Hot Air: Not So Fast

Keeping Up Appearances

First, my post about Mayor Hamilton’s bash this past weekend, decrying his use of a city-owned stage/reviewing stand plastered with Bloomington logos, elicited plenty of reaction. I’d say the response was fairly evenly split between people who think I was picking nits and those who feel the mayor would have been better off covering up city logos while he paraded his party’s candidates before attendees of his fifth annual Hamilton Family & Friends Picnic.

The candidates and the logo.

Geoff McKim provided us with a link to the City of Bloomington’s Event Permits & Mobile Stage Rental page. Anybody, apparently, can apply for and, within reason, expect to be able to use the mobile stage for an event.

So Hamilton wasn’t breaking any laws (not that I implied that) or committing any sin, mortal or venial. Bloomington’s chapter of Black Lives Matter can apply for and probably get to use the mobile stage and if someone gets around to photographing the group’s event, there’ll be the city’s logo, clear as can be. Said photo could then be taken to imply that the city endorsed whatever the event was. I suppose the KKK could also apply to use the mobile stage as well and, if they got it, wouldn’t that be a black eye for the city.

Simple solution: erase the city’s logo from the stage so that, in the future, anybody can use it and no one can be confused as to the city’s intentions. When the city wants to use the mobile stage for official events, simply attach to it banners emblazoned with the city logo.

So, was my post a nitpick? Perhaps. But optics is everything. Call my original post an optic-pick.

Ya Gotta Have Friends

You know what’s most remarkable about the Trump presidency? It’s the fact that any number of reprobates, bootlickers, lick-spittlers, numbskulls, fellow greed monkeys, villains, ogres, and general ne’er-do-wells have become something akin to heroic after leaving the employ of the man who fancies himself the Boss of America.

Anthony Scaramucci, for instance, prior to becoming — then un-becoming — Trump’s White House Director of Communications (read: squealer, as in Animal Farm) was as respectable as Chinatown‘s Noah Cross. Nicknamed, appropriately, The Mooch, he represents pretty much all that is distasteful and even downright dangerous about the Goldman Sachs outfit that, in league with several other syndicates, runs this holy land. Yet, when he was given the axe by the erstwhile lead character of “The Apprentice,” Scaramucci turned on his former capo with a vengeance, characterizing Trump as “horrific” and “despicable,” as if the poor naive lamb had no idea who the Stable Genius really was before taking a job under him. Nevertheless, Scaramucci suddenly became our pal once his Trump-disses aired over the last few weeks.

Then there were the likes of fixer Michael Cohen, inexplicable celebrity and token dark-skinned person Omarosa, and erstwhile segregationist Jeff Sessions, among others, who lambasted their ex-kingfish to one degree or another, either in books or during interviews with TV personalities. As each of them shredded Trump, our hearts became at least a little bit warmer toward them. After all, enemy of my enemy is my friend.

The latest fiend to become our friend is John Bolton, he of the itchy trigger finger. Bolton either quit or was fired yesterday because he basically wanted the president to, y’know, act like a president. Now he’s going public to characterize Li’l Duce as a liar and an impulsive lout, as if neither he nor we knew those things two days ago. Still, because Bolton’s bad-mouthing Trump, he’s becoming…, well, one of us.

Truth is, though, he isn’t one of us. Never was. Never will be. But as long as he’s teed off at President Gag, we’re coming thisclose to embracing him, even if we have take decontamination showers after doing so.

Not us, them.

With friends like these….

Is It Or Isn’t It?

The internet recently went a tad gaga over the breaking news that a couple of amateur researchers — just kids, really — have discovered a bacterium strain that can eat plastic and turn it into water. This is breathtaking news because our addiction to plastics has turned many of our planet’s open waters into so many dumps for the stuff. Turtles and birds and fish are being strangled by gazillions of six-pack rings that’ve found their way into the open sea. Huge islands of polymer are growing here and there. I read one story that said there’ll be more plastic in our oceans than fish by the year 2050, although the piece did not provide a link to any such research.

Which is a problem. I mean, in addition to plastic putting a chokehold on countless critters and fouling the blue expanses across the hemispheres. Like that prediction, much of the news we get about the environment is, quite frankly, full of shit.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not going all Trump on you (were that to happen, I implore someone out there to put me out of my — and the world’s — misery). Global warming and climate weirding are twin ills that promise to eff up the greater environment as well as human civilization over the next few decades unless some kind of miracle should occur. And the news that a couple of students just out of their teens have found a plastic-eating bacterium is indeed miraculous.

And, alas, probably not a thing.

Okay, background. Vancouver high schoolers Jenny Yao and Miranda Wang were futzing around in a lab and, apparently, bred the new strain. When stuffed to their gills w/ plastic, these new bacteria purportedly turn the stuff into water. How convenient! And fabulous!

Wang (L) & Yao

So fabulous that Yao & Wang won five science/entrepreneurship prizes from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, a top-of-the-line business degree factory. The two were the youngest to win the Perlman Grand Prize of the 2016 Wharton Business Plan competition. They copped four other trophies or plaques or grants from the school for their discovery and subsequent creation of a business. They’re the co-founders of a Silicon Valley company called BioCellection, dedicated to plastic recycling.

If there’s anything the web-iverse loves it’s a deceptively simple solution to a gigantic problem. What could be more simple than pouring tankers-full of said bacteria into the ocean and watching them gobble up all the milk containers, McDonald’s straws, cell phone packaging, water bottles (don’t get me started on that scourge), peanut butter jars, innumerable Rubbermaid™ containers, and all the rest of the detritus our species has manufactured since the dawn of the Plastic Age (c. 1907).

It ain’t so. For any number of reasons, it would be impossible to turn the bacteria loose in, say, the great Pacific Ocean and thus wave bye-bye to all the plastic trash in it.

Yao & Wang are working feverishly to develop new plastic recycling technologies, though. As such they should be celebrated. But they’re not miracle workers — nobody is — and so, once again, the internet has missed the mark by a wide margin.

Me? When I first read the breathless posts acclaiming the so-called breakthrough, I immediately thought:

  1. This sounds way too simple
  2. Even if it works, there have to be unintended, unforeseen consequences

The next few years indeed should scare the bejesus out of us. When people are scared, they grasp at panaceas or the ravings of snake oil salesmen. Remember laetrile back in the late 1970s? Expect to read about many more internet shrieks of glee about this or that simple solution to the world’s pollution problems. Hell, I know social media posters who, if you read their rants long enough, seem to know the precise hour and minute civilization will crumble and all life on Earth will cease to exist due to climate change.

Some simple rules of thumb:

  1. There are precious few truths in this life
  2. Nobody can tell the future, especially when it comes to a complex, interconnected set of systems like the environment
  3. If it’s on the internet, take it with a grain of salt

More and more I’m coming to the conclusion that social media are good only for posting pix of your breakfast and cute poses you catch your cat in.

One thought on “Hot Air: Not So Fast

  1. Mark Taylor says:

    C’mon Michael; isn’t the last sentence in today’s pencil a bit harsh and narrow-minded? Just wondering; since I can read (and always enjoy) your Electron Pencil, and respond to it too, is it not, for all practical purposes, a form of ‘social media’? Just sayin’. 🙂

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: