American Elephants


Remarkably Insensitive To The ‘Optics’ Of Their Actions. by The Elephant's Child

Among the many words that smitten journalists have come up with during the Obama administration, one of the most annoying is “optics”, once defined as “the scientific study of light and vision, chiefly of the generation, propagation, and detection of electro-magnetic radiation having wavelengths greater than x-rays  and shorter than microwaves” into — the way things look. It somehow seems more delicate to speak of the “optics” of something than to say it looks really bad. And of course American journalists are more delicate than their equivalents in the United Kingdom. Sometimes you must turn to the British papers to find out how things actually look on this side of the pond.

First dog Bo is airlifted to Obama holiday home” says the Telegraph. “When President Barack Obama goes on holiday to the seaside things can get complicated.”

Rooms have to be found for dozens of Secret Service agents, someone has to carry a selection of presidential basketballs, and of course the family dog needs his own state-of-the-art aircraft.

Arriving in the idyllic coastal retreat of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, Mr Obama left behind him in Washington DC high profile debates over the budget, government surveillance and his health care reforms. Instead, he will spend the next eight days playing golf, going to the beach, and buying books from the Bunch of Grapes bookstore….

Bo, the president’s Portuguese Water Dog, arrived separately on one of two MV-22 Ospreys, a hybrid aircraft which takes off like a helicopter but flies like a plane.

Presidents need and deserve vacations, but the Obama’s are remarkably oblivious to the “optics” of things — vacationwise,

President Obama took his case for whining about the sequester to hundreds of disabled veterans on Saturday, saying he protected their benefits from the “reckless” cuts to the federal budget this year, but suggested that next year might be different.

“It’s hurting our military. I made it clear that your veteran’s benefits are exempt from this year’s sequester,” the president said to the applause of hundreds at the Disabled American Veterans’ convention in Orlando, Fla. “But I want to tell you going forward the best way to protect the VA care you have earned is to get rid of this sequester altogether.”

The president but the blame squarely on Congress, which returns in about four weeks to work on a new federal budget and increasing the federal debt limit.

“We’ve got these reckless, across-the-board budget cuts called the sequester that are hitting a lot of folks hard,” Obama said. “Congress needs to come together and agree on a responsible plan that reduces our deficit and keeps our promises to our veterans and keeps our promises to future generations.”

The optics, the optics, the optics! It really looks bad when you warn our disabled veterans that you may cut their benefits, then you jet off to Martha’s Vineyard, with a couple of extra Ospreys for your dog and the basketballs. Jay Carney, press secretary, said “Obviously, when you’re President of the United States, you carry a little baggage when you travel. And that’s true whether it’s on a summit, international meeting, a domestic trip, or for a vacation. I know he’s looking forward very much to some down time with his family.”

The backlog of claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs continues. 780,000 claims are pending. About 500,000 are backlogged (over 4 months), they need more funding for prosthetics, and Republicans are hammering the department on the issue of patient safety. Oddly, the president can delay ObamaCare for large employers, and free Congress from the legal requirement that they fully participate in the PPACA insurance plans which they forced on unwilling citizens. When people listen to the administration claims for the desirability of ObamaCare, do they ever stop to compare it to the VA’s TriCare or to the Indian Health Service? The Optics are bad.



Worse Than Solyndra: The Shepherds Flat Wind Project! by The Elephant's Child

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Back in 2011, Robert Bryce wrote about America’s Worst Wind-Energy Project.

The more people know about the wind-energy business, the less they like it. And when it comes to lousy wind deals, General Electric’s Shepherds Flat project in northern Oregon is a real stinker….

The majority of the funding for the $1.9 billion, 845-megawatt Shepherds Flat wind project in Oregon is coming courtesy of federal taxpayers. And that largesse will provide a windfall for General Electric and its partners on the deal who include Google, Sumitomo, and Caithness Energy. Not only is the Energy Department giving  GE and its partners a $1.06 billion loan guarantee, but as soon as GE’s 338 turbines start turning at Shepherds Flat, the Treasury Department will send the project developers a cash grant of $490 million.

The deal was so lucrative for the project developers that last October, some of Obama’s top advisers…wrote a memo saying that the project’s backers had “little skin in the game” while the government would be providing “a significant subsidy (65+ percent).” The memo goes on to say that, while the project backers would only provide equity equal to about 11 percent of the total cost of the wind project, they would receive an “estimated return on equity of 30 percent.” (emphasis added)

Bryce also quoted the CEO of Duke Energy as saying that wind capacity is growing because energy companies can goose their profits by putting up turbines so they can collect subsidies from taxpayers. One of GE’s partners in the deal said they were pleased about bringing “green energy jobs to our economy.” If you count only the $490 million cash grant for GE when the project is finished the cost of the “green energy” jobs will be about $16.3 million each.

Shepherds Flat is the world’s largest wind farm, about halfway between The Dalles and Pendleton in Oregon, south of the Columbia River. Interestingly, what energy is produced goes not to Oregon, but to Southern California which is always hungry for Northwest power. The Obama administration’s loan guarantee for Solyndra got lots of attention, but Shepherds Flat is an even better example of corporate welfare, and a huge drain on taxpayer funds when the economy is in the tank. The Oregonian newspaper has launched an investigation about the federal Energy Department’s loan-guarantee program and the state of Oregon’s decision to award a total of $30 million to the project — “frosting on a multilayered cake of federal, state and local subsidies.”  Reporter Ted Sickinger said “Its developers gorged themselves on hundreds of millions of dollars from taxpayers, and government officials were well aware it was over-subsidized.”

Oregon is oversupplied with green activists, so the Shepherds Flat project added luster to Oregon’s green ambitions. Sickinger added “Though its renewable energy credits flow to California, it generates lots of clean power. Politicians can point to property taxes and community service fees for rural counties, big lease payments for a handful of landowners and 45 permanent jobs.”

The Oregon Department of Energy ignored its own rules, legislators’ intent and taxpayers’ interest in reaffirming its decision to define Shepherds Flat wind farm as three separate facilities and provide its owners three separate $10 million tax credits.

So there you go. They brag about the wonders of clean, green energy, yet when you peel back the covers, it’s pretty slimy underneath.




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