American Elephants

The Grotesque Opulence of a Presidential Trip. by The Elephant's Child

When things get too hot in the Nation’s Capitol and the scandals mount, leaders are apt to get out of town. Redirect the news. Give the media something else to focus on. Distraction. Never mind the sequester, never mind Americans out of work,. The President and his family are heading for Africa. The trip will not be cheap. It is expected to cost American taxpayers $60 to $100 million, according to the Washington Post. Presidential travel does not come cheap.

When President Obama goes on an extended trip to sub-Saharan Africa, the federal agencies charged with protecting the president won’t take any chances. Hundreds of U.S. Secret Service agents will be dispatched to secure facilities in Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania. A Navy aircraft carrier or amphibious ship with a fully staffed medical trauma center will be stationed offshore in case of a presidential emergency.

Military cargo planes, lots of them, will airlift 56 support vehicles, including 14 limousines and  three trucks loaded with sheets of bullet-proof glass to cover the windows of the hotels where the first family will stay. Fighter jets will fly in shifts giving 24-hour coverage over the president’s airspace so they can intervene quickly if an errant plane gets too close.

“The extraordinary security provisions — costing the government tens of millions of dollars are outlined in a confidential internal planning document obtained by The Washington Post. While the preparations appear to be in line with similar travels in the past, the document offers an unusual glimpse into the colossal efforts to protect the U.S. commander-in-chief on trips abroad.”

After the paper questioned the costs of a planned family safari, the White House canceled that excursion. “The president and the first lady had also planned to take a Tanzanian safari as part of the trip, which would have required the president’s special counter-assault team to carry sniper rifles with high-caliber rounds that could neutralize cheetahs, lions or other animals if they became a threat, according to the planning document. Nut the White House canceled the safari on Wednesday following inquiries from The Washington Post about the trip’s purpose and expense, according to a person familiar with the decision.” We need more inquiry about the trip’s purpose and expense.

The paper adds, “Obama’s trip could cost the federal government $60 million to 100 million based on the costs of similar African trips in recent years.The Secret Service planning document, which was provided to the Post by a person who is concerned about the amount of resources necessary for the trip, does not specify costs.” And the purpose of the trip is…?

White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes says the president will get “great bang for the buck” for US foreign policy as a result of President Obama’s trip to Africa at month’s end. Despite high costs, NSC Rhodes defends President Obama’s upcoming trip to Africa. He says the US would cede leadership there if Obama didn’t go.”Cede leadership there?” What an utterly embarrassing thing to say. Did any other leader in the history of the world travel in such grotesque opulence?

And schoolchildren are not allowed tours of their White House, which are conducted by volunteers, because Obama wants the public to feel the pain of the sequester and blame Republicans for their intransigence.  What is wrong with this picture?

Wildfire! Colorado is Burning. by The Elephant's Child


Authorities edged a little closer to bringing the Black Forest fire near Colorado Springs under control today. This has been a bad one. More than 38,000 people were evacuated at the peak of the fire. It is the worst in the state’s history, has killed two people, and destroyed 419 homes so far, with another 15 partially destroyed.

Today they had some cloud cover and some rain that helped. The fire has raged mostly uncontrolled for days with a burn zone that covered nearly 25 square miles. But it is only one of three major fires burning in Colorado. The Black Forest fire is now the most destructive on record in the state.  The fire was likely human-caused, but they have not yet found whether it was arson or carelessness.

Here is a slide show that shows some of the damage., in what was a nice neighborhood in the woods. A forecast for windy weather had authorities worried. A separate wildfire in the state, the Royal Gorge fire,3,216 acres, shut down the historic Royal Gorge Bridge, and 900 inmates had to be evacuated from the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility.

The Big Meadows fire in Rocky Mountain National Park was reported to have spread over 353 acres by late Thursday. That fire is in a remote area and did not threaten homes or communities, and is 30 percent contained.

The Rifle Gap fire is 40 acres and hikers and campers have been evacuated. The Klikus Fire, 42 acres, is 100% contained, and the Bergen Rock fire in Douglas County is also 100% contained.

We’ve had Superstorm Sandy, where they are still cleaning up and will be for a long time yet. Moore, Oklahoma and other areas in Oklahoma, wiped out by tornadoes, and now raging wildfire.  Reminds you of the awesome power of Mother Nature. I hope all the families have shelter. Hard loss.

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