American Elephants


A Curious And Appalling Agreement to Keep Talking by The Elephant's Child

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With many of the policies our president announces, you know it’s not going to work and I know it’s not going to work, so why is he doing it? I’m certainly not a psychoanalyst, and you probably aren’t either. Congressmen are quick to oppose something and say why, but the White House itself is very close-mouthed. I pay a lot of attention to Richard Epstein’s comments, because I’m a great admirer of Mr. Epstein, and I think he’s an unusually careful observer. (If you haven’t watched the video, it’s helpful if you are curious. Short segment at 20:36).

With all the news about the Iraq nuclear talks, it’s pretty clear that Sec. Kerry and Sec. Moniz have their marching orders. Obama wants a deal. So far the tentative agreement seems to be just what we laughed at for its absurdity. It’s an agreement to keep talking for a few more months, with some very disturbing guidelines. Neither side agrees to what the other said they agreed to.

“Negotiators have a tentative agreement on the rough outline of a possible public statement on the progress they have made so far that would also highlight areas of disagreement, diplomats close to the talks said.”

What I believe would be an acceptable deal bears no relationship to what Obama has in mind, and what he has in mind is frightening in its possible outcome. The questions multiply. (Epstein: He is very dogmatic in his essential positions, and does not change his mind.) But Obama said the Iranians want to be part of the community of nations, or something like that. Well, no, the mullahs have no interest in a community of nations, unless it is a restored Persian empire, and whatever the Iranian people want is of no concern. This is a theocracy, not a democracy. Obama has said Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons. (No one anywhere can find any evidence of such a fatwa) From Raymond Ibrahim:

First, the Islamic doctrine of taqiyya permits Muslims to deceive non-Muslims. Islamic prophet Muhammad himself regularly lied to his infidel enemies, often resulting in their murder (such as the case of Ka‘b ibn Ashraf). He also proclaimed that lying was permissible in three contexts, one being war. Moreover, throughout the centuries and due to historic circumstances (discussed here), taqiyya became second nature to the Shia — the sect currently ruling Iran. …

Indeed, during a recent speech, supreme leader Khamenei — whose fatwa Obama is now citing — boasted about Iran’s uranium enrichment, even as his military commanders shouted, “Allah Akbar. Khamenei is the leader. Death to the enemies of the leadership. Death to America. Death to England. Death to hypocrites. Death to Israel.”

Back in October of 2008, Martin Kramer, President of Shalem College in Jerusalem wrote a primer on the Middle East for the new president. It’s long, but worth your while for understanding where Obama’s ideas about the Middle East came from, and why they are fixed and unassailable — and mistaken.

Here are a couple more excellent short pieces explaining the present situation. “This Is Not a Deal” by Abe Greenwald. And “The Tricks Obama Is Trying to Play with the Iran Announcement” by John Podhoretz, both from Commentary. And here’s “The Iran Deal’s Fatal Flaw” by Charles Duelfer from Politico.

People react differently to great policy changes or errors — some just don’t want to think about it, and others want to learn everything they can. Painful either way.



Desperately Seeking A Legacy, Perhaps in Solar? by The Elephant's Child

pic_giant_042314_SM_The-Adolescent-President-Barack-Obama_0Interesting. President Obama’s Rose Garden speech on the wonderful deal they are working on with Iran has not yet appeared on the White House website under “Speeches and Remarks.” They are usually much more forthcoming. It’s possible that Mr. Obama doesn’t want anyone parsing it too closely. We’ll see.

In the meantime, President Obama flew out to Utah to Hill Air Force Base, apparently to talk about solar energy.

Since I took office, solar electricity has gone up twentyfold.  And our investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency haven’t just helped to cut carbon pollution, they’ve made us more energy independent.  And they’ve helped us create a steady stream of high-wage, good-paying, middle-class jobs. …

And what I’m doing here today is to highlight the fact that the solar industry is actually adding jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy.  They’re paying good jobs — they’re good-paying jobs that are helping folks enter into the middle class.  And today what we’re going to try to do is to build on the progress that’s already been made.

I’m announcing a new goal to train 75,000 workers to enter the solar industry by 2020.  As part of this, we’re creating what we’re calling a “Solar Ready Vets” program that’s modeled after some successful pilot initiatives that have already been established over the last several years.  It’s going to train transitioning military personnel for careers in this growing industry at 10 bases — including right here at Hill.

The Air Base is getting 20% of its energy from renewable sources, he said, and he’s going to work with states to use the Post 9/11 GI Bill to get solar job training.

The Washington Examiner clears up the issue:

A new White House initiative to train veterans for jobs in the solar energy industry could turn into a rout if its key federal solar energy subsidy is phased out on schedule next year — a problem for the industry is that it’s dependent on the subsidy for hiring. The plan may also face challenges as the administration’s plan for heavy energy industry regulation is coming under fire from courts, Congress and state governments.

Without federal subsidies (taxpayer dollars) the solar industry would die. The sun goes down at night and it gets dark — and everybody turns on their lights. So the solar arrays need full-time back-up from conventional power plants. The federal subsidies expire in 2016, and Obama has written continuing subsidy into his absurd budget, but the GOP Congress is fervently opposed to the rules, and Majority Leader McConnell is advising states not to comply with the rules.

According to the U.S . Energy Information Administration, solar power accounts for just 0.4 percent of American electricity production, compared to 66 percent from fossil fuel sources. The EPA is expected to force new regulations that will help the industry. The EPA rules, also known as the Clean Power Plan, are very controversial. Legal scholars argue that the rules may be illegal under the Clean Air Act. The plan currently faces a legal challenge in federal appeals courts by around a dozen states.

Obama’s Legacy is not faring too well. The Progressive program, drummed up in faculty lounges and Think Progress and the lunchroom at the New York Times, has always been heavy on utopian wishful thinking and short of practical steps and proven economic policy. As always. it’s stuff that sounds good in the abstract, but doesn’t work in the real world.

Most of Obama’s policies are already abject failures, but he’s going to make a valiant effort to get a legacy of some sort with executive orders. He is attempting to embed his policies in the political culture so that it would appear too extreme to strike them down. He believes his vision will win out, and voters would punish anybody for trying to scrap his policies.

I don’t know that “existence bias” would trump a recovering economy and recovering employment. At Hill Air Force Base he bragged about our businesses creating another 129,000 new jobs in March, saying that added up to 12 million new jobs over the past 5 years. Unmentioned is that it is the smallest job gain since December of 2013.  January and February jobs numbers were also revised downward. An all-time record of 93,175,000 Americans are no longer in the labor force. A record of 12,202,000 black Americans are not in the labor force — they did not have a job or actively seek one in the past four weeks. ——



“Our Kids Are Flunking Eating” by The Elephant's Child

d_JPGThis very large mouth is part of an exhibit called “Body Venture,” a 45-foot by 50 foot exhibit that “has kids walking through a giant person’s open mouth, travel through a stomach and small intestines and end up in the “brain dome” an ogre-like creature with a huge nose.” They get to brush and floss very large teeth and dance in the stomach. This is all part of a grant from the USDA  to the Kansas State Department of Education created because “our kids are flunking eating.

They claim that one in three children are overweight or obese, which someone has determined by body mass index (BMI) which is not an accurate measurement of any such thing. The USDA has announced a new round of grants of up to $5.5 million to convince the kids that Michelle Obama’s “Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act” new lunch standards are really good, so they should stop complaining.

bb_JPGThe USDA has almost always been wrong about telling us what to eat. They pushed a high carbohydrate diet, and gave millions of Americans diabetes. Fat was bad, eggs were bad, salt was bad, and eat lots of fruit. Current statistics say fat is fine, and needed. Bacon is fine. Eggs are good for you and an excellent source of protein. You need some salt in your diet, and fruit is mostly just pure sugar.

I am really tired of hearing reports that our kids graduating from high school are poor at reading, can’t write, poor at math, and don’t measure up in international comparisons. And in entering college they need remedial work to catch up.After they got through the digestive system, students “participated in cooking/tasting activities and received a student activity booklet with recipes and weekly activities,” according to the USDA.



Why I Despise The Federal Bureaucracy In One Easy Lesson by The Elephant's Child

13-04-nutrition-choices

The federal government is obsessed with teaching children to eat what they believe the children should eat. It seems to be Michelle Obama’s childhood obesity thing. Kids come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes and some get their growth early, and others late. Watch the kids come out of a junior high school at the end of a school day.

Here is an article from the Free Beacon titled “Feds Spend $149,890 on ‘Mindful eating Intervention’ for Third Graders” It is a study based on the techniques of a Zen teacher to try to  “fight childhood obesity” and turn kids into “change agents” to teach their peers and their family how to eat healthy.

The project, entitled, “Foodie U: The Impact of a Pilot Mindful Eating Intervention on Food Behaviors Among Children and Families,” will focus on low-income Hispanic children.

“The elementary school age is a crucial period for developing life-long dietary habits while parents still significantly influence their food intake,” the grant said. “A school-based mindful eating intervention with parent involvement may positively influence children’s food behaviors.”

Mindfulness is a New Age meditation technique that traces its origins from Buddhism. People engaging in mindfulness are encouraged to focus on the present moment “non-judgmentally.” A 60 Minutes segment on mindfulness showed Anderson Cooper using the practice by eating in silence very slowly, focusing on every bite.

The article adds that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has spend $100.2 million on studies testing mindfulness meditation. The study will involve focus groups and include activities about enjoyment of flavor, texture and appearance, hunger and fullness awareness, food and mood, family sit-down meals, and a cultural feast.

They’ll rope in the parents as well to teach them about “mindful eating practices, like beginning the meal with grace, playing the “how full is my stomach” game and telling children creative things like “broccoli is trees for dinosaurs to eat.”(It’s always broccoli, isn’t it?) Cal State University students will serve as “nutrition educators” and “Mindful eating facilitators” for the children involved.

I find this offensive and outrageous. Am I out of line? I don’t think it is the government’s business. “The goal of the USDA project is to make children consume fewer “high palatable, high calorie foods,” while also raising the “awareness and appreciation” of food. No cupcakes, you must like broccoli better. For class birthday celebrations they can have “broccoli parties.”

There’s actually a reason why chefs invented hollandaise sauce.



Today is National Freedom of Information Day by The Elephant's Child

9271_1280x800As the highlight of Sunshine Week, the White House celebrates by removing the federal regulation that subjects the Office of the Administration to FOIA requests. Actually many agencies within the federal government won’t respond to FOIA requests until they are successfully sued. ‘Others play the waiting game, the “we can’t find it” game, and the “fine, but it’ ll cost you” game, and now the Office of the Administration will play the “We don’t have to”game.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration set a record again for censoring government files or outright denying access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.

The government took longer to turn over files when it provided any, said more regularly that it couldn’t find documents and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy.

It also acknowledged in nearly 1 in 3 cases that its initial decisions to withhold or censor records were improper under the law — but only when it was challenged.

The administration’s backlog of unanswered requests has grown to more than 200,000, growing by 55 percent just this last year. it also cut by 375 people the number of full time employees paid to look for the records requested. The Freedom of Information Law is heralded globally as a model for transparent government. Much celebrated, but  fitfully complied with. More than ever, it censored materials that it turned over, or fully denied access to them — in 250,581 cases.

The American Civil Liberties Union received a 15 page response to a request for information on the Justice Department’s policy of intercepting text messages on cellphones — every single page was blacked out from top to bottom.

Heavy redactions are a common government trick, and agencies are adept at exploiting any ambiguity in the law to prevent the release of requested records. The Washington Examiner has a list of some of the outrageous avoidance techniques that demonstrate just how far an agency will go. It’s not clear if they are actually trying to hide something or if they are just exercising what they believe to be their prerogatives, as important government agencies.

Remember the protective nature of bureaucracy and their reluctance to release anything that might reflect badly upon them. Transparency and truth-telling are dangerous steps. Who knows just how they might use that information? They might try to eliminate an agency, or cut its funding. Better to hunker down and stall.



The Nature Of Bureaucracy Is To Grow. They Must Be Stopped. by The Elephant's Child

The EPA has awarded a grant of $15,000 to the University of Tulsa for devising a low-cost wireless device for monitoring the water usage of hotel guest room showers. The device is meant to fit most existing hotel shower fixtures and should wirelessly transmit data to a central hotel accounting system. The system will provide hotels with the ability to determine how much water  is used, and how to assist hotel guests in modifying their behavior to help conserve water.

The EPA is remarkably interested in modifying the behavior of the American people. Theoretically, their tasks were defined by the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, which Congress enacted but failed to clearly define, probably because they thought at the time — that it was simply common sense.

When doing their job and making law, Congress needs to keep in mind the nature of bureaucracy. Bureaucrats are well paid (presently much better than their equals in the private sector) and they want that to continue. To make it continue they must use up their budget in the current fiscal year so they can request more for the next fiscal year. They also need to show what important things they are accomplishing with their current budget, and thereby what they could accomplish in the next fiscal year with more money. Accomplishing their assigned tasks is not enough — they must establish their importance and prestige.

Tyler W.Johannes PhD is an associate professor in the University of Tulsa’s School of Chemical Engineering told the Washington Free Beacon that researchers hope to see the technology adopted by all major hotels and used across the country.

They begin with an assumption that the average hotel shower lasts 8.2 minutes, and using 17.2 gallons of water per guest per shower. they want to get than down initially to 7 minutes. A link to Home Water Works recommends five-minute shower, and suggests using discarded cold water for watering plants. Actually they just recommend a Navy shower — ask any sailor of your acquaintance.

The EPA press office quickly realized that this was not going down well, and insisted that the EPA is not monitoring how much time hotel guests spend in the shower, it’s meant to provide the hotels with technology to do the monitoring, and the hotels can figure out how to encourage their guests to think of water conservation. And if they don’t… we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. “This is part of a People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) a student design competition for sustainability. The marketplace will decide if there is a demand for this type of technology.”

There’s a little disconnect here. Under the Al Gore rules of Climate Change, the melting glaciers and polar ice is supposed to result in rising waters that will flood the coastllines, and we’re supposed to have a water shortage? They could always work on desalinization plants.



Pack the Whole Agency Up And Send Them to China. Where They Might Do Some Good by The Elephant's Child

Barbecue-Summer-Outside-cooking-meatSometimes you just don’t know whether to just laugh at the Obama administration, or pity them. The Environmental Protection Agency has it eyes on pollution from backyard barbecues. The agency has announced that it will fund a University of California project to limit emissions resulting in grease drippings with a special tray to catch them, and a “catalytic” filtration system.

Damn fools aren’t content with banning our efficient and inexpensive incandescent lightbulbs, and messing up the lighting fixture market, ruining our shower heads, ditto toilets, washing machines, most appliances, and trying desperately to get control of everything in our houses — now they are going to take on our backyards. The kids’ wading pool is next.

The grant is only for $15,000, so we’ll see what they can do to all barbecues with that much.

The school is proposing two fixes to reduce emissions from barbecues. First, they want to cut back on grease flare-ups. The idea: “A slotted and corrugated tray is inserted immediately prior to meat flipping, and removed immediately after. This short contact time prevents the tray from over-heating and volatilizing the collected grease. This collected grease will then drip off into a collection tray and can be used at the pit master’s discretion.”

But, total capture isn’t “practical,” so a filter and fan are proposed for installation. “The secondary air filtration system is composed of a single pipe duct system which contains a specialized metal filter, a metal fan blade, a drive shaft, and an accompanying power system with either a motorized or manual method. This system can be powered by either an exterior electric motor with a chain-driven drive shaft, directly spinning the fan blade, or a hand-powered crank,” said the project write-up.

When they get down to particulate matter that might possibly be inhaled by barbecue pit masters, it’s time to shut the agency down. Or even better, lets loan the whole bunch to China, permanently. They need help.

We expect to limit the overall air pollution PM [particulate matter] emissions from barbecuing and to alleviate some of the acute health hazards that a barbecue pit master can experience from inhalation. The particulate matter present during cooking with and without the grease diverter and PM2.5 filters will be tested and compared to that of current data using a conventional propane barbecue using a fumehood chamber with detectors at CE-CERT. Personal exposure of PM2.5 will also be monitored throughout the experimentation period to determine the degree of acute exposure of particulates to the cook.




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