American Elephants

Surprising Life Found Underneath Antarctica! by The Elephant's Child

A team of ice-drillers and scientists in Antarctica have bored a hole through 740 meter thick ice of  a back corner of the Ross Ice Shelf — a slab of glacial ice the size of France that hangs off the coastline of Antarctica and floats on the ocean. The remote water they tapped sits beneath the back corner of the shelf, where the shelf meets what would be the shore of Antarctica if there weren’t any ice. The spot where they drilled sits 850 kilometers from the outer edge of the ice shelf — the nearest place where the ocean lies in sunlight that allows tiny plankton to grow and create a food chain. The animals inhabit a wedge of seawater only 10 meters deep sealed between the ice above and a barren, rocky seafloor below. Scientific American reports on the startling discovery.

They lowered a small custom-build robot down the hole they had bored through the ice sheet. They were stunned to find fish and other aquatic animals living in perpetual darkness and cold underneath 740 meters of glacial ice. They had expected to find nothing but possible scant microbial life.

Ross Powell, a 63-year-old glacial geologist from Northern Illinois University co-led the expedition with two other scientists. “I’ve worked in this area for my whole career” he said — studying the underbellies where glaciers flow into oceans. “You get the picture of these areas having very little food, being desolate, not supporting much life.” Yet the ecosystem has managed somehow to survive incredibly far from sunlight, the source of energy that drives most life on earth.

Fish_1_lowrezThis is the first low-resolution image of a translucent fish that they discovered where it seemed no life should exist. The image reveals two black eyes and various organs visible as colored blobs.
Credit: Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling Project   

Inflation: Hiding and Disguising It So You Won’t Notice by The Elephant's Child


Inflation is reckoned to be around 1.3% or nothing significant. Women who do the bulk of grocery shopping would probably disagree. But inflation is disguised in the grocery store in many different ways, some noticeable, and some that are downright sneaky. Packaging that seems to be the same size, same price, if you look closely will contain only 12 oz. instead of the previous 16 oz.  See sugar, granulated, and flour, all-purpose. Some cereal boxes were as tall as usual and as wide across, but thinner.

Baker’s Unsweetened Baking Chocolate was up-front and brazen about the whole thing. Bars were uniformly 8 oz. Suddenly, the new box was headlined “NEW! 4 oz Easy Break Bar. Same great chocolate”with a little illustration showing how easy it was to break the bar apart. Only problem was that you were getting half as much for the same price.They have now removed the “New” line, whether because of objections or only because they thought you’d had enough time to get used to it, I don’t know. I have more respect for companies that don’t try to fool you.

Facial tissues are 1 ply thinner, as are most paper napkins. But did you notice this one? Toilet tissue, probably depending on the brand, has gotten about an inch narrower. You only notice it by paying attention to how the roll fits into the fixture. Sneaky!

Inflation is measured on a specific basket of commodities. I don’t know what items count. Certainly the drop in the price of gas is deflationary. I don’t know when the drop in transportation costs will be reflected in the price of groceries. But the droop will be reflected throughout the economy.

An interesting side note: Larry Kudlow reported this weekend that the drop in the price of gasoline, graphed, was matched exactly by the graphed rise in business at fast food restaurants.

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


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


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

food police 3

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


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.


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