American Elephants


Today’s $68 Billion Train to Nowhere to Be Finished in 80 Years? Splendid Idea. by The Elephant's Child

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On Monday, Governor Jerry Brown, Democrat, took an oath of government frugality in his fourth inaugural address. The next day he led the groundbreaking ceremony for  California’s $68 billion bullet train in Fresno.

Seven years ago, in 2008, voters approved $9 billion in state bonds to build a 500-mile train connecting San Francisco and Anaheim (current estimates suggest more than $100 billion). The feds have donated a mere $3.3 billion, which by law must be spent by October 2017. California’s high-speed rail authority can’t access the bond proceeds until it gets the right of way from the state courts, which are presiding over numerous legal challenges that may not be settled for several years.

The  authority has so far obtained less than a fifth of the parcels needed to complete the first 29-mile stretch in the Central Valley.

This does not matter to Mr. Brown and the rail authority who are frantically trying to burn through the federal funds to meet the White House’s spending deadline. The LA Times says that  “over the next 1,000 days, the state will have to  spend $3 to $4 million every single day to accomplish their goal.”

Bullet train supporters believe that state judges will be reluctant to block access to bond funds once construction starts. The more schools,  homes and businesses torn down, the better. The goal is to make the bullet train an accomplished fact, in order to convince the judiciary that it is. California’s record of starting and then abandoning freeways, and infrastructure projects meant the Legislature added provisions to ensure the train did not become a “stranded investment.”

Planners picked the flattest, straightest and most desolate stretch for the first segment. It gets more complicated crossing the 7,680′ high Tehachapi range, and tearing up densely populated areas in the Bay Area and Los Angeles Basin.

I have over 40 articles about California High-Speed Rail Authority. They uniformly think it’s nuts. Some estimates are 80 years till completion. Thinking back 80 years, to the changes in technology, population, culture, one must conclude that today’s plans are unlikely to fit 2094 transportation needs at all. And the federal $3.3 billion is all they have to work with at present since a state judge last year barred it from tapping the voter-approved $9 billion in bonds until it satisfies a quantity of requirements in the ballot initiative.

The Governor said that those who don’t support the bullet train are pusillanimous — “lacking in spirit” he said, but the actual definition is not so bland.



Keep Exhaling! Breathe in and Out! It’s Saving Us From An Ice Age. by The Elephant's Child

President Obama’s science czar, John Holdren, says that human activity (global warming) is saving us from the ice age that we had been warned might be coming.  We are warming the Earth, you see, by driving our SUVs and exhaling carbon dioxide, and those coal-fired power plants, and cow flatulence, and that is protecting us from another ice age.

Mr. Holdren, who holds the title of assistant to the president for science and technology,”in a recent online question-and-answer session in which he fielded queries from the public, let slip the seeming contradiction that without the influence of man and his industrial activities, the Earth would probably be slipping into a cyclical ice age all on its own, just like the last one.”

While the climate of the Earth has changed over millennia as a result of natural factors — principally changes in the tilt and orientation of the Earth’s axis and rotation, and in the shape of its orbit around the sun — those changes occur far too gradually to have noticeable effects over a period of mere decades.

In their current phases, moreover, they would be gradually cooling the Earth — taking us to another ice age — if they weren’t being more than offset by human-caused warming.

Oh well, a while back Mr. Holdren was worried about overpopulation, because there were too many people and advocated sterilizing them through their drinking water. He and Paul Erlich took part in a famous wager with  Julian Simon.They bet that the price of five key metals would be higher in 1990 because of their scarcity in an increasingly polluted and overpopulated world. They lost. All of the metals were more plentiful and the price had decreased.

There has been no warming of Earth’s climate for 18 years and 3 months. The contribution of man to climate is quite minor. The Earth keeps warming and cooling in a natural and cyclical process.



Zoned Out, Total Collapse! by The Elephant's Child

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Sorry about the absence of blogging. Sleep problem, or more accurately coffee problem. Wide awake for 32 hours, then slept for 12. Coffee doesn’t usually bother me, but an overdose combined with”The Speech” was just too much. Not even melatonin helped. Apparently I am not as immune to caffeine as I thought I was.  Must be global warming.



The National Food Police Strike Again! Beware! by The Elephant's Child

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A startlingly nutty article appeared in the Washington Post on Friday. The leftist push to control every aspect of your life continues apace. They are smarter than you are and they know better.  And they really, truly want to run your life.

Jonathan Gruber, MIT professor who was a key architect of ObamaCare explained that they could not be transparent about the law, because the lack of transparency was a huge political advantage. “The stupidity of the American voter was really, really critical for the thing to pass.” Nice to see someone actually admit the mindset of the left.

So here we go again. We need a national food policy to save millions of American lives. They will tell us how to grow food, and decide what to grow, and what we can buy and what we can eat.  They want to insure that all Americans have access to healthful food, it’s just that they will decide what is “healthful.” Call them the “Food Police.”

They start off with some bland principles, like everybody should have access to healthful food — (they do).  And their demands gradually get sillier. The food industry pays a fair wage to those it employs. Children should be instilled with a habit of eating “real food”? Animals should be treated with compassion and attention to their well-being. The food system’s carbon footprint should be reduced and the amount of carbon sequestered on farmland is increased. The food system must be sufficiently resilient to withstand the effects of climate change. (Oh please!)

We find ourselves in this situation because government policy in these areas is made piecemeal. Diet-related chronic disease, food safety, marketing to children, labor conditions, wages for farm and food-chain workers, immigration, water and air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, and support for farmers: These issues are all connected to the food system. Yet they are overseen by eight federal agencies. Amid this incoherence, special interests thrive and the public good suffers.

What they are pushing for is a national food department, and national food policy. Because “childhood obesity” was determined to be a “national crisis,” Michelle Obama decided to put the nation’s schoolchildren of all ages on a diet. So the fullback on the high school football team gets the same lunch as the 7-year-old? That’s why school systems across the nation are dropping the lunch program. All Michelle’s broccoli is going in the garbage can, and schools cannot afford the waste. NO high-fructose corn syrup! But lots of fruit which is pure sugar.

This is another push by environmentalists to control the lives of Americans. One of the authors of the piece is a scientist for the Union of Concerned Scientists, which is not a scientific organization.

This kind of thing should be considered fringe thinking and dismissed, but it keeps popping up among more calls for control of what your food consumption. Another article from the Free Beacon notes that a Federal Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has called for increased “monitoring” of kids weight and mandatory checkups.

They want federal fat interventions at workplaces.

The public should monitor body weight and engage with providers in evidence-based approaches aimed at achieving and maintaining healthy body weight,” the panel said in a presentation on “Food and Nutrient Intakes, and Health.

The committee, which is responsible for creating new nutrition standards that are used to create policy at the federal level, has previously called for moving Americans to “plant-based” diets, and using text message interventions to get people to lose weight.

“Bold action is needed to confront the Nation’s obesity epidemic and its devastating metabolic consequences,” a slide said during the presentation on Friday. “Quality of care guidelines need to be revised to incentivize personalized lifestyle and nutrition interventions.”

This committee is headed by an “environmental nutrition consultant” who is big on all the green fads: local foods, little or no meat, lots of veggies, organic food, ecologically sound, socially acceptable (social justice), community gardens, cloth napkins, reusable bags, and allowing food stamps at farmer’s markets. She even wants schools to plant orchards. Who hires these people?

The public good requires pushback against the food police, and the leftist do-gooders who are so sure they know better than  you do.



NASA Has Released Their Climate Risk Management Plan by The Elephant's Child

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The American people have made it abundantly clear that they are not concerned about climate change. On every list of concerns, climate change hardly registers at all. But the Obama administration is deeply, deeply concerned, and every government agency is signing on. Now it’s the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA has issued a Climate Risk Management Plan warning that climate change may compromise their ability to launch satellites and gather evidence on climate change. And something or other about endangered species. Tribbles?

This is one of over two dozen Climate Risk Management Plans released on Friday by assorted government bureaucracies detailing the steps they are taking to address climate change. Presumably this is the due date for such reports.

“NASA recognized as early as 2005 that ‘regional climate variability’ could pose a risk to its operations and missions and identified it as a risk within NASA’s risk management framework. Many Agency assets – 66 percent of its assets when measured by replacement value – are within 16 feet of mean sea level and located along America’s coasts,” the report reads.

“Risk management is central to continuity of NASA operations, and the agency is including potential climate extremes in its risk management framework,” said Calvin Williams, assistant administrator for NASA’s Office of Strategic Infrastructure. His colleague Jack Kaye, associate director of NASA’s Earth Science Division added “NASA science provides an important knowledge base that the centres and their surrounding communities can use in preparing for changing climate conditions.”

Anthony Watts, over at Watts Up With That blog, points out that “one of the biggest space disasters ever, the Challenger disaster, was caused by FREEZING COLD WEATHER and idiotic management that ignored risks of cold weather as warned by engineers.”

As for the sea level rises which NASA considers such a pressing threat to its assets, the verdict of Swedish geologist and physicist Nils-Axel Mörner, a former chairman of the INQUA International Commission on Sea Level Change who has studied global sea levels for 35 years is: “the sea is not rising”. Furthermore, “It hasn’t risen in 50 years.”

Mörner calls the predictions of catastrophic sea level rise “the greatest lie ever told”. Whereas those predictions are all based on computer models, which can be easily manipulated to give any answer desired, Mörner’s findings are based on “going into the field to observe what is actually happening in the real world”.

NASA really had to scrape bottom just to identify the “threats” of climate change — beach erosion, coastal flooding, increased storm frequency (though storm frequency has been lessening rather than growing), health and safety impacts of “worsening air quality” and threats to endangered species (though what that has to do with NASA is unexplained. I hope someone reports on other agencies’ Risk Management Reports. Should be entertaining reading.

But Barack Obama remains a true believer, encouraged by his science advisor, whence the demand for administration-wide conformity. The president just said in his statement on the election that the American people sent a message. “They expect the people the elect to work as hard as they do. They expect us to focus on their ambitions and not ours.” Another statement he didn’t mean. Of course he intends to advance his own ambitions. He didn’t mean a word of it.



In Which I Expose the Reason Why, More or Less. by The Elephant's Child

In his first inaugural address, Obama promised to “restore science to its rightful place.” Steven Hayward reminded us of that in a piece over at Powerline, and I remembered how the Democrats were all riled up about George W. Bush’s apparent lack of knowledge about science.

I had to really stop and think — to remember where that one came from. It was stem cells. Bush limited any investigation of embryonic stem cells to existing lines.  Christopher Reeve was promoting stem cell therapy in hopes of walking again, and Bush was considered anti-science because of his decision. Embryonic stem cells proved unsuitable anyway because they caused cancerous growths, among other problems.

Obama has been thrilled with the appointment of John Holdren as his science advisor. “He’s a real physicist,” Obama gushed. “If I have a question about science, all I have to do is call him up and he’ll explain it.”

Holdren-copy.jpg,qresize=200,P2C181.pagespeed.ce.GL8CVD06KeJohn Holdren is a neo-Malthusian, still expecting gloom and doom and overpopulation. It is a mindset for some, who are sure that really bad things always lurk just around the corner. Robert Bradley wrote about Holdren over at Master Resource, for Halloween, with some of Holdren’s better quotes.

“As University of California physicist John Holdren has said, it is possible that carbon-dioxide climate-induced famines could kill as many as a billion people before the year 2020.”

“Today the frontiers are gone, and the evidence is mounting that technology cannot hold the law of diminishing returns at bay much longer. Resources being stressed today are often being stressed globally; they will not be replenished from outside the “system’.”

“We are not, of course, optimistic about our chances of success. Some form of ecocatastrophe, if not thermonuclear war, seems almost certain to overtake us before the end of the century. (The inability to forecast exactly which one – whether plague, famine, the poisoning of the oceans, drastic climatic change, or some disaster entirely unforeseen – is hardly grounds for complacency.)”

“[Our] “gloomy prognosis” [requires] organized evasive action: population control, limitation of material consumption, redistribution of wealth, transitions to technologies that are environmentally and socially less disruptive than today’s, and movement toward some kind of world government.”

There are lots more quotations at Master Resource, but you get the idea. This is why the Pentagon is more concerned with the “immediate risks posed by climate change to U .S. national security.”. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says it is a “threat multiplier” that will increase the risk of terrorism.(?) Hagel says that “more extreme temperatures could threaten many of our training activities” and that “we will need to ensure our critical equipment works under more extreme weather conditions.” What?

Secretary of State John Kerry says that climate change “ranks right up there” with terrorism and is now “the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.”

DHS treats global warming as “a major area of homeland security risk.” And Obama has called it “one of our most significant national security problems.”

If your boss embraces a catastrophic view of climate change, sure that dire things lie just ahead, well, I suppose you have to make noises like you are making a real effort to help your department to adjust to the change. After all his inauguration was “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and the planet began to heal.”

Who knew that Obama’s conviction that he was chosen to save the planet from the ravages of climate change would lead to billions of dollars of investments in useless solar arrays and acres and acres of wind turbines. Pipelines cancelled, a rogue environmental protection agency running wild over private property rights, attempts to fly our nation’s air force on biodiesel. Here we are in an increasingly difficult war with a 7th Century jihadist group who are running amok beheading their opposition and executing anyone in their way, and we are supposed to regard climate change as an equal or greater threat.

It has been estimated in a peer-reviewed study that something on the order of 900,000 bats may have been killed by our wind farms. In the meantime,  we are having a resurgence of malaria and some new mosquito-borne illness called chikungunya may spread northward from the Caribbean. It is apparently not fatal, but causes fever, joint pain, headache, muscle pain, joint swelling or rash. Bats consume insects, including mosquitos. A loss of 900,000 bats can mean a vast increase in mosquitos.  Actions have consequences, some of them unexpected. But if the heat of climate change is leading to terrorism, and climate change is threatening our training activities, and we have a dearth of bats to eat the mosquitoes — it all gets very complicated. I believe I’ll take two aspirin and think about it tomorrow.



Superstitions — Dear to the Heart of a Democrat! by The Elephant's Child

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A fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal by Kate Bachelder, lists the top ten liberal superstitions, just in time for Halloween. This is one of those things you know, but have never seen enumerated in a list — which allows you to look at it in a wholly new way.

A hallmark of progressive politics is the ability to hold fervent beliefs, in defiance of evidence, that explain how the world works—and why liberal solutions must be adopted. Such political superstitions take on a new prominence during campaign seasons as Democratic candidates trot out applause lines to rally their progressive base and as the electorate considers their voting records.

1. Spending more money improves education. The U.S. spent $12,608 per student in 2010, double the amount spent in 1970.Spending on public elementary and secondary schools has surpassed $600 billion, and the results just keep getting worse. See previous post.

2. Government spending stimulates the economy. Obama has spent and spent and spent, to little effect. The 2009 stimulus bill, $830 billion was supposed to keep unemployment under 8%. If Keynesian tricks of boosting aggregate demand worked, we would have gotten something more than the lousy 2% growth. In spite of all evidence they still believe.

3. Republican candidates always have a big spending advantage over Democrats. Perhaps this explains Harry Reid’s desperate battle to demonize the Koch brothers, Libertarian philanthropists, yet never, never mention the secretive billionaire club Democracy Alliance, which exists for the sole purpose of electing Democrats. Labor unions have spent $4.4 billion on politics, Harry Reid’s Senate Majority PAC has raised more than $50 million.

4. Raising the minimum wage helps the poor. Obama’s proposed raise from $7.25 to $10.10 would, according to the Congressional Budget Office cost 500,000 jobs in a direct blow to low-wage earners. Nearly 30% of benefits would go to poor families three times the poverty line. Half of Americas poor families have no wage earner at all.  Only 4% of minimum wage earners are adults working full time and trying to support a family, and they are eligible for several welfare programs.

5. Global warming is causing increasingly violent weather. Tornado activity down, Hurricanes down. Global temperatures have not increased for 18 years and counting. Big environmental groups spending big to help Democrat candidates.

6. Genetically modified food is dangerous. Genetically modified food is completely safe according to every regulatory agency including the FDA and European Commission. You have been eating it for years with no ill affect. Farmers have been breeding crop seeds for 10,000 years.

7.Voter ID laws suppress minority turnout.This is absurd, of course, but studies have shown no effect on turnout. Democrats know this is false, but push the idea in minority communities in hopes of increasing turnout and fear.

8. ObamaCare is gaining popularity. Bwa-ha-ha-ha. 27% of the people told Gallup that the law was hurting them, up from 19% in January. Boosts in premium costs for next year are as high as 78%, for some. Don’t even ask doctors, More than 46% gave ObamaCare a ‘D’ or and ‘F’.

9. The Keystone XL pipeline would increase oil spills. Pipelines carry 25 times the oil that tankers do, yet while pipelines larger than 12″ in diameter spilled 910,000 gallons in 2013, railroad tankers spilled 1.5 million gallons.

10. Women are paid 77 cents on the dollar compared with men. Oh please. That a woman must be paid the same amount for doing the same work as a man has been settled law since 1963,  Women make different choices than men, and drop out of  the job market to have children and spend time with them. The much ballyhooed Paycheck Fairness Act is more accurately called the Trial Lawyer Paycheck Act. Waitresses make a lot less than plumbers, electricians, or heavy equipment operators.

Democrats regale their low-information voters with these tired old canards every electoral season, and Republicans have to spend time debunking them. Democrats reduce these points to campaign signs and talking points, and it takes more time and explanation to prove them false. Hillary just tried to introduce a new one —”Businesses and corporations don’t create jobs.” This partners with Obama’s “You didn’t build that.” New ones keep popping up. I think they just sort of throw them at the wall and see what sticks.




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