Chemicals I Have Made – Hydrogen Peroxide

hydrogen peroxide

It’s such a cute, cuddly chemical. Found in its brown plastic container in medicine cabinets across the world, it is poured on cuts and scrapes where it foams up in bubbles. Safe enough to be used as a mouth rinse. Good old 3% hydrogen peroxide! But let me assure you, what is safe at 3% strength, is not safe at 35% concentration. Or at 70% strength. Hydrogen peroxide, or H202 , is a chemical that must be given a great deal of respect. In my career, I worked in a process that made H202 for several years, and I’ve seen examples of its power.

When tank cars were loaded with H202, the hoses would still contain some of the liquid in the lines. There was an attitude that since this was not an organic material, and since the decomposition products were water and oxygen, it was not worthwhile to ensure that the last drops were purged out of the line. So a metal box was filled with steel scraps, metal shavings, and other pieces of metal with a high surface area. This box was used to decompose the peroxide before it ran into our cypress-lined trench system. On one occasion, significantly more peroxide ran down into the box than was intended, and not all of the peroxide decomposed before it entered the tar-covered cypress trench. Decomposition continued, and the heat released along with the enriched oxygen environment inside the trench, actually caused the trench to begin smoldering. The fire alarm was sounded, and the investigation showed that the fire was essentially caused – by water. That is the power inherent in industrial strength H202.

Before I worked at the plant, they had a specialized still that concentrated peroxide to 90% purity. That strength was used as a rocket fuel, and as a propellant for torpedoes. I never heard of any stories about accidents with that grade, but it would take very little in order to release the energy found in that strong of a chemical. After I left the Memphis Plant, I heard about something that happened to a tank car outside of the plant. Tank cars for peroxide were made of about 1/2″ thick aluminum. One night, a tank car essentially exploded, opening up the top like a pop can. The thought is that someone playing with a rifle, shot the tank car. There is a little organic material that sits atop commercial grade H202, which reacted to form organic peroxides. The energy from a rifle shot caused the organic peroxide to detonate, which triggered the release of the oxygen from the decomposing peroxide. I saw the car on a trip back to the plant. It clearly showed that there is a lot of energy available with 70% H202. I have searched diligently on the internet but I can find no on-line evidence of this incident.  One can only imagine what would have happened if this incident occurred after 9/11.

The process for making H202 is complex. An organic solution called working solution is the key to creating the H202 molecule, which then recycles to begin the process again. The working solution first enters the hydrogenators, where hydrogen gas contacts a catalyst of palladium chloride coated out as palladium metal on alumina particles. The palladium chloride comes in a solution form in 5 gallon pails, costing multiple thousands of dollars per pail. After the catalyst is filtered out, the working solution goes into the oxidizers, where air is blown through the solution. Hydrogen grabs onto the oxygen, and forms H202, which then is extracted with water, and concentrated in distillation stills. The working solution then returns and is ready to run through the loop once more.

That is a highly simplified version of the process. In practice, there is art involved. The active chemicals in the working solution can degrade over time. Therefore it is necessary to divert a side stream of working solution to flow through alumina, where the impurities that form in the hydrogenation step absorb onto the alumina. The whole process with the catalyst and the hydrogenation step is labor intensive, and it is always necessary to withdraw a portion of the catalyst and replace with fresh catalyst. To prevent that expense, and to achieve higher yield, the plant I worked at had invested in what is called a fixed bed hydrogenation system. This had shown impressive results in lab-scale testing, and in pilot plant testing, where 5-gallon sized vessels were used to prove the effectiveness before you built a 1000-gallon facility for commercial production. The new commercial facility was commissioned, and put in service.

But problems developed very rapidly. Even though the pilot plant testing did not show it, the commercial scale facility developed some hot spots inside the hydrogenator. This caused the active compound in the working solution to degrade much more rapidly than inside of the fluid bed hydrogenators. Since the investment in the working solution was several million dollars, it became imperative to find some way to reverse the damage. Lab work was expedited, and a solution was identified. They needed some engineer to manage the project and get the equipment ordered, installed, and functioning. I was plucked from the cyanide unit(see  Chemicals I have made – Hydrogen Cyanide ) and put in charge of the project.

It was a true baptism into project management. I got to travel to see the vessel that we were buying in the fabrication shop, up in the extreme northwest corner of New Jersey. There you were more likely to see a black bear than to see a Joisey girl. But the best part of the project was that I got to install and program a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC). Now this was back in 1980, and these were brand new toys  tools that used all of the advances in semi-conductors that were available. You could replace a whole rack of single-function logic switches, with a single unit that could do nearly unlimited functions. I had a lot of fun learning the ladder logic that went with this, and getting the system to work as intended. We started up our treatment unit – and it didn’t solve the problem. The working solution was still getting degraded, even when the fixed bed unit was operated at only a fraction of its intended production rate. The equipment I installed was abandoned, and the large fixed bed unit was shut down and eventually dismantled. But I had learned valuable skills and had managed a significant project by myself.

The manufacture of H202 is not different by chemical manufacturers. At the time I worked to make H202, all manufacturers used the process I described. Eventually, the unit I worked at was sold to another company in exchange for one of the other companies processes. I left H202 when I got a promotion to be a process supervisor for the manufacture of acrylonitrile. But that’s another story for another time.

 

US Senate Race – West Virginia

miner

You can’t make this stuff up. The West Virginia Republican Senatorial campaign has three leading candidates. One is the current State Attorney General, who put down roots in West Virginia in 2012 just long enough to qualify legally for election. One is the current third district Representative, who changed from Democrat to Republican in 2013, after having served in the State Legislature for over 20 years as a Democrat. And one is — Don Blankenship.

Don Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Coal who inspired fear among his corporate subordinates when they dared to place safety first before coal production, he who was imprisoned for a year for a misdemeanor offense of violating Federal mine safety regulations, he who was the head of the company when 29 miners died in a totally preventable coal dust explosion, this person is making a serious run for the US Senate.

You would have to have lived in this section of Appalachia for decades in order to gain a full perspective as to the true nature of Don Blankenship. In 1985, while he worked for a Massey coal subsidiary, a bitter strike against Massey roiled the hillsides of West Virginia and Kentucky. Violence was common, as union supporters fired guns at replacement drivers and workers, and replacement workers struck miners with their coal trucks. In the end, the miners agreed to go back to work, but under the terms of the old contract, not the new nationwide bituminous coal miner contract that the union was trying to get Massey to adopt. During the strike, armed guards and replacement workers were housed in barracks at the mines, reminiscent of mine conflicts in West Virginia of the 1920’s. Don Blankenship became the voice of management, decrying “union terrorism” as he justified the measures Massey took to ensure continuity of operations.

Once the strike was over, Massey evolved into a company that kept buying up union coal mines, shutting them down, then reopening them as non-union mines. The power in the mines swung back firmly in management’s direction. Blankenship’s fortunes rose as his stature as a union-buster grew. He became CEO of Massey and gained a reputation as someone who disdained the regulations imposed upon his industry by the government. Within Massey mines, code phrases such as “red pens” would alert miners when government inspectors came to conduct inspections. That enabled the miners to pretend to be obeying all requirements while the inspectors were present, then get back to “running coal” once the heat was off.

Eventually, this culture of corporate evasion of regulations came to a head, on April 5, 2010, when the Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine was enveloped by a coal dust explosion that killed 29 miners. Coal dust, like any organic material, is capable of generating an explosion that will follow through mine chambers as long as there is dust to ignite. Apparently, there was enough dust to cause the explosion wave front to extend for thousands of feet underground. That is a lot of coal dust.

Don Blankenship refused to accept responsibility for the disaster. He evinced a theory that a sudden and massive influx of methane at the mine face overwhelmed all of the safety efforts that Massey used, and caused the explosion. Not only that, but he insisted that the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) required Massey to use a ventilation plan that significantly contributed to the damage of the explosion. All through the investigation where it was conclusively shown that poor dust control was the primary reason for the size of the explosion, Blankenship railed against the investigators, claiming that Massey and Don Blankenship were being railroaded.

I was amazed that in late 2014, Don Blankenship was indicted for Federal crimes associated with the UBB disaster. There were two felony charges relating to security fraud and issuing of false statements. These charges were related to misleading statements that he made after the explosion to minimize the impact of the disaster on the Massey stock price. There was one misdemeanor charge pertaining to conspiring to violate mine safety regulations, the actual charge that pertained to the accident and the lives lost. He was convicted of the misdemeanor, acquitted of the felonies, and in 2016, he was sentenced to a year in Federal prison on the misdemeanor charge. It is an indictment on our judicial sense of priorities that the securities fraud was viewed as more serious than the charges related to the actual killing of 29 miners, but I was happy to see any semblance of justice against the prevailing corporate culture of the mining industry.

In a world that retains a sense of morality, this would have been the end of Don Blankenship as a public figure. He would have served his time, then lived his life at his home in Las Vegas with the millions of dollars he received during his decades at Massey. But this man lived for more than money. He wanted revenge, and exoneration in the field of public opinion. During his imprisonment, he paid for the publication and mailing of a booklet describing what really happened in UBB, and how it was the political enemies of Don and those who hated the coal industry who were really to blame for the deaths of the 29. We received one of these pamphlets in the mail, but barely glanced at it before placing it in the recycling bin. As it turns out, the propaganda in the mail was only the first blast in Don’s redemption tour. He kept appealing his conviction up until the last week of his imprisonment. Then, in 2017, he announced that he was running for Senate from West Virginia.

When I saw the first of his campaign commercials late in 2017, I was convinced that he was using the vagaries of campaign finance to enable him to use unlimited funds to continue his crusade to clear his name. Don was by far the first West Virginia Senate candidate to place ads on TV. As time went on, however, I sensed a change in the tenor of the campaign ads. The guy actually thinks he can win. This from someone who has the charisma of a toad. Check out one of his last-minute ads if you dare:  Blankenship campaign ad

Don Blankenship has his primary residence in Las Vegas. He has long had a home situated on the Kentucky side of the Tug Fork river from West Virginia. His residency credentials for West Virginia are tenuous at best. But this example of human excrement is trying to convince enough voters of this state that he has always been misunderstood, and under-appreciated for all he has done for the hard working coal miners of the state, offering them a pathway to black lung disease, or if they are really lucky, immolation in one of his under-maintained mines. I am hoping that this Tuesday will represent the absolute repudiation of Don Blankenship, and cause him to crawl under a rock out in his Las Vegas hacienda, never to be seen in this state again.

Cognitive Dissonance? Riddikulus!

music-932097__340

In music, dissonance refers to two notes that are very close to each other. On a piano, the notes would either be right next to each other, or only one key apart (it can also be two notes separated by an interval of a seventh as well. We could digress into music theory but won’t.). Dissonance causes tension in the music, and those who are hearing dissonance want it to resolve towards a more consonant sound, where the harmonies are more pleasing. Composers often use dissonance to propel their music, giving a sense of forward motion when tension emerges through dissonance, then resolves.

There is another type of dissonance that helps in understanding the paradox represented by Donald Trump receiving the support of the Evangelical Christian community, and keeping it through all of the foibles and missteps of the Trump Presidency to date. That is cognitive dissonance, the psychological condition occurring when an individual holds two conflicting concepts, or cognitions, in their mind at the same time. The mental tension that this causes tends to be resolved in one of three ways, according to psychologists.

First, if there are two beliefs of nearly equal weight, one response is to reduce the importance of one of the beliefs by discounting it. As an example, assume one belief is that leaders are called to be moral exemplars and demonstrate their faith by adhering to the 10 commandments and living a life of piety and overt faith. Another conflicting belief is that Donald Trump is being used by God to return the nation to greatness under God, even though his actions during his life have been the antithesis of a moral man. How do you reconcile those two concepts? By going back into the Bible and dredging up examples of ungodly people who were used by God to advance God’s purposes on the earth. David is perhaps the best known example of a sinner who used his earthly power to manipulate his enemies to achieve his lustful goals, yet was blessed by God both before and after David’s deception of Uriah in order to claim Uriah’s widow, Bathsheba. Since God could even use a man as base as David for his purposes, then anything that Donald Trump had done, is doing, and will do in the future doesn’t matter, as long as Donald Trump’s actions further the kingdom of God on earth. There are a lot of personal sins that get overlooked, as long as the actions of this administration are seen as being hostile to the status quo that allows abortion.

A second way that people reconcile cognitive dissonance rattling around in their psyche is to develop new ideas, new cognitions, that help to displace the offending belief. Using our example of Donald Trump’s morality, someone who is bothered by Trump’s behavior will adopt a new belief that Donald Trump will appoint God-fearing, Constitutionalist judges who will bring this country back to core Biblical principles. Therefore, Donald Trump is good, and his moral failings and personality traits do not matter. The end more than justifies the means.

The final way in which people choose to deal with the troublesome conflict in their heads is to ignore the offending information. People will choose to ignore inconvenient facts, or refuse to accept them, or just surround themselves in an environment where they don’t encounter these data points (Fox News / Conservative Radio Talk Shows). This works especially well when the leader spends a great deal of emotional energy disputing the validity of any facts contrary to the desired script. In other words, its fake news, folks. It is obvious that this method of reducing internal conflict is the preferred method for many who are firmly ensconced in the Trump camp. This method works exceptionally well since it conditions the practitioner to discount any information that, if internalized, would cause cognitive dissonance. Avoid the problem by refusing to accept the validity of any contrary information. And this method has the added benefit of not only discounting the current flow of information, but also discounting any future flow of information from the same source. How many times during the past few years have you heard the disparaging term of lamestream media? Many are immune to those cries, but to those who are susceptible to the onslaught of right-wing propaganda, it serves to close the mind to any contraindication to their current beliefs.

This helps explain why those who steadfastly support Donald Trump are willing to overlook any sin or error of judgment that he has committed. Given clear factual refutation of Donald Trump’s statements, or being shown evidence of significant misdeeds in the past or in the present, supporters are able to rationalize all of the bad information away. It (bad behavior) either wasn’t important, or wasn’t relevant to the larger goals enabled through Trump, or (na-na-na-na-na-na) didn’t happen at all. Who can believe the MSM anyway? Donald Trump has recognized this phenomena. He stated it clearly and explicitly in his campaign. In a campaign appearance in Sioux City Iowa in January 2016, he said “You know what else they say about my people? The polls, they say I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? Where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay? It’s like incredible.”

So for those who are opposed to the ongoing diminution of the nation’s morality and intellectual capital, how can we proceed given the immutable nature of Trump’s supporters? First, it is necessary to recognize that those who support Trump may eventually be worn down if enough facts pile up that are contrary to the fantasy being peddled by the right-wing media agglomeration. Some cracks in the Fox news monolith are encouraging, in that it appears that even that organization is having difficulty in swallowing the repeated lies laid out at the all-you-can eat buffet of the Trump communications office. But the disease of discounting any contrary evidence is too tightly woven into the psyche of Trump supporters, thus necessitating another mode of communication. My recommendation is ridicule and satire. Only by presenting images of Trumpism as being so outlandish as to call forth the image of Hogwarts students pointing their wand at Trump and calling it “Riddikulus“, will those who are captured by Trump ever be able to break their addiction to a false savior.

This post was assisted by an excellent description of Cognitive Dissonance in the following link.      Barker, Phil. “Cognitive Dissonance.” Beyond Intractability. Eds. Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess. Conflict Information Consortium, University of Colorado, Boulder. Posted: September 2003 <http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/cognitive-dissonance>.

Tumbling Tumbleweeds

Tumbleweeds

Photo copyright of the Huffington Post

Up until about 100 years ago, human entertainment meant being in the physical presence of the person or people providing the entertainment. From the ancient days where stories of survival and of origins were shared around fires that kept wild animals at bay, to times where a bone was drilled and put to the lips to create a flute, to times when an animal skin was drawn taut across a surface and a drum was made, early humans had an extremely personal relationship to their entertainment. Over time, as villages grew into cities, and amphitheaters served as gathering places for crowds to be entertained by specialists, entertainment began to be distanced from the audience. Still, the urge to provide entertainment within the family was strong, and helped in ensuring that a common culture bound the inhabitants of a nation together.

With the advent of commercially available recorded music, it became possible for performances to be shared across space and time. No longer was it necessary to be physically in the theater to hear a master perform, you could play a piece of music in your home, and no one in your family needed to have the skills to actually make music. And since artists could leverage their talents across a commercial audience, they had financial incentive to make their recordings attractive.

Radio was the next intrusion in the brain / entertainment interface. Now it was possible to share an evanescent moment that came into a house over electromagnetic waves. Voices could share a symphony, or a popular tune, or a news bulletin, or a Presidential speech, to an audience undreamed of only a few years before. Humanity became used to hearing voices and other coherent noise coming out of boxed enclosures that ran on electricity. You could listen to something as you did something else – maybe a dance tune while you washed the dishes. It became possible to multi-task.

Television was the next intrusive medium. It replaced the one-sense media input of radio, and substituted the two-sense audio and visual input of television. Once it was possible to share a presentation across a nation, the need to provide your own entertainment diminished further. We turned to passive imbibing of the media and its entertainment, and the piano in the corner of the living room sat idle more often than not. No longer was there a common language of music, from folk songs shared across a nation, but the new medium allowed for the balkanization of culture. The images of heathen dancing, reminiscent of tribal pagan dances, were blasted through the TV screen into houses across the nation, and the messages of young lust resonated with the youth generation ascending after World War II.

Divisions fostered by the ease of media consumption drove cultural differences. In the 1960’s, rock music with its message of rebellion and freedom, drove popular culture into new directions. The older generation was able to still enjoy the ballads and big bands they were comfortable with. Look up “Sing Along With Mitch”  if you wish to watch the last remnants of the popular culture for the Greatest Generation before it was swept away. Finally, another strain of popular culture emerged, with roots back in Appalachian music, as country music found an audience that did not share the hedonistic beliefs embodied in rock and roll. While the Who cranked out “Won’t get fooled again” to demonstrate the desire of the rockers to reshape society, Merle Haggard repudiated this movement with “Okie From Muskogee.” Battle lines formed during the late 1960’s still play out today in politics.

After the explosion of media input from the 1950’s through 1970’s, the fragmentation of the culture continued, but at a slower pace. Musically, reggae and disco battled for prominence. It was not until the advent of rap and hip-hop that a new entry into the culture wars really took hold. Rap and hip-hop provided a cultural perspective from the viewpoint of the minorities who never felt comfortable sharing in the larger culture. Even though their parents and grandparents created jazz, and R&B, those offerings were co-opted over time. But the raw energy of rap artists, enunciating their discontent with society, managed to rub many of the mainstream culture inhabitants the wrong way. The urban nature of these new offerings was alien to the experiences and beliefs of fly-over country. Yet another division was created in the muddled cultural landscape of the nation.

Television did not stand idle during these decades, either. A new genre of TV shows were created, where unknown personalities were coached to go through situations and create drama and comedy. These shows were inexpensive to make, and surprisingly popular with the viewing public. Reality TV became a new category for the networks, and the cable television providers. Now, more than ever, it became possible to gain unprecedented fame simply by being famous. Content and substance no longer was even important to the consuming audiences. The increasing passivity of the audience kept growing over time.

Into this environment, the smart phone was released and the internet blossomed. The new tools and toys embedded in these devices exacerbated the balkanization of the culture. But one thing new did result from the smart phone era. Now, more than ever before, the consumers of culture could become producers of culture. The bar to entry of needing expensive electronic equipment along with an entire network to make images available, no longer existed. Anyone had a chance at creating a video, uploading it to You-Tube, and having the lightning of viral success strike.

The use of smart phones though, comes at a significant price. That price is concentration. Now for the first time in human history, it is possible to eschew the need to concentrate on anything in order to enjoy the fruits of the culture. Selfies posted on Instagram fulfill the need for self-aggrandizement. Myriads of games enable those who are addicted to pick up their phones for mindless play, rather than have to partake of the moment they are in, and maybe actually reflect and think. Twitter survives and thrives because we all have to kibitz in the moment, and insert our own limited link thought pattern into the public sphere. Those rooted in the past abhor the conduct of diplomacy via tweet, yet given the descent of the culture into shallowness, it was inevitable.

Those of us who bewail the decline of concentration have few options. Some find it beneficial to use the tool of the internet to create their own blog, where they can expose their souls through words (guilty as charged). Others may self-select to stay rooted in the “higher” culture of the past, whether that be classic books, or Broadway productions, or symphonic music, but the median age of those who partake of this keeps climbing. Soon, the audiences for these forms of cultural expression will fade away as they die off. Then all that will be left is the chaff of a culture, rooted so shallowly that the first storm will tear it out of the dirt and all we will be left with is torrents of Tumbling Tumbleweeds , piling up around the relics of our society.

Thermodynamics? Its Not Just For Breakfast Anymore

oil well

For millennia mankind relied upon energy sources that were diffuse. We burned wood, which grows in energy-concentrating organisms called trees. We could only gather the wood if it had fallen, or if we could use our stone-based tools to break wood apart. Some folks were fortunate in that their environment held a form of turf that would burn, one we call peat. And once we domesticated animals, we discovered that we could burn their feces, if we could stomach the smell. But that was it. We could not leverage our power by harnessing energy sources to supplant muscle power.

Over time, we mastered the manufacture of metals. This made it easier to harvest wood, and made it easier to use it for heating and cooking. But only after we recognized as a species that we could use energy to create steam, and then harness the steam to do work, only then did we gain the possibility to advance society through the use of machines. Since that time, we have worked diligently to use ever more concentrated sources of energy in order to do our bidding. Coal was the first concentrated source of energy used to leverage man’s muscles, and entire regions rich in coal soon were honeycombed with tunnels where coal had been extracted.

Coal has its own problems, though. It is dirty, dusty, and burning it causes a sulfur stink to cling to the landscape where it is used. It also bears a human toil in the death and disabilities of those who work to mine coal. Oil has long been used by man for lighting, but the sources of oil were either vegetable in nature, or for a short time, based on blubber. This type of oil is a concentrated source of energy, but it is gathered by diffuse energy sources. It was only when man discovered how to extract virgin pools of petroleum oil from below the surface of the earth that it became possible to create a liquid fuel that could propel individual transportation vehicles. Once the miracles of fuel oil and gasoline were unleashed, the automobile age was enabled.

Concentrated sources of energy were viewed as inexhaustible in the earth, and man grew to believe it was his birthright to exploit these sources in perpetuity. Indeed, man even harnessed the second most concentrated source of energy known, that of atomic fission, and controlled it to convert mass into electricity. That source of energy creates its own problems, with long-lived radioactive waste, and with the narrow line separating safe operation from catastrophe. Still, the energy future for man looked bright.

But after centuries of exploiting concentrated energy sources, the problems resulting from their use have grown exponentially. In Appalachia, we no longer delve under the ground for rich veins of organic rock. The best veins are gone. Instead, we blow the top off of mountainsides in order to free up the 2′ and 3′ veins of coal that were left in bygone geological times. Excess dirt and rock is pushed over the sides of the former mountain, leaving behind a scar on the land where ground cover is grown to regenerate the soil that is long gone.

Standard oil wells have gone dry in many regions. The decline in oil production in the US, coupled with the expanding use of oil, led to over dependence upon foreign oil sources, particularly from the Arabian Gulf. In the 1970’s, this dependence led to the use of oil as a political weapon, as the Arab countries withheld oil from the US to protest Israel’s seizure of Arab lands after a failed Arab war on Israel. It was only with the advent of enhanced oil recovery through fracking that the long decline in US oil production was reversed.

But even with the impressive increase in oil and natural gas generated through fracking, there are other issues that need to be dealt with. This does not concern fracking wastes or earthquakes from waste fluid injection. No, it has to do with the depletion rates of wells drilled using fracking. Whereas a conventional petroleum reservoir has a depletion rate measured over decades, with fracking wells, the rate of production from a fracking well may decrease by over 50% in the first year. The depletion rate of a fracking well shows an exponential decrease in production, and the economic lifetime of a well may be less than 10 years. Thus it is necessary to keep drilling, inserting pipe into the ground, and dealing with all of the fluid handling for any oil or gas fracking well.

The net result is that it takes more and more energy to extract fossil fuels through fracking than the old method of production. Fewer and fewer BTU’s of useful energy is available from the well once all of the energy inputs of the well are subtracted. Subtract the energy used to make the steel pipe, the energy used to move all of the fluids and sand for fracking, the energy used to separate the fossil fuel from the comingled water, and the energy costs for pipelines and compressor stations for natural gas. One begins to come up against thermodynamic limits for obtaining useful energy out of fossil fuel extraction. For a link that you may find useful in pursuing this further, please check out http://peakoil.com/geology This website has many different perspectives on oil – either we are swimming in it, or the last big discoveries have already been made.

Note that this discussion has not mentioned carbon dioxide’s role as a greenhouse gas. Any solution to humanity’s energy issues needs to take greenhouse gases into account, but the underlying demise of the oil economy may happen despite all of the efforts to keep the oil flowing. No, what is needed is that we must realize that we need to go back to the older methods of harvesting diffuse energy sources. And all of the diffuse energy sources we have are tied to the sun. Whether it is solar electricity, or wind power, or biomaterials generating hydrocarbon liquids, all of them use the sun as the ultimate energy source. If we are to avoid a crisis over the next decade due to depletion of fossil fuel sources, we must commit to harvesting diffuse sources of solar energy to keep our society running.

Much of the blowback against global warming refers to the “globalists” imposing their control agenda upon the brave and valiant people who fly the fossil fuel flag. They are insistent that it is their right to live as their (most recent) forefathers lived, and keep buying the biggest SUV or pickup that they may ever need to have, simply because oil is cheap, and will always stay that way. Those people will be the first to be blindsided when oil prices keep climbing inexorably, year after year, and they will not understand that even though more oil is being harvested, only a small fraction of that oil is truly available to keep their profligate lifestyle afloat. If we truly do enter a world where it takes more energy to extract a barrel of oil than that oil will release during combustion, then the end for our life of ease will come, and we will retreat back into the life of the past, where all of our energy was consumed just in order to survive.

Inevitable?

Tantrum

In retrospect, it was inevitable. The very first time he encountered limits imposed upon him by systems he could not control, he regressed into the infantile emotional state that always existed just below the surface. For someone who never had to answer to others until he was hired to be President, he was woefully unprepared emotionally to face opposition and rejection. Thus now we have the spectacle of Donald Trump, arms crossed tightly around his torso while he expectorated his disgust about the actions of the US attorney’s office of the Southern District of New York.

He’s never had limits. As a child, he was fractious enough that his wealthy father enrolled him in military school to teach him discipline. While there, he began to exhibit his predilection for delegating responsibility while enjoying the privileges of rank. As documented in a story from the Washington Post in January 2016 , a dispute about whether a change in Cadet Trump’s assignment as a senior represented either a promotion, or a lateral move due to a failure in Trump’s ability to control his command, still drew a vitriolic response from Donald Trump decades later. Supposedly Donald was reassigned from a direct command role in his academy to a support staff role because he had overly delegated his authority, resulting in hazing of a younger cadet, who complained. As the reporter for the Post requested comments for the story in 2015, Donald Trump vehemently denied that his reassignment was due to a fault of his own, and he insisted on contacting his then 89 year old instructor from military school and asked him to refute what the Post reporter had discovered. When I saw that story and realized that here was a man running for the office of President, yet so incredibly insecure that he had to refute a story from military school days over 50 years ago, making multiple calls to the Washington Post to refute these allegations, I realized the boy was still firmly in control of the man.

Look at the business career he so proudly wears around his ego. Rules obviously were meant for others, not him. In the 1970’s, the real estate management company he shared with his father was sued by the US Justice Department (see, he’s had reason to not like Justice for a long time) for racial discrimination. His response to the complaints, made years later, was that they didn’t rent to any welfare cases, black or white. He didn’t like the new rules imposed from without, and thus did not deign to follow them.

He never had to answer to anyone else other than lenders during his family company’s existence. He touts his business acumen, but since his companies are private, not public, he never had to answer to shareholders, or a board of directors, or the SEC. No, he was able to shield the public’s eye from the internal financials of the Trump empire, except for those six times when he was forced to restructure debt from his real estate dealings through bankruptcy court. Of course, looking back, it does look rather foolish to have purchased two casinos in the limited gaming market of Atlantic City, then building the Trump Taj Mahal in the same market. Since Donald has never demonstrated an ability to think strategically, who could have foreseen that his new trophy to his ego would cannibalize revenues from his other two Atlantic City casinos? And who could have foreseen the growth in gambling facilitated by states throughout the nation, thus dooming Atlantic City properties to gambling irrelevance? Actually, just about any developer who had an ounce of common sense would have realized that doubling down on Atlantic City was going to generate only fool’s gold. But somehow, even with these failures, the Trump brand grew in status.

Donald hit his stride when he realized the value of his name exceeded his own ability as a developer. By using his brand name, he could leverage his influence by allowing him to manage properties without running the risk of financing these properties. Then came the breakthrough that solidified his status in the eyes of a gullible nation. “You’re Fired” evoked the image of a forceful leader who dispensed his wisdom in boardroom settings without his ever having to get his hands dirty. He had it made! He had the highest rated show in TV history! Women kept fawning over him – and all he had to do was begin to kiss them, he couldn’t help himself. Everywhere he looked, people were deferential to him, people worshiped him, people surrounded him to bask in his charisma.

Except, sadly, it was not enough. It was not enough that only those who watched his TV show paid him the homage he was due, he wanted his wisdom and wit to grace everyone in the nation. Nay, everyone in the world must recognize this super genius who could solve the world’s problems by himself, if only he could grasp the reins of power. The new tools of social media allowed a way for his brilliant thoughts to flow directly to his followers. He used Twitter since 2011 to expound his fantasy that President Obama was not born in the US, keeping himself in the public spotlight. And then, the fateful escalator ride in 2015 where he announced that he was inflicting himself on all of this nation, he made his Presidential announcement. He was grasping for the brass ring that would fulfill him. Life was good.

Be careful what you wish for. You just may get it. So it was with Donald Trump. Despite all odds, his spoken thoughts resonated with a nation that was desperate for a reversal of economic trends that had been in place almost all of Donald Trump’s adult life. There were enough people who believed in the man despite (and in many cases, because of) his bluster and take no prisoners style during the campaign, to elect this man to the office he sought. And now, for the first time, Donald Trump discovered limits imposed upon himself.

He swiftly learned that the Justice Department worked for the nation and under the Constitution, and didn’t serve as the President’s legal arm. Recusal by Jeff Sessions against any investigation of malfeasance in the campaign was taken as a personal slight, that to this day has not been forgiven. concept of an independent judiciary chafed at him, as legal challenges to his travel bans prevented his signature policy goal from taking effect. Then Congress pushed back, and the vagaries of party politics prevented passage of the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act.

And then, horror of horrors, an independent counsel was appointed. Someone outside of the control of Donald Trump, whose charter was to pursue illegal activities through the campaign, and even before the campaign should these activities be found relevant. Soon, targets of the investigation began to be charged, yet still Donald Trump kept chanting his “No Collusion” mantra. But pressure kept mounting as more and more of his colleagues and appointees either were drawn into legal jeopardy, or demonstrated administrative incompetence through petty purloining of public funds.

Now, this week, with raids by the FBI on Michael Cohen’s residence and office, the next to the last line of defense for this President has been breached. All the sins of the past are about to surface, and the truth will be revealed to the American public. Only, will the American public believe truth once they see it? Has the relentless campaign by Donald Trump to diminish and demean the press and the institutions of the Justice Department succeeded sufficiently where even if clear evidence of misdeeds is revealed, not enough of the base of this man will care? And this Congress, while it still resides in Republican control, will it exonerate Donald Trump before his high crimes and misdemeanors are given a full and just hearing before the eyes and ears of the nation? I hope not, but in this post-truth environment, I fear the worst.

Whatever Happened To The Door-to-Door Refrigerator Magnet Man?

Magnet 1

He called on us in our old house, back around 1991. A slight, stooped man, with hollow cheeks and limited teeth, bringing his wares. He peddled little refrigerator magnets, made out of popsicle sticks, colored felt cut into seasonal shapes, and accented with sequins. He spoke up apologetically, deferentially. “I’m selling these magnets. My daughter is disabled, she makes these, and I go around and sell them. Could you help us out?”

His plain clothes were well-worn, but clean. It was impossible to tell his age, but he looked well over 70. Around here in West Virginia though, people sometimes age at an accelerated rate, so I never knew his age the first time he came around. I bought one of his magnets, a bright yellow felt Christmas tree, and paid him a few dollars that I had in my wallet. He said “Thank-you” and left.

A couple years later, we had moved from Charleston to South Charleston. The same man appeared at our door one day, with his stock of felt magnets. This time, it was a rabbit since it was spring, and Easter was around the corner. The same story about his daughter, and saying how he didn’t want to ask for help, but if we wanted one of his magnets, he’d love us to have one. Again, we bought one for our refrigerator.

Now, these magnets barely had enough strength to hold themselves up, let alone hold any other papers. But the sincerity of this man shone through as he walked the hilly streets of Charleston and South Charleston. Though it was less than two miles as the crow flies between our old and new house, it was several miles further that this man walked, selling his wares and trying to make enough money to support him and his disabled daughter.

This man showed up several more times over the years. Sometimes it was in the heat of summer, and we invited him in and gave him some cool water, as well as buying another magnet. Sometimes, we may have even given him a few dollars without taking one of his magnets, telling him that we already had several. I don’t know how many times he showed up over the years, or how many magnets we bought from him. We still have three of his daughter’s creations gracing our two refrigerators. But just by seeing his face at our door, after months or years of absence, he bore witness to the strength of family, putting himself out on his strenuous walks just to try to make a few dollars.

magnet 2

 

You always notice the presence of something. You notice when a storm comes, or when the sun breaks through the clouds and brings it’s life-giving warmth. You notice the normal traffic on the streets and roads that you drive. What is difficult is to notice the absence of something. In the case of the magnet man, it was probably several years of absence before we brought it up that we hadn’t seen the man for a while. Now, looking back, it has probably been at least 10 years since we last saw the wizened face, with his handful of colorful magnets gracing his gnarled hands. We never saw any mention of him in any local news, although he certainly was known to many of the residents of the Charleston area. No obituary of him caught my attention, although I wasn’t paying as much attention to obituaries 10 years ago as I do now. It will always be one of those mysteries of life that, should we have an afterlife with the ability to form questions and receive answers, one of those questions would be what ever happened to the man who sold us magnets?

 

A Day In The Life Of The King

game-of-thrones-1722710__340 For those who are fans of the Game of Thrones, my condolences on presenting this work. You will need to be familiar with that series to capture the flavor of this post.

The King sat up in bed. Once more, he could see the opponents to his rule taken down by his favorite soothsayers from Weasel. They just demolished the arguments of his opponents in the court by simply saying that his opponents were namby-pamby wusses! Serves them right.

The King decided that he’d had enough time in his royal bed and went instead to his throne room. There he brought out his royal proclamation device and sent his wisdom out to his masses of adoring fans. He thought for a brief moment, “What should I say today?” Then he bent over on his throne as he strained to remove yesterday’s cheeseburgers, and it became clear to him. He proclaimed, “Best movement ever. Economy is reely going now. Only the lame-o’s who are haters can’t see it. SAD!” He dispatched this brilliant thought bubble out to the world, and prepared for his very active day of kinging.

The Queen was off again in the winter castle. She seemed to be staying down there, where the oranges were fresh, more often than not. Maybe it was all of the other noble ladies who kept harping on the King’s indiscretions that were driving the Queen away. Whatever. It did make the King’s daily life easier if he did not need to pretend to care about Queen number 3. The King idly thought about someone who preceded him as a King. Something about six wives. “At least they can’t accuse me of locking her up”, he thought as he saw the photo of the current Queen on the wall.

The King sat down to his breakfast. He was careful to make certain he got fruit with his meal. The apple Danish should suffice, he thought. Washing the pastry down with his first diet Coke of the day, he got dressed in his royal robes. He paid especial attention to his cravat, as it bore his blood red color. Making certain it extended down below his waist, he ensured it created a commanding presence. His servant held out his royal jacket, which he slid his arms through the sleeves, letting it rest loosely upon his fantastic frame. Thus armed, he strode down towards his round room, arriving just after 10.

Scarcely had he sat down when he was consumed by a desire to use the electronic raven. He picked up the voice piece and instructed his servant to contact his counterpart in the Kingdom of the Snows. When the connection was made, he spoke into the voice piece. “Vlad? I just had to let you know, it was not personal when I threw out your jousting party.” He listened for a brief period of time. “Yes, I know they had been looking forward to our tournament later this year.” Vlad apparently was making quite a point in reply, and the King pulled the voice piece away from his ear and his face assumed a grimace, before he returned the voice piece towards his mouth and ear. “I know, Vlad. You know how it is when you have to appease the court, right? If it was up to me, I’d start lopping off some heads, but my advisors have told me some bad things might happen if I did that.” Once more, he waited while Vlad continued with his side of the  discussion. Finally, the King said “I’m glad you understand. You and I, we understand each other. That’s good. I wish I could convince my advisors that it would be better if we just got along”. He hung up the phone, then sat back in his throne chair, leaning back and flexing his fingers against each other while he assumed a pleased expression.

After a brief period of reflection, he flicked on the sound box to summon his assistant. “Send in my jester.” It took a while for the jester to appear, so the King used the time wisely to practice his ball stroke, trying to coax the white ball into the hole on his green carpet he had placed atop the tapestry of power that lay on the floor of the rounded room. He heard his assistant open the door, and say “Sire, Jeff the Jester is here.”

“Good, send him in.” The King laid down his stick and went back to this throne chair behind the desk. Jeff the Jester came in, dressed not in motley but in a subtle blue suit. Only his projecting ears and small stature evinced his true nature as a member of the King’s assemblage. “Jeff, share with me something that will give me mirth,” the King commanded.

Jeff smiled as he cantered up to the desk. “Sire, we just stuck it to California. We told that libtard mayor of Oakland she was an embarrassment to the nation as she warned the alien wildings of the upcoming raids.” Jeff did a quick twirl of joy, then followed with “But what was best, I fired McCabe. I fired McCabe just two days before he was set to become a mooch off of the taxpayers by qualifying for a pension. Sire, I just wish I was around to see his face when he realized that his plans for a comfy life were in vain. I just wish.”

The King broke out into a broad rictus smile. “Jeff, I knew there was a reason why I kept you around. You really made me smile.” The King summoned his assistant. “Fetch me another diet Coke, and bring one for our Jester as well.” The King turned to Jeff. “So what will you be working on next?”

Jeff picked up the balls that were in the cup on the floor and began to attempt to juggle. Since he was an incompetent juggler, they soon were scattered all over the room. He looked back at the King. “I’m trying to come up with a way to silence the imp,” he said.

Just at the mention of the imp, the King’s expression totally changed. “Out. Out I say,” and he stood up, pointing at the door. “If you hadn’t said you had no power over the investigation, we never would have had that imp appointed. I should take you out and flay you.”

Jeff the Jester cowered as he backed away towards the door. When he reached the door, he bolted through it, knocking over the servant who bore two cans of diet Coke on a silver platter. The brown nectar fell and soaked the carpets. The King’s rage extended to his servant. “Up. Up you clumsy oaf. Go get something and clean up the mess you made.”

The King strode out of the room and went down the hall to consult with his hand. “Jared, where do we stand on getting the Palestinians to agree to peace?”

The King’s hand stood as the King entered his office. The King had begun bellowing his request while he was still in the hallway, so Jared was not certain he had heard the whole question. Through long experience, though, he knew better than to ask for clarification. Asking for more information was a sign of weakness, and would bring the wrath of the King down even on him. So he gave a non-committal response. “The Palestinians are not talking to us now. But I expect things to be better soon.”

“Hmmph” was all the King said, as he strode out of the room and went back to his round room. Once there, he summoned his assistant. “Go get me that guy with the name like a king, deals with diplomats. I need him.”

The assistant quaked while he dared to deny the King’s request. “Sire, you fired Rex a couple of weeks ago. The Senate has not confirmed his replacement. Do you wish to talk to the deputy?”

The King looked up, with a perplexed look on his face. Then, “Oh, that’s right. I forgot. Ok, then, fetch me my hound. And bring me another diet Coke.”

The assistant said, “Do you mean the Mad Dog?”

“Yeah. Have him come here. I’ve a question for him.” Since it would be a while before the Minister of War made it to the office, he decided to watch his mouthpiece speak for him on Weasel. He’d had several mouthpieces since he became King. Seems like none of them could deal with the questioning throng like he wanted. But this woman, she seemed like she was better than most. The King wondered what this woman would look like in armor, since she had a frame that looked suited better to plate than to Dior. But he soon grew bored listening to the questions that kept coming, even though his mouthpiece parried each thrust away.

The Minister of War arrived in the office. He carried a folder full of illustrations should any of them be needed in order to make the King understand. The King was gracious. “Sit, sit down. How’s the wife?”

The Minister spoke, “She’s do…”

“Good, good,” the King interrupted. “Look, the reason why I called you here was that I keep hearing about these dragons that this King of Poverty has developed. I hear tell that these dragons can even reach our shores. Is that true?”

“Sire, we believe that it is possible that a dragon unleashed from their kingdom could reach our shores. They have hatched several dragons over the years.” The Minister opened his folder to show a map with dragon tracks flying across the open waters. “We’ve analyzed the potential, and here we show…..”

The King interrupted again. “I don’t care about any analyses. I use my gut to analyze. We can’t have this King of Poverty threatening us with his dragons. Why can’t we use our own dragons to neutralize him?”

The Minister was taken aback. “Sire, we would not want to unleash our own dragons, even upon our worst foes. Do you know what sort of damage a dragon would cause?”

The King snorted. “Why do we keep on breeding them if we never unleash them. I want a proposal in two days about how best to unleash our dragons on the Land of Poverty.” He waved his hand, indicating that the audience was through. The Minister of War backed out of the room, and turned to go away through the door.

The King sat back in his throne chair, and drummed his fingers atop the desk. He glanced at his watch, saw that it was already after 4 o’clock. “Not much point in getting into anything else” he thought. He summoned his assistant and said, “I’m going back up to the royal chambers for some sovereign time. Have me paged if there is a matter of great import.”

Once up in his royal chamber, he summoned his meal. Two cheeseburgers today, with fries. And two scoops of ice cream for dessert. He donned his royal bathrobe and awaited his sumptuous repast. He turned on Weasel, but they were blabbering on about some weather emergency that didn’t mention him by name, so he grew bored. He switched to another channel which was showing a story about another kingdom, one where they kept out the alien wildings by means of a 700′ wall of ice. He was tempted to use his royal proclamation device to extol the benefits of building the wall out of ice, out there in the desert. Oh, heck, why not. “Build the wall! Use ice to keep the evil alien wildings out! And it’ll create free air conditioning for the border! SMART!” His last royal proclamation went out just as he finished the last of his ice cream.

The King went to sleep fully content. He’d had many strokes of luck that day: He hadn’t been sued by one of his now forgotten flings; he hadn’t needed to face the scribes; he’d had an extra scoop of ice cream at dinner … He’d thought of a new way to build the wall and enjoyed doing it… A day without a dark cloud. Almost a happy one. There were one thousand four hundred and sixty-one days like this in his term. From the first swearing in to the last turnover to his successor. One thousand four hundred and sixty-one days. The extra day was for the next leap year.

Chemicals I Have Known (and Made) – Hydrogen Cyanide

hcn

As I look back on my career in industry, I realize that I became inured to the chemicals I dealt with and produced. I will be posting occasionally on some of the materials I worked with and made during the first part of my career. The first chemical I worked with was hydrocyanic acid – a simple molecule consisting of a hydrogen atom, a carbon atom, and a nitrogen atom (HCN). This molecule is so simple that there are molecular clouds in space where HCN is found, released from stars that have synthesized carbon and nitrogen in their core. But HCN has a well-known reputation as a poison, one that prevents oxygenated blood from being able to deliver their life-giving load to cells. Once oxygen transport ceases, energy production in a cell stops, and the cell and the organism that contains the cell dies.

 

So at the chemical plant I worked at, one of the requirements to work in the cyanide area was to ensure that I could detect cyanide leaks so I would not wander into an area with a fatal concentration. This was done by means of a sniff test. Three beakers of water were set on a tray. Two were plain water, and the third had a concentration of cyanide in it that resulted in small amounts of cyanide vapor in the air above the beaker. To pass the test, you had to tell which beaker held the cyanide. The first time I took the test, I was guessing somewhat. None of this “bitter almonds” smell, just something that was a little off. By the last time I took the test, almost 10 years later, I picked up the beaker with the cyanide and before it made it halfway to my nose, I put it back down on the tray and said “That’s the one.” What was originally too faint for me to be certain had become so overwhelmingly repugnant over the course of a decade that it gagged me.

 

Cyanide. What’s it good for? Hydrogen cyanide is used in quite a few chemical processes as a feed stock. One of the chemical processes is used to make another chemical called methyl methacrylate (MMA), used in acrylic paints and in plastics like Plexiglass. My chemical plant made MMA as well, but that’s a story for another day. The other main use of cyanide was to make sodium cyanide, which is used in the mining of precious metals. Sodium cyanide solutions are able to leach small concentrations of gold, silver, and other precious metals out of ore, allowing it to be concentrated and extracted into product. Our plant produced sodium cyanide as well as HCN. Some HCN is shipped to other locations for use. When it was shipped, the tank cars that contained it were painted in a distinctive manner. They had red stripes on them – one that circled the car lengthwise, and one that circled the circumference of the car, forming a cross on both sides of the car where the stripes collided. These cars were called candy stripers in the trade.

 

Hydrogen cyanide is produced when ammonia, natural gas, and air are heated and passed over a platinum – rhodium gauze mesh. The off-gases are then absorbed, and the cyanide produced is concentrated and purified. At our plant, HCN was stored in tanks surrounded by dikes. One of our safety features was flare guns mounted on posts throughout the tank farm. If the worst happened, and liquid cyanide were to leak out onto the surface of the dike, folks were instructed to fire a flare gun and set the liquid on fire. HCN is volatile (78ºF boiling point), but the vapor will not explode. Instead, it will undergo a deflagration where the combustion wave front is slower than the speed of sound. Other gases like methane will explode, where the combustion wave front is faster than the speed of sound, which causes the pressure wave that creates damage in an explosion. So for HCN, it is much better to let it burn and eliminate the toxic vapors evaporating from the liquid surface.

 

One day in 1979, I was out at the plant on a Saturday. I remember that Dr. Jenks was there on that day as well, and he invited me into his office. Dr. Jenks was one of those older generation chemists who knew everything about the chemistry and processes. He had a wooden box in his office, about 18″ on the narrow sides, and about 10′ long. In that box was the replacement platinum/ rhodium gauze for the catalyst change. At that time, when precious metal prices were at a 30 year high, his office held about 2 million dollars in platinum and rhodium. I was impressed.

 

My main job in manufacturing support was in the waste treatment process. As you can imagine, the waste water from these cyanide processes needed special treatment and segregation from other waste water. The “state of the art” water collection system consisted of cypress lined trenches, with cypress boards covering the top. This ran downhill to the bottom of the plant, where we had the Trade Waste water treatment facility. Waste water came into a collection point, where sodium hydroxide was added to make sure that the water was basic. If cyanide ions were in an acidic solution, cyanide vapor would be released above the solution, and that is not a good thing. So once the pH was adjusted to make the waste basic, then it would be mixed with liquid chlorine. Our plant produced sodium metal and liquid chlorine, so we had only to send the chlorine down a pipe to the water treatment plant, and mix it in with the waste water. When the chlorine hit the basic water, it produced chlorine bleach solution (sodium hypochlorite). Bleach attacks the cyanide and converts it to a non-toxic degradation product. To ensure that the reaction took place, after treatment the water was diverted into what were called 8-hour ponds. These ponds were on either side of the treatment building, and were unlined ponds where the water was held until the reaction was complete. Then the water was released into a baffled chamber called the one hour pond where it was analyzed to make sure that all of the cyanide was destroyed, and after the last test, the water was combined with the other sewer waste and went into the City of Memphis sewage treatment system. Unfortunately at the time, our interceptor sewer did not hook up to the sewage treatment system, and the water along with all of the domestic wastewater was discharged directly into the Mississippi River. Environmental protection has definitely improved in the 40 years since I was working in this process.

 

I would imagine that the staffing situation for the Trade Waste process has also improved. Back when I worked at the plant, there was a single operator who was stationed at the treatment plant. This individual sat in a central control room, and on either side of the control room were the chlorine injectors with the liquid chlorine flowing through them. Now, I don’t know about you, but I would be hesitant to work by myself, with cyanide-laden waters and liquid chlorine surrounding my office, but back in the late ’70’s, I didn’t think as much about the implications of what could go wrong. The plant had a safety procedure where the person working in a remote location had to check in with the main control room at least once per hour. Believe me, at that time, so much could have gone wrong in an hour’s time that the operator could have been dead for 59 minutes. But it never did at that facility during at least the first 30+ years of operation. Looking now at the facility on Google earth, it is obvious that they have made significant changes and improved the safety of the treatment operation. But some of the facilities look similar to what I worked with 40 years ago.

 

There’s much more I could go into. Cyanide has some amazing chemistry, and the waste treatment is almost an art unto itself. I did some large-scale testing there where we added a hydrogen peroxide waste stream that was what I considered to be fun chemistry. But it was definitely a good process to work on for my first real production support for making a nasty chemical.

Still Crazy, After All These Months

Trump's world

Fourteen months ago, the Trump administration took office. The American electorate selected a novice politician as their executive leader. This leader extolled his business acumen, his management skills, his abilities to only hire “the best people”. The voters of this nation, having grown used to the presence of this actor from his television reality show, ignored the baggage that he brought to this office. Baggage of multiple business bankruptcies. Baggage of two failed marriages, and the baggage of a reputation for womanizing. Baggage of a history of making money through the expedient act of not paying local craftsmen for their honest work. Baggage of sponsoring a bogus real estate course offering expectations of great insights from the master developer, only to instead offer bait and switch courses where for a few thousand dollars more, course participants could get the next level of knowledge. Baggage of over 3,500 lawsuits filed against Donald Trump and his affiliated companies over the course of his career. Baggage of egregious racist attitudes exemplified by his crusades against the falsely convicted Central Park 5 defendants and his outrageous birther claims against President Obama. Still. He was elected as President of the United States despite this pitiful record.

So why is it now, fourteen months later, do I have the feeling that I’m revisiting a 1930’s movie with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, only instead of “Hey, let’s put on a show!”, I believe that the rank amateurs in this administration decided, “Hey, let’s put on a Federal Government !” I can see the facades of the scenery being constructed for the big musical numbers, err, the big cabinet meetings that is, with the cheesy dialogue coming from the cabinet members pouring out laud and honor upon he who must not be criticized. Why is it that this supposed genius at personnel management managed to hire people better suited for roles as parking valets than as government managers?

I hear his supporters keep claiming that he’s accomplished so much, and all of the media and coastal elites just keep harping on the same old things, can’t get over the fact that Hillary lost, just shut up and take it. OK. Fine. Hillary lost. Apparently enough voters from enough states wallowing in the echo chamber of social media (soaking in a Russian dressing marinade) selected this candidate to enable him to succeed in the electoral college. I’ve seen all of the graphics showing that Trump won the overwhelming amount of land area and the county count. Guess what? This nation has turned into an urban nation, and it is in the urban centers that the repudiation of Donald Trump was at its strongest. Only the Electoral College was in favor of Donald Trump.

As far as Donald Trump’s incessant claims that his administration has accomplished the most of any first term President in his first year, I realize once more that he lives in the delusional world of his own making. I count his successes in his first year at exactly two – first, the nomination of Neil Gorsuch and his confirmation by the Senate, second, the extremely tortuous path to an upper class and corporate tax cut foisted upon the American public late in 2017. What are some of his failures in his first year as he played his role as President?

  1. Repeal and Replace. Easiest thing in the world (who knew that health care was so hard!).
  2. Witch hunt! Seems to me that the witch hunt is getting closer and closer to unraveling the webs of deceit and deception surrounding the unnatural ties between Trump and Russian influence and money. We shall see what we shall see.
  3. Infrastructure week 1. Infrastructure week 2. In what should have been the easiest sell in the history of Presidential politics, can anyone enunciate what infrastructure policy Trump is advocating and how that is going to restore the nation to greatness?
  4. Let’s all sing like the birdies sing. Tweet, tweet tweet, tweet tweet. Enough said.
  5. I only hire the best people. Yeah, the best people who manage to trip all over themselves in justifying exorbitant plane fares (in first class I don’t get yelled at by the people affected by my policies), the people who can’t figure out how to comply with instructions on how to fill out forms for security clearances, people who beat their spouses and can’t get security clearances but still remain on the job until their actions get unwanted press. I can keep on going as long as you have patience to read examples of incompetence, but still I think the Mooch has the unbeatable record of being fired before he actually took over a position within this administration. I don’t know how you can ever top this as a signal accomplishment of this totally incompetent President.
  6. There’s good people on both sides. Ah yes, the moral equivalence proposition that neo-Nazis who paraded down the streets of Charlottesville in their khakis and polos carrying their tiki torches and chanting anti-Semitic slogans were just as good as those who marched to protest the neo-Nazis. And yes, I am aware that there were antifa provocateurs who provoked attacks from the neo’s. But they didn’t drive cars through crowds of protestors, mowing down victims mindlessly.
  7. Diplomats? We don’t need no steenkin’ diplomats. While there is optimism that the Korean peninsula is not going to become a giant ball of nuclear flame, the American people (and the rest of the world) greatly prefer the use of diplomacy with an adequately staffed State Department to the vagaries of an adult with ADHD who decides on the spur of the moment to accept a summit invitation. What does it say when the leader of North Korea exhibits more maturity than the President of the United States? Welcome to our world.

I know that none of these arguments are going to sway those who are true believers in the complete imbecile now occupying the office of the President. I also know that the true believer who occupies the office of the Vice President is perhaps more dangerous, since he is an ideologue, and has demonstrated competence at government administration. The Vice President’s ideology is putrid, and his pronouncements would have the institution of a theocracy as one of his highest priorities. For all of Donald Trump’s failings, theocratic leanings are not one of them. Donald Trump has played the Christian card for all of the benefits he could get, being himself a card-carrying hypocrite. So there is danger in forcing the removal of this President, should the opportunity present itself. No, what I am doing is using whatever power I have in my words to keep shouting to the world how Donald Trump’s incompetence and narcissism is placing the security of the world at risk. And once more emphasizing to the American public that it is not a good idea to elect charlatans to the highest office in our land. Not that they care. Last time I checked, the Kardashian’s are still trending on social media. And of course, that is our highest priority, right?