American Elephants


The Prediction Was That the Manatees Are Doomed by The Elephant's Child

manatees1From Don Surber, “The Scorekeeper

The prediction from The Save The Manatees Club:

“Perhaps the most challenging obstacle that manatees will face with a changing climate is a lack of financial resources dedicated to the protection of this species. As human priorities shift to disaster reduction, concern for wildlife may decrease, and agency funding may shift away from individual species.”

The Reality, the population of Manatees is Up 25%

The Tampa Times reported that : Researchers counted a record numbers of manatees in Florida’s warm inland waters this winter, with the robust population numbers serving as ammunition in the simmering war over whether to restrict human interaction with the sea cows. The Feb. 20 tally, conducted by a team of 20 observers from 11 organizations, counted 6,063 manatees in Florida, 3,333 along the east coast and 2,730 on the west coast. The total is about 25 percent more than were counted last year.

From Dr. Katie Tripp, Director of Science and Conservation, Save the Manatee Club:

Imagine a Florida where the coral reefs have dissolved, droughts are the norm, humans are abandoning multi million dollar coastal homes and retreating inland, daily high tides flood the streets of coastal cities and neighborhoods, and exotic species outnumber natives. Climate change could make this scenario a reality for the sunshine state, with some impacts being observed within as few as 10 years.

The global warming crowd is, as usual, completely wrong. It’s the “We’re Doomed” crowd, always ready to claim a coming catastrophe.

Always ready to create an organization dedicated to collecting funding and doing feel-good publicity, but never interested enough to actually study the science.

The polar bears are also increasing nicely.



The World Crisis of a Nuclear Iran: They May Already Be There. by The Elephant's Child

Iran-Military-Chief-AP

Here’s your chilling paragraph for today:

Suspected for years of plotting to dismantle the U.S. electric grid, American officials have confirmed that Iranian military brass have endorsed a nuclear electromagnetic pulse explosion that would attack the country’s power system.

American defense experts made the discovery while translating a secret Iranian military handbook, raising new concerns about Tehran’s recent nuclear talks with the administration.

In the article was a link to the website of Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ) with the headline “Franks Launches Caucus to Address EMP Threat, Introduces “SHIELD Act,” which seemed a positive step, but then I noticed the date was February 16, 2011 — 5 years ago!

So I went to the congressman’s website, and apparently he has just introduced another bill, “encouraged by last year’s unanimous House vote.” So was this one of those bills that Harry Reid tabled to be sure no one had a chance to vote for it? As with all congressional offices, they don’t want to hear from you if you don’t live in their district.

A further search turned up an article written by Dr. Peter Vincent Fry, Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and Director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, both Congressional Advisory Boards. Senior advisers to President Reagan warned that Iran has nuclear capability already:

“Iran should be regarded by national security decision makers as a nuclear missile state capable of posing an existential threat to the United States and its allies.”

“Iran has orbited four satellites, some weighing over one ton, demonstrating it can deliver a nuclear weapon anywhere. Iran has been secretly working on nuclear weapons for over twenty (20) years.

…The IAEA has also repeatedly warned that it has only partial access to Iran’s nuclear program and does not know what is going on in several underground facilities suspected of nuclear weapons development. …

Thus, Iran with a small number of nuclear missiles can by EMP attack threaten the existence of modernity and be the death knell for Western principles of international law, humanism and freedom.  For the first time in history, a failed state like Iran could destroy the most successful societies on Earth and convert an evolving benign world order into world chaos.”

Barbarism, he says, can triumph over civilization without war. The capability to make an EMP attack, means Iran can inflict Assured Destruction on the United States using a single warhead, cancels all the credibility of U.S. security guarantees. Iran with nuclear missiles is a world crisis comparable to Islamic conquests during the Dark Ages, the rise of Nazi Germany, or the Soviet threat during the Cold War.

It’s a long article, but you should read the whole thing. And  you might do what you can to get your congressional representatives moving on this. Iran does not need an agreement. Why are they stringing the president along?



Much of the World Envies Free Democratic Elections In Israel. by The Elephant's Child

We take regular elections for granted, as do most countries in the West, as does Israel, even if we find their multitude of political parties more confusing than enlightening. But in the Middle East many were envious that it even took place. Remember triumphant Iraqi’s holding aloft their purple-stained fingers to show that they had voted, and how the votes cast by Iraqi women shook the Middle East?

Evelyn Gordon writing at Contentions raises the issue:”Nowhere was this truer than among Palestinians who haven’t had an election in 10 years—not because Israel is preventing them from doing so, but because their own leadership is. And anyone who actually cares about the peace process ought to be far more worried by the Palestinian elections that didn’t happen than by the outcome of the Israeli one that did.”

A veteran Palestinian journalist from Ramallah summed up the prevailing sentiment succinctly. “We say all these bad things about Israel, but at least the people there have the right to vote and enjoy democracy,” he told Jerusalem Post reporter Khaled Abu Toameh before the election. “We really envy the Israelis. Our leaders don’t want elections. They want to remain in office forever.”

Ghanem Nuseibeh, an East Jerusalem Palestinian now living in Britain, put out an illuminating series of tweets throughout Election Day, including, “Over a million Arabs take part in Middle East’s most democratic elections today”; “The Arabs in Israel are the only Middle East Arab group that practices true democracy”; and “Israel is secure not because it will elect Bibi or Buji, but because of what it is doing today.” He was rooting for Isaac Herzog (“Buji”) and deplored Benjamin Netanyahu, but after acknowledging that his candidate had lost, he nevertheless tweeted, “Israel is the world’s most vibrant democracy” …. “If an Arab country had the same wide spectrum of political parties as Israel does, it would be fighting a civil war unseen in human history.”

Astoundingly, even Hamas in Gaza issued numerous tweets urging Israeli Arabs to vote for the Arab parties’ Joint List. One can only imagine what Gaza residents must have felt at seeing Hamas urge Palestinian Israelis to exercise a right Palestinians in Gaza are denied by their own Hamas-run government.

Evelyn Gordon adds: “If Western leaders are serious about wanting Israeli-Palestinian peace, working to rectify; the lack of Palestinian democracy would be far more productive than wringing their hands over the choices made by Israel’s democracy.”

The media is incorrectly trumpeting that Mr. Netanyahu said he wasn’t interested in any peace process or two-state solution with the Palestinians. He said not right now. When the Palestinians quit shooting rockets and making suicide attacks on Israel policy, and are willing to recognize the Israeli state, then they would be interested. in a two-state solution.

Gaza-v-Israel-copy

(Click to enlarge)



The Federal Bureaucracy Hard At Work by The Elephant's Child

It’s a new record for improper payments dished out by federal agencies — an all time high of $125 billion in questionable payments after years of declines.

There were tax credits for families that didn’t qualify for tax credits, unemployment benefits for people who were employed, Medicare payments for treatments that might not have been necessary. This is  up by $19 billion over the previous year. The overpayments were spread across 22 federal agencies, though Medicare and Medicaid fraud and the Earned Income Tax Credit together accounted for more than $93 billion in improper payments.

I heard on the radio that we apparently have some of the world’s oldest people receiving Social Security benefits. Since they are apparently older than the oldest woman who was celebrated in the media at 117, it’s fairly safe to assume that they are illegal immigrants receiving benefits by stealing someone’s identity.



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 Nature Of Bureaucracy Is To Grow. They Must Be Stopped. by The Elephant's Child

The EPA has awarded a grant of $15,000 to the University of Tulsa for devising a low-cost wireless device for monitoring the water usage of hotel guest room showers. The device is meant to fit most existing hotel shower fixtures and should wirelessly transmit data to a central hotel accounting system. The system will provide hotels with the ability to determine how much water  is used, and how to assist hotel guests in modifying their behavior to help conserve water.

The EPA is remarkably interested in modifying the behavior of the American people. Theoretically, their tasks were defined by the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, which Congress enacted but failed to clearly define, probably because they thought at the time — that it was simply common sense.

When doing their job and making law, Congress needs to keep in mind the nature of bureaucracy. Bureaucrats are well paid (presently much better than their equals in the private sector) and they want that to continue. To make it continue they must use up their budget in the current fiscal year so they can request more for the next fiscal year. They also need to show what important things they are accomplishing with their current budget, and thereby what they could accomplish in the next fiscal year with more money. Accomplishing their assigned tasks is not enough — they must establish their importance and prestige.

Tyler W.Johannes PhD is an associate professor in the University of Tulsa’s School of Chemical Engineering told the Washington Free Beacon that researchers hope to see the technology adopted by all major hotels and used across the country.

They begin with an assumption that the average hotel shower lasts 8.2 minutes, and using 17.2 gallons of water per guest per shower. they want to get than down initially to 7 minutes. A link to Home Water Works recommends five-minute shower, and suggests using discarded cold water for watering plants. Actually they just recommend a Navy shower — ask any sailor of your acquaintance.

The EPA press office quickly realized that this was not going down well, and insisted that the EPA is not monitoring how much time hotel guests spend in the shower, it’s meant to provide the hotels with technology to do the monitoring, and the hotels can figure out how to encourage their guests to think of water conservation. And if they don’t… we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. “This is part of a People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) a student design competition for sustainability. The marketplace will decide if there is a demand for this type of technology.”

There’s a little disconnect here. Under the Al Gore rules of Climate Change, the melting glaciers and polar ice is supposed to result in rising waters that will flood the coastllines, and we’re supposed to have a water shortage? They could always work on desalinization plants.



Sunshine vs. Secrecy. No Change! Still Secret. by The Elephant's Child

sunshine

This is Sunshine Week, And this is a post (revised) I published at this time last year. Has anything changed?  “Open government is good government.” Celebrating Your Right to Know. Yoo Hoo, Hillary…

The government watchdog group Cause of Action released a Freedom of Information Act report card for 15 federal agencies that receive the bulk of all FOIA requests. Six of the 15 agencies received failing grades. Three agencies—the Departments of Education, Homeland Security and Treasury—earned “F” grades for failing to comply with the law’s annual reporting requirements. Whether their grades included agencies that are part of, for example, the IRS which is part of Treasury is not clear.

The Center for Effective Government also rated 15 government agencies, not quite the same list, but even worse grades.

“Transparency and the Rule of Law
will be the touchstone of this  presidency.”
Barack Obama, January 31, 2009

Nice public statement spin, but Obama has been trying to figure out ways around it ever since, and Congress has been trying to figure out how to make it stick. I have 55 articles in my “transparency” file.

You may be unaware that President Obama rewrote the Freedom of Information Act, without telling the rest of America.

The rewrite came in a memo from then-White House Counsel Greg Craig on April 15, 2009, instructing the executive branch to let White House officials review any documents sought by FOIA requestors that involved “White House equities.” That word is not to be found in the law, but the Obama White House effectively amended the law to justify keeping public documents locked away from the public. Cause of Action, is  a Washington-based nonprofit watchdog group that monitors government transparency and accountability.

The exception “applies to all documents and records, whether in oral, paper, or electronic form, that relate to communications to and from the White House, including preparations for such communications.”

Oh, ho, ho. Open government indeed. The FOIA requires federal agencies to respond within 20 days of receiving a request, but the White House equities exception can make it impossible for an agency to meet that deadline.

Cause of Action is still waiting for documents from 16 federal agencies, with the Department of Treasury having the longest pending request of 202 business days.  (Would you care to wager that this has to do with the IRS?) The Department of Energy comes in second at 169 business days. 20 days indeed. Can’t have the  great unwashed viewing politically sensitive documents.

That’s the promised “most transparent administration in history.” As usual, there is the big public announcement which the peasants might hear, followed by the actions that the administration prefers, which people probably won’t hear. Not transparent at all, except where it doesn’t make any difference.

—”Obama Just Officially Decided White House Emails Aren’t Subject to the Freedom of Information Act” Mother Jones 3/17/2015

—”Obama administration stonewalls FOIA request on IRS targeting scandal” Hot Air, 2/10/2015

—’Serious limitations‘: Gov’t watchdogs unite in letter slamming Obama administration transparency,”Fox News, 8/06/2014

“Transparency Groups Seek White House Position on FOIS Reforms” Washington Free Beacon, 10/27/2014

“FOIA request revealed Obama family vacation to Hawaii cost taxpayers over $3.6 million in flight costs alone”
Political Insider, 3/13/2015




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