, and they tend to get confused.

The Tom Hanks op ed linked in below does a really good job of describing community college, and what community colleges are about. Colleges aren't universities, for one thing, and that's important to keep in mind.  Indeed, universities are technically made up of colleges, such as the College of Arts and Sciences or the College of Education, or the College of Engineering, or the College of Law.  Good community colleges (and there are good and bad) typically have the first two years for most widely held bachelors degrees, so you can go on to a four year school from there, but they also have a lot of programs that have taken the place of trade schools.  Casper College, for example, has a welding program, a truck driving program and a diesel mechanics program, none of which the University of Wyoming do.

That's significant, as it means that a person who isn't really seeking a four year degree can still get the certification that is necessary for them to pursue a decent job, which might otherwise be difficult to get, particularly once they're out of school and wish to start working.

But frankly another aspect of the community college is that it flat out allows a lot of people to get a start who just couldn't otherwise, and that too is very significant. 

It's a really popular idea in our culture to speak of people "leaving for college" as if that's a right of passage.  Even movies tap into it, such as American Graffiti.  But that model is a bit obsolete and was never fully accurate.  The truth is that the first few years after high school can be really tough.  By and large, a lot of people have no idea what they are going to do in life, and they have a vague sense that going to university will give them direction.  Often it really doesn't.  The story of somebody going to school and failing nearly immediately is a pretty common one.  A lot of those people never make it back.  Community colleges do a much better job with many people in this stage of their lives than universities do.

To include me.

I hadn't intended to go to Casper College, like I did.  I had intended to go to the University of Wyoming and I enrolled there.  I changed my mind when I went down to UW for an orientation and looked around and felt so out of sorts, I just gave up on that plan then and there.

I had planned on going to UW as they had a good geology department, my intended (and actual) major, and they had college ROTC.  At that point in time, I had a vague plan of taking ROTC and getting a commission in the Army, serving as an officer for a couple of years, and then deciding what I would do post that. 

As it happened, I came back and enrolled in Casper College, and its a good thing I did.

For one thing, at CC I found that I had to make up nearly an entire high school career in mathematics that I'd managed to get through high school without taking.  I did that in less than a semester, but I doubt very much that if I'd gone to UW I would have been successful at that crash remedial work.  And living at home while I was going to CC for two years let me really get into college, which I wasn't too sure about at first. 

Indeed, that two years stands as two of the best of my life in some ways.  I lived at home and had low expenses but worked at CC at the same time, and I'd joined the Guard (to make up for my delay in entering ROTC).  I had enough cash, therefore, to get by, without really needing much.  I liked the course work and when I wasn't in school or studying I was hunting.  I was sort of living the life, and knew it.


 One of the geology classrooms at the University of Wyoming, in the 1980s.

I did end up going to UW after graduating from Casper College, and even at that my introduction to US's geology department was really a smooth one, but I did fine.  I doubt, however, that I would have made it had I just went straight to US.  I never did enter ROTC, finding that my time as a NCO in the Guard answered the questions I had about service life, or maybe just satisfied my curiosity about the Army, or maybe the combined experience in general told me something about myself, so I lost interest in doing that.

At any rate, that worked for me.

One thing, however, I do want to note is that I"m not saying, and would not say, that going to college means you'll have a happy life.  I also think that too often education is confused with happiness.  Indeed, I think people confuse monetary success with happiness, and they aren't the same.  A good education, if truly a good one, does broaden a person's perspective and that makes a difference,  but all too often modern educations really aren't all that broad.  And some of those educations aren't useful, which is a problem in and of itself.  As university educations have become increasingly common, they've become devalued by becoming easier in some instances, and some majors are, frankly, worthless.  So poor planning and unrealistic goals can lead to an expensive four years that doesn't translate into anything.

Which isn't to say that for most people, some college isn't a good thing.

And in the modern world, most nations recognize that and do something about it. We have to too, if we wish to continue to be competitive.  That doesn't mean that everyone needs a four year degree, or that even everyone should avail themselves of the two year opportunity.  But making it available may be something that becomes increasingly critical in the world of the very near future.

MId Week At Work: Guard Duty. February 1917.


New York Naval Militia, February 1917.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Wyoming Fact and Fiction: Cheyenne - Dog Soldiers of Wyoming

Wyoming Fact and Fiction: Cheyenne - Dog Soldiers of Wyoming

UW College of Law Dean Finalists Plan Public Presentations | News | University of Wyoming

UW College of Law Dean Finalists Plan Public Presentations | News | University of Wyoming
The candidates are Klint Alexander, lecturer in international law at the Vanderbilt University Law School; Donald Judges, associate dean and professor at the University of Arkansas School of Law; Rodney Smolla, visiting professor at the University of Georgia School of Law, former president of Furman University and former dean of the Washington and Lee University School of Law; and Andrew Strauss, associate dean and international law professor at the Widener University School of Law in Wilmington, Del.
 Jacquelyn Bridgeman has been acting as the Interim Dean, and I was really hoping would become the dean.  Obviously that won't be the case.

Automotive Transportation I: Trucks and Lorries

Truck Train, May 1920.

We have, in this continuing series on transportation, looked at trains, planes, ships, and shoe leather.  We're going to start looking at the type of transportation now that's just part of the regular background of our lives, for most of us.  Automobiles.

In doing this, I've broken the topic up into two, and perhaps oddly, I've started with trucks and lorries.  That probably seems backwards, but for what we're doing it really isn't. Transportation by truck has been a major change in the basic distribution system for the nation.

First of all, we probably better get some basic definitions down.  I've used, in the caption to this entry, terms that are somewhat unique to differently localities.  A "truck" is to Americans and Canadians what a "lorry" is to the English.  I don't know why, but they are.  And that's sort of illustrative of what we're trying to address here, which is the commercial vehicle.  A unique hauling vehicle designed to move objects and operated by people, rather than an automobile designed to haul principally people.  We'll get to cars, or sedans, later.

Trucks are as old as the internal combustion engine, which itself dates to basically the second half of the 19th Century. The history of the internal combustion engine is surprisingly convoluted and long, and there are different early engines that could compete for the claim of being the very first such engine. Suffice it to say, for our purposes, the introduction of the internal combustion engine had its way paved by a different type of engine, really, that being the steam engine. And in fact, the steam engine, along with electric motors, competed with early internal combustion engines for the role of individual vehicle power plant for quite some time.  As early as the 1870s, at any rate, such familiar names as Benz and Daimler were introducing internal combustion engines that would be recognizable as ancestors to the current ones.  Rudolph Diesel had designed the early variants of the engine that bears his name by 1893.  Even such theoretically advanced engine features such as the supercharger were 19th Century inventions.

So the early engines were around in the late 19th Century, but what it took to really get the vehicles up and rolling, so to speak as viable alternatives to horse and locomotive was cheap fuel, which oddly enough is rapidly reaching the pinnacle of its cheapness in our very own era.  And that took petroleum exploration.  As this isn't a history of petroleum exploration, we'll forgo looking into that in this thread.  Perhaps we'll look at it at some time in the future.  What it also took, however, was an affordable set of vehicles.

Trucks came in, therefore, quite early, but as practical machines they really began to make their appearance felt just prior to World War One.  By that time, there were some really stout industrial trucks chugging around, and that's basically what they were doing, around American cities.  They were the competitor to draft horses pulling wagons and carts.



They did not all operate exactly the same way that modern trucks do. Some did, with engine and transmission, but others were chain driven, like motorcycles were (and some still are).  But as heavy as they were, they tended to be pretty prone to maintenance problems and they were, in some ways, more comparable to industrial machines than to the modern trucks we have today.

They also didn't stray much into the sticks. They didn't have the range for it, and they were too expensive for many rural users.  Nonetheless, they began to come into military use just prior to World War One.  The U.S. First Aero Squadron was the first fully motorized unit of the U.S. Army and saw deployment in the Punitive Expedition, where its trucks proved as great of value, if not greater, than its aircraft.

U.S. Army Truck Company 28.  Punitive Expedition.

Trucks went on to see widespread use by every army during the Great War and while they did not displace the horse in any role, they were basically proven by the end of the war.  This was so much the case that the United States Army, as part of a grand experiment, ordered a convoy of various types of trucks and vehicles then its possession to cross the United States in 1919, just one year after the conclusion of the war.

 British brewery truck, an early example of a truck directly replacing a role generally filled by horses, in use here to haul cannon parts.

 Light trucks in use by the U.S. Army, World War One.

That convoy proved to be an epic ordeal, which served as much as anything to demonstrate that American roads were really all local, and in some cases nearly impassable, affairs.  But the fact that the trucks did make it proved a point, and it wasn't all that long thereafter when a true interstate  highway system was put into the works.  Indeed, the it already was as Congress had first entered the picture legislatively in 1916, with the Federal Road Aid Act of 1916.  In 1921 Congress passed a new act, the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1921 which provided matching funds for highway construction and acted to have the Army target highways that were vital to national defense.  Therefore, contrary to the general supposition that this first occurred under the Eisenhower Administration, in fact the Army became involved in highway construction, in a fashion, in 1921.  In 1922 the Army had identified 20,000 miles of road that it considered vital.

Road construction boomed in the 1920s, and by the 1930s thousands of miles of paved, or concrete, roads had been put in and the road age had really arrived.  Many of the old dirt public roads, which could really only serve local purposes, and which took hours of travel in order to go even modest distances, were replaced with paved roads that greatly increased the speed of travel.  Small stores and gas stations, in turn, popped up everywhere, as vehicles of the era really only  held a modest amount of gasoline.  With the increase in roads everywhere, an increase in truck traffic came in as well.
 

Trucks outside of a starch factory, Caribou, Aroostook County, Me. There were almost fifty trucks in the line. Some had been waiting for twenty-four hours for the potatoes to be graded and weighed Fairly typical commercial trucks, 1940.

At first, and for a very long time, most truck traffic really remained only local.  However, even by the 1930s tractor trailers had become relatively common, having made their appearance some time before. So the beginning of longer hauls were there.  These trucks were somewhat modest in size compared to the ones we see now, but they were there and they were used, although more often for intrastate hauls or relatively short hauls, by modern standards.


 93.  Neg. No. F-78K, Aug 11, 1930, EXTERIOR-ASSEMBLY BUILDING, NORTH SIDE, WITH TAYLOR-TRUCK-A-WAY TRUCKS AND TRAILORS - Ford Motor Company Long Beach Assembly Plant, Assembly Building, 700 Henry Ford Avenue, Long Beach, Los Angeles County, CA
Tractor trailer combinations, 1930.


94.  Neg. No. F-130, Sep 24, 1931, EXTERIOR-OFFICE BUILDING AND ASSEMBLY BUILDING, WEST SIDE, SHOWING TRUCKS AND TRAILORS LOADED WITH NEW TRUCKS DISPLAYING SIGNS 'MORE FORDS FOR HOOVER DAM' - Ford Motor Company Long Beach Assembly Plant, Assembly Building, 700 Henry Ford Avenue, Long Beach, Los Angeles County, CA
 Trucks delivering tucks, 1931.

At the same time, the pickup truck very much made its appearance.  At first most pickups were converted cars, with conversions of Model Ts being quite common. But as the type proved so utilitarian soon major automobile manufacturers began to offer them, and they became a staple for small businesses, farms and ranches.  All were two wheel drive at this point.

 Very early example of a truck that would come to be thought of as the pickup truck.

 Pickup truck in farm use, 1930s.


Truck and trailer, late 1930s.

None of which is to say or suggest that trucks supplanted horse and mule drawn wagons by this point. They were starting too, quite clearly, but horse and mules remained very much in evidence the entire time.

Also contrary to widely held belief, the post Great War period, followed by the Twenties and the Great Depression did not see the  Army supplant horses entirely by any means, but it did see the artillery branch, specifically the field artillery, take a huge interest in trucks.

Various nations artillery branches has started to use trucks as "artillery tractors" during World War One, with every major army using some. The heavier the piece, the more likely that an army was using an artillery tractor to tow it.  Following World War One, the U.S. Army in particular had an enormous interest in trucks.  Indeed, the artillery was arguably more interested in trucks than any other branch of the Army.

What the artillery branch found was that there really weren't any artillery tractors of the type that it wanted, and that it new could be built.  Available trucks, for the most part, were two axle, two wheel drive, low geared trucks.  All wheel drive trucks did start coming in during this period, but they were very heavy indeed, and mostly used for very rugged rural enterprises, such as logging. The artillery wanted a truck that was all wheel drive, but still capable of effective road use. As there wasn't such a vehicle, it set out inventing one.

And it was successful, which oddly put the Federal government, for awhile, in the truck manufacturing business.  While these 6x6 artillery tractors proved to be immediately successful, they also proved to be very expensive, and in a nation with such a massive automobile industry, it soon came to be the case that nobody could see a really good reason why the Federal government should be operating a truck company, so this line of truck, during the 1930s, was contracted out as a type to various civilian manufacturers.

 New River, North Carolina. Marine truck transport units. Trucks that will carry leathernecks in combat areas are used in war exercises at New River, North Carolina. This truck, rolling along in a Marine convoy, serves many useful war purposes. Marine barracks, New River, North Carolina
Marines riding in heavy 4x4 truck early in World War Two. This type would soon be supplanted by 6x6 trucks.

Right about the same time, the Army, having seen the utility of 6x6 trucks, began to desire 4x4 trucks as well, and these were also contracted for.   Just prior to the United States entering World War Two the Army had adopted and was purchasing, therefore, a wide range of all wheel drive trucks, ranging from the newly adopted and very small 1/4 ton truck, the Jeep, to 4x4s and 6x6s.  Other armies were likewise experimenting with fall wheel drive vehicles but no other nation did to the same extent as the U.S, which by the wars end was at any rate supplying at least some trucks to every Allied army.

 Army truck manufacture (Dodge). Army officers attending the school conducted by the Chrysler Corporation to assist our fighting forces in the job training men to operate the thousands of trucks required by today's streamlined division are given actual practice in driving the trucks in a testing field. Above is an Army officer putting one of these trucks through its paces in a heavy mud wallow which is just one of the many tests to which the driver and vehicle are subjected
World War Two era Dodge 4x4 truck.  With very little in the way of change, this model would go into civilian production immediately after World War Two.

Four wheel drive trucks brought about a revolution in transportation in rural quarters that has already been addressed by this blog, so we won't go back into it, other than that to say after World War Two every major U.S. automobile manufacturer, and there were more major ones at that time, had experience in building 4x4s.  And as they were offered to civilians, they slowly came to be a major automobile type were today, they are very common.  In my region of the country it's so rare as to see a 2x4 pickup truck that its actually a bit surprising now when a newer one is encountered.  They aren't something you see much, and most automobile lots have only 4x4s for sale here, as a rule.  This hasn't always been the case, but it certainly is the case now.

Following the Second World War the U.S. saw a rising expansion of over the road trucking.  By the late 1950s the US was, additionally, overhauling its Interstate highway system via the Defense Department's budget with new "defense" highways, which were much improved compared to the old Interstate highway system.  With the greatly improved roads, by the 1960s, interstate long haul trucking was in an advance state of supplanting the railroads for a lot of American freighting.  At the same time, the diesel engine supplanted the gasoline engine for semi tractors.  A very uncommon engine for motor vehicles in the United States prior to the 1950s, diesels started coming in somewhere in that period and by the 1960s they'd completely replaced gasoline engines for over the road semi tractors.  Now, of course, diesels have become fairly common for heavy pickups as well, and are even starting to appear in the U.S. in light pickup trucks in spite of the higher cost of diesel fuel.

 Washington, D.C. An O. Boyle tank truck on the door of which is displayed a United States Truck Conservation Corps pledge
 Mack tractor, 1942.

The change was dramatic, although few people can probably fully appreciate that now, as we are so acclimated to trucking.  Thousands of trucks supplanted thousands of rail cars, and entire industries that were once served only by rail came to be served by truck.  The shipping of livestock, for example, which was nearly exclusively a railroad enterprise up into the 1950s is now done entirely by truck, a change which had remarkable impacts as rail shipping required driving the livestock to the railhead, whereas with the trucks they are simply scheduled to arrive at a ranch at a particular time.  Likewise, businesses that at one time located themselves near rail lines, so that they could receive their heavy products by rail, no longer do, as they receive those items by trucks.  For example, pipeyards, once always near a railhead, are not always today.

Not that the railroads have disappeared.  Indeed, in recent years they've once again been expanding, as they're very cost efficient and even more "green" than trucking, as they point out.  But trucks have, in the past 60 years, gone from something that was really for short hauls, for the most part, to something that is now common for long hauls, and indeed the bulk of American shipping is now done by truck.  Trucks have an advantage in being able to go more selectively and directly from "port to port", and the surface on which they travel is of course, put in by the public, making it a partially subsidized industry.  So they aren't going away soon, in spite of a revitalized rail industry.

And trucks have became part of the American vehicular fleet in a way that would have been hardly imaginable even 50 years ago.  As they've become more comfortable to drive, and easier to drive, they've been a common family vehicle, which is not what they once were.  Pickup trucks used to be pretty much only owned by people who had some need of them, even if that need was recreational.  Now, they're common everywhere.  Indeed, the Ford F150, Ford's 1/2 ton pickup truck, has been the best selling vehicle, that's vehicle, not truck, for the past 32 years.  So, so common have trucks become in the United States that one model of 1/2 tone truck is the number one single high selling model of vehicle.  Pretty amazing for a vehicle that started off as utilitarian and industrial.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The return of a perennial bad idea, the transfer of Federal lands to the state.

Every few years Wyoming and the other western states get the idea that the Federal government ought to hand over the Federal domain to the states.  The states don't propose to buy, please note, but just get it.

For those who aren't aware, starting really in the 1860s with the Homestead Act the Federal government started taking a different approach to vast tracks of land it acquired by the surrender, acquisition or simply the theft, of lands held by aboriginal title. Aboriginal title was that title held by the native inhabitants, i.e., the Indians.  The Federal government recognized that title, as the Crown had also, but regarded it as a subservient, less perfect, form of title.  Basically, it was inferior as people who lived a wild, aboriginal life, weren't regarded as civilized, and therefore they couldn't have a civilized title.   The concept sort of was that they didn't really know what they had or how they had it, but they did have something.

From very early in the country's history it was the law that only the Federal government, heir to the rights of the Crown, could dispose of aboriginal title.  States and territories couldn't do it.  Up until the Homestead Act, the Federal government generally handed over most of the land it had to the new state upon statehood, but not all of it.  The land it kept were "reservations", and not just of the "Indian Reservation" type.  Washington D. C., which it acquired by donation, is one such Federal Reservation, or was, in spite of its ceaseless nonsensical whining about wanting to become the only city state in the country, thereby elevating a bad idea to statehood level.

Starting with the Homestead Act, however, the Federal government decided that it would keep much of the Federal domain and allow farmers to acquire it directly from the Federal government. This was done in order to encourage the settlement of lands otherwise regarded by most people as wastelands.  The thesis was that by making the land free, or darned near free, people would be encouraged to give farming or livestock raising on it a go.  The Homestead Act was followed by the Mining Law of 1872, which did the same for mining, with mining given a preferential place over everything else.

This was the system for most of the West until the Taylor Grazing Act when Congress recognized that the Dust Bowl conditions in the West then in play, combined with darned near full homesteading, was wrecking everything.  So, it operated to prevent further homesteading entries and to lease the land to agricultural interests.  A law that provided for leasing of oil and gas rights was already in existence. Finally, in the 1980s (I believe) the Mining Law of 1872 was altered to prevent further land patenting.

This system has worked really well. The  Federal government has been a really good steward of the land and the fact that it belongs to all of us has meant that its been open to agriculture, hunting, fishing, and recreation.

So why would the state's have a problem with that?

Well, they do.  Partly that's because the state's see the Federal domain as a source of income, and partially its because local interests always naively imagine the land ending up in their hands.  People who depend on the Federal domain often have a problem sharing it, and they somehow imagine that if it went to the state, it'd go to them, and they'd own it.

And that's why this is a hideously bad idea.

In reality, allowing Wyoming to own the Federal domain would mean, sooner or later, that it would sell it into private hands.  Those backing the bill in the legislature to support this concept deny that, but that is what would happen.  Local pressure from local interest would scream and cry for this until hit happened. And then they'd be stunned when the land all went to big monied interest elsewhere.

For those who support agriculture, mineral extraction and recreation in this state, which is darned near everyone who lives here, there's no better way to mess that up than to support transferring the Federal domain to Wyoming.  Wyoming is always selling little bits and pieces of what it does own, and sooner or later, it'd do that with all the land it owns.  And at that point, locals would basically own nothing, and be able to go nowhere.

This idea is terrible.  The legislature will almost surely pass it.  Let's hope that Congress doesn't support it.  If it were ever to get through, however, this would be the time.  If that's the case, when the day comes when you can't go anywhere on what the Federal government once owned, remember the names of those who proposed this idea and ask them what they were thinking, unless of course you support the concept, and then you can ask yourself.

Postscript

This bill has now been amended such that the proposal is no longer to study the transfer of the lands, but rather transfer the management of them.

That's certainly a much more reasonable, sort of, prospective, but this too is a poor idea.  After all, if the Federal government is paying for the management of the lands, why opt to take on the expense and burden of that task? The answer would no doubt be that there would be more local control, which is true, and which is why the state has chosen to administer such things that it can, such as the Occupational Health and Safety regulations.  Nonetheless, taking on this burden here, which is well done by the Federal government, seem to be a rather poor idea.

Lex Anteinternet: A legal Gerontocracy?

Like a vampire from a movie, the topic I wrote about last legislative session here, is back again:
Lex Anteinternet: A legal Gerontocracy?: There's a bill pending in Wyoming's legislature which proposes to remove the mandatory retirement age for the judiciary, whic...
All my original comments apply to this still bad idea.  Just like last year, the concept of changing the retirement age for judges from 70 years to 75 is still a bad idea.

When legislators backing this concept were interviewed by the Tribune this go around, one of them made the comment that "people are living longer", which is frequently the ill thought out excuse for such things.  People are not, of course, living longer, they aren't dying as young, which isn't quite the same thing.

While it is good that people aren't dying as young, what the impact of that has been, in undeniable part, is that a lot more people are living with dementia than they used to.  This is something that backers of this sort of thing have got to face.  And this isn't an abstraction to me.  My own mother, God bless her, is now well over 75, but she lives with this, and as an impact of that, so do I.  Dementia strikes different people, who are afflicted with it, at different ages, and a lot of people are afflicted with it. By pushing the envelope on the ages of judges, we're pretty much guaranteeing that some will be so impacted while on the bench. When that happens, what do we do, impeach them?  That's not a very dignified end of their service.

And, while I hesitate to say it, perhaps its time to note that at some point the Baby Boomer Generation has to loosen its grip on absolutely everything.  Prior generations did, allowing them to step up to the plate, but as a generation they are remarkably reluctant to.  Recent changes in Social Security eligibility, for example, have not impacted them.  Our current crop of Presidential candidates are all Boomer retreads, or seem to be, again.

This is not to take a shot at the generation, but it's notable that now that they are the generation principally occupying the bench, a Legislature which probably is principally made up of the same generation, now thinks it'd be a good idea to have judges in eyesight of 80 years old, thereby effectively keeping their own generation on the bench.  At some point, things have to go to the young, and even as it is right now that would mean that there'd be a lot of lawyers in this state in their 40s, which isn't exactly young, who'd never get  the chance to serve.

This is a terrible idea. At age 70, a person ought to be able to go on to something else in life.  If they still want to work, they can.  If they don't, they shouldn't have to. But if they're in a public office in the judiciary, by that age they're well outside of the generational cohort they're judging, and it's time to turn it over to somebody younger.

To Our Glorious Dead. A commentary about an uniformed comment I hear fairly frequenlty


The reason I further note this here is best reflected by the commentary one of my teachers, an English teacher, made to the class back when my son had her in middle school, that comment being that Canada never has fought a war.

What a moronic comment.

This memorial, as the link above discusses, is in honor of the Canadians who lost their life in World War One (which the Canadians were in much longer than we were), World War Two (which the Canadians were in much longer than we were) and the Korean War.  Just because Canada didn't fight in the Vietnam War doesn't mean it's never been in any wars.  Not by a long shot.

Memorials like this one aren't unique to Toronto.  I have to presume that the people who make such comments have never been to Canada, and haven't ever read any history either.

The changing interior of a city.

Churches of the West: Anglican Church of the Holy Trinity, Toronto Ontario


Every once in a while you'll see something that really demonstrates how a town has changed over the decades. This is one such scene.

This is an Anglican church in Toronto, and its an old one.  Probably because I was seeking to take the photo of the church, you can't tell really how its surrounded on all sides, and I mean all with big tall buildings.  It's right in the middle of them. An artifact of a less built up town.
 
From what my relatives tell me, Toronto has indeed changed a great deal.  It was, at one time, a very English city, but no more.  It's a huge city, and very vibrant. Things are being built all over, and the town has a very cosmopolitan international feel to it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Lex Anteinternet: $40/barrel? The layoffs continue

Lex Anteinternet: $40/barrel?:   Driven by Saudi Arabian efforts, the price of petroleum oil is falling through the floor.  When I last checked, it was down under $70...
Just recently it was announced that Schlumberger was engaging in substantial layoffs.  Now the news comes that Halliburton is laying off 1,000 employees, and Baker Hughes, which Halliburton is buying, is laying off an additional 7,000.

Layoffs of this level are pretty hard to ignore, and at some point the slowdown becomes more than that, due to its own inertia.

Today In Wyoming's History: Lost Hitler albums

Today In Wyoming's History: Lost Hitler albums: Lost Hitler albums

Today In Wyoming's History: Joel Hurt – Sheepman - Mayor- Senator – Murderer

Today In Wyoming's History: Joel Hurt – Sheepman - Mayor- Senator – Murderer:

Joel Hurt – Sheepman - Mayor- Senator – Murderer

Note that the amount of the initial investment in the sheep ranch, $200,000, was truly a huge sum, if the effects of inflation areconsidered. Well into the millions in today's money.

This is telling in that we often get the idea that homestead was "free", which it wasn't.  Even quite a few modest homesteads reflected years and years of savings being invested in a very small start up enterprise.  But beyond that, there were large outfits like this, that absolutely enormous initial investments.

TM 9-1575 Ordnance Maintenance: Wrist Watches, ...

TM 9-1575 Ordnance Maintenance: Wrist Watches, ...

Monday, January 19, 2015

Would the ABA please gete over its "Big Law" Obsession? And over itself too?

This is a post I started, actually, some years ago, but I never finished it for a variety of reasons.  Nonetheless, as I am an ABA member, and as I get disgusted with the ABA from time to time, I haven't "trashed" the old draft, and I'm finally completing it.

Anyhow, this, no doubt, is something that only matters to lawyers, and quite frankly only to a tiny number of lawyers at that, but the ABA needs to get over its obsession with "Big Law." At the same time, "Big Law" needs to get over itself, and so does the ABA.

Now, no doubt many non lawyers, upon hearing that term, would wonder what "Big Law" even is.

Well, Big Law is a term that legal commentators, within the legal community, have tagged on Super Sized East Coast law firms.  Like many Super Sized East Coast things, they're irrelevant to people in the country otherwise, but those who are located there are seemingly so fascinated with them, that they can't grasp the irrelevance.  Think of it like New York City. . . a vast metropolis that has passed its importance long ago, but doesn't realize it. And think of the ABA, in these regards, as a The New York Times, a once great public organ which is now a local newspaper, but which still believes that it speaks to the world, rather than wrap fish in Queens.

The ABA is constantly obsessed with what's going on in Big Law.  Members of the ABA can subscribe to some email lists which supposedly will inform you in on this or that, and one of the things you are going to see constant commentary on is Big Law.  Some big partnership back east will be laying people off, or the starting salaries of Big Law associates will be lower this year than last.

Well, so what?  It doesn't matter to most lawyer, or most clients.  Indeed, it doesn't matter to most "big time" lawyers.

But the commentary on it is so constant that other legal venues have picked it up. The legal Blawgs are full of "Big Law."

A dirty little secret of all of this is that a lot of Big Law commentary isn't about Big Law at all, but just regular old firms.  If all the people who claim Big Law angst really worked for law firms employing the same number of people who lived in the Ottoman Empire, there would be no lawyers left employed by anyone else.  I suspect that people who Blawg have, in their minds, converted their former occupation in a mid sized Mid Western firm to Big Law.

And maybe they should have, because much of the commentary and angst expressed about Big Law is really just stuff about general law.  Big Law seems mostly distinguished from regular old law by its size, salary, locations, and probably the deluded corporate desire of big corporations to make sure that they they hire big.

For the most part, Big Law doesn't matter.  Even the really big firms in big cities that handle lots and lots of important stuff in most places seemingly don't qualify as Big Law. So lawyers in a the Denver firm of Big, Huge, Giant and Titanic, which might have an office up in Casper and down in Albuquerque, don't count.  And certainly that century old firm downtown employing ten or twenty lawyers doesn't count either.

Frankly, except to the ABA, for most of us, Big Law doesn't count.  I don't care what some white shoe firm in New York does.  It doesn't matter to me.  Shoot, chances are good that I'll have a higher career total number of trials than most of them do, if I don't already.  I'll never make the money their lawyers do, but I've never paid New York rent nor have I had to live in a place so undesirable as New York.  I win.

But the ABA looses.  It should just ignore the Big Law firms this year and focus on what most real lawyers do.

And while the ABA is at it, it can dump social activism for the year.  I don't care, and nobody else does, on what the shining lights at the ABA think about gun control, or any such thing. Frankly, just because we're lawyers doesn't make us experts on social issues of any kind, and lawyers have been on both sides of every issue that ever was.  The fact that the ABA feels itself compelled to bother with issues is one of the reasons that its becoming increasingly irrelevant to real lawyers.

Indeed, if the ABA wants to make itself relevant, it ought to go back to its century old roots and focus on practice standards.  It could do that by working towards making legal education more rigorous and less frequent.  As shocking as it may sound, it would be doing the law a favor if it advocated for fewer people to go to, and get through, law school. And it should do something about the fact that in an increasing number of American states bar applicants aren't tested on their state's own laws.  If they want to be really bold, they could argue that judges should never be elected to office and ought to go off the bench when they hit 70, even if their Federal judges. I don't see the ABA making any of those arguments soon, however.

At the same time, we'll we're at it, perhaps everyone can just get over the Ivy League law schools.  Yawn. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Wyoming Fact and Fiction: Of Jim Bridger, Shakespeare and Laramie Peak

Wyoming Fact and Fiction: Of Jim Bridger, Shakespeare and Laramie Peak

Lex Anteinternet: Islamic Violence, Islamic Silence and Western Rela...

Lex Anteinternet: Islamic Violence, Islamic Silence and Western Rela...:

 Postscript III

For the first time, I've heard a really good explanation, but a noted religion writer, on the topic of this type of violence and Islam.

Of note, according to this author, who seemed very well informed indeed, such violence is in fact not sanctioned by Islam, even if Islam's history and texts have some violent aspects. A partial reason is that there's no authority that has authorized it, which can authorize it.  Indeed, there would appear to be no authority which can in fact authorize it.

Additionally, it appears that the violence has in fact turned off a large segment of the Islamic population everywhere, to such an extent in fact that the religion is loosing a significant number of adherents in some areas, including Iran, where those abandoning the faith are either completely abandoning any faith, or are converting to Christianity.

Why Downton "Abbey"? The destroyed British abbeys

I've only watched a single episode, so perhaps its explained in it somewhere, but I've wondered how many people who watch Downton Abbey wonder why the estate is bears the name abbey?  Maybe that's explained in the series.  If it is, I'd appreciate somebody coming in and letting us know.  The name, given that it is a drama, would be a bit of a mystery otherwise, however.  Abbeys, after all, are religious institutions, being monasteries headed by an abbot.

Well, that's because King Henry VIII ruined centuries of Englsih religious culture in his increasingly nasty efforts to seperate the church in England from Rome, brougth about by the fact that Rome wouldn't recognize his attempt at an annullment. 

 Furness Abbey.  Founded in 1123, disestablished in 1537 by King Henry VIII.

England was a religious nation, indeed one recent historian has claimed that England's identity was that it was so strongly Catholic prior to Henry VIII.  In his dispute with Rome, he listened to those who would have, and did, destroy much of that culture, including destroying the centuries old monastic culture of England which was so strong.  The monasteries and convents were closed.  After that, they fell into picturesque ruins, and often into private hands, with their place names retained by later owners.

 Bolton Abbey, now part of a 33,000 acre estate.

Many of these ruins remain today, making for spectacular examples of ruined church architecture.  They are sometimes massive, and very often very well built, explaining how they've lasted the centuries after falling into disuse.

Tintern Abbey, Wales. This abbey passed from the Church into private hands in 1540 and the lead was immediately stripped from the roof.

They are, however, also frightening examples of how ruin, turmoil and decay can come in almost overnight.   Prior to Henry VIII there was no thought in England of turning monks and nuns out of their monasteries. And the act came, at the end of the day, because the King's head turned from his bride Catherine of Aragon.  Catherin was the "true Queen" and held that position without question until 1533. Few doubt today that her position was legitimate, and few would dispute that Henry's desire to be rid of her, in the hopes that he could bear children, lead to his break with Rome and in turn, the destruction of a monastic history in England that had gone back centuries.  Nobody would have seen that coming.

Ruins of Cistercian Abbey in Wales.  It had been operating 400 years when King Henry VIII closed the monasteries.  It's now protected by the Welsh government.

Nor would anyone have seen it coming that those desiring land would take advantage of this situation in this fashion, when only a few years prior the same men would have proclaimed loyalty to the same institutions.

 Valle Crucis Abbey, Wales.  It was closed by King Henry VII in 1537 and leased to a private owner.  It's now protected by the Welsh government

That some would even stoop to stripping lead from roofs is amazing, and not admirable.  So, while these ruins are picturesque, they also serve as monuments to the worst instincts of man, and that man will turn from even declared loyalties almost over night under some circumstances.

Lincluden Abbey, Scotland.  Still a ruin today.

And it was, moreover, a disaster for the English. The monasteries held land that was used to feed the monks, and the poor.  The transfer of the monasteries suddenly put the poor into jeopardy and the English crown was faced for the first time with dealing with a landless poor population.  It also resulted in the destruction of what were effectively institutions of learning, as the monasteries had also taken on that role for centuries.

Sweetheart Abbey, Scotland.

All of which goes to make for a cautionary tale.  And not a pleasant one.  The results of Henry VIII's actions were destructive, cruel and permanent.

Iona Abbey, Scotland.  This site has been partially rebuilt in recent years by the Church of Scotland.

They should give us pause for any such proposed radical change, let alone the changes proposed by wreckers of one kind or another today.

Glastonbury Abbey, England.

And in remembering that, it should be remembered that movements that start off claiming adherence to one idea or another can surrender to human greed and self interest amazingly fast.  Henry claimed to be advancing a point of theology, although the weakness of it was fairly clear.  In the end, those who supported him turned to self interest pretty quickly in some instances.
Netley Abbey, founded in 1239, disestablished in 1536.

And such things can result in misery for the many quickly too.  Monastic lands that supported poor farmers and fed the poor went to landed interest who didn't do that, and their descendants held on to the land for centuries.  Movements that claim to be for the good of all, can turn out to be for the good of few, almost instantly.

Sunday Morning Scense: Churches of the West: St. John in the Wilderness Cathedral, Denver Color...

Churches of the West: St. John in the Wilderness Cathedral, Denver Colorado.



 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Lex Anteinternet: The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men: Lex Antein...


Small rig, in mine, 1972.  A type that's change a lot.
Lex Anteinternet: The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men: Lex Antein...: I've been bumping up this thread from time to time: Lex Anteinternet: Lex Anteinternet: Lex Anteinternet: $40/barrel? : A couple of we...
After weeks of running "we don't see it here" articles about how the slow down in the oil fields wasn't being felt in Wyoming, Schlumberger's decision to lay off 9,000 employees made it impossible to deny, so the Tribune ran a series of articles about how things are, indeed, slowing way down in the oil field, and even asking "is the bust here?"

For those who are close to a story, it's interesting to see how far behind a trend the press really is.  Yes, the bust is here.  It's been here for weeks.

The Schumberger story, which of course is a national layoff (or maybe a global one) makes ignoring things, or putting a rosy face on them, impossible, but it actually isn't a symptom that the slow down has begun, that's been going on for weeks.  Layoffs have been occurring, the press just hasn't noticed.  Rig counts are declining, and so on. For those who work in the oilfield or in industries closely associated with it, it's impossible at this point not to be aware of it.  Moreover, everyone in the collection of related industries is in fact preparing for it.  The state government is now trying to prepare for it as well.

None of this means, of course, that the price can't rebound and be back up in six months.  But those taking a continued rosy view of this have to realize that oil exploration and production is like a military campaign.  You can't just decide to go out and get to work overnight.  All of the equipment is heavy duty, and a lot of it is specially built and often one of a kind, including the rigs themselves.  You can stack them for a few months, but after that, you really can't just plug them in and go.

The crews are the same way.  Most men, and it mostly is men, who work in the oilfield are young men, or if they're older, that's because they've moved up the chain.  The young men who get laid off during a bust don't come back to the oilfield, ever.  They go on to other work, as indeed they tend to do so as they age anyhow.  So if things last more than a few months, those crews are lost to the industry.  So even if things rebound this time next year (which they won't, as they don't rebound in the winter), there'd be a gap before things got rolling again.

If they ever do, and that's the big unknown. Right now, the state is predicting that the price will remain low through the year.  And if the price is low, exploration will be low.  But will it remain low, basically, forever?  That's a real possibility.  If we're just in another boom/bust cycle, they won't.  But if we've entered a new petroleum economic era, and there's some evidence that we have, they might never rebound. With ever increasing environmental concerns, growing acceptance of regulation on fossil fuels, and the like the depressed price might have no real influence on demand, and in that case, higher prices won't return.

For Wyoming, that's a triple whammy.  Coal is already falling through the floor price wise and so subject to increased regulatory attention that the Governor, in his State of the State speech, promised to "fight for coal". But there's really very little he can do.  Gas prices have fallen and can't get back up, making the gas boom that preceded the oil boom a gas bubble.  Now oil is declining.

And Now the U.S. Supreme Court: Lex Anteinternet: Today In Wyoming's History: Judge Skavdahl rules on same gender marriage

As I was sure would occur, when I wrote this some months ago, this issue is headed for the United States Supreme Court.
Lex Anteinternet: Today In Wyoming's History: Judge Skavdahl rules o...: A few days ago I wrote a post here about the history of marriage . Last Friday, one of the three Federal judges in Wyoming struck down Wyomi.
I knew that his would occur, it was inevitable. And while predicting a result now is hazardous, I strongly feel that we're very likely to get a four to five decision in this, but which four, and which five, is the question.  Hazarding a guess is indeed a hazard here, but I'll go ahead and do one.

The court, on marriage, has a very long history of regarding it as the exclusive domain of the States. Exclusive.  It feels different about interpersonal conduct, but in the regulation of marriage, the court has always viewed that, or nearly always, as a matter for the states.  

And the court has traditionally been very concerned about the image of the Federal Courts.  Indeed, while little appreciated, the Court has been aware of the degree to which Roe v. Wade tarnished its image because the legal reasoning and methodology in it was so poorly done, and the results were so widely unaccepted.  The Court tries not to go down that road, therefore, if it can.

For those reasons, I think the result will be that the Supreme Court will reverse the Circuit Courts that have found that same gender marriage is Constitutionally mandated.  It will have to do that for a variety of reasons.

First of all, the decisions simply fly in the face of prior Supreme Court decision, and its up to the Court to reverse itself, not the Circuits.  Beyond that, however, if the Court accepts the Circuit's decision, it knows that it is overthrowing the long held system under which the states, not the Federal government, regulate marriage, and the Court is unlikely to want to assume the role as the largest domestic relations court in the world.  The Circuit courts seemingly fail to grasp that stepping into this role does this, and soon Federal Courts will be addressing issues on plural marriage, divorce and any other number of domestic decisions it has heretofore been content to allow the states to handle.

Additionally, the various Circuit court decisions are poorly reasoned to a degree, and they smack of "me tooism".  That doesn't mean that a person has to disagree with the decisions to feel that.  The entire concept of there suddenly being a Constitutional right to something that nobody would have previously conceived of in our history is really suspect, and the Court in recent years has tried to avoid going in that direction.

It has done that in part as the Court's reputation did indeed suffer so much following the Roe era, and the Court knows that things that it foist on the nation tend to bring it into disrespect.  It also well knows that if a social movement is going to eventually convince the majority of Americans that a change in long held social views has arrived, it will arrive without the help of the Court.  The Court's safest major social decisions come when a majority of the population already feels the way the Court rules, making revolutionary decisions much less revolutionary than they really appear.

Of interest on this topic, the Wyoming Legislature is in session and there are presently two bills in the legislature seeking to afford protection to those who have moral objections to same gender marriage.So the topic is on the legislature's mind.  After the decision by Governor Mead to not appeal Judge Skavdahl's ruling in the Federal District Court for Wyoming he, that is Governor Mead, took quite a bit of heat from some of his fellow Republicans for that decision.  Indeed, some of the criticism was very pointed, causing Mead to actually have to defend his decision.  Now, with the U.S. Supreme Court having indicated it will take this issue up, and with the legislature in session, it's going to be inevitable, in my view, that Mead will receive pressure to submit an amicus brief in the Supreme Court action, or he'll really see revived heat about his failure to appeal, which in turn means that we have no real standing to get into this suit if we wish to.  My guess is that the Supreme Court would take amicus briefs (why not?) and that the State will take that action.

Be prepared for tons of really bad Court analysis.  One thing about the Court is that a lot of the Press seems to think that it operates like a state legislature and a lot of the public seems to think that it operates like a city council.  It doesn't. All the press about the public and the court, and politics and the court, etc, we can expect to see from now till July is largely way off the mark.  The Court does a better job in its role than people imagine, which means that it doesn't really worry that much about voting the popular way on any one thing.

As a final prediction on this, I think there's probably close to 0% chance that the utlimate ruling will be accurately reported on or grasped by the public, although some group will have a huge reaction no matter what.

For people who support same gender marriage, if they win (again, I doubt they will) the result will legally achieve what they're seeking, but that won't equate with social acceptance, at least not immediately.  The results of Roe v. Wade  are less accepted now than they were in 1973.  The nature of the debate just changes at that point, which is what will become apparently pretty quickly.

But if that same group looses, and I think it will, it won't be for the reason that most opponents of same gender marriage would argue for.  That is, the Court is extraordinary unlikely to rule that as a matter of natural law, marriage must be between different genders, which is what the real argument there amounts to.  That isn't going to happen.

Rather, the far more likely result will simply be that definition of marriage should be a matter of state law, and that the Court doesn't want to get into an argument about who can marry, how many people you can marry, what marriages a state must recognize as valid, what age you can marry, or any of that. That's the court's traditional position, and I suspect it'll be its position here.

Lex Anteinternet: Islamic Violence, Islamic Silence and Western Rela...

Lex Anteinternet: Islamic Violence, Islamic Silence and Western Rela...: This past week the world has been witness to another outrage committed by those who claim devotion to Islam.  If this event were unique, a ...
Of note, on this matter, in the past week protests, some pretty heated, have broken out in Pakistan, Algeria and Jordon.

Protesting violence in the name of Islam?  No.

Protesting Charlie Hedbo's post assault cover showing a crying Mohammed.

Most would think this a pretty innocuous cartoon, perhaps even slightly reverent, but  Muslim crowds have not in those locations, demonstrating the nature of the problem here.

Even more demonstrative, the paper, which in my view is not at all admirable in general, as I made clear in my Je ne suis pas Charlie post, attacked Christianity and the Catholic church viciously in the same issue, and proclaimed itself to be atheist.  Taking pride in that status, it took vicarious credit for the large crowds that came out in Paris, perhaps failing to understand that sympathy for victims, which in this case is perceived as the French Republic as much as anything else, does not really equate to sympathy with the papers crude cartoons and sometimes crude text.

But was there a violent Christian or Catholic reaction?  No, not at all.

There was a reaction, with even the Pope commenting, but of note it tended to once again find sympathy with the victims and also plead for all Faiths to be treated with respect.  This too highlights the nature of the problem the West faces here.  In the West, most agree with the Christian view of turning the other cheek.  In Islam, it seems that a large percentage of the faithful do not agree with that view at all.  As that's the case, this problem can't be regarded as minor, or isolated.