American Elephants

They’re At it Again! Another EPA Spill! by The Elephant's Child

WASGINGTON DC, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, UNITED STATES - 2013/06/03: EPA building, Environmental Protection Agency. (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)

It’s not the Gold King Mine this time, it’s the Standard Mine, and it’s not 3 million gallons of toxic waste, but only 2,000 gallons — so much smaller, but once again the EPA neglected to notify the appropriate officials and agencies of the spill in a timely manner.  Once again it’s in Colorado.

The Standard King Mine is an EPA designated superfund site, where the EPA has been directing ongoing clean-up at another abandoned mine.  A spokesman for Rep Scott Tipton (R-CO) said that more than 2,000 gallons of reportedly uncontaminated water were spilled from the mine site Wednesday into a local watershed.

So what has happened to the noxious mustard yellow spill from the Gold King Mine into the Animas river? Last we heard it was moving though Lake Mead on its way to the Grand Canyon, our beloved National Park. It just dropped out of the news didn’t it? Funny how things detrimental to the administration do that.

I suspect that what infuriates people most is that when a rancher makes a small pond to water his stock, the EPA descends with threats and warrants and massive charges designed to reduce the victims to abject terror. The size of the fines is designed to terrorize. But when it’s the EPA at fault — ho hum.

The EPA is under investigation by the Interior Department for the Gold King Mine  near Silverton, Colorado. I’m sure the Interior Department will deal with them fairly, and they will be found to have dealt with a difficult situation with the grace and efficiency expected from an agency of the United States Government.

Brain freeze: corrected. The Gold King Mine spill was 3 million gallons (est,) the Standard Mine spill was 2,000 gallons of”gray water” maybe toxic, maybe not. (est.)

A Defense Bill? Why? Putin Will Take Care of ISIS, Won’t He? by The Elephant's Child

obama-angry-8-560x350Still desperately searching for a legacy, Obama has pledged to veto a defense bill unless Congress lifts its spending caps and increases non-defense spending allowing the transfer of terrorists from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Presumably, Mr. Obama intends to return a vacated Guantanamo to Cuba.

I am endlessly fascinated by the extent to which Democrats believe their own propaganda. Democrats were as shocked and frightened as everybody else when the World Trade Center towers were attacked by suicide pilots in captured airliners on 9/11.

Three months into the War on Iraq, President Bush declared the combat phase of the war over, and “the Democratic Party launched a national campaign against America’s commander in chief, claiming that he had lied to the American people to lure them into a war that was “unnecessary,” “immoral,” and “illegal.”¹

Until then, the conflict in Iraq had been supported by both parties and was regarded by both as a strategic necessity in the war begun by Islamic terrorists. Saddam Hussein had launched two aggressive wars in the Middle East, murdered over 300 thousand of his own people, used chemical weapons on Iraqi citizens, and started a nuclear weapons program that was only halted by his defeat in the Gulf War. Over the next ten years, he had defied 16 UN resolutions attempting to enforce the Gulf War truce. In September 2002, the Security Council issued another resolution that gave Saddam until December 7 to comply with the terms or face the consequences. He did not comply. Bush made the only decision possible and launched a preemptive invasion to remove the regime. Two days before the invasion Saddam was given the option of leaving the country and avoiding the war.

Removing Saddam Hussein had been official American policy since October 1998, when Bill Clinton, a Democratic president signed the Iraq Liberation Act. The decision to use force in Iraq was supported by both houses of Congress including a majority of Democrats in the Senate. In June 2003, just 3 months into the war, Democrats made a political decision to turn against the war and launched a five year campaign to delegitimize the war and portray the President and the Republican Party as the villains. The betrayal of the nation and its troops was unprecedented in our nation’s history. The compliant press signed on, with front page coverage of body counts, blowing up minor incidents like the misbehavior of low level guards at Abu Ghraib into a massive war crime. The New York Times and the Washington Post leaked classified documents which destroyed 3 major national security programs designed to protect Americans for terrorist attacks, and launched an anti-war movement.²

Even before the 2008 election, the man who would become the nation’s Attorney General told an audience during the campaign that the Bush administration had permitted abuses in fighting terrorism. He said there would have to be a “reckoning.” ³

In 2006, then Senator Barack Obama led a Democrat effort to defeat a debt ceiling increase. “Raising America’s debt limit,” he said at the time, “is a sign of leadership failure.” If Mr. Obama wants standing now to lecture on the subject, he might acknowledge that he made a grave error then.

Mr. Obama’s goal in his remaining time in office seems to be enlarging the federal government with a massive spending spree. It’s clear that he won’t attempt to rectify the enormous errors he has forced on the American people. And ISIS is shopping for a nuke. Why would we want a defense bill?

¹Take No Prisoners, David Horowitz, 2014
² Ibid
³ Imprimus, Hillsdale College

The Dirty Secrets of Organic Food by The Elephant's Child

Organic-Produce-in-Grocery-Store-PhotoThe cleverest words devised by marketing experts can be found in greatest abundance in your friendly neighborhood grocery store. In the supermarket world, shelf space is a coveted commodity, and producers are desperately trying to retain and grow the amount of shelf space they are allowed. Just stop and think for a moment of the cereal aisle, and how many different brands of cereal are there.

What can you hook a kid on? Chocolate dinosaurs? or will mom go for ‘natural’ or ‘organic’? The words chosen matter in sales success. There’s ‘natural’ which has an enticing ring, until you compare it to ‘unnatural’ which immediately shows how meaningless it is. You have GMO Free, Gluten Free, Whole Grain, Heart Healthy and a whole raft of other enticements promising more health, strength and happiness. They are mostly marketing ploys, but none is so prevalent as “Organic.”

In most stores a whole section is set aside for organic foods, but what does that mean for the customer? Better health, better nutrition? No.

Passionate advocates of organic farming and foods resemble members of a religious cult, one founded on a “back to Nature” mentality. They are not so fundamentalist, however, that they do not make concessions to reality. For example, organic standards arbitrarily define which pesticides are acceptable, but allow “deviations” if based on “need.” Synthetic chemical pesticides are generally prohibited, although there is a lengthy list of exceptions in the Organic Foods Production Act, while most “natural” ones are permitted (and the application of pathogen-laden animal excreta as fertilizer is allowed). The decisions are made in a murky process that combines agronomy, lobbying, and fundamentalism. …

Ironically, the designation “organic” is itself a synthetic construct of activists and bureaucrats that makes little sense. That brings us to another anomaly: Organic agriculture is based on agreed, allowed sets of principles and techniques, but it has little to do with the ultimate quality or composition of the final products. For example, if prohibited chemical pesticides or forbidden pollen from genetically engineered plants wafts onto and “contaminates” an organic field, guess what? The farmer gets a mulligan: He does not lose his organic certification.

Organic foods arrived on a fear of “chemicals,” (scare quotes) which pops up now and then. Organic pesticides pose the same health risks as non-organic ones do, and there is the added risk of pathogen-laden animal excreta — manure. Organic foods have never been shown to be healthier or to have any environmental benefit.

Moreover, a study published in 2012 in the Annals of Internal Medicine by researchers at Stanford University’s Center for Health Policy aggregated and analyzed data from 237 studies to determine whether organic foods are safer or healthier than non-organic foods. They concluded that fruits and vegetables that met the criteria for “organic” were on average no more nutritious than their far cheaper conventional counterparts, nor were those foods less likely to be contaminated by pathogenic bacteria like E. coli or Salmonella.

Organic farms typically have smaller yields than conventional farms. In those examples when the conventional and organic systems are most comparable, the organic yield is 34% less. The dirty little secret ia  that organic agriculture is kept afloat by massive subsidies and bolstered by  a whole range of USDA programs, misleading advertising, and marketing that dishonestly disparages the competition.

There are new commercials on radio, advertising bed sheets that are less expensive because of the absence of a brick and mortar store, and softer, better because the cotton is grown with manure rather than an ordinary nitrogen-based fertilizer. And that makes sense because?  Because millions of Americans have been led to believe that “organic” means better for you. It isn’t. Costs about 30% more though.


The Sierra Club Embarrasses Itself! by The Elephant's Child

There was a time when the Sierra Club was a positive environmental club, doing what they could to protect the Sierra Nevada mountains and encourage the millions of people who wanted to use the mountains for recreation and exploration to think environmentally. We had friends who took pack trips with the club, exploring during the day and at nightfall the pack horses would appear with food and a set up camp. Great summer vacation.

The Sierra Club turned radical green some years ago, and now is just another crony-capitalist bunch, throwing their weight behind leftist programs like opposition to coal, opposition to the Keystone pipeline, and ill-informed scare-mongering to raise money to ‘stop’ global warming, and whatever is fashionable on the green agenda at the moment. There are enormous amounts of money involved.

Sierra Club President Aaron Mair in this hearing demonstrates the position perfectly. The science has been decided, there can be no debate since we are right because 97% of all science says we’re right, so just shut up and don’t question our superior wisdom.

The 97% “consensus” study, Cook et al. (2013) has been thoroughly refuted in scholarly peer-reviewed journals, by major news media, public policy organizations and think tanks, highly credentialed scientists and extensively in the climate blogosphere. The shoddy methodology of Cook’s study has been shown to be so fatally flawed that well known climate scientists have publicly spoken out against it.

There is no such thing as “consensus” in Science. That means everybody agrees. Even if 99% of all scientists agree that something is so, a lonely scientist working in his garage can prove them all wrong. Science is what is proved over and over by observation, not what flawed computer models predict.

Until the panic about the coming catastrophe of rising seas and a steadily warming planet appeared in the press, climate science was a rather dusty corner in most universities. When the climate became scary, and advantageous for congress to do something, grants (significantly big ones) became readily available for anyone who could write a good grant proposal demonstrating how their interest in tree rings could contribute to solving the problems of the drastic warming of a small percentage of a degree, if the granter just gave then enough money for an enlarged department, new equipment, and a few new assistants.

Don’t forget, Climate Change is now a $1.5 trillion industry!

Plastic Bags Are a Great Modern Invention! by The Elephant's Child

bags2 As long as I’m on a roll, let’s address the plastic bag problem. Actually, there is no plastic bag problem, but a problem with aggressive Greens. I’ve written about plastic bags way too often. Just enter “plastic bags” in the search bar over Bob Hope’s head in the sidebar. You can learn how this all came about, the dangers of cloth bags, the cost-benefit effect, and all about City Councils’ overbearing regulations.

Seattle, always sensitive to ‘sustainability’ problems or sensitivity among their residents, essentially bans paper and plastic bags. They will charge you if you don’t bring your own cloth bag. Which may be fine and dandy for  a single person living in a small apartment just a few blocks from the grocery store.

I don’t particularly enjoy grocery shopping — it’s just another task, so I try to go no more than once a week. I load up something over 20 plastic bags. I’m supposed to buy 30 cloth bags and wash them (necessary for safety) between each use? I have ranted far too many times, but Katherine Mangu-Ward writing in Reason magazine says:

Plastic bags for retail purchases are banned or taxed in more than 200 municipalities and a dozen countries, from San Francisco to South Africa, Bellingham to Bangladesh. Each region serves up its own custom blend of alarmist rhetoric; coastal areas blame the wispy totes for everything from asphyxiated sea turtles to melting glaciers, while inland banners decry the bags’ role in urban landscape pollution and thoughtless consumerism.

But a closer look at the facts and figures reveals shaky science and the uncritical repetition of improbable statistics tossed about to shore up the case for a mostly aesthetic, symbolic act of conservation.

Her article is thorough and well done, and worth your time. She has traced the plastic bag back to it’s beginnings, and covers the dangers inherent in cloth bags, though I’m not sure she emphasizes them enough. But finally, she admits to cultural and economic pressures, and uses cloth bags herself.

I remain defiant and unreformed. The objections to modern plastic bags are ill informed, the dangers of unwashed cloth bags too severe, and besides I have two cats and I need plastic bags for the kitty litter, and the other noxious things that turn up around my house in the woods.

I’m also getting really tired of the ‘public service announcements’ that are designed to make me hew to the green agenda, and whatever new idea the EPA has this week.

Do You Recycle? Why? Does It Make You Feel Noble? by The Elephant's Child

Surely, if you live in a city in the United States, you recycle. If you are rural, or live in a small town, you are excused. I am suburban, and have 3 cans, one for yard waste, one for plain old garbage, and one for recycling. But there are rules. My Krups coffeemaker quit, but I cannot put it in the garbage, but must take it to a electronics recycling event, fortunately, this coming weekend. Batteries and lightbulbs go somewhere else. They aren’t supposed to go in the garbage either.

I pay a monthly bill for the privilege of recycling the yard waste, which the city turns into compost, which I then have the privilege of buying back for the garden. In neighboring Seattle, they will inspect your garbage to make sure you are not putting any food scraps in with the recycling or the garbage. If they find you guilty the fine is, I think, $50. Three cans, we get 3 different trucks to pick it all up. But is it worth it?

So — do you look for and buy recycled goods? Are you more likely to buy a product that brags on the percentage of recycled goods in their product? Thought not. And often, recycled goods are more expensive than their counterpart. The most desirable goods look as if they have been recycled. Gray-brown plastic bags, brown recycled paper. What use are recycled goods if they don’t show how admirable you are for buying recycled?

The original idea was that landfills were bad, and we were running out of room, which is absurd. Landfills are carefully constructed so there is no damage to the water table. If I remember correctly there was a famous barge of garbage that traversed the East Coast looking for somewhere, anywhere, that would accept their garbage, proving that landfills were all used up.

Recycled paper goods were supposed to save the trees. Catalog companies bought into a tree-planting scheme, assuring their customers that they would compensate for the tons of paper used by planting x number of trees. But most paper is made from tree farm trees raised specifically for the purpose of being turned into paper.

There are environmental groups that seduce cities with a big dog-and-pony show, and  offer them the chance to join a vast group of cities who are also coping with great masses of garbage. They offer pre-designed programs and expertise, posters and mailers, everything a with-it city might need to start their own program, and the opportunity to meet with other mayors in the club  and schmooze. So the correct position in the culture today is to have the very best recycling program. Sustainability is the au-courant buzz-word.

For anything beyond aluminum cans, it’s probably a waste of time and money. Aluminum cans go right back into making new cans. Prices for recyclable materials have plummeted because of reduced demand overseas, the worldwide recession, the drop in oil prices. I think locally the price we pay to have our yard waste composted, and then buy it back at a cost comparable to brand-name composts, but slightly less, is probably reasonably cost-effective (or they would raise the price).

There is no shortage of landfill space. “All the waste generated  by Americans for the next next 1,000 years would fit on one-tenth of 1 percent of the land available for grazing. Landfills are typically covered with grass and converted to parkland,”according to John Tierney, writing in the New York Times.

Many on the Left have confused recycling with morality, rather than politics where it accurately belongs, and environmentalism with a form of religion. They don’t care if it is wasteful, unnecessarily costly, and accomplishes nothing at all. Saving carbon from entering the atmosphere where it would become a fertilizer for plants and help to feed the world is not a useful enterprise. We need more carbon, not less. Environmentalism is essentially a political ploy, designed to bring an end to capitalism and has nothing to do with saving the earth. They were sure the suckers would fall for it.

Clever Economist Tricks And The Urge To Control Everything by The Elephant's Child

The Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing seemed like a good idea at the time. Cheap interest rates would let businesses borrow and grow and hire.The Wall Street Journal says household and nonprofit net worth climbed to $85.7 trillion

Economists had hoped that rising worth in U.S. households could induce — through what are known as wealth effects — enough spending and confidence to bring about a more robust economic recovery. That logic helped underpin the Fed’s decisions to hols interest rates near zero for nearly the past seven years, and to engage in repeated rounds of asset purchases, known as quantitative easing.

But while the value of U.S. assets has shot upward in recent years—stocks have reached new highs and home values have regained much of what was lost in the housing bubble’s collapse—economic growth has been sluggish, and many households have seen little of this wealth flow into their paychecks.

The American Interest says ‘Low Interest Rates Mask the Effects of Job-Killing Policies.’ “While the Fed’s quantitative easing has not led to the consumer price inflation that many feared, it has led to asset price inflation. Job growth, not asset  price inflation, is the best way to promote economic growth.”

To grow the economy, cheap interest rates are not going to work as well as reforms that make business formation and job creation more attractive. Yet Democrats these days have ever-lengthening lists of job-killing policies they want to enact, from tighter environmental regulations to dramatic minimum wage increases (especially in cities where unemployment is high) to tax increases. Paradoxically, that leaves liberals cheerleading for Fed policies that increase inequality and concentrate wealth because only ultra low rates (or truly massive deficits, which can’t be rammed through a GOP Congress) can mask the effect of left-wing microeconomic policies on the economy as a whole.

The Pizza shop owners have been ordered to list all the ingredients in each pizza with the calorie count, because people are too fat. They have also been ordered to comply with the newly raised federal minimum wage, because no one can raise a family on the minimum wage. And just how do they pay for all that?

Hospitals have been ordered to computerize every examining room so they can be centrally programmed to store all the patient’s information so it can be shifted between hospitals and the government to reduce the cost of health care.¹ A tax has been levied on every piece of medical equipment from the examination table to the mammogram machine to the disposable gloves, and the sterile swabs. That is also expected to reduce the cost of health care.

That’s just two tiny examples of the wrongheadedness of Democrats and their economists. Noble intent + stupid idea does not equal an improving economy, and yet here we sit after 7 very long years.

They are so intent on control and more closely directing all economic activity in the interest of greater “fairness” that we have reached a point where the Federal Reserve seems to be terrified at the possibility of what might happen if they raised interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point.

¹ This has largely been done, at great expense. Hospitals and clinics cannot talk to each other nor to the federal government. Each was separately programmed and they cannot communicate. However, just as was warned, medical identities and records are being stolen, and recovering from such a theft can cost as much as $15,000.


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