All Now Mysterious...

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Equal Pay for USWNT?

The gauntlet has been thrown down, the question has been asked. In the wake of their World Cup victory last Sunday, should the members of the United States Women's National Soccer Team be paid the same as their male counterparts?

My unequivocal answer: No.

They should be paid more.

This is sports, right? And in sports, winning matters. All the USWNT does is win. They went 7-0 in the World Cup, allowing only three goals and defeating three of the world's best women's teams (Sweden, England, and France) along the way.

They US women opened the tournament by beating Thailand 13-0. That's not a bad score in football, but in soccer it's an absolute blowout. One sportswriter pointed out that the US women scored more goals in their opening game than the US men have scored in the World Cup in nine years.

Of course, that should be taken with a grain of salt. The US men's team didn't score any goals in the 2018 World Cup...because they weren't even there. When it came right down to it, all the US men had to do to qualify for the World Cup was to beat Panama...and they couldn't do it.

Now, no disrespect to Panama, but come on. We have 320 million people in this country, and we can't find eleven men who can play soccer better than Panama's best eleven men? That's ridiculous.

To qualify for the World Cup, the US men just had to be one of the three best teams in North America (including Central America) and the Caribbean. With the exception of Mexico (and maybe Canada, but they care about soccer even less than we do, what with ice hockey and the defending NBA champions and such), there's nobody who should consistently finish ahead of the USA in that group. Nobody.

So what happened for the 2018 World Cup qualifier? The US finished fifth, and watched the World Cup from their couches--the same place the women were watching it from.  Under no circumstances do members of the US Men's National Soccer Team deserve to be making more money than the women.

In fact, at this point I have to wonder why the men are getting paid at all. The women just won their fourth World Cup, and on that same day the guys got shut out by Mexico in the CONCACAF Gold Cup finals. Win a tournament, any tournament, and we can talk about your paychecks, gentlemen. Otherwise, I feel like the men should have to live on what they make from their regular professional contracts--which are almost certainly more than what the women are making in similar circumstances.

Be paid the same as the men? Pshaw. The women deserve so much better.

In short: Pay the ladies. They've earned it.

Monday, July 01, 2019

If A Tree Falls In Liberty Park (Part III)

“You know, Thomas Edison tried and failed nearly 2000 times to develop the carbonized cotton filament for the incandescent lightbulb ...And when asked about it he said, ‘I didn't fail. I found out 2000 ways how not to make a light bulb,’ but he only needed to find one way to make it work.”
-National Treasure

Today, I’m going to start to tell you about some of the many, many ways not to test for lead in organic samples...and how we discovered one way that will work (probably).

To review: The goal here is to analyze samples of an old tree from Liberty Park in downtown Salt Lake City to determine whether there was an increase in groundwater lead contamination due to the use of lead additives in gasoline in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Since tree rings can be dated pretty easily, all we have to do is take wood samples from different rings corresponding to different time periods and compare the amounts of lead in them. If we see more lead in a ring from, say, 1980 than we do in a ring from, let’s say, 1940, that should tell us something--especially if we get consistent results from subsequent comparisons. The more such samples we can analyze, the better idea we will have of what really happened over time.

When we think about analytical chemistry, we often think about how we’re going to test the sample. We can use a number of different techniques: gravimetric analysis, titration, or in this case, mass spectrometry. What we may not think about is this: How are we going to get the sample into a form that we can test? You can’t just stick a chunk of wood from a tree into a mass spectrometer. You have to process it to get it into a form that the instrument can use--and you have to process it in such a way that minimizes possible contamination of the sample from the environment.

For inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), it’s great if you can process your sample into an acidified solution. Dissolve the sample in acid so that the minerals you’re interested in come out into the solution. One way to do this is called chemical digestion. I talked about this a little in Part I.  Put your sample into a solution of concentrated nitric acid and concentrated hydrogen peroxide and microwave it for half an hour or more. This breaks down all the organic stuff into water, carbon dioxide, and other gases, and leaves the minerals you care about dissolved in solution. Sadly, this only works with very small samples, half a gram or less. The preliminary tests showed that samples of a gram or more would be needed to get out enough lead to do anything useful with it. Chemical digestion usually works quite well for isolating metal content (like strontium) in living tissue, but in this specific case, it’s not effective.  So chemical digestion is out.

Another technique for eliminating the organic material is called ashing. It involves placing the sample in a crucible and heating it in a muffle furnace to 550°C (~1125°F). This burns off all the organic material and leaves an ash (hence the name) of mineral material. The mineral residue is then recovered and diluted as necessary for analysis in the ICP-MS. Again, there are two steps to the process: ashing, and recovery. Introduction of lead contaminants in either case would be a bad thing.

One hypothesis for the comparatively high levels of lead observed in the chemical digestion tests is that the process was leaching lead out of the digestion apparatus during processing. So the first job was to determine whether the proposed process would leach lead out of the crucibles as well.

We began with ceramic crucibles, because there are dozens of them in the lab. We found three brand new, unopened crucibles and designated them for testing. I cleaned them with MilliQ water (double distilled) and cleaned them using an ultrasound bath. Then, in a positive-pressure hood called a laminar flow hood, I placed a 7-8 mL sample of 5% hydrochloric acid (HCl) and allowed them to sit for five minutes. I transferred these samples into clean, labeled test tubes for analysis in the ICP-MS. I also set up three samples of HCl straight from the bottle for use as blanks (or ‘controls’, as they’re commonly called in high school discussions of the scientific method). I then set thee up for testing and analyzed the results the following morning. It turned out that the blanks had no detectable levels of lead, which was great news! The samples from the crucibles showed lead levels of around 0.3 ppb, which is better than what we saw in the microwave digestion tests, but still not as low as we’d like. Still, it gave us hope that ashing might work.

From here, we actually have to talk some chemistry to explain why we’re going to do (or not do) some things. I think I’ll hold off on that until next time.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

If A Tree Falls In Liberty Park.... (Part II)

Okay, so we’ve established what we want to do: We want to check the rings of a fallen tree for lead to see if the groundwater lead levels have changed significantly over time, specifically as a result of the use of lead additives in gasoline in the mid-20th century. And we have an instrument, the ICP-MS (inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer) that can detect the concentration of trace metals like lead to something like a few parts per trillion. That’s good.

Mostly.

The thing is, at that level of sensitivity, such an instrument can start picking up traces of lead that come from sources other than the sample. For example, the acid used to process the sample might have tiny (but detectable at this level) impurities of lead. The containers used to process the sample may have lead contamination from prior use. Even dust in the air might contain enough lead to be detectable. This is problematic because it can lead to a false result, showing more lead than is actually there.

First, a quick bit of terminology is in order. In instrumental analytical chemistry, the reading from the instrument that shows the true amount of the substance we care about in the sample is called the ‘signal’.  The reading for the amount of that same substance that comes from sources other than the sample--processing, contamination, the environment, etc.--is referred to as ‘noise’. To be confident of our results, we need to demonstrate that the reading we get from the instrument is primarily signal, with little or no noise--in other words, we want a strong signal-to-noise ratio.

What is a good signal-to-noise ratio? Depending on the test, you really don’t want more than 5% noise. 1%-2% would be even better, of course, but in many cases, you can live with 5%. Knowing that 95% of your reading is due to the sample and nothing else gives you a certain level of confidence, statistically speaking, that what you’re looking at is real. If the noise gets much higher than that, you begin to lose confidence in your results.

So, how do we know how much of the result is signal and how much is noise? We use a chemical blank. For example, I recently prepared three samples of what’s called a Standard Reference Material (or SRM, in this case, NIST SRM 1515, Apple Leaves) for analysis by placing each sample in a clean, dry crucible and baking it in a furnace overnight at temperatures up to 550°C (~1025°F). Once it cools down, I will take the residue and dissolve it in a mixture of hydrochloric acid and ammonia, and then analyze this solution for lead content. Now, as I prepared and processed these three samples, I also placed three empty crucibles into the furnace. I will also add the hydrochloric acid/ammonia mixture to them and then analyze those samples for lead content. In other words, the empty crucibles will undergo the same processing as the real samples. The empty crucibles are the chemical blank; they tell us (at least in theory) how much lead comes from the environment and not from the sample. They tell us the level of noise.

So when the preliminary samples were processed and tested months ago, a chemical blank was made and tested at the same time. And the results were very interesting. The bark of the tree showed extremely high levels of lead. Well, that’s not entirely unexpected. The bark can pick up lead from the air and soil around the tree as well as the groundwater. The interior rings in the tree showed lead concentrations ranging from around 11 parts per billion (remember, 1 ppb is roughly a paper clip in a swimming pool) to around 30 ppb. That’s not a lot. However, the chemical blank showed a lead concentration of around 2 ppb.

2 ppb of noise compared to 11 ppb of signal is around 18%. That’s way too high.

Furthermore, it’s not just the concentration of lead that matters, it’s also the actual amount. Once we identify how much lead is in the sample, we also want to try to isolate it for further testing (specifically isotopic testing, which I’ll tell you about another time). To do that, we need a certain minimum mass of lead to work with. Now, going back to the definition: in a water solution, parts per billion effectively means means micrograms of the substance we care about (again, lead in this case) per liter of water, or nanograms (0.000 000 001 g) per milliliter of water. Since these samples are almost always 10 mL in volume (because the containers can only hold that much), that means that even the 30 ppb sample contained only 300 nanograms (0.000 000 300 g) of lead. We can run isotopic testing on samples that small, but only if they’re very pure--and remember, thanks to the chemical blank, we already have an uncertainty of 20 ng/300 ng, or about 6.7%, in our purity. That won’t give us results that mean anything useful.

So, what do we do about that? If the processing adds that much lead (and uncertainty) to our results, we’re going to need a different way to process the samples.  I’ll start telling you about that in Part III.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

If a Tree Falls In Liberty Park, Does It Reveal Anything About Lead Levels In the Groundwater? (Part I)

For those who are interested (if any), here’s a summary of my summer research project so far. Watch this space for further updates!

A hundred-year-old tree died in Liberty Park in downtown Salt Lake City a few years ago. As living organisms incorporate trace metals (like lead) from their environment, any change in the level of groundwater contamination by these trace metals should be reflected by the organisms that rely on that water. Since the growth and development of trees can be tracked by the ages of their rings, different rings should have different levels of these metals in different rings.

The specific question my project seeks to address is this: Did the use of leaded gasoline in the mid-20th century result in a significant increase in the level of lead in the groundwater in Salt Lake City?

It’s worth noting that the water here is already rich in minerals--it’s very hard water. All groundwater, especially here, has at least some lead in it anyway. It’s also true that mining in the late 19th and early 20th centuries resulted in increased levels of lead entering the local water system. The strategy, then, is to analyze wood samples from the tree from different time periods and see if there is a rise in the lead concentration that coincides with the use of lead additives in gasoline--and if so, how much.

This project was actually started by another researcher who used microwave digestion to process a small number of wood samples. What is microwave digestion? Well, you take a small sample (half a gram or less) and add it to a mixture of concentrated nitric acid and concentrated hydrogen peroxide. (The hydrogen peroxide used in this process is ten times as strong as what you buy at the drugstore.) Place this sample in a plastic container that releases gases at very high pressure, and cook it in an industrial-strength microwave oven for half an hour or so. This process converts all the organic matter--proteins, cellulose, etc.--into water and carbon dioxide. What remains is a solution with the minerals (like lead) dissolved in it.

Samples of this solution are then analyzed for the element in question. The lab I’m working in uses an instrument called an inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometer (ICP-MS). It’s a big, complex, $400,000 instrument, but here’s the quick oversimplified version: The sample is injected into a stream of argon gas that travels through an ionized plasma at around 4000°C. This knocks an electron off an atom of the sample, giving it a charge. It then travels through an electromagnetic field that bends its path; only atoms with the right mass:charge ratio can get through. The particles that get through are then counted by a detector of some kind. This instrument can separate the particles we care about--lead atoms, in this case--from everything else in very, very small quantities.

How small? Well, you know what the word ‘percent’ means, right? It means one in a hundred--parts per hundred, you might say. One in a thousand, by the same reasoning, would be called parts per thousand. With this instrument, we routinely measure parts per trillion.

How much is one part per trillion? Consider an Olympic-size swimming pool. It holds approximately a million liters of water, with a mass of a million kilograms or a billion grams. How much is a gram? It’s about the mass of a paper clip. One paper clip in an Olympic swimming pool is one part per billion. So, what is one part per trillion? It’s one paper clip in a thousand Olympic swimming pools.

Yeah, the ICP-MS is that sensitive. That’s why we use it for this kind of research. Unfortunately, that’s also part of the problem.

More on this next time.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Quarterback of the Church

(Warning: Long Mormon thing.)

I’m a football fan. I like to watch baseball and ice hockey, sure. I’m not a big follower of basketball; I only care about basketball for about three weeks in March and April. (I attribute this to the fact that growing up in Colorado, we didn’t really have a great pro team to follow. We just had the Nuggets.) I like to watch a lot of the Olympic sports, too: track & field, skiing, figure skating, even curling. I’ll watch just about any sport if it’s on TV. But football is my favorite.

I have two favorite NFL teams: The Denver Broncos and whoever’s playing the Raiders this week. The Broncos are coming off their worst season in my lifetime, largely because of their inconsistent (to put it generously) quarterback play. The team has since signed an expensive free agent to help solve the problem, but the conventional wisdom seems to be that they’re going to draft a quarterback next week as well. *

So I’ve been reading predictions and mock drafts and analyses of quarterbacks available in the upcoming draft. The consensus seems to be that four quarterbacks will be drafted in the first ten picks next Thursday. The strengths, weaknesses, and other minutiae of these four young men have been analyzed ad infinitum by anyone with expertise (or even an opinion). The guy from USC seems to be the top prospect, although some scouts apparently worry about his ‘locker room presence’, whatever that means. The guy from UCLA is seems to have all the necessary skills, but some critics question his ability to lead an NFL team. They guy from Wyoming has the physical tools, the height, and the arm strength, but not the accuracy, that some of the teams are looking for. He’s widely considered a ‘project’ who will need to sit and learn for a year or two before becoming an NFL starter. And the guy from Oklahoma has the passion and the winning record, but some people question his maturity.

And so the debate goes on and on.

Can you imagine, when President Monson died in January, if the Church tried to select a new leader the way NFL teams select a new quarterback? †  I can just imagine the scouting reports:

Russell M. Nelson: “Clearly the most experienced. Has had a great apostolic run, but at the age of 93, you have to wonder how much he still has left in the tank.”

Henry B. Eyring: “Solid leader. Doctrinally sound, and a great administrator. Lacks the ‘wow factor’. He’ll get the job done, but will probably never be a superstar.”

Dieter F. Uchtdorf: “Intelligent, engaging, inspiring, and charismatic. Great storyteller. Sets the sisters’ hearts fluttering when he takes the pulpit. Probably the runaway popular favorite.”

Jeffrey R. Holland: “Vast knowledge and experience. Can really command an audience. Has the ability to elicit laughter, tears, and deep thought from those who listen to him. Has almost no stories involving airplanes, however.”

That would never happen, of course, because leadership in the Church doesn’t work the way leadership in the world, or even on a football team, works. (Matthew 20:25-28) Church leaders are not chosen by committee or by election campaigns. Leaders in the Church, from the President of the Church through the Quorum of the Twelve and Quorums of the Seventy, through Stake presidencies and Bishoprics and ward leaders, are called by revelation.  Uncomfortable as it may sound, especially to those unfamiliar with Church operations, the Church is not a democracy. It is, as described by the Lord Himself, a Kingdom, with Jesus Christ as King.  Leadership in the Church is very much top-down—and the top isn’t in Salt Lake City.

When President Nelson was officially recognized in General Conference as the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator for our day, all Church members had the opportunity to sustain him as such. We do this for all our Church leaders. When we are asked to raise our hands, we are not voting on whether or not we accept this person in the position. We are revealing our willingness to accept the call as divinely inspired and to support them as they serve.

No, we don’t get to pick who the next Bishop or Relief Society president or Sunday School teacher will be—because we believe that decision ultimately rests with the Lord. (For the same reason, we don’t lobby for these positions, either. ‡ ) Christ ultimately reveals who is to serve in those positions. We may not understand (or agree with) the calling, nor like with person called to serve therein, but we are expected to exercise faith in the Lord’s inspiration and to sustain those called by proper authority. And we (rightly) expect others to do the same for us when our turn comes, because one day it will.  There are no spectators in this Church.  Everyone serves.

Most of us will never be quarterbacks—and that’s okay. There’s a place in this Church for anyone with the desire to serve.

--
* I, for one, have exactly zero confidence in the Broncos’ ability to fix the problem via the draft. Of the three quarterbacks that have led the Broncos to the Super Bowl, none of them were drafted by Denver. The best quarterback the Broncos have ever drafted is arguably Jay Cutler.

† Not that anyone else in the league is good at drafting a quarterback, either. Tom Brady, considered by some to be the greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL (*cough* Joe Montana *cough*) was drafted 199th overall in the 6th round of the 2000 NFL draft. That means that every single team in the league passed on multiple opportunities to draft him. Oops.

‡ In his epistle to Timothy, Paul said, “If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” (1 Timothy 3:1) I can’t help but think this is a mistranslation. I think what Paul meant to say was, “If a man desire the office of a bishop, he’s out of his ever-loving mind.” Nobody who really understands the responsibilities of a Bishop would ask for that.

Monday, February 26, 2018

“Do you have Dark Side of the Moon?”

So, a strange thing happened to me in the shower yesterday. I was just getting ready for the day, like I do pretty much every day, when I suddenly experienced numbness and tingling in my left leg, my left arm, and the left side of my face. It was disconcerting, to say the least, but there was little I could do but finish my shower. Within about three minutes, the sensations had subsided and I felt like normal again.

Still, this was unusual enough to leave me a little worried, so I called the “Ask a Nurse” number at the local hospital (what else would be available on a Sunday morning?) and talked to someone named Stacy. She asked me a number of questions about the incident and about my medical history, then strongly recommended that I go to the emergency room to be examined. Which is pretty much what I had decided I needed to do anyway, but it was nice to hear that I wasn’t a hypochondriac or anything.

So, I woke up Nancy--not something I generally do, if I can help it--and explained the situation to her. She called her Mom and made arrangements for her to watch the kiddos, and before too long we were out the door. We dropped Sophia and Sam off at Grandma’s house (Thanks, Grandma!), and we made our way to the ER.

There was no line at the ER admittance desk--something that I’ve literally never seen before--so I was quickly seated, questioned, and examined. Less than ten minutes later, we were in a room. The nurse came in just a few minutes later and hooked me up to the monitors while asking about why I was there. She conducted a few short tests to make sure my right and left sides were symmetrically strong. Shortly after that, the doctor came in and I explained to him what had happened. (Between Nancy and all the medical personnel, this was about the fifth time, so I was getting really good at it.) He did some of the same strength tests, and then said he thought it sounded like I’d had a transitory ischemic attack (TIA, or mini-stroke) and wanted to run some more precise tests to clarify.

First, a nice lady came in and stuck electrode connections all over me so they could run an EKG. Then the nurse (who, coincidentally, had the same name as a girl I dated in college) came in to take a blood sample. I hate needles, but I got through it. Then they came in and told us that they wanted to get me a CT scan and an MRI. I’d never experienced either of those before, so from a strictly scientific point of view, I was curious.

They conducted the CT scan almost immediately. A tech came and got me and wheeled me to the imaging area. I was lying almost flat on the bed, so it felt a little like I was on a luge run. I commented on this, and he didn’t seem as amused by the idea as I was. He probably gets weird comments all the time. Anyway, he got me to the room where the scanner was located. They laid me inside the donut and took a reference scan, then told me they were going to inject me with a contrasting agent that would make me feel really warm for a few seconds. It did, but I didn’t feel the “wetting myself” sensation they had also warned me about. It was really interesting. Through dark red plastic on the inside of the donut, I could see the emitter spinning around at about one revolution per second, bouncing X-rays off the iodine atoms I’d been injected with. It was actually kind of cool, in the nerdiest way possible.

Results from the CT scan were quick in coming; the doctor said they looked good. He then told me that the MRI wouldn’t be so lickety-split (his actual words). I rested for an unspecified period of time while Nancy watched over me. She really was fantastic during the whole experience. I know that’s not what she wanted to do with her Sunday, and it had to have been disconcerting, but she never complained. She really is the best.

At length, they came to take me to the MRI. No luge jokes this time, as I was seated more or less upright now. When I got there the tech explained to me how the whole process was going to work and handed me a pair of earplugs. He then had me lie down on the narrow, poorly-padded slab and locked my head into place with something like an oversized helmet. From there, I slid up to my chest into the central tube. I’ve never had claustrophobia, so the fact that the tube left less than a foot of space over my face wasn’t didn’t particularly bug me. He ran a quick mike check to make sure we could hear each other, then began the scan.

When they tell you that you’ll need earplugs, they’re not messing around! What followed was several minutes of loud clanks, thuds, buzzes, and other assorted noises. When the noises stopped, he asked me how I was doing. I told him I was fine, and he told me the initial images looked good. He told me there was one more round that would last about ten minutes and asked if I was ready. I told him I was, and the noises began again. As I lay there with literally nothing to do but listen, my mind started picking out patterns in the sounds. With my eyes closed, I started visualizing different images and patterns to go along with the noises. It was kind of trippy, like a laser show at the planetarium. When it was over, he took me out and asked how I was doing. I told him I was fine, and that if there had been another round, I was going to ask if he had “Dark Side of the Moon”. He laughed. I guess you had to be there.

We waited about half an hour for the results, during which time my High Priest group leader and his first assistant came to give me a Priesthood blessing. I don’t remember exactly what was said, but I do remember being promised that the people working with me would be guided in what they did and that I would be okay. Less that two minutes after the blessing--while they were still in the room, in fact--the doctor came in and told me that the MRI results had come back clean. The transient ischemic attack I had experienced had been minor and had done no permanent damage. He recommended that I begin an aspirin regimen and referred me to a stroke clinic for a follow up visit. He sent the nurse in to take one final set of vitals, and then I was discharged.

I stayed home from school today at Nancy’s insistence (the doctor also suggested it, by the way). I’ve had a chance to get some rest, and I’m feeling a lot better. All things considered, I feel quite blessed that things turned out as benign as they did. Long story short (Too late!), I’m okay.

Anyway, that was my Sunday. How was yours?

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The State of the So-Called Union

The State of the Union? Here’s how I see it:

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is at an all-time high. But so is xenophobia. Our President blames ‘both sides’ when a white supremacist drives his car into a crowd and kills someone. The President keeps pushing for a wall that won’t work and that will only drive the country deeper into debt. Meanwhile, immigrants who have been here for years—decades, in some cases—are being unceremoniously deported back to their ****-hole countries, often without their families. Travel bans based on thinly-veiled anti-Muslim paranoia continue to wind their way through our courts.

We just experienced a government shutdown. Partisanship in the House and Senate is keeping either side from getting any real work done. The Congressional majority has tried and failed on numerous occasions to ram through legislation to undo the Affordable Care Act and other laws they don’t happen to like, seemingly without regard to what their constituents actually want and value. On the other hand, Congress did manage to pass a tax bill that, according to non-partisan analysis, gives little to no relief to the middle and lower classes, but provides big tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and the corporations they own and manage.

The President’s Twitter misadventures grow more bizarre and unstatesmanlike by the day. Random and unprovoked attacks on Hillary Clinton and other Democrats, demonstrable lies and misrepresentations about easily verifiable events and facts, and personal attacks against ‘fake news’ media outlets are the routine of the day. Anyone who disagrees with these tweets or tries to point out the factual inaccuracies is shouted down, shamed, and bullied. Above all that, the President is in a personal p*ssing match with the leader of North Korea; the only reason we’re not at war yet is that Kim Jong-il is the only world leader more bombastic and incompetent than ours.

We’ve pulled out of the Paris Accords, because our government leaders are more willing to listen to the 3% of scientists who agree with their political and economic agenda than the 97% who agree that climate change represents a credible threat to the future of life on this planet. But this is hardly surprising; for the past year, government science agencies have been defunded and their social media accounts gagged. Agencies like the EPA and the National Science Foundation can only publish what Capitol Hill approves.

We have a climate change denier at the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, a brain surgeon running Housing and Urban Development, and a Secretary of Education who has never attended a public school (and neither have her children). The White House has become a revolving door of staff appointments and resignations, and the sole voice of reason at the top levels of government appears to be a Marine Corps general nicknamed Mad Dog. And there’s still that little Russian election issue that nobody wants to talk about.

Our nation is less respected, less truthful, less welcoming, and less stable than it was a year ago. President Trump ran for office on the promise that he would Make America Great Again©. By all independent metrics, that hasn’t happened and isn’t happening.

But hey, the Dow is up, so it’s all good, right?