President Obama's call for an increase in "STEM" (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) majors is an acknowledgement of the proliferation of what British education minister Margaret Hodge infamously called Mickey Mouse degrees. Given the well-established Disney empire of theme parks, it might be forgotten that the term "Mickey Mouse" first entered the public mind as a dysphemism based on his famous star turn as the Sorcerer's Apprentice in the Disney film Fantasia in 1940. The Wikipedia entry presents as succinct summary:
Mickey made his most famous classical music appearance in 1940 in the classic Disney film Fantasia. His screen "role" as The Sorcerer's Apprentice, set to the symphonic poem of the same name by Paul Dukas, is perhaps the most famous segment of the film. The segment features no dialogue at all, only the music. The apprentice (Mickey), not willing to do his chores, puts on the sorcerer's magic hat after the sorcerer goes to bed and casts a spell on a broom, which causes the broom to come to life and perform the most tiring chore-filling up a deep well using two buckets of water. When the well eventually overflows, Mickey finds himself unable to control the broom, leading to a near-flood. After the segment ends, Mickey is seen in silhouette shaking hands with Leopold Stokowski, who conducts all the music heard in Fantasia.
The vision of the Obama as the naïve "Mickey Mouse" formed in my mind during the BP Deepwater Horizon fiasco. The whole world, even his daughter, knew that the primary job was plugging the "damn hole." As Malia Obama phrased it, "Have you plugged the hole yet Daddy?" Yet the government response owed more to the Sorcerer's Apprentice than the Little Dutch Boy of Haarlem.
He was near one of the large sluices, and he now carefully examines it, and soon discovers a hole in the wood, through which the water was flowing. With the instant perception which every child in Holland would have, the boy saw that the water must soon enlarge the hole through which it was only now dropping, and that utter and general ruin would be the consequence of the inundation of the country that must follow. To see, to throw away the flowers, to climb from stone to stone till he reached the hole, and to put his finger in it, was the work of a moment, and, to his delight, he finds that he has succeeded in stopping the flow of the water...
"In the name of wonder, boy," he exclaimed "what are you doing there?"
"I am hindering the flow of water from running out," was the answer, in perfect simplicity, of the child who, during the whole night had been evincing such heroic fortitude and undaunted courage.
The Muse of History, too often blind to (true) glory, has handed down to posterity many a warrior, the destroyer of thousands of his fellow men -- she has left us in ignorance of the name of this real little hero of Harlem.
At 5:35 in the Fantasia video on YouTube, we see Mickey take an axe to the water toting broom, with the unintended consequence that the splinters reconstitute into new brooms and quickly overwhelm his efforts to quell control the situation. Now observe the ever-increasing number of collection paths that have been incorporated into the well containment systems by yes-men of a heavily regulated industry. Contrast that to the static kill system that successfully stopped the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico on July 15, 2010. One philosophy elevates collection as its primary goal, the other venerates "plugging the damn hole." (That also reminds me of the debate as to whether raising taxes or cutting spending will best serve to eliminate the deficit, collecting more taxes or cutting spending!)
The most awkward of the outstanding questions about the BP spill is the issue of the "missing oil." Why is it that the government cannot admit what the Little Dutch Boy knew, that oil and gas flowing through the closed blind shear ram in the blowout preventer (BOP) "must soon enlarge the hole"? Each of those additional alternate collection paths reduces the backpressure on the blowout preventer thereby increasing the flow rate and the associated erosion inside the BOP. The "missing oil" is not missing; it is an overestimate of the flow rate by a government intent on maximizing the punitive fines it seeks to impose on BOP by using a measured flow late in the time line and backdating it to when the BOP was not so eroded. The government estimates do not take into account this erosion. The concerns of citizens (particularly children) worried about a million barrels of "missing oil" returning to haunt them like the bogeyman hiding under their bed is merely an "inconvenient truth" to this administration.
Their lack of concern for the kids of the Gulf Coast is despicable. I hope those kids do resolve to take STEM studies, so they will be able to rely on themselves to refute the political charlatans they will continue to meet in the future.
Bruce Thompson blogs at Machiasprivateer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org