American Elephants


Meet Tammie Jo Shults, Southwest Airlines Heroine by The Elephant's Child

You may have heard the tragic news of the death of a passenger on Southwest Airlines when an engine caught fire and disintegrated at more than 30,000 feet spraying shrapnel through the fuselage. Metal pieces ruptured a window behind a wing, fatally injuring a passenger in the first airline fatality since 2009, and the first fatality in the history of Southwest Airlines.

Southwest pilot Tammie Jo Schults executed an emergency landing in Philadelphia after the Dallas-bound flight departed from New York’s LaGuardia Airport. In the Wall Street Journal article, an experienced amateur pilot was deeply impressed with her inspiring calm control. He added:

Listen to the cockpit recording of the incident. She is so calm it is amazing. She says that a passenger may have been sucked out of the plane and that they are missing part of the aircraft like she is talking about the time of day. Yes, they train for emergencies and yes, they are expected to land on one engine. But her calm and composure is inspiring. When they tell her to switch from approach to tower frequency she even says, “Good day.”

Someone copied the plane to tower control conversation and posted it on You Tube.

An incredible demonstration of real air traffic control, and how the most professional pilots deal with an emergency. Here’s a real hero for all those whiny women complaining about work and not being paid enough.

Among the offerings at the end of this video is a conversation with a passenger on the plane phones in his story to the local news channel. It is also a rewarding conversation.

At American Thinker, Thomas Lifson extols the management at Southwest Airlines, and points out that in the wake of a tragic accident, there is usually hysteria in the media, resulting in a drop in the company’s stock value, but in this case the airline stock went up in the wake of a disaster.

After she graduated from college, Shults applied to the Air Force, but they wouldn’t allow her to take the test to become a pilot, so she turned to the Navy.

Shults became one of the first female fighter pilots in the history of the U.S. Navy and one of the first women to fly F-18s. She landed her fighter plane on boats at 150 miles per hour and eventually became an instructor. Although she wasn’t allowed to fly in combat, she did fly as an aggressor pilot. After a successful career, she resigned her commission in 1993.

Shults and her husband Dean, are both now captains with Southwest Airlines. Passengers last Tuesday were able to see a calm professional at the moment they most needed one.

ADDENDUM: Southwest Airlines has sent each of the 144 passengers on their deadly flight a $5,000 check with their heartfelt apologies to cover any of their immediate financial needs, after the flight suffered an engine failure and had to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia, on it’s way to Dallas. The letter also says the passengers would separately receive a $1,000 flight voucher for  future travel.

While the National Transportation Safety Board investigates the catastrophic engine failure, the airline’s “primary focus and commitment is to assist you in every way possible,” said the letter, signed by Southwest president Gary C. Kelly.

“We value you as our Customer and hope you will allow us another opportunity to restore your confidence in Southwest as the airline you can count on for your travel needs. In this spirit, we are sending you a check in the amount of $5,000 to cover any of your immediate financial needs. As a tangible gesture of our heartfelt sincerity, we are also sending you a $1,000 travel voucher (in a separate e-mail), which can be used for future travel.”

Tom Lifson said that Southwest had very good management.

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Business is Demanding to be Regulated. Bad Idea. by The Elephant's Child

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We seem to have entered an age where business executives assume that it is acceptable to do politics with their business. Businesses have, of course, long favored policies that help them to do business, and supported whatever politicians established the policy. That’s perfectly natural. But suddenly we have private-sector businesses entering the political fray, using their corporate budgets to silence free speech, sign on to very contentious political issues without the slightest awareness that there is a large mass of customers who may be offended.

“The reason that capitalism has managed to create real economic growth of 1.5% annually, and a 19-fold  increase in living standards over —the last two centuries — is because when people treat the marketers and inventors  as having some dignity and liberty, innovation takes hold.” (Those words are from economist Dierdre McCloskey). The reason why innovation has created and is continuing to develop computer connectivity, artificial intelligence and all that can lead to— is because business has been free of government control. There are many countries where such freedom does not exist, and government tells business what to produce and how and when, where and with whom.  Perhaps these executives were too busy with technology to study a little history: perhaps The Gulag Archipelago, or maybe Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom.

Milton Friedman, in his 1962 classic, presented his view of the proper role of competitive capitalism — the organization of economic activity through private enterprise operating in a free market — as both a device for achieving economic freedom and a necessary condition for political freedom.

Economic freedom is not going to work when some businesses chose to boycott other businesses for political reasons. They are dealing with the public, their customers, who can choose to boycott too, and are doing so.



Science and Health and Science Scaredy-Cats by The Elephant's Child

Oh dear, O dear! I believe this was the evening when we were, all across the world, at precisely Eight o’clock — supposed to turn off all our lights and sit in the dark for an hour to save the earth, or show our empathy for those who are deeply concerned about the climate and the earth and the future. I usually see enough reminders to remember to turn on all my lights to demonstrate my skepticism.

I grew up in Idaho, in what you might call the foothills of the Rockies,  mostly outside, winter or summer. Winter was for sledding, and we had a splendid sledding hill, or building snow forts, but let me not drift off into reminiscing. Some winters we had little snow, not much more than 3 feet on the level. Other years, 5 or 6 feet. Some years we could skate on the river, others not. Been snowed in. When it gets down to 20° below, all the hairs in your nose freeze. The climate has warmed over the last century, somewhere around one degree. The Paris Climate Agreement would not have prevented any measurable amount of warming.

The Paul Erlich’s of the world have always believed in overpopulation and consequent hunger and starvation. Yet what has happened is that the very small amount of increased CO2 in the atmosphere has meant the greening of the planet, less famine and more food.

Most packaged goods in the grocery store will carry the admonition somewhere on the label that there are no GMO ingredients  (genetically modified organisms) in their offering, yet I just saw the notice today that another country (in this case Canada) has approved “golden rice”, a strain of rice to which a carotene-producing gene is added.

In many areas of Asia, vitamin A  is devastatingly rare in the diet of many children, causing blindness and altered immunity. Since rice is the dietary staple, adding it to rice can save children from the deficiency.  Nearly 500 million children are said to be deficient. Yet the usual suspects (the anti-GM foods nuts at Greenpeace) have fits claiming all sorts of disasters from the golden rice. The link is to a story from ASCH which also explains the Gates Foundation’s work in fortifying bananas with beta-carotene for the highlands of East Africa where the dietary staple is bananas. There is another banana in Papua New Guinea that contains so much beta carotene that they are orange, and they can simply transplant the gene that produces it into Africa’s cooking banana.

I wandered a bit all over the planet with this post, which started with telling you that I forgot to turn on all the lights to celebrate President Trump’s exit from the Paris Climate Agreement, the loonies who flunked high school biology and chemistry and are terrified of science, and the advances of science in preventing blindness and death in the children of some areas of Asia. ASCH — the American Council on Science and Health is a dandy website for understanding what’s going on in this part of the world. You can sign up for a free subscription, and they’ll send a brief note to your mailbox with the latest news. The Little Black Book of Junk Science by  Alec Berezow is newly available and is just what the title implies.



California: A Failing Utopian Vision by The Elephant's Child

California is becoming the most watched state in the union. The worst-managed state. threatening secession, or division, insisting on whatever the rest of the country is doing, they will go in another direction. And Washington State is trying to follow in their wake,

Here’s Victor Davis Hanson trying to explain what’s gone wrong and why. Our most populous state, a sanctuary state, broke, and people and businesses are fleeing the state for anywhere where taxes are lower and housing costs are sane. People are living in motor homes, sheds, turning a single apartment into a dormitory. Facebook and Google are apparently building a new town to house their workers.



The Strange Adventures of the Venus of Willendorf and Mark Zuckerberg by The Elephant's Child

This pudgy figure, the Venus of Willendorf, is to be found in the Naturhistorische  Museum in Vienna, Austria. She is a fertility figure, without face or feet, and one of the oldest sculptures we know. She was found in 1908 near Willendorf, Austria. She is a lonely representative of Stone Age sculpture, approximately from 28,000 — 25,000 years B.C.  She is carved of Oolitic limestone in the Paleolithic Period or the ‘Old Stone Age’. She’s about 4½” tall, and was covered with red ocher paint when found. An image of the work was posted on Facebook by Laura Ghianda last year, and removed as ‘inappropriate content’—despite four attempts to appeal the decision.

Ghianda, who is an activist, denounced the Facebook ruling,  The Museum protested in January requesting that the Venus be allowed to remain naked, and of course great fun was made of Facebook, and a spokesperson for Facebook apologized in March, saying that they had confused the post in question with an advertisement. “Our policies do not allow nudity or implied nudity, but we have an exception for statues.” Ms. Ghianda has launched an online petition asking that Facebook change its algorithms that are censoring art online. And so it goes in the halls of Silicon Valley.

Silicon Valley has a lot riding on its algorithms, and people are getting a little testy about being banned or wanting someone banned. The companies depend on their algorithms to help them define who is likely to be a customer for what to tell their advertisers about how much they are going to have to pay for an advertisement on a particular page, which is why you get ads for shirts when you were just looking at shirts on someone else’s website. And future gadgets and photos of you and yours will tell them even more. They want to know everything useful about you, so they can monetize it . Privacy is a thing of the past.



Common Sense is Not Anywhere as Common as Assumed by The Elephant's Child

Mitch Daniels, President of Purdue University, had an excellent article in the Washington Post last Wednesday about GMO foods. The campaign against GMO foods he says, is the kind of foolishness that only rich societies can afford to indulge.

Of the several claims of “anti-science” that clutter our national debates these days, none can be more flagrantly clear than the campaign against modern agricultural technology, most specifically the use of molecular techniques to create genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Here, there are no credibly conflicting studies, no arguments about the validity of computer models, no disruption of an ecosystem nor any adverse human health or even digestive problems, after 5 billion acres have been cultivated cumulatively and trillions of meals consumed.

And yet a concerted, deep-pockets campaign, as relentless as it is baseless, has persuaded a high percentage of Americans and Europeans to avoid GMO products, and to pay premium prices for “non-GMO” or “organic” foods that may in some cases be less safe and less nutritious. Thank goodness the toothpaste makers of the past weren’t cowed so easily; the tubes would have said “No fluoride inside!” and we’d all have many more cavities.

The article is an excellent plea for a little common sense. Mitch Daniels points out that suggesting that the poor in developing countries should fear GMO foods is not just wrong, but immoral. The story of the Green Revolution and the work of Norman Borlaug who should be one of the great heroes of the world should be taught in school.  Golden Rice is a variety of rice (Oryza sativa)  produced through genetic engineering (there are the ‘scary’ words) to biosynthesize beta-carotene in the edible parts of rice. It is intended to produce a fortified food to be grown and consumed in areas where there is a shortage of dietary vitamin A, a deficiency which is estimated to kill 670,000 children under the age of 5 each year.

This is a broad problem of political and scientific ignorance. Ilya Somin of the Volokh Conspiracy added his views on the problem.He links to Reason science writer Ron Bailey and William Saletan of Slate. The basic problem of ignorance is heightened by the very words “genetically engineered” which sound, to the ignorant, really scary. Ilya Somin notes that a 2012 National Science  Foundation survey found that about 25% of Americans don’t know that the Earth revolves around the sun rather than visa versa. There’s a lot about basic knowledge in Ilya Somin’s article that certainly suggests that we have a major problem with our schools. Do read that whole thing too.

I would suggest though, that much of the problem exists because of our grocery stores. Food producers are concerned with their marketing, and inclined to cater to any possible fears of the consumer. Hence you have “low sodium” products, “sugar-free,” “low-fat,” and “No GMO products” among others on every can or carton in the store. If everyone is telling you that GMO is a bad thing, pretty soon you’ll start to believe it.

Another article by Ilya Somin explains the problem of mandatory government warnings where the state of Florida required producers of skim milk that does not contain added vitamins to label it as “imitation milk” which it of course is not. The European Union has imposed mandatory labeling of GMO foods, even though there are no dangers involved. Read the comments on Mitch Daniels’ fine essay. You might wonder if perhaps Leftism is just a cult.



One More Mission From NASA Physicists and Engineers by The Elephant's Child


Unvalidated climate models that don’t correspond with physical data and the requirements of the scientific method contribute to unfounded climate alarmism, a retired NASA physicist said at the Heartland Institute’s recent America First Energy Conference.

Since America’s national security depends in part on energy security, unsubstantiated claims about global warming that prevent policymakers from making “rational decisions” with regard to the development of U.S. energy resources have become a national security threat, said Hal Doiron, a 16-year NASA veteran.

The “propaganda” underpinning climate alarmism is “causing tremendous political bottlenecks” that prevent government officials from “doing the right thing” on energy, he said.

Hal Dorion helped to develop the Apollo Lunar Module’s landing dynamics software during NASA’s moon missions. He is concerned that the U.S. military has been misdirected by climate alarmist claims that are not sound science. He poses the example of the US Navy preparing for something that is unreasonable that would also cost way too much money —extreme sea level rise— that is not supported by rigorous scientific data.

With respect to climate alarm, he says that too many academics in too many universities are writing papers that draw conclusions from models that don”t agree with physical data.

My assumption is that once alarm about the possible warming of the earth became a public concern, everybody wanted to jump on the bandwagon. Prestige, grants, new laboratories, new assistants, prestige for the university etc. etc. They assumed they could just put the whole problem in a computer program which would allow them to really study it.

They put in what was known scientific fact, then they put in educated guesses, and some assumptions, and the more they did the more money became available, invitations to glamorous conferences, interviews. There are some things we know, but there’s a lot that is  unknown and the true believers want answers now, because it has become politics—not science.

Science means that lots of others can do the same experiment and get the same answer. That’s validation. The earthly temperatures that they were all using came from temperature recording sites that were sometimes located right next to the air conditioning units’ output, or right where concrete walls reflected heat back, or at airports where there was miles of concrete runways and buildings around the recording site.

Admiral Thomas Hayward who retired from the Navy as U.S. Chief of Naval Operations and a member  of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also addressed the Heartland Institute’s energy conference.

For the past six to eight years, he said, climate change has been given “a higher priority” than the readiness of the Navy’s fleet. During that time, the U.S. Defense Department has spent $100 million on “just climate change,” while the U.S. Navy has spent “$58 billion chasing what is called the ‘green fleet.’”

That means many U.S. Navy vessels are using biofuels, but Hayward wonders how many ports around the world are equipped to accommodate U.S. Navy vessels that rely on a high percentage of biofuels, and he worries how that would work in a combat situation.

Here is the letter the Right Climate Stuff research team sent to President Trump last May. Here is the website for the Right Climate Stuff organization of retired NASA physicists and astronomical engineers, lots of good information there.




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