American Elephants


Bret Stephens on The Coming Global Disorder by The Elephant's Child

Bret Stephens has been the foreign affairs columnist for The Wall Street Journal for nine years. This is a speech he delivered to the David Horowitz Freedom Center Texas Retreat, last June. A very thoughtful speech. It reflects much of the thinking expressed in his 2014 book America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder.

It’s perhaps a little long for a Wednesday night when tomorrow is a work day, but do save it to watch when you have time. You will be glad you did.



Impressions From Last Night’s Debate by The Elephant's Child

20151219_blp903I mostly listened to the debate last night on the radio. My CNN connection kept going haywire, so I only saw a small bit on CNN. Apparently that makes a difference. Whatever their political viewpoint, viewers could not help but be impressed with the quality of the Republican field. The discussion was serious, well-informed and lengthy. The candidates were well informed on national security, and on how to deal with ISIS, Syria, Russia, Iran and domestic terrorism with real differences of opinion, which is as it should be.

Several pundits declared Donald Trump the debate winner, but I thought it was clear that he was just not prepared to go beyond his usual bombast. He did manage to tell the audience innumerable times that he was leading the polls, he had the highest approval, he was winning. He just doesn’t understand the very complicated situation, and has no strategy at all.   “I have 41% in the polls” is a brag, not a qualification.

Lindsey Graham was terrific in the earlier debate. He had just been to Iraq again, and spoke to the situation on the ground informed by the troops on the ground.

Carly Fiorina is clearly one of the best informed, and gives the most responsive and responsible answers to questions — yet has not really managed to break through to the top, where she belongs. Her tenure at HP was impressive. She handled some really difficult circumstances with courage, put the company on a path to success, and frankly has a better record of experience than most of the other candidates. I have wondered if , since Republicans are uniformly unimpressed with the “first woman to” idea, and invested in merit and qualifications just can’t get past the fact that candidates for President of the United States have always been men.

Chris Christie excels at tough-talking campaigning. He can be very assertive and very believable. John Kasich corrected from his angry, grumpy appearance at the last debate. Jeb Bush was better, but not breakthrough better.

I am far from picking a candidate, and in spite of the media’s insistence on making this all a horse race and proclaiming winners and losers, most Americans are just getting acquainted with the candidates. I was really enthusiastic at the beginning with so many governors who had real accomplishments in the running — but Scott Walker, Rick Perry and  Bobby Jindal have all dropped out. I am not enthusiastic about one-term senators. Been there, done that. And it didn’t work out well.

 



Paris Agreement, American Leadership, and Pure Fantasy. by The Elephant's Child

The report of the President’s response to the jihadist attack in San Bernardino should give you pause. As soon as he realized that some would classify the killing in San Bernardino as a terrorist attack, he called together his National Security Council and the heads of federal law enforcement agencies to discuss a public relations strategy. A designation of the killing as a terrorist attack would threaten to upset his “strategy” in Syria.

The President of the United States has declared publicly, 22 times, that climate change is a greater threat by far than Islamic terrorism: Jan. 15, 2008; Jan 26, 2000; May 2010; Sept.6, 2012; Jan 23, 2013; Feb. 16, 2014; June, 2014; Sept. 2014; Sept 24, 2014; Oct. 29, 2014; 2015 State of the Union address; Feb. 2015; Feb. 09, 2015, Feb. 10, 2015, April 18, 2015; May, 2015; May 20 2015; July 13, 2015; Defense Dept report, July 29, 2015; Aug 28, 2015; September UN 2015; Sept.28, 2015 at the United Nations, he said “No country can escape the ravages of climate change.”

The Big Climate Meeting: COP 21, has concluded. The negotiators have thrashed out their final details. The agreement will make no difference whatsoever to “climate change,” and the total effects will be another very expensive meeting to be held in Marrakesh, Morocco  next year.

As James Delingpole, who is always correct, said, “All that stuff you’ve read and heard about “time running out,”  “deadlock,” “last minute deals,” — it’s all a charade, everything was pre-ordained. COP is not really about saving the planet, it’s a massive jobs fair for activists, shyster politicians, bureaucrats, and people with otherwise worthless degrees in “sustainability,” “conservation biology,” and “ecology.”

He adds that “No serious person in the world believes in man-made climate change any more. They just don’t. Only people like Secretary of State John Kerry — who has staked the reputation of the Obama presidency on how well it deals with this non-existent problem.” Delingpole adds “If you live by fairies you will die by fairies.”

We said in the beginning that China and India aren’t about to sign on to any plan eliminating or reducing their efforts to industrialize and their need for cheap energy. China is building one new coal-fired power plant every 7 to 10 days, while Japan plans to build 43 coal-fired power projects to replace its Fukushima nuclear plant, which killed 19,000 people and destroyed 150,000 buildings. India has some 500 coal-fired power plants planned.

The stated aim of the meeting was to prevent the earth’s temperature from rising more than 2º C. above pre-industrial levels. If all the world’s leading nations stick to the carbon-reduction commitments they will make (which are totally not binding) then they will stave off ‘global warming’ by the end of this century by 17 one hundredths of one degree C. (0.170º C.) That is the “optimistic scenario,” assuming that nobody’s lying.

The annual cost to the global economy is approximately $1.5 trillion. As Ebeneezer Scrooge said, Bah Humbug!

“We met the moment,” Obama said. “We may not live to see the full realization of our achievement but that’s OK,: he said. “What matters is that today we can be more confident this planet will be in better shape for the next generation.”

So there you go. Nothing binding. Opt-outs written in. Totally fake agreement. What more could you ask for, if you are trying to decorate your legacy? But they will have another big meeting next year, and the year after…

Nevertheless, the press, totally invested in saving the earth, as you hear from them constantly, erupted with delight:

(h/t: T. Becket Adams)



Australia Changes Prime Ministers by The Elephant's Child

150914-turnbullAustralia’s Liberal party has given the Prime Minister’s job to Malcolm Turnbull today, a mere two years after Prime Minister Tony Abbott won a strong election mandate. Their Liberal Party is the conservative one in Australia, opposed by the Labor  Party.

Mr. Turnbull, who won the vote among Liberal MPs 54-44, was also exacting some political revenge. The 60-year-old former barrister and venture capitalist had been the Liberal leader in opposition until late 2009, when Mr. Abbott challenged him and won by one vote. Mr. Turnbull had made the mistake of endorsing the expensive and unpopular carbon tax pushed by the Labor Party government.

Mr. Abbott’s opposition to the carbon tax helped bring the center-right Liberals back to power, and Mr. Turnbull now says he’ll keep the Abbott government’s climate policy. But his earlier support for faddish climate-change regulation illustrates the doubts about his convictions among the Liberal rank and file. He is more socially liberal than Mr. Abbott, which will help among young people on same-sex marriage, but he is also seen as someone without firm convictions.

Mr. Turnbull is closer to the business community than is Mr. Abbott, and he’ll need its help because his main challenge is reviving economic growth. Australia hasn’t had a recession in 24 years as it rode the global commodity boom, but growth slowed to 0.2% in the second quarter thanks to falling Chinese demand and the world-wide commodity bust.

When the world is in turmoil, the people get restless. Australia has been very dependent on commodities and more competitive in a range of global goods and services. Mr. Abbott made policy on the fly, and made decisions to cut spending on areas that he had promised to protect and to raise taxes without preparing the public.

Mr. Turnbull will have to make the case that Australia needs to become less dependent on commodities and more competitive across a whole range of global goods and services. He is a little more left than his predecessor. He says he will keep the Abbott government’s climate policy, though he’s earlier supported climate change regulation. The Aussie’s distaste for a carbon tax is what won the election for Mr. Abbott.

Australia’s ruling party has given the job of Prime Minister to Malcolm Turnbull turning out Tony Abbott a mere two years after Mr. Abbott won the job with a strong election mandate.

Mr. Turnbull, who won the vote among Liberal MPs 54-44, was also exacting some political revenge. The 60-year-old former barrister and venture capitalist had been the Liberal leader in opposition until late 2009, when Mr. Abbott challenged him and won by one vote. Mr. Turnbull had made the mistake of endorsing the expensive and unpopular carbon tax pushed by the Labor Party government.

Mr. Abbott’s opposition to the carbon tax helped bring the center-right Liberals back to power, and Mr. Turnbull now says he’ll keep the Abbott government’s climate policy. But his earlier support for faddish climate-change regulation illustrates the doubts about his convictions among the Liberal rank and file. He is more socially liberal than Mr. Abbott, which will help among young people on same-sex marriage, but he is also seen as someone without firm convictions.



Talking Tough! by The Elephant's Child

obama-angry-8-560x350Chinese President Xi Jinping is due for a visit to the United States shortly to be honored at a State Dinner.

Chinese government hackers have reportedly stolen commercial data from many U.S. companies, and personal data about many American government employees — including those with security clearances, plus private data from Americans’ health-care companies. Obama has done little or nothing to stop this coast-to-coast raiding of Americans’ property, but has instead worked elsewhere to boost the Democratic party’s political power.

In the Pacific, China’s government is building new island-bases in internationally disputed waters, while Obama focuses his foreign-policy efforts on completing his nukes-and-cash sellout to the deepening alliance of Iran and Russia.

Surely by now, we must have teams working in each government department to harden off their computer files to prevent hacking?The State Department’s lack of control (or concern) over the Secretary of State’s use of a personal computer might argue that there is something more to be desired.

The Daily Mail (UK) just published ( July 15) this “secret”  NSA map of cyber attacks from Chinese hackers  over the past five years. (Click to enlarge). Did the Daily Mail hack NSA to get their “secret map?”

2AFE309A00000578-3181179-image-a-1_1438343690518

Silicon Valley is the most attacked. Seattle has Boeing and Microsoft, but I can’t imagine what that one lonely dot on the NW coast is. Iron Springs Resort? The Office of Personnel Management hack got 22.1 million people’s Social Security records, everyone who has ever applied for a government job, and their personal references. The IRS hack in May gave them over 100,000 tax records.

President Obama is not taking this lying down. He refused to stay at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel during the U.N. General Assembly this month. (A Chinese conglomerate now owns the hotel.) And he’s really talking tough in a visit to Ft. Meade, speaking about Chinese cyber attacks.

We’ve made very clear to the Chinese that there are certain practices that they’re engaging in that we know are emanating from China and are not acceptable,” Obama said in an appearance at Ft. Meade. “And we can choose to make this an area of competition – which I guarantee you we’ll win if we have to – or, alternatively, we can come to an agreement in which we say, this isn’t helping anybody. Let’s instead try to have some basic rules of the road in terms of how we operate.”

China is really getting the ultimate threat in the Obama arsenal:  “These practices are not acceptable.” That should get their attention.

China responded:

“We hope that the U.S. stops its groundless attacks against China, start dialogue based on a foundation of mutual respect, and jointly build a cyberspace that is peaceful, secure, open and cooperative,” said a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman.  “Maintaining cybersecurity should be a point of cooperation rather than a source of friction between both China and the United States.”

ADDENDUM: During the President’s trip to Alaska, Chinese warships which had been exercising with the Russians in the Arctic traveled 3,000 miles out of their way to broach the 12 mile territorial limits just, by coincidence, when the President was on a 3 day visit to Alaska, and of course they knew his schedule because they had hacked the White House computers.
Violating another nation’s territorial limits just isn’t done, unless it is meant as a provocation. The U.S, brushed it off as unimportant.



Now It’s The IRS Again, With 334,000 Stolen Identities. If They Haven’t Got You Yet, They Soon Will. by The Elephant's Child

The news about our favorite bureaucracies just keeps coming. In this case it is the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS reported a wee break-in to its computer systems back in May. Now they have admitted that an additional 220,000 taxpayer accounts have been compromised.

So if the ObamaCare Hospital required computer breach didn’t get you, you have another chance to get your identity hacked by the IRS — that trusted organization that deals so efficiently with your taxes. There were also 170,000 instances of “suspected attempts that failed to clear the authentication processes.” whatever that means.

So the number of stolen identities now adds up to 334,000 , nearly three tunes the IRS original estimate of 114,000.

Why, it was only about a month ago that it was the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that admitted that Chinese-origin cyber attacks on its computer networks compromised the personal data of 22.1 million Americans who had been employed by the government.

And earlier this month defense officials said that Russia had launched a “sophisticated cyber attack” on the Pentagon’s unclassified email system used by the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the end of July. That breach affected approximately 4,000 military and civilian employees, including Chairman General Martin Dempsey.

The IRS break-in occurred in an online service called “Get Transcript” an application that helps taxpayers get their prior year return information. It has been shut down. The IRS will notify taxpayers who were potentially affected as soon as possible and provide them with support — such as free credit protection.

It would be reassuring to hear a strong voice from Washington, telling us that tech experts are already hard at work hardening off or rendering government computer systems impregnable from enemy attack. Instead, we hear the Democratic candidate for president insisting that she never received, saw, or heard of a classified document, and certainly never sent one. That server of hers was all yoga exercises and wedding plans and baby showers and messages to Bill, who has never sent an email message in his life.

Can we expect Cyber-Security from the folks who gave us ObamaCare?



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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