American Elephants

Secrets, Conspiracy, Rumors And A Lack of Transparency. by The Elephant's Child

North by Northwest

In the first two years of his presidency, Barack Obama had an easy relationship with Congress, for both houses were controlled by Democrats, and what Obama wanted, Obama got. In the second two years, Republicans won a solid majority in the House of Representatives, and the president faced opposition. Mr. Obama has made it clear that he doesn’t like disagreement.

Republicans are deeply worried about the administration’s profligate spending, and worry that raising taxes, as they agreed to in January, will put the nation back into recession. Mr. Obama believes that spending is the way to economic growth.

The president’s arrogant attempts to go around Congress and the excessive flow of regulation from the administration have alarmed administration watchers. Promises of “transparency” have proven to be ephemeral.

Answers about the “Fast and Furious” gunrunning scandal have not been forthcoming. Sensitive security information about the bin Laden raid was released to the media for political purposes. Obama told Defense Contractors to hide scheduled layoffs until after the election, breaking the law.

The attack on the Benghazi compound and the death of the ambassador, his technology aide, and two former SEAL team members was covered up, blamed on an obscure video, the filmmaker imprisoned on spurious charges, amid charges that the administration made no effort to save their lives during a seven-hour battle. The president was disinterested and went to bed, as did the Secretary of State.

It came to light that the president has a “kill list” of terrorists who could be eliminated by drones. A terrorist in Yemen who was killed turned out to be an American citizen. His young son who was an American citizen was also killed. Lots of questions were raised. Does the president have the authority to kill an American citizen, even if he is a suspected, or known, terrorist? Are there rules? And what are they?

News report: Homeland Security ordered 450 million rounds of ammunition for its 65,ooo armed personnel. In 2011, the FBI ordered up to 100 million bullets for its 13,913 agents.  A tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School brought demands to end “gun violence.” Posturing politicians like California’s Dianne Feinstein went after “assault weapons,” though no one could identify just what an assault weapon is — it seems to be entirely cosmetic. Americans saw this as an effort to repeal the Second Amendment, and rushed to gun dealers to buy weapons and stock up  on ammunition. What did you expect?

President Obama made a series of nominations for major cabinet offices, and chose, for Defense, a former enlisted man who believes in eliminating nuclear weapons and seems not to understand our recent wars at all. Obama fired, or encouraged the departure of two of our top generals. And for CIA he chose a man who was apparently involved in running a secret operation in Benghazi that affected the attacks there, and who seemed incapable of answering simple direct questions.

The Department of Homeland Security bought 7,000 5.56 x45 NATO personal defense weapons (real assault weapons), both automatic and semi-automatic. DHS has also purchased 2,717 MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected) vehicles with gun ports, for use on American city streets. Why?

Overarmed federal officials are increasingly employing military tactics as a first resort in routine law enforcement. They are employing heavily armed SWAT teams against harmless, frequently innocent civilians who are accused of non-violent civil or administrative violations. Deroy Murdock  enumerated some of the victims of over-armed military style agency attack.

If these separate actions and incidents have made many Americans a little paranoid,  it’s hardly surprising. Governments have been brought down for less.

When Americans demand “transparency,” they actually mean it. The President and all his minions and our representatives in Congress work for us. They are not autocrats entitled to keep their actions secret. The oaths they take to defend the Constitution are not matters of tradition, but promises they make— in return for the offices we allow them to hold temporarily. They need to explain their actions. They are responsible to us.

The government has no money of its own. The funds they squander so carelessly came out of our pockets, and represent a vacation we couldn’t afford, a neglected repair for the house, a needed new appliance that will have to wait for another year. We didn’t elect them to “fundamentally transform” the United States of America. We elected them to preserve, protect and defend. and they’ve been doing a lousy job of it. We want straight answers, and ethical behavior.

Senator Rand Paul had some questions about John Brennan, the nominee to head the Central Intelligence Agency. He wrote to Mr. Brennan requesting some clarification of administration attitudes toward their powers of authorizing drone strikes against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil , and without trial. This came in the wake of considerable talk about the use of drones in the United States, and the execution with a drone of an American Citizen and his family in Yemen. The administration handed the question over to Attorney General Eric Holder, who was incapable of giving a straight answer, as was nominee Brennan.

So Rand Paul filibustered the nomination. Eric Holder could not clarify the distinction between what is a matter of due process and what is war-making and subject to the rules of war. Democrats would not give a “Sense of the Senate” that drone attacks could not be made on American citizens on American territory.

It is to be hoped that the administration will gain some understanding of the problems that have been caused by their own lack of transparency, their refusal to give straight answers to straight questions, and a general arrogance that proclaims that they are our betters and are not answerable to us.

A New Chief for Energy.The Greens Are Up-In-Arms. by The Elephant's Child


President Obama has nominated MIT Professor Ernest Moniz to run the Department of Energy. Dr. Moniz is a nuclear physicist, with a doctorate in theoretical physics from Stanford University, and a member of the Clinton administration.  He was a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology that recommended dumping $16 billion a year into renewables — three times the previous amount.

He has warned about climate change, and has been concerned that there hasn’t been enough action to combat it. The MIT Energy Initiative, which he directs, has studied natural gas and fracking, but it has led him to parrot the usual environmental lines about water contamination and methane leaks. He is described as “a politically savvy guy, and as a result of his time in Washington he understands Washington reasonably well.”

At the MIT Energy Initiative, Moniz focused on transforming the energy mix, with particular reference to renewable energy technology, which many Republicans in Congress regard with suspicion, if not contempt. But Moniz has also insisted that non-renewables must remain part of the energy portfolio for several years until they become “too carbon-intensive”. Natural gas “is part of our solution, at least for some time,” he told a meeting at the University of Texas, Austin in December.

And in testimony about a recent MIT Energy Initiative report into the controversial process of fracking, which involves pumping sand and liquid into deep shale deposits to liberate natural gas, he spoke out against banning the method, calling instead for better regulation and oversight.

In testimony before the Senate a couple of years ago, he suggested that regulation would be best if “applied uniformly to all shales” which suggest he is in favor as most greens are of the feds taking over regulation of fracking from the states. Greens are up in arms over his nomination, his cardinal sin seems to be favoring natural gas as a “bridge fuel” until such time as the green vision of an all-renewable world comes to pass. This used to be the view of nearly every environmental group not long ago. His other sin is the belief that nuclear should remain part of the energy mix, common sense for most policymakers, but another line in the sand for growing numbers of greens.

Think Progress describes Moniz as “bullish” on solar energy, and he has advised a number of solar finance and technology companies. He believes that nuclear poser can be a partial solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the long term. He sees natural gas as a true bridge to a low-carbon future, but has warned that is could slow the growth in clean energy. A 2011 MIT gas study calls for a reduction in “greenhouse pollution” greater than 50%. He has said regarding energy efficiency “The most important thing is lowering your use of energy in ways that actually save you money,” he said, “It sounds trivial, but putting out lights really does matter.”

He would, in some ways, his favor of natural gas and nuclear energy, to be an improvement on Secretary Stephen Chu, but he is more savvy in the ways of Washington politics, and thus a more formidable opponent.

The general interest in this appointment is less concerned with the beliefs of this nominee, than in his hair style, which does seem a little 18th century. I wish people were more interested in his convictions and his policies.

It is quite possible for a physicist to be unfamiliar with the science that concerns those who believe that climate is always changing, that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is not the cause of warming. Some have written about the evidence that completely changed their minds. It is especially possible for a theoretical physicist to believe that breakthroughs in harnessing the power inherent in the wind and in the rays of the sun are only the right equation away.

There’s a big gap between the true watermelons — the radicals who, upon the collapse of communism, moved to environmentalism as the best venue for their grasp for power — those who assume that oil is, by its nature, bad; and those who believe that the immense panic over one degree of warming and computer program predictions of disaster in another hundred years, might be more a fault of the idea that computers can predict the future, than of Mother Nature who seems to keep on  keeping on pretty well. The whole thing is a bundle of science, emotion, religion, radicalism, and junk science, slowly sorting itself out with billions and billions of taxpayer dollars.

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