American Elephants

Is This Still America? The American People Demand Answers. by The Elephant's Child


What worries you? Are you concerned by NSA collecting meta data from your phone calls, emails, Facebook pages and Twitter posts, with the help of giant technology businesses like Google, Microsoft, Apple and others? How about the police collecting your license plates and driver’s license information?

Or perhaps you are alarmed by ObamaCare’s upcoming collection of your personal and medical information and making it available to hundreds of low paid flunkies?  Your name, age, race, height, weight, blood pressure, allergies, medical status, Social Security number, home address, family members — sorry, HHS has said they don’t have the funds to protect that information — just enough to gather and disseminate it.  Why worry?

Well, the federal government is now working on ways to ease your concerns. They are hiring what they call a  “Behavioral Insights Team” that will look for ways to subtly influence people’s behavior, according to documents obtained by Fox News.

The program is still in its early stages, but the document shows that the White House is working on such projects with almost a dozen federal departments and agencies — including HHS and the Department of Agriculture. (And the EPA? Of course they include the EPA.)

“Behavioral sciences can be used to help design public policies that work better, cost less, and help people to achieve their goals,” reads the government document describing the program, which goes on to call for applicants to apply for positions on the team.

The document was emailed by Maya Shankar, a White House senior adviser on social and behavioral sciences, to a university professor with the request that it be distributed to people interested in joining the team. The idea is that the team would “experiment” with various techniques, with the goal of tweaking behavior so people do everything from saving more for retirement to saving more in energy costs.

The document praises subtle policies to change behavior that have already been implemented in England, which already has a “Behavioral Insights Team.” One British policy concerns how to get late tax filers to pay up.

“Sending letters to late taxpayers that indicated a social norm — i.e., that ‘9 out of 10 people in Britain paid their taxes on time’ — resulted in a 15 percent increase in response rates over a three-month period, rolling out to £30 million of extra annual revenue,” the document reads.

Well, isn’t that interesting? I am such a boring person that my metadata is probably not too interesting and used carefully, it can help to find the terrorists in this country that they can’t seem to pick up when they are warned about them by foreign intelligence services — like the Tsarnaev brothers. I’m considerably less comfortable with my complete identity, history, address, who knows— perhaps even my bank account available to bunch of low-paid bureaucrats in beltway cubicles.  Who wouldn’t be? Formal oaths don’t seem to work these days — see Private Manning,  Edward Snowden, and that oath to preserve and defend the Constitution.

The “Behavior Insights Team” is a bundle of really stupid ideas. Is this no longer America? Is this how they plan to win elections and stay in power? Only Liberals could dream up a scheme like this and even consider putting it into action. Colloquially called “The Nudge Squad.” They intend to enroll university professors to serve on the Nudge Squad and develop it.

Derived from a 2008 book by former regulatory czar and far-left Cass Sunstein and Chicago Booth School of Business professor Richard Thaler. Thaler told Fox that the program sounds good. “I don’t know who those people are who would not want such a program, but they must either be misinformed or misguided.”

“The goal is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government by using scientifically collected evidence to inform policy designs. What is the alternative? The only alternatives I know are hunches, tradition, and ideology (either left or right). Thus spake the voice of the far left academy. They naturally assume that enlightened people such as themselves know better about making choices than the individuals who make the choices.

How about drastically reducing the number of things the government does? There are very few things that our government does well, and the more tasks they add  — the worse it gets. This is an out-of-control administration infused with radical ideas that is extending its reach into territory denied to it by the Constitution — which they want to change because it interferes with their greedy grasp for power. Oh do, very much, read the whole thing.

A Small Victory Against the Encroaching Nanny State by The Elephant's Child

A New York State Appeals Court has ruled that Mayor Bloomberg’s New York City plan to ban large sugary drinks from restaurants and other eateries was an illegal overreach of executive power, upholding a lower court decision in March that struck down the law.

The law would have prohibited those businesses from selling sodas or any other large sugary beverage larger than 16 ounces. The law “violated the state principle of separation of powers” the Appellate Division said in a unanimous decision.

Mayor Bloomberg had advanced the regulation to combat obesity among city residents. Beverage makers and business groups challenged it in court. Good for them. It’s not Mayor Bloomberg’s business.

George Mitchell, R.I.P. American Hero. by The Elephant's Child

George Mitchell

More than any other single person, Texas oil man and petrochemical engineer George Mitchell gets the credit for developing the drilling technology known as hydraulic fracturing that has created a shale oil and gas revolution in America, and dramatically changed the global energy landscape in America’s favor. News agencies are reporting that George Mitchell has died at age 94.

The techniques are changing the energy picture of the world.  Britain has discovered big shale deposits, which are a huge boon for a country where many people were suffering from energy poverty. A couple of years ago, retirees were buying used books at jumble sales because they were cheaper to burn than wood or coal.

As the techniques combining hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling advanced, “Fracking” started unlocking vast deposits of shale oil and gas in America on private lands, where permission from the federal government was not necessary. President Obama remains in pursuit of the last traces of CO² which he calls “carbon pollution.”

The significance of the shale revolution can hardly be overestimated. Beginning in about 2006, domestic production of oil and gas has surged by more than 30% between 2005 and 2012 and completely reversed  a three-decade long decline in production. ( Which partly accounted for the enthusiasm for alternative energy — addiction to foreign oil, you know).

From Bloomberg:

Mitchell’s innovative use of horizontal wells and hydraulic fracturing in the 1990s to release gas from a previously impermeable rock formation near Fort Worth, Texas, earned him the nickname the “father of the Barnett Shale.” Those drilling breakthroughs revolutionized oil and gas exploration from Pennsylvania to Poland and the Yukon Territory to Argentina.

“My engineers kept telling me, ‘You are wasting your money, Mitchell.’ And I said, Well damn it, let’s figure this thing out, because there is no question there is a tremendous source bed that’s about 250 feet thick.”

From Knox News/ AP:

George P. Mitchell leveraged a penchant for hard work, an appetite for risk and dogged persistence in the face of futility into a technological breakthrough that reshaped the global energy industry and made the wildcat oilman a billionaire. Mitchell, the developer and philanthropist who also is considered the father of fracking, doggedly pursued natural gas he and others knew were trapped in wide, thin layers of rock deep underground. Fracking brought an entirely new — and enormous — trove of oil and gas within reach.

The son of a Greek immigrant who ran a cleaning and shoeshine business in Galveston, Mitchell became one of the wealthiest men in the U.S. and an American hero. His technological breakthrough transformed economies in North Dakota, Texas and Pennsylvania, and is migrating around the world.

George Mitchell’s life and works contradict every element of Obama’s “fairness doctrine,” his economic policies, and his constant attacks on “the rich.” It is optimistic, hard-working individual liberty and creativity that creates jobs, makes other people rich and makes America an exceptional nation.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, Saudi royal and billionaire, thinks the US. shale boom is endangering his country’s economy. Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, is now pumping at less than its production capacity because consumers are limiting their oil imports. The kingdom is facing a threat since its economy’s near-complete reliance on oil as 92% of this year’s budget depends on oil.

Naked Pole Dancing in Canada’s Parks by The Elephant's Child

Did you ever wonder what the bears do in the woods when we are not there to observe them? Would you believe pole dancing? Nah, they just have itchy backs like the rest of us. 

These images were captured with a remote wildlife camera as various species visited a “communications tree in Kananaskis County in the Alberta National Parks.

(h/t: American Digest)

Media Bias: How It’s Done. by The Elephant's Child

Republicans are noted for bellyaching about media bias. Here’s a particularly good, but silly, example, The Associated Press is usually a good example.

Under the headline “Iowans express support for health care expansion” —the article begins : “Iowa residents are largely expressing support for a plan to expand low-income health care, although there are still questions about some of the details.” That certainly give you the impression that the people of Iowa really like ObamaCare, doesn’t it? You have to read the whole (very short) article to discover that they are writing about a meeting attended by 75 people. Bwa-ha-hahaha. Really?

%d bloggers like this: