American Elephants


Let’s Hear it For “Greed.” by The Elephant's Child
January 10, 2010, 11:43 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Freedom, History | Tags: , ,

Many inventions are created by small annoyances.  Papers were fastened together for around 600 years by cutting two parallel slits in the paper and threading a ribbon through the slits.

Playing around with a piece of wire may have created the idea.  The impulse to follow through with the idea, develop it until it is not only usable, but able to be produced in quantity and marketed simply doesn’t happen without a healthy dose of “greed.”

Many on the left are deeply suspicious of money and the acquisitive instincts that make the accumulation of wealth possible.  Roger Kimball quotes an observation of Anthony Trollope in his novel Can You Forgive Her? He gives it to Plantagenet Palliser who responds to a character who announces that he lacks “mercenary tendencies,” thusly:

There is no vulgar error so vulgar, — that is to say, common or erroneous, as that by which men have been taught to say that mercenary tendencies are bad.  A desire for wealth is the source of all progress.  Civilization comes from what men call greed.  Let your mercenary tendencies be combined with honesty and they cannot take you astray.

Ideas pop into your head.  Developing them and marketing them takes effort, time, money and persistence.  How many ideas have been carelessly tossed on the rubbish pile through the absence of persistence, effort and unwillingness to spend the time.  What makes the difference?  The potential of reward — greed.

Six hundred years of tying papers together with a ribbon, and  then a small invention makes life simpler, and its use spreads and spreads.

Actually, Johan Vaaler, a Norwegian inventor, invented the paperclip in 1899.  He received a patent for his design from Germany in 1899 since Norway had no patent laws at that time.

It was a company called the Gem Manufacturing Ltd. of England who first designed the double oval-shaped standard-looking paperclip.  William Middlebrook of Waterbury, CT patented a machine for making paper clips of the Gem design in 1899.  The Gem paperclip was never patented, but the name stuck.

During World War II, Norwegians were prohibited from wearing any buttons with the likeness or initials of their king on them.  To protest, they began wearing paperclips because paperclips were a Norwegian invention whose original function was to bind together.  This was a protest against the Nazi occupation, and wearing a paperclip could have meant arrest.



When Ethics and Statistics Clash, First Thing You Know You End Up With “Death Panels.” by The Elephant's Child
January 10, 2010, 9:16 pm
Filed under: Islam, Law, National Security, Terrorism | Tags: , ,

There was an odd column in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday, by Paul Campos, a professor of law at the University of Colorado.  He points out that we are playing a game that could be called “Terrorball.”   The rules are, he says 1) The game lasts as long as there are terrorists who want to harm Americans and 2) If terrorists should manage to kill or injure or seriously frighten any of us, they win.

These rules help explain the otherwise inexplicable wave of hysteria that has swept over our government in the wake of the failed attempt by a rather pathetic aspiring terrorist to blow up a plane on Christmas Day. For two weeks now, this mildly troubling but essentially minor incident has dominated headlines and airwaves, and sent politicians from the president on down scurrying to outdo each other with statements that such incidents are “unacceptable,” and that all sorts of new and better procedures will be implemented to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.

Mr. Campos is enamored by statistics:  “Consider then that on this very day about 6,700 Americans will die. … [A]round 1,900 of the Americans who die today will be less than 65, and that indeed about 140 will be children. Approximately 50 Americans will be murdered today, including several women killed by their husbands or boyfriends, and several children who will die from abuse and neglect.  Around 85 of us will commit suicide, and another 120 will die in traffic accidents.”

He goes on at great length, but the gist of his argument is that we should stop all this nonsense that is inconveniencing everyone at airports and have a little courage.

For obvious reasons, politicians and other policy makers generally avoid discussing what ought to be considered an “acceptable” number of traffic deaths, or murders, or suicides, let alone what constitutes an acceptable level of terrorism. Even alluding to such concepts would require treating voters as adults—something which at present seems to be considered little short of political suicide.

…How long will it take to admit that an endless war on terror, dedicated to making America a terror-free nation, is equally nonsensical?

Nate Silver also “crunches the risk numbers” in an effort to point out that there’s nothing to see here, just move along.

I’m sure that is just a coincidence that these columns should appear just after the Obama administration demonstrated their incomplete grasp of the nature of the War on Terror. Do note the phrase “rather pathetic aspiring terrorist.”  After all, the number of dead on 9/11 wasn’t anywhere near the initial count of over 5,000.  What’s the big deal?  It was probably just a one-off event, anyway.

And it is also a coincidence that (brother of Rahm) Ezekiel Emanuel M.D., “medical ethicist” should run the numbers on medicine and human life and decide that old folks just cost too much in their later years. And the retarded or disableds’ life years are not as valuable as those of someone in the bloom of early adulthood, and the blind are not worth as much as the sighted.

The noted “Oregon Plan” denies cancer-fighting drugs to a patient as too expensive, but offers assisted suicide as an alternate option. The current health-care bills attempt to save money by cutting fees paid to doctors and hospitals, making health care less available for seniors, and make paid abortion a right.

Or how about all the celebrated environmentalists who call for a much-reduced population of the earth as necessary to preserve the beauty of the environment in the way that they prefer.

You would almost start thinking that the Left was fairly callous about human life, wouldn’t you?




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