American Elephants


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.

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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.



“Energiewinde” Was A Flop That Has Driven Germans Into Energy Poverty by The Elephant's Child

Climate activists in this country looked to Europe, especially Germany, as a model of proper green virtue. Chancellor Merkel’s Energiewinde or energy revolution was supposed to solve the problem of carbon emissions. That’s solar panels and wind turbines.

People really familiar with solar panels and wind turbines, if they are not in the business of trying to sell them will explain that the problem is with the wind and the sun itself. The people selling wind turbines talk about capacity which is what a well functioning turbine will produce in the way of energy when the wind is blowing at just the right speed.

But wind doesn’t blow in the right speed steadily — it blows in gusts and puffs, steadily for a few minutes and then after a while some more puffs. Even someplace really windy. Go to White Sands National Monument sometime. Those great white sand dunes are produced by wind blowing a lot. (the mice and lizards there are white to match the dunes)

There aren’t a lot of really windy places that stay windy a lot of the time, but even those don’t meet the good flow that will match the ideal capacity that produces regular energy. Films of wind farms show some of the turbines turning and some not. Turbines break down, catch fire, malfunction, and that’s not included in the salesmen’s claims. Besides the turbines kill a lot of birds, everything from the big birds of prey like Eagles to tiny songbirds. What the decimation of the bird population will do to the environment is never mentioned.

Sunlight is more diffuse, and even in sunny places —which is where they site big solar arrays— there are clouds, moving through, cloudy days, rainy days. Clouds are not well understood in their relation to climate. If you are a summer cloud-watcher—lying on the grass and watching the clouds move by, you will notice that they are at different levels, affecting the sunlight differently.

I am by no means a climate scientist, but because I knew so little, it was clearly time to bone up. As far as I can tell, the officials who make the decisions about what to do about the climate—don’t do any studying up themselves, they just trust what others of their political persuasion say.

California Governor Jerry Brown is a true believer, who has laid his state’s problems with wildfires, flood and drought, water problems and winter and rise of the sea level, whatever on the issue of climate and an excess of CO2, and especially with President Trump’s excellent decision to fail to sign on to the Paris Climate accords. Brown was off on a ten day tour of European capitols on his way to the UN conference on climate in Bonn, to show how he and other west coast governors were ready to fight the global rise in temperatures, and possibly show how superior he was to the denier Trump, in case he might be called upon to run against Trump the next time.  Our Washington governor, another true believer, plans to try to pass a carbon tax now that Republicans lost control of the legislature.

If the Paris Climate Accords were fully adapted, climate scientists have made clear the effect on the climate by 2100 would be negligible. CO2 is what we exhale each time we breathe. It is a natural fertilizer for plants all over the world and much has been written about the greening of the planet, helping to feed the people of the world. What the Paris Climate Accords were intended to do was transfer as much wealth as possible from the worlds rich nations to the poor and developing countries. In other words it was never really about the climate at all.

But back in Germany, Chancellor Merkel has been unable to form a government. Energiewinde has not only cost far, far more than was planned, but delivered far less energy and put many a German household into energy poverty. People may not understand all the arguments about the climate and how it works, but when they can’t afford to keep their houses warm in the winter, they are not going to vote to continue freezing. Big idea, sounded good, but it didn’t work.



Diversity and Exclusion: You Can’t Make This Up! by The Elephant's Child

Returning to the diversity front, Apple has fired their new diversity chief, Denise Young Smith, who is stepping down after only six months on the job. She made the mistake back in May, of commenting during a conference: “There can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blond men in a room, and they’re going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.”

“Her comments were seen by some as insensitive to people
of color, women, and members of the LGBT community, who have long faced an uphill battle in the workplace.”

Denise Young Smith later apologized for her comments, saying that they “were not representative of how I think about diversity and how Apple sees it.” “For that I’m sorry, she added in a staff email, “More importantly, I want to assure you Apple’s view and our dedication to diversity has not changed.”

Apple, like many Silicon Valley companies, is struggling to diversify its workforce, especially in its leadership and in tech jobs. In 2017, only 3% of its leaders were black, and women held just 23% of tech jobs.

Apple has said that it is making improvements, as shown in its latest diversity report in which it said that “50% of new hires are from historically underrepresented groups in tech.”

How revealing that Apple does not consider diversity of thought or ideas important. Orwell would be fascinated. And how interesting to note that they hire people not for their expertise, but for their race and sexual orientation. Although apparently correct thinking trumps even race, for Denise Young Smith, who is a 20 year veteran at Apple, is black and female.

Lest the Social Justice Warriors object, let me hasten to mention that in every race, every ethnicity, every sexual orientation there are geniuses and the intellectually challenged, and there are some in every group who are technologically skilled. I would much rather deal with a company that hires people for their expertise than one fixated on race, sex and ethnic origin to meet some wispy goal ginned up by the social justice folks. If you can’t make excellent products, we’ll take our business elsewhere.



Yoo Hoo! CEOs and Business Managers by The Elephant's Child


I know, I know. About your advertising. You have paid a lot for ads and not received the response you hoped for.  But opting for auto-play ads is a mistake. We’re not as interested in your ads as you assume, and when we park an article with an embedded auto-play ad with a few other saved pieces, it starts playing. And always very very loud. Our automatic reaction is to open the piece, note the name of the advertiser so we can permanently boycott the company and then discard the ad.

We really don’t believe that businesses seeking customers should be publicly playing politics. If you want to sell something, don’t start instructing us in how we should think. We can do very nicely without you. Thought  you might like to know.



Here’s How Hurricanes Form and Where They Come From by The Elephant's Child

This has certainly been an interesting hurricane year, with Irma, Juan, Lee, and Maria, Hopefully, Maria will be the end of it for this season. But what is a hurricane, where does it come from and why do they do so much damage sometimes? Here’s an article from Popular Science that explains all.

The NOAA/NASA satellite image of Hurricane Jose (left), Tropical Storm Maria (center), and Tropical Depression Lee (Right) on Sept 17, 2017. Now we have hurricane hunters who fly over the storms to determine what’s happening, and satellite  pictures and even Space Station pictures plus instant communication. 1933 was supposed to be a bad hurricane year, and they had none of that — except radio. But hurricanes have been around long before radio. Imagine how terrifying when such a storm appeared with little warning and no real preparation—just a devastating natural disaster, with little help, much too late.



Wildfire, Bad Air Quality, Imported From Canada by Mother Nature by The Elephant's Child

The air in the Seattle area is really bad today. The sun looks to be bright red, and the smoke is very visible. Most of it is coming from British Columbia, as seen in today’s satellite photo. The red dots represent heat detected by the satellite. This was just posted. There are 110 active wildfires in British Columbia, four of them larger than 123,000 acres. (The Canadians speak in metric hectares) There’s also a good sized fire close to the border, if you look carefully. Across the mountains, there are 37,915 acres burning in the Okanagan National Forest, but that isn’t contributing to our bad air quality. And no, the fires are not caused by global warming, no matter how much the cultists try to use them to raise money. Click on the link for lots more information.

The U.S. Forest Service was a big part of my childhood. We could tell by the smoke in the air, about where the fire was. Lots of family friends worked for the Forest Service, and the Smoke Jumpers operated from  a nearby town. I spent some great time in the summer at Price Valley Ranger Station, where a friend’s father was in command. Fun for a kid, but wildfire is dangerous hard work for firefighters, smoke jumpers, hotshot crews, and all the folks trying to save lives and forests.  Remember them when you’re complaining about bad air and poor visibility.

 




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