American Elephants


Another Train Derailment: Thanks Green Activists! by The Elephant's Child

derailment  - credit Bob Aaron-WCHS(photo by Bob Aaron-WCHS)

A CSX train composed largely of tanker cars derailed this afternoon in Mount Carbon, West Virginia. Adena village, a neighborhood close to the derailment, was evacuated after one residence caught fire when a tanker car slammed into  a house and burst into flames.

One tanker car went into the Kanawha River, and some cars exploded. All but two of the 109 cars were tankers loaded with Bakken crude from North Dakota, headed to Yorktown, Virginia. At least 14 tank cars were reported to be on fire, and there is burning oil on the Kanawha. Some cars have exploded, and at least one sent a fireball at least 300 feet in the air.

Two water treatment plants have been shut down to prevent oil from getting into the water supply. Residents will continue to have water for the next 6 to 8 hours due to an emergency reserve supply.

Proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline keep reminding the environmental activists that oil trains have a record of derailing, sometimes with considerable lost lives,  and that a pipeline is immeasurably safer, but it doesn’t sink in. The oil will go to market, whether by pipeline, train or truck. We have many pipelines crossing the Midwest because they are safer and thriftier.

Our economy runs on oil, coal, natural gas and in some places—hydropower and nuclear energy. If we want an economy, and goods to supply the economy, we must have energy. Solar arrays and wind farms produce little energy, and must have 24/7 full-time backup from a conventional power plant. Sounded nice to depend on the sun and the wind, but it was always hooey, and a scheme to enrich favored cronies with government subsidies.

It was not known at the time of this report if anyone was injured or killed.



You Must, You Must, You Must Divest, Because… by The Elephant's Child

divestFI

Friday is apparently the kick off for “Global Divestment Day,” though it is a two day event. Climate activists will try to stir up a lot of college kids and campus hangers-on into marching and carrying homemade signs to scare college administrators into acceding to activists’ demands to sell off any fossil fuel-related equities in their endowment portfolios, because — sustainability.

Where to start? If you ever hope to get a job in the American economy or any of the industrial world’s economies, you should be aware that those economies run on fossil fuel. There is, for the foreseeable future, no other choice. Wind and solar energy don’t produce enough energy to be of any significant use, and to produce any energy at all require 24/7 backup from conventional power plants fueled by — fossil fuels. Climate activists have been lying to you for years. Wind is intermittent. Solar is too diffuse. The major greenhouse gas is not CO², but water vapor, more familiarly known as clouds. You are not doing something positive for the climate, you are being used.

Divestment of fossil fuel stocks could significantly harm an investment portfolio. Investing in something that everyone needs is usually a good idea, as opposed to investment in things like Solyndra (bankrupt) or the giant Ivanpah solar array (losing money and killing birds in very large numbers). So you want to march to make your university’s endowment to collapse? Bright idea. Your college costs will just go up sharply.

If you pay the college regularly, take out enough student loans, and in general behave yourselves, you still have no say whatsoever about the college endowment. The endowment is built of the savings and investments of many generations of previous students who have expressed their gratitude to their alma mater by leaving them some money. If you study hard and really learn, you may eventually with hard work, become rich, and able to add to your university’s endowment.

The reason you have been admitted to a college or university is in the hope that over four or more years the faculty can drum enough information into you that you can hope to get an entry-level job if you do manage to graduate. You are there because you don’t know anything yet, and the school and your parents are hoping that some of it will take.

You are messing up that faint hope by investing your time and your parent’s money in marching and drinking and smoking pot and trying to be activists about some cause which you don’t understand, but feel very passionate about. Social Justice is crap — there is no such thing. Justice refers to the body of laws and the Constitution of our country. If you spend more time in the library and less time in the streets, you may be able to avoid encountering the justice system, which would be wise. And do try not to embarrass your parents.



The Goal of Environmental Activists is to Destroy Capitalism. That’s Why They Lie About the Numbers. by The Elephant's Child

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When historians write of the early Twenty-First Century, will they be shocked at the gullibility of the people, or will they be shocked at the extent to which the official temperature records on which the works of governments and their economies were distorted by systematic “adjustments” to the records to show that the earth was warming far more was justified by the actual data. Christopher Booker wrote in the Telegraph:

Two weeks ago, under the headline “How we are being tricked by flawed data on global warming”, I wrote about Paul Homewood, who, on his Notalotofpeopleknowthat blog, had checked the published temperature graphs for three weather stations in Paraguay against the temperatures that had originally been recorded. In each instance, the actual trend of 60 years of data had been dramatically reversed, so that a cooling trend was changed to one that showed a marked warming.

This was only the latest of many examples of a practice long recognised by expert observers around the world – one that raises an ever larger question mark over the entire official surface-temperature record. …

Homewood has now turned his attention to the weather stations across much of the Arctic, between Canada (51 degrees W) and the heart of Siberia (87 degrees E). Again, in nearly every case, the same one-way adjustments have been made, to show warming up to 1 degree C or more higher than was indicated by the data that was actually recorded. (Read the whole thing)

At a news conference last week in Brussels, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, admitted that the goal of environmental activists is not to save the world from ecological calamity — but to destroy capitalism(emphasis added)

figueres021015_345.gif.cms“This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution,” she said.

Socialists, intent on the wonders of social justice and the ‘better world’ of their dreams, never, never seem to pay any attention to the monumental failures of socialism everywhere it has been tried. The  past 25 years have witnessed the greatest reduction in global poverty  in the history of the world. An 80 % reduction in world poverty in only 36 years. Globalization, free trade, international entrepreneurship. The free enterprise system, American style which is our gift to the world. This is not the first time some greenie has blurted out the truth behind their campaign to protect the world from the horrors of the carbon dioxide we exhale every time we breathe. Go figure.

And of course, this is why National Security Adviser Susan Rice soberly informed us that Climate Change is a major threat to our National Security Strategy.



Obama’s Secret Strategy for Iran And the Middle East by The Elephant's Child

Richard Epstein, professor of law at University of Chicago, and New York University, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, spoke about President Obama early on in his administration. He had known Obama at the University of Chicago, and through his next-door neighbor who was one of Obama’s best friends. He said that Obama was very dogmatic. Once he made up his mind, it was fixed in concrete. He does not change his mind. I have found it useful to keep that in mind.

In an important essay by Michael Doran in Mosaic magazine, the author writes about “Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy,” and suggests that a strategy, centered on Iran, has been in place from the start and consistently followed to this day.

In the giddy aftermath of Obama’s electoral victory in 2008, anything seemed possible. The president saw himself as a transformational leader, not just in domestic politics but also in the international arena, where, as he believed, he had been elected to reverse the legacy of his predecessor, George W. Bush. To say that Obama regarded Bush’s foreign policy as anachronistic is an understatement. To him it was a caricature of yesteryear, the foreign-policy equivalent of Leave It to Beaver. Obama’s mission was to guide America out of Bushland, an arena in which the United States assembled global military coalitions to defeat enemies whom it depicted in terms like “Axis of Evil,” and into Obamaworld, a place more attuned to the nuances, complexities, and contradictions—and opportunities—of the 21st century. In today’s globalized environment, Obama told the United Nations General Assembly in September 2009, “our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero-sum game. No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. . . . No balance of power among nations will hold.”

For the new president, nothing revealed the conceptual inadequacies of Bushland more clearly than the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Before coming to Washington, Obama had opposed the toppling of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein; once in the U.S. Senate, he rejected Bush’s “surge” and introduced legislation to end the war. Shortly after his inauguration in January 2009, he pledged to bring the troops home quickly—a commitment that he would indeed honor. But if calling for withdrawal from Iraq had been a relatively easy position to take for a senator, for a president it raised a key practical question: beyond abstract nostrums like “no nation can . . . dominate another nation,” what new order should replace the American-led system that Bush had been building?

When he arrived in Washington in 2006, Obama absorbed the ideas of the final report of the Iraq Study Group, in which the co-chairs of the bipartisan congressional commission. Lee Hamilton, former Indiana congressman, and former secretary of state James Baker,” interpreted their mission broadly, offering advice on all key aspects of Middle East policy.”

The report, published in December 2006, urged then-President Bush to take four major steps: withdraw American troops from Iraq; surge American troops in Afghanistan; reinvigorate the Arab-Israeli “peace process”; and, last but far from least, launch a diplomatic engagement of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its junior partner, the Assad regime in Syria. Baker and Hamilton believed that Bush stood in thrall to Israel and was therefore insufficiently alive to the benefits of cooperating with Iran and Syria. Those two regimes, supposedly, shared with Washington the twin goals of stabilizing Iraq and defeating al-Qaeda and other Sunni jihadi groups. In turn, this shared interest would provide a foundation for building a concert system of states—a club of stable powers that could work together to contain the worst pathologies of the Middle East and lead the way to a sunnier future.

There you have the basic strategy. Engage Iran to stabilize Iraq and Syria, to defeat ISIS, and enter an era of harmonious relations with the rest of the world. Obama is very anxious to show himself as that “transformational leader.” He, at least, is not in thrall to Israel, He wants Iran to become a “successful regional power and a friend and partner to the United States.”

Meanwhile, Iran has sent a thousand rockets to Hezbollah, is supporting the Houthi in Yemen (look at a map to see why that is important), and adding more centrifuges. White House national security advisor Susan Rice denied, in a speech to Brookings Institution, that the threats facing the United States are in any way “existential” — blaming that perception on media “alarmism.” (With more centrifuges, a bomb in 2 months!)

After a year that saw a Russian invasion in eastern Europe, continued violence in Israel, massive international cyber-attacks on American companies and the rise of an ultra-violent Islamic caliphate in the Middle East, Rice took pains to assure her audience that all is well.

“Too often, what’s missing here in Washington is a sense of perspective,” she said. “Yes, there is a lot going on. Still, while the dangers we face may be more numerous and varied, they are not of the existential nature we confronted during World War II or during the Cold War. We cannot afford to be buffeted by alarmism or an instantaneous news cycle.”

She listed other threats to U.S. security, including “the very real threat of climate change” and the necessity of promoting equality for homosexuals. The new National Security Strategy is here, should you wish to delve more deeply. Foreign Policy remarked:

Of course, if you are like most Americans, you won’t ever read it at all. Which is just as well. Along with being devoid of strategy, the document is also devoid of surprises or new ideas. That could be because its focus is not, as would be the case in a real strategic planning document, the future. Instead, it is the past. This document is really a brief filed by the president in defense of his record to date.

The discussion of the rising cyber-threat is under a heading called “Access to Shared Spaces”. preceded by “Climate Change” and followed by “Increasing Global Health Security.”

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline quotes the Washington  Post’s concerns:

The three concerns are: (1) that a process began with the goal of eliminating Iran’s potential to produce nuclear weapons has evolved into a plan to tolerate and temporarily restrict that capacity; (2) during the negotiations, Obama seemingly has conceded Iran’s place as a regional power at the expense of Israel and other U.S. allies; and (3) Obama has signaled that he will implement his deal without a vote by either chamber of Congress.

Charles Krauthammer sees us as back in the perilous days of the late 1930’s, when some could see glimmers of what was coming down. I’m inclined to agree with him.



Handwriting, Printing, Cursive or Keyboard? by The Elephant's Child

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The late Richard Mitchell, the ‘underground grammarian’ wrote that “the business of writing is to stay put on the page, so you can look at it later and see where you have been stupid.”

I learned in college that handwritten notes help you to learn. The act of writing helps to fix things in your mind. Now comes a study from researchers at Princeton and UCLA that shows that taking notes on the computer is detrimental to learning. Handwritten notes are dramatically more effective at helping students retain information. Laptop use can negatively affect performance on educational assessments, even when the computer is used for its intended function of easier notetaking.

The majority of students would tell you just the opposite. Yet the study shows that students who take direct notes retain significantly less information. In recent years, the public schools have decided that children will do all their writing on a computer and they need only learn keyboarding. Cursive is out. Children not only don’t learn to write, they don’t learn to read handwriting.

Most adults who have learned cursive as children abandon it as adults for a mixture. The fastest, clearest handwriters join only some letters, making the easiest joins, skipping others, using print-like forms of letters whose cursive and printed forms disagree. I switched to a mixture in sixth grade—I remember distinctly because I got in trouble for it with a teacher who was a Palmer-method purist. I was lucky to have a father and an aunt with impossible handwriting, which I mastered, and I have seldom been stymied by anyone’s handwriting.

The benefits of handwriting, learning cursive, is shown to improve brain development in the areas of thinking, language and working memory. The physical act of writing leads to increased comprehension and participation. The College Board found a few  years ago that students who wrote the essay portion of the SAT in cursive scored slightly higher than those who printed, which experts believe is because the speed and efficiency of writing allows students to focus on the content of their essays.

If you are an opponent of Common Core, cursive is no longer included in the Common Core State Standards, which I believe to be an important mistake.



Increased Communication: Blessing or Burden? by The Elephant's Child

4986d76bc1365c018aa601e6a4ed1a52 It was just 100 years ago Sunday that the first commercial transcontinental phone line opened on January 25, 1915. Alexander Graham Bell made the call to his assistant Thomas Watson.

Only 39 years earlier, Bell had spoken to Watson in the first phone call ever, in Boston — just after Bell had  patented the telephone.

By 1915, the American Telephone and Telegraph Co. network crossed the continent with a single copper circuit 6,800 miles long. It could only carry one call at a time — but hearing another person’s voice from the other side of the continent was truly astonishing. There were already 8.6 million phones served by AT&T, but the first intercontinental call was a major public event. The call went from New York to San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition., where they were celebrating the completion of the Panama Canal.

We are inclined to forget that, for example, our founding fathers if they wanted to communicate with someone at a distance, had to send a rider carrying a message. Their days were uninterrupted by such things as the telephone, a radio, TV, computer, cell phones that we take with us so we don’t spend a moment unconnected.

We are so accustomed to multi-tasking and a constant flow of voices and opinion, sales and entertainment, that we don’t recognize the loss of silence, uninterrupted contemplation, time to think deeply. That blessing greatly contributed to the care that went into the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution itself, and that clear thought, perhaps impossible today, may well be why it has lasted so well.

The current presumption is that all our equipment will go away and we will have wearable technology or implants so that we are never, never disconnected.

That must be contrasted with what seems to me our increasing inability to deal with the information age. What has come along with the increased flow of information is too much choice, and way too much stuff for which the word “information” does not really apply. Our educational system is not yet directly addressing information management, how to select that which is important, how to tell truth from falsehood, sense from nonsense, and how to form, from that flow, a life-enriching body of knowledge.



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   




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