American Elephants


The Grassley-Graham Memo Is Thoroughly Shocking. Press Snoozes. by The Elephant's Child

The source many of us have turned to for information on the ongoing scandal supposed to involve alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign is National Review’s Andrew McCarthy. (McCarthy, you will recall, was the U.S. Attorney who tried the Blind Sheik for the first World Trade Center bombing.) Andy knows what he is talking about. He is not interested in removing Trump from office on some pretext. Just in getting to the bottom of things.

In a word, the Grassley-Graham memo is shocking. Yet, the press barely notices.

Rest assured: If a Republican administration had used unverifiable hearsay from a patently suspect agent of the Republican presidential candidate to gull the FISA court into granting a warrant to spy on an associate of the Democratic nominee’s campaign, it would be covered as the greatest political scandal in a half-century.

Instead, it was the other way around. The Grassley-Graham memo corroborates the claims in the Nunes memo: The Obama Justice Department and FBI used anonymously sourced, Clinton-campaign generated innuendo to convince the FISA court to issue surveillance warrants against Carter Page, and in doing so, they concealed the Clinton campaign’s role. Though the Trump campaign had cut ties with Page shortly before the first warrant was issued in October 2016, the warrant application was based on wild allegations of a corrupt conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Moreover, the warrant meant the FBI could seize not only Page’s forward-going communications but any past emails and texts he may have stored — i.e., his Trump campaign communications.

With its verification by the Grassley-Graham memo, the Nunes memo now has about a thousand times more corroboration than the Steele dossier, the basis of the heinous allegations used by the Justice Department and FBI to get the FISA warrants.

The press howled about the Nunes memo, but the Grassley-Graham memo tells us that we need  a full-blown investigation of whatever possessed the Obama administration to hand such shoddy applications to the FISA court, but how a judge managed to rationalize signing the warrants.

Andrew McCarthy adds “We need full disclosure—the warrants, the applications, the court proceedings. No more games.”

Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Graham chairs a relevant subcommittee. They composed their memo in support of a criminal referral recommending that dossier author Christopher Steele be investigated for making false statements to the FBI (a felony). And they have increased their efforts to get more information unsealed, so the public can see it , even if the press does not cover it.

Here, again is the link to McCarthy’s post. Do read the whole thing. Andy explains the legal matters of the whole thing, and just why it is such a potential bombshell of a scandal. They thought that Hillary would win, and their efforts would never come to light. Obama’s name will go down in history—just not the way he planned.

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Today is Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday by The Elephant's Child

Today is  “President’s Day.” As a long time crank, I disapprove of moving days of remembrance to Mondays to make a  3-day weekend. I would prefer that we stuck with Lincoln’s Birthday, and when we get there, to Washington’s Birthday on the 22nd.

Both men deserve special honor. In elementary school, kids used to make log cabins with construction paper or crayon, and Washington got axes and cherry trees. Classrooms had portraits of the two men, and an American flag standing in the corner for the flag salute. I assume I am badly dating myself, but I’m not sure just when these formalities ended.

On Valentine’s Day we had a big decorated box in which to put the valentines for our classmates. The drugstore sold sheets of punch-out valentines in numbers suited to average class size. It was considered tacky not to be completely equal in favoring everyone with a card — even the ones you hated. I don’t think I have seen a picture of a classroom lately that has pictures of either president. I wonder if they still do Valentine’s Day?

Most kids have probably never seen a log cabin, and are unfamiliar with a split rail fence.  The tale about cherry tree and never told a lie is undoubtedly specious, and I don’t remember actually learning much of anything about either man.

Even little kids should learn something about history, but most colleges are dropping any Western Civilization or  American history requirement. The protests we hear on our campuses display a vast ignorance of U.S. History, and world history as well. Troubling.



Planning for A Self-Driving Future? by The Elephant's Child

Our local throwaway newspaper arrived today with an article about our city and autonomous vehicles. Traffic is a major problem in most cities, and governments have no idea how to solve it. So of course they are planning.

Experts in autonomous vehicle (AV) technology say the path forward requires city and state leaders to be proactive, making changes to local roadways, infrastructure, and legislation.

Our city, it seems is right on top of the question, and paving the way to accommodate the impact of replacing human drivers. The governor has signed an executive order allowing for easier testing and operation of self-driving cars. Our city is very technology friendly, it seems. Without going into all the radar system, detecting of objects, fiber optic stuff, I find that they are looking down the road and noticing that we have major transportation problems right now, mostly caused by big ideas from local and state governments.

They are looking down the road to a day when nobody will own a car. This seems to be an interim step to the flying car stage. There are shuttles now that are fully autonomous and will carry six people seated and six people standing. (See, we just got rid of six to 12 cars). They are envisioning a city  of solely ACES technology (Autonomous, Connected Electric and Shared) vehicles. This, they believe will allow all those parking lots and parking garages to become residential. When you need a vehicle, you will just summon one and it will pop over and take you where you want to go. Amazon, I guess, will deliver whatever else you need.

I’m leaving out six columns of excitement for the future, but this is what the Left has been talking about for years. Stuff all the people into high rise cities, and turn the rest of the country into wilderness parkland, saving the environment you know. It would seem that there is to be not much freedom in the future. They always ignore the real people out there. People who work have errands. We even have a new and apparently thriving doggy day care center where you can drop your dogs off for the day, but have to be picked up on the way home. One kid at daycare, another in elementary school, need groceries, have to get to the hardware store sometime soon, books to return to the library, pick up the dry cleaning. That sort of thing.

How does a small fleet of city-owned AV cars deal with a city full of people who want to go somewhere on the weekend? Do you have to reserve a car months ahead? If you like to hike or fish? If population growth is a problem, why are they not talking about building up some of the small cities or dying towns that could use more business and jobs and growth? Cities don’t want to get smaller or even stay the same. Growth is hardwired in. Every legislator wants to be in charge of more and become more important. We don’t do a very good job of planning for the future, and we aren’t much good at learning from history. Look at all the millennials out there trying to erase the parts of history they don’t like. Some high school just banned (once again) Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird.

So what happens when Amazon delivers everything and we have an EMP attack frying the grid, electric vehicles don’t run, and America starves to death in a massive famine? I think I read some science fiction novels along those lines a while back. This is all idle speculation of course, very idle. Do you worry about stuff like this?



Why Is Infrastructure Always “Crumbling?” by The Elephant's Child

President Donald Trump announced a $1 trillion infrastructure plan at the State of the Union speech on  January 30. But he had earlier revealed a price tag of $1.7 trillion at a meeting with about a hundred mayors of major American cities. The mayors were excited. Mr. Trump said he wanted all of the projects funded by his plan to be “on time and under budget.”

My question was “what is infrastructure?” Are we talking about the power grid? Concern about EMP attacks? The interstate highways? Airports? The president was complaining about our airports back during the campaign. What infrastructure is the responsibility of the federal government and what is the responsibility of the states or those cities? When thinking about “infrastructure” do people think beyond their own familiar potholes?

Why does it always come with the modifier “crumbling”? We have all sorts of big projects going on all over the country to improve transportation, or other things one would probably identify as “infrastructure”— California has a big high speed rail to nowhere that just keeps costing more and more and going nowhere, that nobody seems to want except Jerry Brown.

We have Light Rail here that nobody wants and seems to be a massive boondoggle. It is building across a floating bridge, and nobody seems to know if that will work. They have added what we call “Lexus Lanes” to the freeways where you have to pay a hefty sum to use them and that has screwed up traffic in the rest of the lanes. Our traffic is nothing to write home about. (Better they should have given trucks and buses their own lane.) In DC I think I read that freeway tolls are over $40  for a single trip. No wonder they are back to talking about flying cars.

Obama was going to accomplish great things with his infrastructure project, but he ran into the “shovel ready” problem, and he simply did not know or understand the problems with permitting and environmental regulations, how long they took and how involved they were. The  Transcontinental Railroad took railroad companies six years to lay 1,907 miles of track, tunneling through mountains at one foot a day, building bridges, all mostly by hand.

California’s bullet train is still slowly building and the new deadline is 2025 for high speed rail from San Francisco to San Diego. The old deadline was 2018, but the first leg will only run from  Madera to Shafter, a small town north of Bakersfield. This was the most “shovel ready”stretch when the Obama administration was passing out stimulus funds. The original plan was for 800 miles of high-speed rail up and running by 2020. It will be only very slightly faster than an airline flight if its ever finished. The project’s lead just announced another $2.9 billion increase in costs for the first 119-mile stretch, mostly for land acquisition. Voters approved the project back when it was estimated to cost $40 billion, and a one-way ticket from San Francisco to LA  was expected to be $55. The most recent estimate is $64 Billion and they are talking about routing it through Silicon Valley for obvious reasons.

Elon Musk is still messing around with his hyperloop project, with some success with his models. His greatest expertise seems to be his ability to get governments to subsidize his ideas. Across the country, many cities are engaged in big transportation projects, and I don’t have an impression of many successes.

I went to Google to see what I could find about Obama’s stimulus,  the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). In general, Democrats thought it was a great success, but were a little thin on explanations of what it accomplished. Since I’m a right-leaning crank, I consulted the Hoover Institution and John B. Taylor and John F. Cogan explained that “more than $1 trillion in federal-deficit spending did little or nothing to help the economy, because it was used to pay down debts and reduce borrowing.”

At Fox News, John R. Lott said that “the states hardest hit received the least money. States with higher bankruptcy, foreclosure and unemployment rates got less money. And lower-income states also received less. It looks like Democrats ended up helping their supporters, including unions and many very wealthy supporters.”

It’s easy to get politicians all enthusiastic about big projects that can crown their term with achievement. Think about Eisenhower’s transcontinental highways, or Hoover Dam. It’s very tempting. Obama’s high speed rail fantasy has led to Jerry Brown’s train to nowhere and apparently to the deadly derailment we just had down by Tacoma. It involved a new stretch of track that bypassed an existing rail line. The train was doing 80 mph when it hit a curve engineered for speeds of 30 mph.

“My high-speed rail proposal will lead to innovations that change the way we travel in America,” Obama boldly proclaimed at the time.

Washington state, however, eagerly took the stimulus money and promised to use it to speed up service between Portland and Seattle on Amtrak’s Cascade line.

One of the big projects — which consumed $187 million — went to build a 14.5 mile high-speed bypass between the cities of DuPont and Tacoma.

The stimulus was advertised as financing “shovel ready” projects, but work on the bypass did not begin until 2013, 5 years after the end of the recession.

President Trump is probably better prepared than most presidents to deal with big construction projects. He understands the hazards and the hubris, and knows what is involved. I’m willing to be convinced.



The Usual Suspects Are Back Again, Trying to “Save the Planet” by The Elephant's Child

Four Democrat senators are demanding that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt recuse himself from repealing a 2015 Obama-era regulation that places significant burdens on fossil fuel energy providers, according to the Washington Post.

Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), an add-on to the Clean Air Act, was meant to curb carbon emissions from fossil fuel fired energy plants in order to conform to the emissions targets agreed to by the United States in the Paris climate accord. President Trump announced last June  that he was pulling the U.S. out of the accord, and Pruitt and the EPA proposed repealing the CPP about three months later. Repealing the regulation could save $33 billion in compliance costs by 2030.

The Democrat senators are Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Brian Schatz of Hawaii. They claimed that since Pruitt had sued the EPA four times at attorney general of Oklahoma he would not be able to make a fair judgment.

“The evidence for Pruitt’s inalterably [sic.] closed mind on CPP rulemaking is overwhelming,” the senators wrote, according to The Hill. “It falls into three categories: (1) his deep and wide financial ties to the fossil fuel industry which is ferociously opposed to the CPP; (2) his status as a previous petitioner suing the EPA to block the CPP; and (3) his numerous statements denouncing the CPP, questioning the ability to regulate carbon emissions under the [Clean Air Act] as the CPP proposes to do, and casting doubt on climate science.”

Environmentalists and Democrats have never been able to get it through their heads that our economy runs on electricity produced by fossil fuel fueled power plants, that is coal, natural gas, and petroleum products. All the solar arrays and wind turbines that we have installed manage to produce about 4% of our energy needs — when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining on a mostly cloudless day. That’s all.

Carbon dioxide is plant food. It makes plants (including food crops and trees) grow. The planet has been greening because of the very slight rise in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, and more of the world’s people are getting enough food. Greenies like to think that CO2 is poisonous, but it is what we exhale. Nurserymen pump extra CO2 into their greenhouses to help the growth of the plants therein. You haven’t seen any stories in the news about all the dead bodies in greenhouses have you?

The Paris accords were designed to transfer money from the western nations to the poor countries of the developing world, under the guise of the global warming theme. Would have done nothing for global warming, and very little for the countries it meant to benefit. All about globalism.

The Clean Power Plan is a dumb regulation that should be repealed. It accomplishes nothing, and harms fossil fuel fired power plants for no reason at all except for pleasing environmentalists, who illogically hate fossil fuels. Drop a note to EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, and tell him he’s doing a great job. I’ll bet he isn’t getting a lot of fan letters just now, though he should.



When Congress Sang Happy Birthday to President Reagan by The Elephant's Child

A brief trip back in history: when Congress sang Happy Birthday to President Ronald Reagan.

It’s interesting to think about how our politics and national life have changed by the constant presence of cameras. The lives of miscreants have become far more risky since there are almost always people present with phones in their pockets to take their picture. But now even history has changed. What was once a rare filmed event, is now choosing between different versions. Events are not only recorded, but photoshopped, people are added or subtracted from the scenes.

This was February 6, 1987. Apparently this was the day of the State of the Union Speech, and the happy birthday song was saved until the end of the speech, which was eliminated to capture the song. An historic occasion. You don’t often get Congress all singing the same song in good humor.

Thanks to Weasel Zippers for the link



Can Climate Models Predict Climate Change? by The Elephant's Child

No they can’t. Here’s why. Please listen carefully to Dr. William Happer. There is way too much nonsense floating around out there, largely from politicians who are quite sure that declaring themselves as ‘caring about the environment’ is the way to electoral success. Maybe, but it won’t do much for the climate.

You might also visit Dr.Roy Spencer’s website. He’s the scientist who runs the satellites that give us the world temperatures, and he says that we really don’t understand the action of clouds at all.

Hillary was out making a speech today about the drastic changes in climate ahead, and how it was all going to be a problem for women. I kind of lost interest at that point, and didn’t stick around for the rest of it. Something to do with desertification and women having to pack up and move south.

ADDENDUM: I forgot to add a link to Dr.Roy Spencer’s website, though it is available in the sidebar. Good site to explain the basics of global warming science.Good site for those who want to ‘resist’ the alarmist’s insistence that unbelievers should be sent to detention camps to learn correct thinking.




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