American Elephants


A Drill: Can The Government Respond to A Power Grid Collapse? by The Elephant's Child

America at night

An electrical grid joint drill simulation is being planned in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Power grid vulnerabilities are finally getting some attention from the government.

We’ve been talking about it for years, but there have been no reports about what is being done, except that the EPA is vigorously attempting to shut down all power-producing coal-fired power plants because the environmental loonies at the Sierra Club don’t like coal. They assume incorrectly that global warming, in which they believe with religious fervor, is caused by CO² produced by coal-fired power plants. They are big on fervor, short on science.

A simulation which will focus on both physical and cyber attacks will take place in November. The disaster drill is being described as a crisis practice unlike anything the real power grid has ever experienced. The GridEX II drill on November 13–14 will focus primarily on how governments will react if the electrical grid fails and, for instance, the food supply chain collapses, and the requirements for everyday necessities.

The problem is that there are so many players. Thousands of utility workers, business executives, National Guard officers, F.B.I. antiterrorism experts and officials from all sorts of government agencies from the three countries.

Previous exercises have assumed that the grid would be back in order relatively quickly, but that is not necessarily a reasonable assumption. The real goal of the drill is to see how governments would react if the supply chain went down. From the performance of FEMA in Hurricane Sandy, confidence is fairly low. But the point is to educate the government on what their expectation should  and shouldn’t be.

The grid is essential for almost everything. Consider your grocer: no lights, no refrigeration, no operating deli, no coffee, no cash registers, but the doors wouldn’t open anyway. The grid is controlled by investor-owned companies or municipal or regional agencies. Ninety-nine percent of military facilities rely on commercial power, including the White House. The utilities have grid operations expertise, the government has the intelligence operation, the standing army, the three-letter agencies.

The expertise involves running 5,800 major power plants and 450,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines, monitored and controlled by a vast mix of devices installed over decades. Some utilities rely on their own antique computer protocols, others rely on Windows-based systems that are common to many industries, but they may be vulnerable to malware. Sometimes utility engineers and law enforcement officials speak different languages.

An effort led by former CIA Director James Woolsey is gearing up to pressure state legislatures to force utilities to protect equipment against an electromagnetic pulse, which cold be a huge expense for utilities.

The utility industry argues that the government has extensive information on threats but keeps it classified. Government officials acknowledge the problem but insist utility executives get security clearances. Congress is debating laws that could impose new standards, but many in the industry doubt that such laws could pass.

That’s how governments bumble along. Will a big simulation light a fire under all the players? Strong leadership from the top can make all the difference, but is anybody really serious about this? It remains to be seen. That’s one reason why conservatives push for smaller more-efficient government.



Fancy Fried Favorites Vie For the Big Tex Choice Award! by The Elephant's Child

In keeping with our State Fair theme, The State Fair of Texas has a “Big Tex Choice Award,” a fried food award for the most — maybe just the “MOST“. Past winners have been Fried Coke, Deep Fried Jambalaya, Deep-Fried Bubblegum ?, Deep Fried Latte and Deep-Fried Butter. Why? I guess because you have a big deep fryer and a vivid imagination.

fair_friedkingranchcas

This Texas-shaped morsel is melted cheese, dipped in a zesty southwestern egg wash and coated in panko breadcrumbs, then deep fried golden brown and crunchy on the outside, steamy and creamy on the inside! Served with a side of red, white and blue tortilla chips and a choice of homemade “salsafied” sour cream or cheesy queso (sic). Each one proudly flies the flag of the Lone Star State and is deep fried in the heart of Texas!

Fox News pictures the eight finalists, with enough of a recipe for you to create them at home if you wish. Besides Fernie’s Deep Fried King Ranch Casserole (above), there is 2). Awesome Deep Fried Nutella®, 3) Deep Fried Cuban Roll, 4) Fried Thanksgiving Dinner, 5) Golden Fried Millionaire Pie, 6) Spinach Dip Bites, 7) Southern Style Chicken-Fried Meatloaf, and 8) Texas Fried Fireball.

Step right up, Ladies and Gentlemen. Do you have a cast-iron stomach? Tums are available at the drugstore right across the street from the fair entrance. Vote for your favorite!

Deep fried bubblegum? Why?

 



A Level of Intensity Just Muscular Enough Not to Get Mocked by The Elephant's Child

Assad

Syria.  The U.S. goal is “not to get mocked?” We are going to attack sooner or later, but time is not of the essence, we can do it any time. We’re not going to attack Assad, nor his chemical weapons supplies, and we don’t want to hurt anyone.

A U.S. official said that the initial target lists included fewer than 50 sites, including air bases where Syria’s Russian-made attack helicopters are. The list includes command and control centers as well as a variety of conventional military targets. Perhaps two to three missiles would be aimed at each site.

What the hell is this? Don Rumsfeld remarked that “De-mystifying what you’re going to do to the enemy is — mindless. …There hasn’t been any indication from the administration in respect to what our national interest is.”

Mark Steyn thoughtfully added:

So what do we want in Syria? Obama can’t say, other than for him to look muscular without being mocked, like a camp bodybuilder admiring himself in the gym mirror. …

Meanwhile, the hyperpower is going to war because Obama wandered off prompter and accidentally made a threat. So he has to make good on it, or America will lose its credibility. But he only wants to make good on it in a perfunctory and ineffectual way. So America will lose its credibility, anyway.

Everybody is commenting. Vladimir Putin said he is sure that the attack was the work of rebels trying to provoke international— and especially American — involvement in the Syrian conflict. The government of Bashar al Assad, he said, would have no reason to use chemical weapons at a time when it had gained the upper hand in the fighting.

U.S. Intelligence agencies had indications three days beforehand that the Syrian regime was poised to launch a lethal chemical attack that killed more than a thousand people.

This kind of thing promotes endless speculation, which is of course useless, since you can’t get into another person’s mind, but you speculate anyway. Obama has been quoted some time back saying he didn’t believe anyone should be able to have a gun. I wonder if he has ever been to a war movie, or read any military history? He came of age when it was fashionable among lefties to protest all wars, in mindless ignorance of what they were actually about.

I spent a good part of last Sunday at Seattle’s Museum of Flight touring a B-17, admiring what was at the time, the brand new Navy Corsair, and the astonishingly huge X-15 Blackbird. I have always read military books. I cannot imagine being so unfamiliar with things military that I would confuse corps and corpse. But if you identify something as bad or evil, you’re not apt to pursue information about that subject, and you turn for information to the writers and historians who agree with you.  Trouble is, your ignorance usually catches up with you, especially when you’re trying to sound in charge.

No rush. Obama will consult with Congress, though he says, he is perfectly entitled to act on his own. Here’s the actual quote from the Los Angeles Times:

One U.S. official who has been briefed on the options on Syria said he believed the White House would seek a level of intensity “just muscular enough not to get mocked” but not so devastating that it would prompt a response from Syrian allies Iran and Russia.



Three-Dimensional Illusions in Street Art by The Elephant's Child

(h/t: Maggie’s Farm)

 
 


Who is Really Protesting and What Exactly Do They Want? by The Elephant's Child

Fast Food Protests

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is trying to unionize the fast-food industry. Fast food workers (augmented by hired strikers) are striking restaurants in major cities, to demand that employers should hike their wages to $15 an hour. Because they want more money.

“On Strike: Can’t Survive on $7.25.” Workers are targeting a whole industry. They want more pay, and they want to unionize because SEIU is telling them that if they strike they can get $15 an hour for the same work the are doing now. SEIU is not telling them about the jobs that would be lost, nor is SEIU telling them that there is now a robot hamburger maker that can make better hamburgers faster and cheaper. They can be replaced. Permanently.

Unions in general are a little fuzzy about the laws of supply and demand. Union interest is in acquiring more union members and more union dues because that gives them more political power. Unions portray the fast food industry as ruthless and exploitative. Phil Hickey, who started out washing dishes in a Big Boy restaurant and now owns nine of his own restaurants, and is chairman of the National Restaurant Association, writes in the Wall Street Journal:

Consider the facts about the minimum wage. The majority of workers who earn a minimum wage in the United States work outside of the restaurant industry. In reality, only 5% of the 10 million restaurant employees earn the minimum wage. Those who do are predominantly teenagers working part-time jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 71% of minimum-wage employees in the restaurant industry are under the age of 25; 47% are teenagers.

Striking fast-food workers seem not to have noticed that our economy is in the tank, that people are being laid off full-time jobs, and the only real job growth is in part-time jobs specifically because of ObamaCare regulations.Many fear that we are becoming a part-time nation. The best performing business in the current economy is the temporary-worker industry. Small businesses are closing their doors at an alarming rate, and the unemployment rate is as low as it is because of the huge increase in part-time work.

Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour simply eliminates entry-level positions, for employers will hire only experienced workers. A “living wage” is a nice turn of phrase, but meaningless. Why $15? Why not $25, or $50? Do workers expect to stay in that entry-level position, or do they intend to advance? How does a worker go from washing dishes to owning nine restaurants? Is that a potential career open to all those people now protesting?

Looking at Google Image pictures of striking fast-food workers, I was struck by the absence of the young people I encounter at fast food restaurants.  The visible older “strikers” seemed to be the same strikers last seen in purple SEIU tee shirts. Doesn’t lend much credibility to their protest.



Can Democrats Fool All of Their Base All of The Time? by The Elephant's Child

The Democrats real history with race and slavery is not something on which they choose to dwell. They have chosen instead, a pleasant tale in which they are the heroes of the civil rights movement — who have freed black Americans from oppression and restored the civil rights to which they are entitled. They have uplifted poor blacks with generous welfare; they have occasionally fought for better schools if the teachers union approves; they have given them affirmative action so they can attend college; and they have given them generous student loans and permanent debt; They have provided food stamps; and 47 job training programs, all ineffective; and built free housing. They have given them free phones.

Democrats have had some success with their pleasant little fantasy about race. So they are betting that they can win the midterm election next year by telling black people that requiring a person to show photo ID in order to vote — is an attempt by Republicans to deny their right to vote.

This is so outrageous that  you cannot see how anyone would fall for it. But Democrats are pursing it with a full court press. Attorney General Eric Holder is suing states to block any requirement that voters  prove their identity, because it is racist. There are very few people who do not have picture ID. You need a photo ID to cash a check, to open a bank account, to get food stamps, to get on an airplane, and to enter the building housing Eric Holder’s Justice Department. Photo ID is available to anyone, for free, from a drivers license bureau. So asking to see ID is clearly a racist act.

Politico, always ready to toe the party line, gives it the full agitprop treatment:

The irony of the historical forces colliding at that moment won’t be lost on anyone. The nation’s first African-American president, standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King Jr. stood 50 years earlier, will speak at a time when many African-Americans and other minorities feel that the Voting Rights Act — one of the proudest accomplishments of the civil rights movement — is being dismantled.

The backdrop for the big event is a surge in voter ID laws and other restrictive election measures, and the legal fight the Obama administration has picked with Texas to stop the wave. It’s suing to block the state’s voter ID law from taking effect, a clear signal to other states to think twice before they pass any more restrictions on voting rights.

The other portion of this phony political ploy is the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was intended to prohibit discrimination such as poll taxes, refusal to allow a qualified voter to vote, any form of intimidation, any “test or device” such as a literacy test, or residency requirements that require more than 30 days between registering and voting. The act requires election materials and assistance for a single language minority or illiteracy. The act required certain Southern states who had engaged in such discriminatory practices to get a pre-clearance before making any changes to their voting requirements.

Eric Holder is attempting to claim that because blacks and Hispanics are more apt than white citizens not to have photo ID ( Proof of that illogical claim?) requiring photo ID is a form of discrimination and the state should be required to get pre-clearance and be prevented from requiring such ID. Perhaps the Justice Department should be prevented from requiring photo ID from anyone who wants to enter their building. If it is “racist” for Texas, it is also racist for the Justice Department.

The Court found, June 25, 3013, in Shelby County v. Holder, since blacks were voting in larger percentages than white citizens and had been doing so for many years, that discrimination had ended, and requiring pre-clearance was thus unconstitutional. The pre-clearance part of the law had thus served its intent, and was no longer needed. The Obama administration had no intention of giving up that amount of control. Obama stated that the Supreme Court made a “mistake” on voting rights, but he ignores the Court unless they agree with him. Only the pre-clearance part of the Act was struck down, the rest remains in force. So this whole political ploy is a pretty risky maneuver.

Democrats have no accomplishments to boost their electoral chances next year. The economy has not improved, most of the jobs created have been part time, the only reason the unemployment rate is as low as it is, is because so many people have dropped out of the labor force entirely. Wages are down, and household net worth has decreased sharply. ObamaCare is an unworkable train wreck. The people who have really gotten the short end of the stick are Black Americans, with double digit unemployment numbers, and young black people’s unemployment rate is twice that. Obama’s promises to black Americans were just words to keep them believing.

Economist Thomas Sowell explained Obama’s approach:

Like other truly talented phonies, Barack Obama concentrates his skills on the effect of his words on other people— most of whom do not have the time to become knowledgeable about the things he is talking about. Whether what he says bears any relationship to the facts is politically irrelevant. A talented con man or a slick politician does not waste his time trying to convince knowledgeable skeptics. His job is to keep the true believers believing. He is not going to convince the others anyway.


Eleanor Holmes Norton, Representative of the District of Columbia. by The Elephant's Child

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton represents the District of Columbia, and though she can sit on committees and voice her opinion, she has no vote. Democrats are anxious to make the District a state, since it is reliably Democratic. They want to win. Nevermind rules, ethics or Constitution. They want permanent power and they want the rest of us to shut up. They don’t like dissent. Transforming members of Congress into lobbyists? Fine.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton left a voicemail for a lobbyist in which she brazenly begs for a “contribution.” It’s a not-so-subtle reminder of how legalized bribery is the standard operating procedure in Washington. Until money is taken out of politics, this kind of corruption will only get worse and worse. The Young Turks host Cenk Uygur breaks it down.



The Pentagon Calls the Founding Fathers “Extremists” by The Elephant's Child

Major Nidal Hasan the U.S. Army Psychiatrist who opened fire on dozens of soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, has been found guilty of murdering thirteen people and of attempted murder of thirty-two by a panel of senior officers. In the sentencing phase of the trial, the panel has recommended that he be put to death, an unusual punishment for a military tribunal.  The entire incident remains classified by the U.S. government as “workplace violence” — a ludicrous euphemism for what was clearly a jihadist attack, and what Major Hasan has admitted that he intended.

Hasan, a U.S.-born Muslim, admitted responsibility for the shooting at the start of the trial, saying he had been on the wrong side of a war against Islam and had switched over. During the proceedings, he declined to call any witnesses, testify or give a closing argument. He was prohibited by military law from entering a guilty plea.

At a pretrial hearing, the judge, Col. Tara Osborn, ruled that Hasan could not defend himself by arguing that he carried out the killings to protect Taliban leaders in Afghanistan. Instead, the defendant chose to make his case to the public through communiques and authorized leaks to newspapers, arguing that he was waging jihad because of the United States’ “illegal and immoral aggression against Muslims” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now the trial enters an appeals process, which will take several years. Hasan clearly prefers the death sentence, but appeals courts are unlikely to allow him to represent himself.

Those not on trial were those who, out of reluctance to offend or to appear Islamophobic, passed him on through training, ignoring his Jihadist outbursts, close association with Anwar al Awaliki the Muslim Imam who had decamped for Yemen, and statements about Islam. Even after the shooting, a ranking officer in his division remarked that it would be the greatest of tragedies if our diversity is harmed.

There are increasing signs that political correctness has reared its ugly influence in our nation’s military. So far it has killed far more of our soldiers than just the 13 at Fort Hood. The “Blue on Green” attacks in Afghanistan, where our troops are forbidden to carry loaded weapons to show their trust of their Afghan trainees is an inexcusable violation of basic safety — yet such a thing could not happen without orders and policy from above.

The “workplace violence” designation deprives the Fort Hood’s wounded of benefits, and recognition in a shameful way. The Obama administration still insists that Nidal Hasan was not a terrorist — an ongoing and embarrassing lie.

In the meantime, military training has become a strange world where the Founding Fathers have become depicted as extremists and conservative groups are defined as “hate groups.”

Saying “Give me liberty or give me death” qualifies Patrick Henry as an extremist, according to the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute training guide which has been obtained by Judicial Watch under a Freedom of Information Act Request. …

Under a section titled “Extremist Ideologies,” the document states, “In U.S. history, there are many examples of extremist ideologies and movements. The colonists who sought to free themselves from British rule and the Confederate states who sought to secede from the Northern states are just two examples.”…

“Nowadays, instead of dressing in sheets or publicly espousing hate messages, many extremists will talk of individual liberties, states’ rights, and how to make the world a better place,” the Pentagon guide advises.

This is an emerging, and very troubling pattern.



Economist Walter Williams On The Progress Since Martin Luther King’s 1963 Speech: by The Elephant's Child

And from James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal:

Every Problem Looks Like a Nail

  • “Activists Call Drug Sentences Civil Rights Issue”–headline, Deseret News (Salt Lake City), Aug. 10, 1993
  • “Census Is Civil Rights Issue”–headline, Deseret News, Dec. 20, 2000
  • “Bush Calls Education ‘Civil Rights Issue of Our Time’ “–headline, CNN.com, Jan. 19, 2002
  • “School Choice Is the Current Civil Rights Issue”–headline, Cedartown (Ga.) Standard, June 27, 2002
  • “Same-Sex Couples Call Gay Marriage a Civil Rights Issue”–headline, Miami Herald, Aug. 10, 2003
  • “Is Abortion a Civil Rights Issue?”–headline, Salon.com, Jan. 8, 2008
  • “Legalizing Marijuana Is Civil Rights Issue, California NAACP Says”–headline, CNN.com, July 7, 2010
  • “Unions Frame Bargaining as Civil Rights Issue”–headline, Oakridger.com (Oak Ridge, Tenn.), March 15, 2011
  • “Are Lower School Achievement Levels a Civil Rights Issue?”–headline, WGCU-FM website (Fort Myers, Fla.), Aug. 7, 2013
  • “Health-Care Costs Are a Civil Rights Issue”–headline, Washington Post website, Aug. 28, 2013


Obama Dithers While Syria Burns by The Elephant's Child

I am accustomed to a world in which the Defense Department, and the intelligence agencies keep track of what is going on and have an array of response plans for potential events. We have known for a long time that Bashar Assad, the Syrian dictator, has a supply of chemical weapons (WMD) which he acquired from Saddam Hussein. But we don’t know what to do?

A Civil War has been going on in Syria for some time, and it has been escalating steadily, with millions of refugees, In 2009,, Kerry said “I believe very deeply that this is an important moment of change, a moment of potential transformation, not just in the relationship between the United States and Syria but in the relationship of the region.” that “Syria is an essential player in bringing peace and stability to the region.”

In 2010, the Kerrys were  great pals of the Assads, and Bashar’s stylish wife Asma was featured on the cover of Vogue. So much for understanding the region.

On Monday, it was a bit different. Kerry said:

The meaning of this attack goes beyond the conflict in Syria itself, and that conflict has already brought so much terrible suffering. This is about the large-scale, indiscriminate use of weapons that the civilized world long ago decided must never be used at all – a conviction shared even by countries that agree on little else. There is a clear reason that the world has banned entirely the use of chemical weapons. There is a reason the international community has set a clear standard and why many countries have taken major steps to eradicate these weapons. There is a reason why President Obama has made it such a priority to stop the proliferation of these weapons and lock them down where they do exist. There is a reason why President Obama has made clear to the Assad regime that this international norm cannot be violated without consequences. And there is a reason why no matter what you believe about Syria, all peoples and all nations who believe in the cause of our common humanity must stand up to assure that there is accountability for the use of chemical weapons so that it never happens again.

So all officialdom talks about what they will do. The leaks tell Assad that he can relax, we have no intention of destroying the regime, an American military attack could begin as early as Thursday, and will involve three days of missile strikes. Perhaps they should let him know the exact schedule so he can prepare to avoid any damage. The object of the strike seems to be to let the world know that Obama does too mean it when he draws a red line. The whole thing is not about actually doing anything, bur simply about making a political statement.

Political statements can be delivered in political ways. American military personnel should not be put in harm’s way to make a “political statement.”

There are a number of sources who note that it is quite possible that it is the rebels who are using chemical weapons rather than Assad, because he seems to be winning without drastic steps. Lebanese-American scholar Fouad Ajami has pointed out that:

Syria’s main asset, in contrast to Egypt’s preeminence and Saudi wealth, is its capacity for mischief.

Ideally, the regime should be removed, but there is no one to replace it. The rebels are infiltrated with al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. American foreign policy is once again an exhibition of indecision and incompetence. Broadcasting everything you might do not only appears weak, but puts our military at risk. Can we assume that they have no other weapons than chemical ones? No stinger missiles or the equivalent?

Public dithering inspires no confidence from the people, from the nations of the world, or from the enemy. No confidence at all.



ObamaCare: If Millionaire Celebrities Can Afford It, Surely You Can by The Elephant's Child

Keep Voting Groups in Their Place — As Victims. by The Elephant's Child

Late last week, the Justice Department asked a federal court to stop 34 school districts in Louisiana from giving private-school vouchers  to minority children to help them escape failing public schools. Justice Department lawyers claim the voucher program appears “to impede the desegregation process” required by federal law. They didn’t come up with much in the way of evidence to support that claim. Is this a return to the 1950s? Or does fidelity to teacher’s unions trump the well-being of kids?

Louisiana’s state-wide program guarantees a voucher to students from families with incomes below 250% of the poverty level and who attend schools graded C or below. The point of the program is to let kids escape the segregation of failed schools. About 90% of the children who benefit from the program are black. Justice is more concerned with the skin colors of the school’s student body than with their failure to actually educate the kids.

If you can  follow the logic, it seems to run like this. During the 2012-2013 school year about 10% of voucher recipients came from 22 districts that remain under desegregation orders that are around 50 years old. In several of those 22 districts “the voucher recipients were in the racial minority at the public school they attended before receiving the voucher.” So Justice is claiming that the voucher program is illegal because minority kids made these failing schools more white by leaving those schools to go to better private schools.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when many schools were destroyed, Louisiana has become a leader in school reform. New Orleans has city-wide charter schools, and now vouchers for poor kids. According to the Wall Street Journal, sources in Louisiana think it’s about helping the teachers union to repeal the voucher law by any legal means. Justice accidentally gives this away by claiming “jurisdiction over Louisiana” even for vouchers for students in districts without desegregation orders.

In Washington D.C. it took a real fight to get this administration to agree to extend the Opportunity Scholarships program. Teachers unions are more important to the administration than poor black children.

The administration has insisted that efforts to reduce voter fraud by requiring photo I.D. to prove that voters are indeed who they claim to be — is somehow meant to keep black citizens from voting. Since photo I.D. is required to cash a check or open a bank account, to buy beer, to travel, or— especially to enter the Justice Department in Washington D.C. or most court houses — the attempt to portray the requirement as racist is absurd, but blacks are susceptible to that kind of propaganda, because blacks were once kept from voting, and it took strong civil rights laws to rectify the situation. But they were passed, and we have a black president, black senators, black cabinet members, and black justices. Those who are Republicans are called “Uncle Toms.”

Yet to listen to the speeches from the commemoration of the original March on Washington, our black citizens are increasingly victims of racism. We need new laws to keep black children in failing schools, to prevent anyone from asking to see a black person’s I.D. because that might be racist.

Martin Luther King Jr. famously said: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Oddly enough, the President of the United States, his Attorney General and the prosecutors were not interested in judging Trayvon Martin or George Zimmerman by the content of their character, but did everything they could to see that unfortunate case was decided by the color of their skins,

Unemployment rates for Black Americans remain in double digits, and unemployment rates for black youth are double that. It would seem to be more important that our Black citizens remain victims — than that they be provided with opportunity.




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