The Great Pacific Garbage Patch – Revisited

The vast collection of garbage, mostly plastic, floating in the earth’s oceans is growing even faster than expected. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is more than twice the size of Texas. It could take centuries – 80,000 years, by one estimate – to clean it up. Boyan Slat, a 24-year-old college drop-out, thinks he has a better idea.

Six years ago, the teen-aged Slat presented a TED talk outlining his plan to collect the debris. He says he can gather up half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in five years. Putting money where his mouth is, he crowdfunded $2.2 million and is now the CEO of the non-profit firm Ocean Cleanup. Slat has subsequently raised more than $30 million from other investors, including Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. (Perhaps as repentance for Salesforce’s giant dildo office tower that now dominates the San Francisco skyline.)

Ocean Cleanup is launching its initial project, a 2,000 foot long floating tube. The giant tube was assembled at a former naval air station in Alameda, on the San Francisco Bay. The tube is flexible enough to ride with the waves and bend into a U shape, but also rigid enough to stop floating plastic. Attached below is a nylon screen to catch submerged plastic debris, without entangling marine life. Heavy anchors make it move more slowly in the ocean’s current than the plastic it’s gathering. Ocean Cleanup expects this pilot project to entrap and bring ashore five tons of plastic trash per month… a good start on the estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic floating in the oceans.

Why this instead of taking his talents to some Internet whiz-bang start-up? “I think if you work on something that’s truly exciting and bold and complicated, then you will attract the kind of people that are really smart and talented. People that like solving complicated problems.”

Memphis Unfriends Nathan Bedford Forrest

Not wanting to be left out of the furor about statues and other monuments honoring Confederate heroes, the Tennessee legislature in 2016 passed the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act, requiring a two-thirds majority of the Tennessee Historical Commission to “rename, remove, or relocate any public statue, monument, or memorial.” This would include the removal of statues honoring those who committed treason in their effort to preserve slavery.

Nathan Bedford Forrest’s other business

The Nathan Bedford Forrest Monument, a statue in Forrest Park of Nathan Bedford Forrest mounted on a horse, celebrated a Confederate cavalry leader, best known for the “Fort Pillow Massacre” of captured Union – mostly black – troops. After the War, he became the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

Memphis is a blue dot on the deep red map of Tennessee. In 2013, the City Council had voted to change the name of Forrest Park to Health Sciences Park. (They also renamed Confederate Park to Memphis Park and Jefferson Davis Park to Mississippi River Park.) After the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act, became law, they sold the parks to a non-profit organization, who then removed the statues of Forrest and Jefferson Davis.

As if to prove there is nothing too petty for a Republican-controlled body, the Tennessee legislature voted to rescind its previous authorization of $250,000 granted to the city of Memphis for its bicentennial celebration in 2019.

When Antonio Parkinson, a representative from Memphis – a Democrat and African-American – called the vote vile and racist, he was cut off by boos from fellow lawmakers.

Searching for Grit in Little Rock

Fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross traveled by train from Dardanelle to Fort Smith, on the western border of Arkansas. She was searching for a man with grit, someone to help her track down Tom Chaney, the lowlife who had robbed and murdered her father. She hired Rueben Cogburn, a deputy U.S. marshal known as “Rooster.” A Texas Ranger is also looking for the killer, for an unrelated murder in Texas. He joins up with them and they head off into the “Indian Territory” of what is now Oklahoma.

Charles Portis’s novel, True Grit, was published in 1968. To celebrate its fifty-year anniversary, the Oxford American magazine is hosting a celebration in Little Rock, Portis’s hometown. The weekend event includes a screening on Friday of the1969 film starring John Wayne, in his only Oscar-winning performance, Glen Campbell, Kim Darby and Robert Duvall. The 2010 Coen Brothers version of True Grit, featuring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Hailee Steinfeld, will be shown the next day. The weekend event includes speakers Roy Blount Jr. and Calvin Trillin and entertainment by Iris DeMent. (Garrison Keillor was originally scheduled to be the featured speaker, but he was quietly dropped from the agenda.)

Little Rock is also home to the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport. The Clinton Presidential Library sits on the bank of the Arkansas River, at the end of President Clinton Avenue.

Central High School, made famous by the “Little Rock Nine,” who with the help of the 101st Airborne, integrated the school in 1957, is now a National Historic Site.

Now that’s some true grit.

Colorado’s Mile(high) 419.99

You may have wondered how “420” came to be code for marijuana consumption. It originated in 1971 with a group of high-school slackers in Marin County, California. (Side note: there’s a really good place to eat in San Rafael.) The term has become so pervasive that since Colorado legalized pot-for-fun in 2012, milepost 420 markers have been disappearing at an alarming rate from Interstate 70. As a remedy, the Department of Transportation has replaced the marker with milepost 419.99.

Although Idaho has not legalized marijuana, they’ve had the same problem on U.S. Highway 95, just south of Coeur d’Alene. Who knows why that’s happening in neo-Nazi country? Idaho can handle only one decimal place, though, so they marked the highway as milepost 419.9.

(Originally published 2016)

Beginning of Trump’s End?

Veteran reporter Adam Davidson sees similarities with the Iraq invasion, the 2008 financial meltdown and the Trump presidency. The New Yorker published this just before the Sean Hannity news.

“I am unaware of anybody who has taken a serious look at Trump’s business who doesn’t believe that there is a high likelihood of rampant criminality. In Azerbaijan, he did business with a likely money launderer for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. In the Republic of Georgia, he partnered with a group that was being investigated for a possible role in the largest known bank-fraud and money-laundering case in history. In Indonesia, his development partner is “knee-deep in dirty politics”; there are criminal investigations of his deals in Brazil; the F.B.I. is reportedly looking into his daughter Ivanka’s role in the Trump hotel in Vancouver, for which she worked with a Malaysian family that has admitted to financial fraud. Back home, Donald, Jr., and Ivanka were investigated for financial crimes associated with the Trump hotel in SoHo—an investigation that was halted suspiciously. His Taj Mahal casino received what was then the largest fine in history for money-laundering violations.”

Read the whole thing here.