American Elephants

Beautiful guitar. Tommy Emmanuel playing “Since We Met.” by The Elephant's Child
February 28, 2009, 11:24 pm
Filed under: Entertainment, Heartwarming, Music

Obama Rejects Nuclear Waste Site. No idea what to do with waste, but he’ll think of something. by The Elephant's Child
February 26, 2009, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Democrat Corruption, Liberalism, Science/Technology | Tags: , ,

President Obama said in his inauguration speech: “We will restore science to it’s rightful place.”

Bloomberg News:

President Barack Obama won’t let nuclear waste be stored at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, rejecting the project after 20 years of planning at a cost of at least $9 billion.  (…)

The new administration is starting the process of finding a better solution for management of our nuclear waste.

Radioactive waste is now spread among more than 120 sites in 30 states.  Environmental groups and Nevada opponents have filed lawsuits seeking to block the project on the grounds that Yucca Mountain might be subject to earthquakes and that transporting waste across 43 states might create a hazard and a potential target for terrorists.

As is becoming a pattern, Obama is canceling something as demanded by supporters, without a clue as to what he is going to do about the problem.  He’ll think of something. Or appoint a task force.  The government is in breach of contract because the Energy Department did not meet a contractual obligation to take possession of nuclear waste by 1998.  If they terminate the license, full breach of contract could potentially cost $100 billion.

Leftists, who are uninterested in consequences and studies, want science to fulfill their fantasies.  If they would take the trouble to study the science instead of indulging in wishful thinking, we might not have to worry about just where science’s rightful place is.

Planet Gore at NRO notes that:

All of France’s nuclear waste from 25 years of producing 75 percent of its electricity is stored beneath the floor of one room at Le Hague.  The lifetime output for each French citizen would fit in a soda can.

Drew Thornley also quotes Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore:

Within 40 years, used fuel has less than one-thousandth of the radioactivity it had when it was removed from the reactor.  And it is incorrect to call it waste, because 95 percent of the potential energy is still contained in the used fuel after the first cycle.

Max Schulz examines some of Obama’s energy options here.

We can restore science to its rightful place, but it involves serious study, not platitudes and paybacks.

Administration allows media coverage of war coffins. by The Elephant's Child
February 26, 2009, 9:15 pm
Filed under: Liberalism, Media Bias, Military | Tags: ,

The Pentagon will lift its ban on media coverage of flag-draped coffins of military dead returned from war zones to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.  The ban was put in place in 1991.

More than 64% of military families believe that the ban should not be overturned.  Families were apparently not consulted nor their wishes honored when the decision was made.

This has always been not only an odd, but a rather smarmy debate. Grieving  families understandably want their privacy uninterrupted by media lights, cameras and noisy intrusion.

The only possible  reason for the presence of the media is the propaganda value to anti-war activists.  Photographs of large numbers of coffins might enhance their anti-military cause.  Families, quite naturally, don’t care to have their loved ones used.

The Obama administration seems childishly insistent on overturning any policy that was associated with the Bush administration, whatever its value.  Secretary of Defense Robert Gates reviewed the policy at the request of President Obama, and came up with the compromise of leaving the presence of media up to the families involved.

The Defense Department statement is here. CNN’s take is here.

I’m with the families.  There is class, and there is classless.  If you were not able to see the HBO special “Taking Chance”, take a few moments to read the story on which the movie was based which was posted by Blackfive in 2004.  It is a beautiful story.

MSM Deathwatch by American Elephant

Hearst plans to close or sell the San Francisco Chronicle, while Rupert Murdoch is reportedly contemplating buying the NYT. (Liberal’s heads exploding in 3…2…1…)

Heh heh heh.

Things Obama Needs NOT to do by The Elephant's Child

Holman W. Jenkins Jr.  had a splendid column in the Wall Street Journal today.  Right on the button. “Obama” he said, “needs a ‘not to do’ list.”

Put away childish things, President Obama said during his inauguration.  He couldn’t have found a theme more suited to the moment.  The preoccupations that he and most politicians are used to running on, and that still characterize too many of his administration’s utterances, are being exposed in the global economic disaster as the soppy indulgences they always were.

Put away the global warming panic.  Mankind’s contribution to rising CO2 levels raise serious questions, but the tens of billions poured into climate science have, by now, added up only to a negative finding.  We don’t really have the slightest idea how an increase in the atmosphere’s component of CO2 is impacting our climate, though the most plausible indication is that the impact is too small to untangle from natural variability.

In any case , has Mr. Obama taken a gander at collapsing industrial production numbers around the world?  He’s going to get a big reduction in CO2 output whether he wants it or not.  Nor will the public be moved to make costly, material changes in its energy habits, especially if the recent global cooling trend continues.  What we’ll get instead is already depressingly clear: climate pork, or lucrative favors for lobbying interests in the name of global warming that have no impact on global warming.

Do read the rest.  It is the best piece I have read today.

Another Obama Plan, Another Stock Market Dive by American Elephant



Or perhaps the willing suspension of belief. That’s the only explanation for Americans attitudes as Obama’s presidency enters it’s second month.

Obama’s speech was well received by most people who watched, but the stock market took another nose dive as it seems to do every time his administration announces new policy.

The majority of Americans now support Democrats stimulus plan even though over half of Americans think it is more likely to harm the economy than help it, and despite the Congressional Budget Office’s own prediction that it would harm the economy in the long-term.

Wall Street greeted news of Obama’s election last November with a two-day (then) record-breaking 930 point nosedive. The day Obama was sworn into office was the biggest Inauguration Day tumble in market history. He unveiled his bank-bail-out; the market plunged. The day Obama signed his behemoth big-government-stimulous plan into law, the markets lost another four percent of their value. Indeed, since Obama won the election, the stock market has lost roughly 3,000 points, and has eviscerated all the significant gains made since 1997.

And yet again, Wall Street responded to the grand plans Obama laid out last night by flushing another 2 percent down the crapper.  Virtually every policy Obama and his administration have announced since winning the election has caused things to get worse, not better.

Is it any wonder that Obama has said he does not look to the markets to judge the success of his economic policies?

But the stock market represents investment! It represents jobs! It represents your retirement, your nest egg, your life savings!

So this president has made clear that your evaporating life savings is not what he is concerned with.

Congratulations, Mr. Obama! It shows.

How much longer will Americans willingly disbelieve their own eyes for  pretty words and confident lies? How long until the American people begin to make the connection between their dwindling life savings and the policies that are causing it?

Let’s HOPE™ it’s sooner rather than later.

Everything is terrible, and it is only going to get worse. by The Elephant's Child


Iain Murray made a cogent observation today in the Corner.  ” The fact is,” he said, “that the impending eco-apocalypse is permanent.” In the early 70s we were told that we were entering another ice age.  Millions would starve to death, the world could not feed its increasing population.

Then there was the panic about over-population.  The Chinese probably had it right with their one baby per family edict. But birthrates are in actuality declining far below replacement rate in most of the west.

Smog in our cities led to catalytic converters and cleaner fuel, and we sensibly cleaned up our air and our water.  But that was not enough.  If we cure one flaw, one problem, they will find an even greater threat.

Vast extinctions.  Half of all species were sure to become extinct, doomed.  A Google search turns up 10,500,000 results for “endangered species.”

Environmental organizations choose the most photogenic species to agonize over, never an unattractive one.  Polar bears, undeniably beautiful, are supposed to serve the dual purpose of  ending climate change and preventing any drilling for oil or gas.

DDT was supposed to be the cause of vast extinctions, yet in reality it was the banning of DDT that caused vast human extinction, especially children,  in the developing world from malaria.

What I am attempting to point out here is not that panics often don’t pan out, which they don’t. But that there is something about the green movement that requires an ecological catastrophe.  Something  is wrong with our food, or our lifestyle.  There is something wrong with us.  And if you attempt a bit of rationality or simple common sense you are “assailed as a holocaust denier for questioning what everyone knows to be true.”

What is wrong with these people? Generous funding, too much free time, and a need for more funds.

Are their lives so empty and purposeless that they can only feel  worthwhile if they are fully engaged with a threat to the planet itself?

Homeownership. Is it a right? Or a privilege? by The Elephant's Child

Let’s see.  ACORN’s Homebuyer’s Program has Housing Counselors who help make the homebuying process more accessible to first-time buyers.  No private mortgage insurance, no deposit of the first three months of mortgage payments, low or no down payment, your public assistance or child support counts in determining if you can afford a mortgage.

For those who have lost their homes to foreclosure, ACORN thugs will break into the homes so that the  former “owners” can re-occupy them.

ACORN trains citizens to protest home foreclosures.

ACORN says citizens have a right to housing.

Luckily, billions of dollars are on the way for ACORN, appropriated in the stimulus bill in an attempt to save the economy from the crisis (the worst since the Great Depression) caused by putting people who could not afford their mortgages into homes that they could not afford.

President Obama spoke to Congress tonight, trying to stir up some optimism. by The Elephant's Child
February 24, 2009, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Domestic Policy, Economy, Energy, Health Care, Progressivism, Taxes | Tags: , ,

I watched President Obama’s speech to the Congress tonight, and I thought it was surprisingly ineffective.  This was to be the optimistic speech, celebrating America and the way forward. An upbeat speech instead of his usual gloom and doom trying to scare Americans into accepting his policies for the economy.

AP’s Ron Fournier’s pre-written article on Obama’s speech said:

Barack Obama is giving America the audacity to hope again.  After describing the U.S. economy in the grimmest of terms for weeks, a rhetorical device that helped propel his $787 billion stimulus plan through Congress, the president used a joint address to Congress to tap the deep well of American optimism — the never-say-die national spirit that every president tries to capture.  And great presidents embody.  “We will rebuild.  We will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before,” Obama says in an address echoing Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan.

We are in the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, and there is no doubt that we will triumph.  Just as soon as the stimulus and the new lending fund, and the housing plan to help the folks who can’t pay their mortgages kick in, and we bailout the banks, American ingenuity will make all well again, because we cannot saddle our grandchildren with our debts which were all caused by that nasty previous administration anyway.  Or something like that.

I am troubled about the policies on which he is placing so much expectation. He promises to double the energy we get from renewables.  We now get about 3.1% of our energy from all renewables.  If we double that we will get 6.1%, which is not going to make a big dent in the foreign oil we import, nor will it cut down the energy we get from coal.  In Europe even the Greens are turning to nuclear. Russia’s turning off the gas spigots enlightened a few minds.

He promises vast savings from computerizing medical records, but studies show that Veterans Administration computerization is actually endangering patients, and elsewhere medical records are completely open to identity theft. The expected savings have not materialized.

He seems to believe that nationalizing health care will create vast savings in the cost of medicine in spite of the evidence of every other country, many of which are trying to find ways out of nationalized care.  It doesn’t work, in spite of every effort, and the savings come from rationing, cutting out the use of new and innovative (and expensive) drugs and treatments.  I would feel more comfortable about this if Congress did not exclude themselves from whatever plan results.

Obama announced that he plans “soak the rich” class-warfare economics, to loud cheers from the Democrat side of the aisle.  Repeating the same old failed policies of the past are not a road to an economic Utopia.  Been there, done that, and it still doesn’t work.

I would be delighted to be proved wrong, but I find little about which to be optimistic.

Determining risk by using computer models is more complicated than you might think. by The Elephant's Child

Last Friday the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center admitted that their sea ice data was off by as much as a half-million square kilometers due to “sensor drift” of the old satellites that they were using.

A new satellite is available, and it is far more precise, but the Snow and Ice Data Center does not use it because its data is inconsistent with their historical data.  The idea of an “ice-free pole” is so much the consensus that they do not want ordinary facts to get in their way.

The extent of Arctic sea ice is an important measure of how rising or cooling temperatures are affecting Earth’s climate.  The satellite sensors caused scientists to underestimate the extent of sea ice by 50,000 kilometers (193,000 square miles) or about the size of California.  But this small error does not change their findings that Arctic ice is retreating.

An article from Anthony Watts blog by Machine Design editor Leland Teschler points out that financial institutions have employed legions of PhD mathematicians and statisticians to model the risks that the firms were assuming under a variety of scenarios.

Huybert Groenendaal’s PhD is in modeling the spread of diseases.  He points out that:

In risk modeling you use a lot of statistics because you want to learn from the past.  That is good if the past is like the future, but in that sense you couuld be getting a false sense of security.

That sense of security plays directly into what happened with banks and financial instruments based on mortgages.  It gets back to the use of historical data.  One critical assumption people had to make was that the past could predict the future.  I believe in the case of mortgage products, there was too much faith in the idea that past trends would hold.

In our experience people have excessive confidence in their historical data.  That problem isn’t unique to the financial area.  You must be cynical and open to the idea that this time, the world would change.  When we work with people on models, we warn them that models are just tools.  You have to think about the assumptions you make.  Models can help you make better decisions, but you must remain skeptical.

Climate change is similar to financial markets in that you can’t run experiments with it as you might when you are formulating theories in physics.  That means your skepticism should go up.

Lots to ponder here.  Read the whole thing.

What’s the matter with Big Government, anyway? by The Elephant's Child
February 23, 2009, 8:41 pm
Filed under: Domestic Policy, Economy, Politics, Progressivism | Tags: , ,

Bu•reauc•ra•cy n. 1. Administration of a government chiefly through bureaus staffed with nonelective officials.  2. Government marked by diffusion of authority among numerous offices and adherence to inflexible rules of operation.  3.  Any administration in which the need to follow complex procedures impedes effective action.

Why do Republicans always talk about “small government” and oppose “big government?” Don’t we need “big government” to fix things, to keep us safe, to build highways and regulate all the things that need regulating?

And isn’t this just hypocrisy?  I haven’t noticed Republicans making the government a lot smaller, nor having the government take on fewer tasks.  True.  It is far, far easier to create a new task force, a new bureau, a new department than to find a way to close one down.

Government and business grow in much the same way.  Workers don’t like working hard all the time, they want more help.  Managers like to have more people to manage, it makes them more important. Senior managers enhance their managerial credibility by reorganizing their department to “increase efficiency”.  CEOs add another layer of management to simplify the number of direct reports. And so it goes.

New Presidents, Governors or Mayors bring in favored associates with their new administration, and create new positions or new departments for those associates.

For example, President Obama is not only struggling to fill all the Cabinet positions, but the positions of  the assistant to the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary, and the Directors of other Bureaus and Departments,and the Deputy Directors,  but he is creating any number of Czars who will overlook something or other and have confused relations with the Cabinet Secretaries who were confirmed by the Senate to be in charge of essentially the same thing.

If anyone can explain the tasks of the various Czars and what the relationship is of the Energy Czar to the Energy Secretary and the Head of the EPA and the Interior Secretary, I would be very interested.

This is how government grows, and how business grows.

In the business world, when things aren’t working or when times turn down, whole layers of management may vanish.  You have heard of massive layoffs, 20,000 here and 30,000 there.  Did you hear of government — any government — laying off people in such numbers?  Eliminating a layer of management? Or eliminating a department?

The car companies are in trouble.  Union agreements have been too generous.  They have too may retirees who receive more retirement benefits than they can afford.  Congress demands ever-increasing mpg from ever less efficient fuel with mandates that the car companies cannot meet.  Car companies cannot build cars for a price that Americans will pay.  Normally this kind of thing is solved by a bankruptcy court.

The White House has announced a Presidential Task Force that will serve in lieu of a bankruptcy judge.  It will contain the following members:

  • Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner
  • National Economic Council Director Larry Summers
  • Secretary of Transportation
  • Secretary of Commerce
  • Secretary of Labor
  • Secretary of Energy
  • Chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers
  • Director of the Office of Management and Budget
  • Environmental Protection Agency Administrator
  • Director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change

– Ron Bloom, Senior Advisor on the Auto Industry, Department of Treasury

Official Designees of the Members of the Presidential Task Force

  • Diana Farrell, Deputy Director, National Economic Council
  • Gene Sperling, Counselor to the Secretary of Treasury
  • Jared Bernstein, Chief Economist to V.P. Biden
  • Edward Montgomery, Senior Advisor, Dept. of Labor
  • Lisa Heinzerling, Senior Climate Policy Counsel to the EPA Administrator
  • Austan Goolsbee, Staff Director and Chief Economist of the Economic Recovery

Advisory Board

  • Dan Utech, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Energy
  • Heather Zichal, Deputy Director, White House Office of Energy and Climate Change
  • Joan DeBoer, Chief of Staff, Department of Transportation
  • Rick Wade, Senior Advisor, Department of Commerce

Bureaucracy kills innovation, destroys initiative, and generally turns possibility into pudding.  Republicans may not be very good at making government smaller and more efficient, but at least they have that as a goal.

Democrats believe that bigger is better.

If this doesn’t make you laugh, you have no sense of humor. by The Elephant's Child
February 22, 2009, 10:10 pm
Filed under: Entertainment, Heartwarming, Humor | Tags: , ,

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