I'm going to attempt, at least every other day, to pick an item I've shared via my Google Reader account and post about it here. Get me back in the habit and maybe not make me solely reliant on annoying baby posts.
Today's link: America's Achilles' heel: the Mississippi River's Old River Control Structure by Dr. Jeff Masters at WeatherUnderground.
America has an Achilles' heel. It lies on a quiet, unpopulated stretch of the Mississippi River in Louisiana, a few miles east of the tiny town of Simmesport. Rising up from the flat, wooded west flood plain of the Mississippi River tower four massive concrete and steel structures that would make a Pharaoh envious--the Army Corps' of Engineers greatest work, the billion-dollar Old River Control Structure. This marvel of modern civil engineering has, for fifty years, done what many thought impossible--impose man's will on the Mississippi River
It's an absolutely fascinating read about one of the greatest civil engineering feats in the modern world. Over thousands of years, the Mississippi River has changed it's final course to the Gulf of Mexico multiple times. To the native peoples of North America, this wasn't an issue - but once the Europeans arrived and started setting up ports and cities and businesses where Big Muddy meets the Gulf, the location of the end of the largest river system in North America became very, very important.
From an essay by John McPhee, The Control Of Nature, excerpted by Dr. Masters
The Mississippi's main channel of three thousand years ago is now the quiet water of Bayou Teche, which mimics the shape of the Mississippi. Along Bayou Teche, on the high ground of ancient natural levees, are Jeanerette, Breaux Bridge, Broussard, Olivier--arcuate strings of Cajun towns. Eight hundred years before the birth of Christ, the channel was captured from the east. It shifted abruptly and flowed in that direction for about a thousand years. In the second century a.d., it was captured again, and taken south, by the now unprepossessing Bayou Lafourche, which, by the year 1000, was losing its hegemony to the river's present course, through the region that would be known as Plaquemines. By the nineteen-fifties, the Mississippi River had advanced so far past New Orleans and out into the Gulf that it was about to shift again, and its offspring Atchafalaya was ready to receive it.
In the late 1950's the Army Corps of Engineers stepped in and built what was to become the Old River Control Structure. This series of dams and levees and control gates was to ensure that the Mississippi River would go where WE want it to go - right through New Orleans and the ports that are so valuable to our economy. South Louisiana is the busiest port in the United States, and currently sits 12th busiest in the world. Now... move the Mississippi away from the ports... How do we get all those goods coming in and out of the United States through that port to where they need to be?
Dr. Masters' post has fascinating information about how this structure came to be, the great threat it faced from a flood in 1973 and the possibly greater threat it faces today with the record flooding along the Mississippi Basin. It's definitely worth a read.
In my mind, where this intersects with politics is the greater problem we have as a country with our infrastructure. Our country is built on grand projects - grand OLD projects. Our power system, our highway and interstate system, our flood prevention system and the control if the Mississippi River and continued existence of its ports. All projects that are decades old. With a culture in this country that the government spending money at all (except on the military) is 'wasteful' at best or 'socialism' at worst nothing has been done to keep our infrastructure sound, let alone replace and modernize it with new technologies.
The Great Recession of 2007 -2009 was a prime opportunity to not only put much needed work and money into our infrastructure but to boost our economy at the same time. We had a chance to do a major stimulus package not built around even more tax cuts and a few projects here and there, but a package built around rebuilding the bones of the nation. A stimulus that would have been fully directed towards fixing roads, bridges, dams, power transmission systems, power generation plants and the like would have put tens or hundreds of thousands of Americans to work, and that work would have had a long lived impact on our nation's economy. In addition to rebuilding was is old or out of date, we also could have focused on building a new infrastructure for the 21st century - a national broadband backbone to not only get internet quality and speeds higher where it already exists, but to get broadband internet into communities ignored by the likes of AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and the like.
Instead we get whines about socialism, Randian utopia fantasies and a lukewarm response that only softened the landing of a recession without giving us a long term boost from the money spent.
Next time a bridge collapses, a levee breaks or some other infrastructure disaster strikes... think about the opportunity we had and wasted because some people are so afraid of taxes that they will mortgage their future so as not to pay them.
so once again I've been gathering tabbed links in my browser with the idea of posting about them but it hasn't happened. So that means another Link Dump! You are excited, I can tell.
- Apparently crime really isn't as bad as people perceive it. Maybe people will calm the fuck down about all this panic over a "crime asploshun!!" in Indianapolis that really isn't. Although I doubt it. Because even though The Star carried this story, it won't stop them from sensationalizing crime themselves and contributing to the problem.
- I think I got about 100 IQ points dumber reading about the Scientific Proof For The Existence Of God!!!111eleventomgbbq!!. Really, if you have any sort of logical reasoning skills at all it's easy to decimate this thing into a million pieces. but I value my sanity FAR too much to actually read it again and do that in blog form. The best part is probably the uranium part. jeebus.
- A great find, CJ notes the appearance of Indianapolis in a new Marvel comic! Too bad they based the art on an old picture of the circle with the now non-existent Market Square Arena visible. Oops.
- God I hate the Pacers anymore. And not just because of horrible management decisions and blundered personnel. No, also because they still refuse to have any redheads on the dance team. Heathens!
- Schadenfreude, thy name is Ted Stevens Getting Raided By The FBI. I really hope they showed up in a BIG TRUCK! In honor of this amazing news, I went back and found the Ted Stevens internet speech techno remix.
- Nerds + Showbiz Pizza + The Rockafire Explosion + New Ms. Booty = AWESOME.
- This REALLLLY deserves its own post but damn if I have the time right now. So Thanks Mitch! Because you caved to the property tax whiners (of whom so many are people who have been paying far under what they should have been for years - I'm looking at you Meridian Kessler District) and put off the new tax evaluations Marion County is going to have a $52 million shortfall. Don't worry, Indianapolis is only the economic engine for the state you pretend to represent completely (but in the end you just end up representing road construction companies and people who believe your fake accent). A big ol' hearty middle finger to Mitchie Rich The Amazing Midget Governor.
- I've been posting more on CWAMB lately. I have a big post eventually planned for a what-if solution for the NBA: a 50-60 team league with three divisions and European-style relegation. Keep an eye out for it.
- Couldn't agree more with this at Tapped. The way our politics work, the short sighted politician who only spends money in time of disaster instead of spending money when there is no disaster gets rewarded. The latter just gets yelled at for spending tax money and *gasp* maybe raising taxes. Heavens to Betsy, noooo!
- This is horrifying. Dear Oklahoma, I enjoyed my time there for a national high school student council convention in 1995, but you are now dead to me.
- Mega-Kudos to FCC Commissioner Michael Copps. You couldn't be more right about the absolutely TERRIBLE broadband policy in this country. Making the link between this and the rampant media consolidation in the US is very nicely done.
I think that's it? I hope?
Okay so maybe lasers on the moon will more accurately show us the distance between the moon and the Earth and reveal possible new physics. But I'm more worried about it becoming a weapon for supervillains.
As if you needed another reason to use Dreamhost for your websites.
I've gathered some links and videos, some political, most silly. Lazy blogging.
So to me Global Warming is like Truth or Dare:
TRUTH: We can either keep Global Warming in the news and convince people the truth is the planet is warming and we as humans might be causing Global Warming by pumping tons of CO2 into the atmosphere daily so let’s keep the momentum going to educate people about this problem and slowly eliminate the use of fossil fuels.
Or DARE: We can do nothing and DARE to find out what happens if we don’t fix this problem.
By the same author: Global Warming News
Identification requirements often sound simple. But some types of paperwork simply aren't available to many Americans. We saw this with the new Medicaid proof-of-citizenship requirement, which led to benefits being cut off for many longtime citizens. Some states insist that voters provide photo IDs such as driver's licenses. But at least 11 percent of voting-age Americans, disproportionately elderly and minority voters, lack the necessary papers. Required documentation such as naturalization paperwork can cost as much as $200. By contrast, when the poll tax was declared unconstitutional in 1966, it was $1.50 ($8.97 in 2007 dollars).
A student has been suspended from school in America for coming to class dressed as a pirate.
Bryan Killian says that he follows the Pastafarian religion, and that as a crucial part of his faith, he must wear 'full pirate regalia' as prescribed in the holy texts of Pastafarianism.
If you thought the Kirk Cameron/Bananas Are Proof Of God video was funny/ridiculous/frightening, get a load of this - Peanut butter is proof that evolution isn't true:
I... there's so much wrong with this it's difficult to even begin. But the comments on the YouTube page are marvelous.
"They need to do a Wonder Bread segment. Then we could discuss the whole peanut butter and banana sandwich trinity. Anyone?"
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think the Earth was made of peanut butter 3-4 billion years ago."
"wasn't that was the reason for the Peter Pan Recall?
"When they fill the peanut putter can with a dense soup of hydrocarbons with a layer of dense carbon dioxide laden atmosphere above, zap it with large bolts of electrical energy regularly, and let it sit for a couple billion years, then we'll talk."
And now to the silly...
So I renewed my car's license plate yesterday and ended up going for the Environment plate. It's good, it helps buy parkland for the state. But I got to thinking... what about a license plate where your additional fee ($40 I think) would go towards enabling the state to purchase Carbon Credits on the world market? It would help reward countries that produce less greenhouse gasses and would be a start towards helping offset your own carbon footprint (although not nearly enough to cover your own car's footprint, it would be a start).
Just an idea I'm throwing out there. Would you pay $40 for a Carbon Credit license plate? More?
So apparently 1 in 4 U.S. women carry the cervical cancer virus HPV. But you know, giving girls a vaccine against it, that'll just make them sluts. So nope! We better not do that.
Thanks to Matt for the photo. I did the edit. This is released on a CC license, redistribute, by attribution, free to remix, non-commercial