American Elephants


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 Political Assault On Climate Skeptics” by The Elephant's Child

David Horowitz said to always remember that with Progressives, the issue is never the issue. In that light, consider the current Progressive campaign to attack climate science “deniers,” as they call us, on every front. So what’s happening?

Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the UN’s intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has resigned from the IPCC, brought about by allegations of sexual harassment. Christopher Booker says “he should have resigned in 2012 when the IPCC report was shown to have been full of wildly unscientific errors emanating from green activists.

Then evidence appeared that NOAA has been tampering with climate data, adjusting it to show the “warming trend” that the Obama administration was claiming as evidence to support the veto of the Keystone Pipeline, the executive action closing the Arctic Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration, the millions going to Obama cronies for solar arrays and wind farms. A federal judge in Texas has held up Obama’s Amnesty, and noticed that White House lawyers neglected to mention that Obama had already given work permits to 100,000 illegals

Republicans are not only interfering in Obama’a Iran negotiations, but challenging them, and pointing out evidence that Obama’s strategy is not exactly what will create peace in the Middle East. Progressives need a distraction to point the media in the right direction. The issue is not the issue.

Democrats have launched a major campaign to discredit academics, politicians and climate scientists who are skeptical of man-made global warming. Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, has demanded that seven universities reveal the funding sources of affiliated scientists who are skeptical of man-made global warming. The information demanded is voluminous in quantity, (they want the e-mails too), and beyond annoying. Steven Hayward reveals the ignorance of the House Committee’s demands. As Hayward said, “Is the good congressman really telling us that he is incapable of assessing factual claims and judgments about the wisdom of policy on the merits alone?”Be interesting if we demanded the funding sources for Democrats who purvey discredited falsehoods about climate change.

Companies with a direct financial interest in climate and air-quality standards are funding environmental research that influences state and federal regulation and shapes public understanding of climate scientists,” Grijalva wrote to the presidents of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Pepperdine University, Arizona State University, the University of Alabama, University of Colorado and University of Delaware.

Scientists targeted are some of the most respected in the field, but they are skeptical, with good reason. MIT’s Dr. Richard Lindzen, Georgia Tech’s Dr. Judith Curry, Colorado’s Dr. Roger Pielke Jr., and the University of Alabama’s John Christy and Roy Spencer. Word has gone out from Organizing for Action, Obama’s campaign organization, to join in on targeting climate change deniers.

Christy and Spencer operate the Remote Sensing Systems satellite dataset, which since the weather stations have been shown to be undependable due to locations next to AC hot air vents, concrete walls reflecting heat, and trash burners, are the only reliable temperature data on a worldwide basis. That shows no significant warming trend for more than 18 years.

Dr. Pielke has presented research that shows that global warming is not making weather more extreme. “It is misleading and just plain incorrect to claim that disasters associated with hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or droughts have increased on climate timescales either in the U.S. or globally.

Particularly attacked was Dr. Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon, a researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. after a New York Times article claiming that Dr.Soon had received $1.25 million in  undisclosed money from fossil fuel companies. Corporate funding! As opposed to money from billionaire Tom Steyer or the secretive Democracy Alliance, for example?

Three Democratic senators (Barbara Boxer, Edward Markey and Sheldon Whitehouse) have asked more than 100 energy companies and trade groups to provide details on their research spending.

Their objective? To find out whether the organizations “are funding scientific studies designed to confuse the public and avoid taking action to cut carbon pollution, and whether the funded scientists fail to disclose the sources of their funding in scientific publications or in testimony to legislators.”

The witch hunt is particularly revealing, for none of the perpetrators actually know anything about climate science whatsoever. What they know is “the 97 percent,” the “majority of climate scientists,” cutting “carbon pollution.” As is common with progressives, they know talking points, without understanding that talking points are not science. They are just repeating political charges that have no basis in fact.

Here is MIT’s Dr. Richard Lindzen appearing on Fox News:

These guys think saying climate changes, saying it gets warmer or colder by a few tenths of a degree should be taken as evidence that the end of the world is coming. And it completely ignores the fact that until this hysteria, climate scientists used to refer to the warm periods in our history as optima.

Here is a reprint of Dr. Richard Lindzen’s article in the Wall Street Journal about “The political Assault on Climate Skeptics,” which is an excellent summary of the sheer stupidity of the useless Congressional attempt to discredit the top climate scientists.



“We Need To Face Reality. There Is No Planet B.” by The Elephant's Child

U.S. Secretary of State Kerry speaks about the Ukraine crisis after his meetings with other foreign ministers in Paris

Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a haughty speech on climate change at the Atlantic Council in Washington on Thursday. He is upset that those Republican yokels don’t understand that climate change is happening and that humans are largely responsible, and those facts should be as universally accepted as the law of gravity.

Well, we yokels do accept the laws of gravity, not so much because Sir Isaac Newton said so, but because it is an observable truth. I would be most gratified if the dishes I drop would float for a while before falling, so I could catch them before they break, but gravity triumphs every time.

No one denies that climate change is happening. The climate is always changing, always will. It has been far warmer in the past, and far colder as well. We  have all heard of Ice Ages. What we are skeptical about is that the current warming phase occurs only in computer climate programs — not in the real world. In the real world, where accurate temperatures across the world are measured by satellites, there hasn’t been any warming for eighteen years. Mr. Kerry said:

Now folks, we literally do not have the time to waste debating whether we can say ‘climate change.’ We have to talk about how we solve climate change. Because no matter how much people want to bury their heads in the sand, it will not alter the fact that 97 percent of peer-reviewed climate studies confirm that climate change is happening and that human activity is largely responsible.”

Oh dear, the 97% “consensus” (2013) Cook et. al. has been refuted in scholarly peer-reviewed journals, major news media, public policy organizations and think tanks, credentialed scientists. 100 percent of the former say that warming has nearly stopped.

I’ll bet Mr. Kerry has never read any of the science, but only accepted what he believes to be the conventional wisdom.  He insisted that last year was the warmest of all, (it wasn’t even close ) and added that “I don’t mean to sound haughty” — when has he ever not? I’m not sure that you can be a skeptic and a member of the Obama administration.

He issued a passionate call for nations to forgo the short-term lure of “outdated” fossil fuels — “The bottom line is that we can’t only factor in the price of immediate energy needs. We have to factor in the cost of long-term carbon pollution. We have to factor in survival.”

“We need to face reality,” he added. “There is no ‘Planet B.’”

Joe Biden made a speech along exactly the same line. “Climate Change is as real as the law of gravity” so that is apparently the administration’s approved line of the day. It is a concerted Democratic assault on “deniers,”or those who do not follow the party line on climate change orthodoxy.  Why? Because as with all progressive campaigns, the issue is never the issue.

The computer climate simulations put in what information we knew about the climate for sure, which wasn’t much, some assumptions, some complete guesses, and unfortunately could not predict the climate of today—when we already knew the correct answer. There is a lot that remains unknown — especially the action of clouds, and if you are a cloud-watcher, that difficulty is easy to understand.

When new Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell first spoke to her department, she said  “I hope there aren’t any deniers here!” That orthodoxy is clearly expected in the Obama administration, and it is clearly expected in the Science departments of many universities.

Climate science, because of governmental interest — which includes grants, prestige, higher salaries. For the university more interest, more money, better equipment. Aside from government grants, there is money from NGOs and even some corporations. If the world is really heating up dangerously a lot of people want to know about it. Scientists in many different departments suddenly found that they could write a good grant proposal and suddenly they were climate scientists and in the money.

The list of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) dependent on global warming panic for their funding and livelihood is long, and you know the big ones. NRDC, Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Wilderness Society, World Wildlife Fund, Nature Conservancy, National Audubon Society,Environmental Defense Fund—that’s just a few of the biggies. There are literally hundreds more.

They have depended on emotional appeals to raise money and entice activists to the cause — first, it was baby harp seals who were being clubbed to death, then the spotted owl, and finally the Greens latched on to the polar bears as their standard-bearer. Not enough ice, the bears were endangered, going to go extinct if you didn’t cough up enough funding. The bears were never endangered, though they did get them labeled “threatened, but better surveys certified that the bears were just fine, increasing in numbers, and Arctic ice melts in the summer and grows in the winter, and in recent winters of “polar vortexes” is more extensive than ever.

It seems, however, that Mr. Kerry’s speech and Mr. Biden’s speech are only the tip of a fairly massive iceberg floating along under the surface. More to come.

 



The American West in the 1860s and 1870s by The Elephant's Child

Inspired by the plight of a small American Indian tribe, I thought I’d repost a photographic essay of the American West in the 1860s and 1870s, because the pictures are quite interesting, and the news of the day isn’t. I’m really tired of talking about Hillary and her disreputable past and present.

Pah-Ute (Paiute) Indian group, near Cedar, Utah in 1872

The Atlantic has done another of their wonderful photo essays: in the 1860s and 70s, photographer Timothy O’Sullivan created some of the best-known images in American History. He covered the U.S. Civil War, and afterwards joined a number of expeditions organized by the federal government to help document the new frontiers in the American West. The teams were comprised of soldiers, scientists, artists and photographers. Their task was to discover the best ways to take advantage of the untapped resources of the region. O’Sullivan had an outstanding eye, and strong work ethic, and returned with beautiful photographs that captured the vastness and beauty of the American West in a way that would later influence Ansel Adams and thousands of photographers who admired O’Sullivan’s work.



Iran Has Declared Victory in Its Contest With the West. by The Elephant's Child

Iran minister says sanctions must be lifted before nuclear agreement “Iran’s foreign minister and chief negotiator in the nuclear talks with the West declared victory for his country, stating that no matter how the negotiations end, Tehran has come out “the winner,” according to remarks made on Tuesday and presented in the country’s state-run press.”

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke to the country’s Assembly of Experts, declaring that the nuclear negotiations have established Tehran as a global power broker.

“We are the winner whether the [nuclear] negotiations yield results or not,” Zarif was quoted as saying before the assembly by the Tasnim News Agency. “The capital we have obtained over the years is dignity and self-esteem, a capital that could not be retaken.”

I’m not sure that this is what President Obama has in mind as ‘his legacy.’

When the world’s most powerful nations began their effort to negotiate away Iran’s nuclear program in 2003, the Islamic Republic had 130 centrifuges. These machines convert uranium into a form that can set off a chain reaction. That chain reaction in turn can either create nuclear energy or be set off to explode the most destructive bomb the world has ever seen. By November 2013, when Iran reached a so-called interim accord with the United States and other nations to limit its nuclear program in exchange for the relaxation of tough sanctions, the Islamic Republic had deployed nearly 20,000 centrifuges.

Estimates suggest those centrifuges could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one bomb in as little as 45 days—the so-called breakout period. They have already generated a stockpile of low-enriched uranium sufficient to produce as many as seven nuclear bombs. Some believe that Iran could convert a bomb’s worth of uranium into the payload of a crude nuclear device in perhaps a few months.

Negotiators could not reach a final deal by the initial November 2014 deadline, so extensions were devised. The new deadline comes at the end of June. Press reports and administration statements are providing us with a picture of what America and the other nations in the negotiations are now hoping to achieve. They are trying to use various technical means and human oversight to slow down Iran’s breakout time from a few months to one year and ensure that a deal lasts at least a decade. In exchange for these concessions, they appear ready to enshrine Iran as a threshold nuclear state.

This is what President Obama has in mind as his legacy. All the concessions fit a long-term pattern. “If a nuclear deal is imminent, that is largely because over the past 13 years of on and off negotiations, the great powers of the world have slowly gut surely given in to Iran’s demands. …Instead of ending the threat of Iranian nuclearization, negotiators have apparently limited their ambitions to an attempt to regulate it.” Instead of a “legacy” this can be more accurately called wishful thinking.

The core factor for the past 13 years has been the desire to avoid military confrontation at all costs — and especially during the Obama administration — the fear of even threatening it. With no credible threat, you get nothing, a pretend agreement, collapse, doesn’t matter. You can guess what the Obama response is —Bush’s fault. He left us with no options. Sorry, a president is confronted with the problems that exist. They don’t disappear by blaming your predecessor. You have to deal with what is, not cowardly kick the can on down the road. To understand the three-pronged strategies involved, read the whole thing here. It is an important discussion. As the administration lifted the sanctions, Iran, now able to support its nuclear program again, had refused to reduce its nuclear capacity. We now have no leverage, we gave it all away.

There are those among the Iran Watchers  who believe that the negotiations have worked and a deal could lead to “a more engaged Iran.” Obama’s goal of reconciliation has been constant. He ignored the Green Revolution in favor of a new relationship with Iran that would define regional order and speak to the brilliance of the Obama presidency.

On the other hand, the Green Revolution indicated that ordinary Iranians are not all that happy with the leadership of the Mullahs. Did we ignore that at our peril? I don’t know. The IAEA record with nuclear proliferation is — North Korea, Pakistan and India — all a surprise when they became nuclear states. Iran works closely with North Korea on its nuclear and missile programs.

The Middle East is a hotbed of clashing religious beliefs, including small sects currently being eliminated by ISIS. There is, however, a special danger in the Shiite doctrine held by the leaders of Iran. The return of the hidden Imam will bring the war that ends the world and creates heavenly bliss for believers. Bernard Lewis, America’s leading expert in Mideast Studies, wrote that during the Cold War, Mutual Assured Destruction was a deterrent that worked. Today it is an inducement.

James Woolsey, former director of the CIA and chairman of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies said:

Iran now is either very close to being able to field a nuclear weapon or it should be regarded as already having that capability. …

Consequently, even one nuclear warhead detonated at orbital altitude over the United States would black out the national electric grid and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures for months or years by means of the electromagnetic pulse it would create. The Congressional EMP Commission assessed that a nationwide blackout lasting one year could kill nine of 10 Americans through starvation and societal collapse. Islamic State-like gangs would rule the streets.

Just such a scenario is described in Iranian military documents.

I have no sense that the Obama administration has even considered such possibilities. The Arab nations are deeply worried.



Punching Back Twice As Hard! by The Elephant's Child

urlPresident Obama, since the Republican ”wave election” has been irritable. Republicans clearly had no right to take over the Senate and increase their power in the House. He has things he wants to do, and he has no intention of allowing a bunch of uncooperative dummies in Congress to interfere with his executive right to finish fundamentally transforming the United States of America to his own particular tastes.

Naturally as President of the United States, he feels called upon to comment on anything within his purview, which is everything. In this case, he noticed that one of his states has signed a right-to-work bill into law, without his permission. He issued a written statement condemning the law:

“I’m deeply disappointed,” he said, “that a new anti-worker law in Wisconsin will weaken, rather than strengthen, workers in the new economy.”

Obama then claimed that Walker’s action was part of an “inexcusable assault on unions, led by powerful interests and their allies in government.”

The bill that Governor Scott Walker signed was the result of twenty hours of debate in the Wisconsin legislature, a vote by the state’s duly elected representatives 62-35 to pass the bill. Democracy at work.

Governor Scott Walker promptly responded to Mr. Obama’s bad manners, and his need to recall basic civics.

On the heels of vetoing Keystone pipeline legislation, which would have paved the way to create thousands of quality, middle-class jobs, the president should be looking to states, like Wisconsin, as an example for how to grow our economy,” Walker told National Review Online.

Despite a stagnant national economy and a lack of leadership in Washington, since we took office, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is down to 5%, and more than 100,000 jobs and 30,000 businesses have been created.

Pow! Want to compare economies and just who is helping workers?

Walker said that the legislation, “along with our investments in worker training and our work to lower the tax burden, will lead to more freedom and prosperity for all of Wisconsin.”

 



“A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words” by The Elephant's Child

RAMclr-031015-little-league-IBD-COLOR-FINAL147.gif.cmsEspecially in the hands of Michael Ramirez, political cartoonist extraordinaire, at Investors. Follow his work, he always has something important to say.




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