American Elephants


Thanks for the drinks, we really must do this again sometime… by American Elephant
July 31, 2012, 10:49 pm
Filed under: YouTube | Tags: ,

[h/t AmericanDigest]



The End of Despair: Free Market Capitalism and Individual Liberty. by The Elephant's Child

In his classical study of apocalyptic movements in medieval and postmedieval Europe, The Pursuit of the Millennium, Norman Cohn points out that modern revolutionaries picture the coming society “as a state of total community, a society wholly unanimous in its beliefs and wholly free from inner conflicts.” Robert Conquest adds “To envisage a unanimous social order is to envisage the absence of individuality. Utopia amounts to the inflation of the ‘community’ into an entity in its own right, rather than a coherence of individual social human beings.”

The twentieth century has taught us that utopian ideas are a path to despair. There is no perfection because the very possibility is denied by flawed human nature. People carry signs and march for world peace and unity without realizing that they have trouble getting along with all the members of their own families. Witness the Occupy movement that only wanted the 1% to pay their fair share, and ended up with rape and murder and mayhem.

America’s Founders wisely recognized that politics could never be perfected because of flawed human nature. They designed a system with a minimum of bureaucratic and legal control in which disputes could be settled by political debate. Yet many resent the political debate itself. The two sides in Congress should just compromise. Everybody should just get along. This arises from a lack of understanding about the differences between the parties, which are deep and principled.

Liberals have raised compassion to a political principle. They assume that they can move the poor into the middle class if they just redistribute the nation’s wealth to make everybody more equal. But the attempts to give people who cannot afford the payments for their own houses has resulted in disaster for everyone. Attempts to create housing for the poor has most often resulted in ghettos and slums. Not because they are poor, and not because they are incapable, but because you cannot take enough money away from “the rich” to make the poor not poor. And it’s always someone else’s money they want to redistribute.

Thomas Sowell, several years ago  said:

What do the poor most need? They need to stop being poor.  And how can that be done on a mass scale except by an economy that creates more wealth? Yet the political left has long had a remarkable lack of interest in how wealth is created.  As far as they are concerned, wealth exists”somehow” and the only interesting question is how to re-distribute it.

This is the essence of the problem of the left. Instead of understanding that a rising tide lifts all boats, they want to remove wealth from “the hated rich.” Nevermind that most people don’t hate, or even envy, the rich. Today they are worried about jobs and the economy. Hating the rich isn’t even on the list of concerns.

In America, typically, young people start out poor. Education, hard work, struggle bring them out of the bottom quintile and over time they will move up.  If they save and invest they may do well, even move into the highest quintile. Politicians have even complained about the wealth of some seniors, without understanding that re[resents a lifetime of labor and saving.  If you follow Forbes lists of the richest Americans or richest people in the world, you see that the list, with few exceptions is not the same over time.

Obama’s out again claiming that the government can’t afford not to raise taxes on “the rich.” That the Bush tax cuts for “the rich” are why we are in this depressed economy. The man has no understanding of the most basic economics nor of the most basic history.

Free market capitalism has created more wealth than the world has ever seen before, and raised more people out of poverty than was dreamed of. Milton Friedman, whose birthday today is, famously said:

A society that puts equality — in the sense of equality of outcome — ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom, and the force introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests.

The interesting thing about the left, is the extent to which they excuse themselves from the schemes they dream up to help the poor. Obama regales his listeners with the great benefits ho ObamaCare, and promises that you can keep your doctor if you like him (not true) but their own generous health care plan is excepted from any of the unpleasant changes from ObamaCare. Their pensions will remain untouched. Why it’s just like the rulers of all those countries that had revolutions to create more equality for the poor. Even the Mullahs in Iran have their Swiss bank accounts, and their luxurious homes.

When they start talking about progress and “community” and “redistributing income,”  grab your wallet and run for the nearest polling place and vote the bums out. There is no better world just around the corner.



The United States of America Doesn’t Do Imperial Presidencies. by The Elephant's Child

Still smarting from the response to his “you didn’t build that” comment, which was an enormously clarifying view into his far-left thinking, President Obama did it again. This time, according to his mindset, allowing Americans to keep more of their own money is a “giveaway.

Only last Wednesday at a New Orleans campaign event, Obama talked about “another trillion-dollar giveaway for millionaires”  in referring to extending the Bush tax-cuts. Just a day later, press secretary Jay Carney repeated the canard — he called an extension “another $1 trillion giveaway to the wealthiest Americans.”

Let’s clarify. Refusing to extend the Bush tax cuts is, by definition, raising taxes. Government exists at the sufferance of the American people. What the American people earn by their efforts is their money— it is not “government money.” The people are willing to be taxed, and give permission their elected representatives to do so — for the specific purpose of funding necessary government functions, like national defense, enforcing the laws, and providing for the general welfare. If government gets too grasping with their definition of the latter, the people will remove those elected representatives. Is that clear enough?

President Obama has ignored the “enforcing the laws” part when he doesn’t like the law; which is not  optional for a President of the United States. Now he is assuming that government owns all the money and has the authority to manage everyone’s life. He does not recognize business as the lifeblood of America, and assumes that government work— which he regards as far nobler — is “service” to some kind of higher ideal.

Obama is unimpressed by success in business, possibly because he has never had any, and resents the rewards earned by those who are successful. He thinks they’re all way overpaid, and that excess should be taken away to raise up those who are not successful, for he is sure that they have worked just as hard.

The American people are inclined to get a little testy when their labor is so disrespected, and rise in fury when the money represented by their hard labor is just plain wasted. It remains taxpayer money. It is not government money. It should be treated with care and thrift and conscience.

The President of the United States is a “public servant.” That means that he is subject to the wishes of the American people, not that he has been elected King. We dispensed with that a long time ago. Americans have great respect for the office of the presidency, largely because George Washington set such a restrained and careful example. The current occupant of the office would do well to review our founding father’s restraint.



Remembering Milton Friedman on His 100th Birthday by The Elephant's Child
July 31, 2012, 2:29 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Freedom | Tags: , ,

Milton Friedman was born 100 years ago today, and the world is vastly richer in its understanding of free market principles because of him. Well over 200 million peoples have been liberated from poverty because of the rediscovery of free market principles.

President Obama was a part-time instructor in civil-rights law at the University of Chicago, where Friedman taught for decades, but he famously did not participate in the lunchtime conversations among the faculty. He might have absorbed a little something.

In the 1960s, Milton Friedman explained that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” If the government spends a dollar, that dollar comes from workers in the private economy. Robbing Peter to pay Paul does not create a magical “multiplier effect” by taking from productive Peter and giving to unproductive Paul.

This is the fundamental error central to Obamanomics. No matter how many times Obama waves his magic wand, no multiplier effect appears. We have had ‘true believers’ before, but never one who bet the whole economy on a Keynesian computer program. Obamanomics is the most expensive failed experiment in free-lunch economics in US history.

His was a voice for world-wide economic freedom. His debates, preserved on video, are a delight to watch as he skewers with a gracious smile, all opponents. He had a marvelous talent for communicating the values of the free market to a mass audience.

Friedman was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics for 1976 — at a time when most of the prizes had gone to socialists.  It was a marker for the return of free-market economics to the intellectual debate.  His 1971 book , written with Anna Schwartz,  A Monetary History of the United States, changed the way we think about money. His two best-selling books, Capitalism and Freedom (1962) and Free to Choose (1980) belong on everyone’s bookshelves.



Please! Stop Embarrassing Us! by The Elephant's Child

Mitt Romney was just in Israel, and in a speech said he was happy to be in the capital city of Israel, Jerusalem. This is notable because Jay Carney, hapless press secretary, twisted himself into knots recently to avoid admitting that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel. A witless representative of the State Department actually said that it was to be determined by negotiation. Just stop it. You are embarrassing us.

Israel is a sovereign state. Jerusalem is not only its historic capital, Israel says that Jerusalem is its capital.  They are the only ones who get to decide. It’s their country.

The United States does not get to decide what is the capital of Israel. Jay Carney does not get to decide. President Barack Obama does not get to decide. Secretary of State  Hillary Clinton does not get to decide, and the witless State Department woman does not get to decide. And stateless Palestinians don’t get to decide. If they can stop shooting rockets and trying to kill people, they might someday get their own state.

Washington DC is the capital of the United States. If the Congress of the United States should decide, with the approval of the people, that we should move the capital to Plato, Missouri (which is the population center of the country) — then that would be the capital — but for the present, it remains in Washington DC, where Congress decided to put it, back in July, 1790.

It’s all really very simple.  Can we stop being stupid.



Who Is President Barack Obama: The New Books. by The Elephant's Child

As the elections approach to determine whether or not Barack Obama gets a second term; more books about Obama are appearing, and the reviews proliferate. I have not yet read any of the books, but the reviews are interesting, here’s a roundup.

David Maraniss has written a generational story about Obama and his background, called simply Barack Obama: the Story. What appeared in the press about the book, were the not very startling revelations that not all the stories in Obama’s autobiography Dreams From My Father, were exactly true. Obama had taken some remarkable liberties with the facts. Many of his characters were composites or inventions. That doesn’t much bother Mr. Maraniss who is more upset about those who doubt the claims about Obama’s life that Obama finds to be true. His attack on Obama’s doubters does extend however, to those who do not find him a pragmatic liberal politician.

There have been a number of astonishing national security revelations recently, many of which came to light in two new books. The most notable reaction has been from prominent members of Congress demanding investigations into who leaked them.

New York Times reporter David E. Sanger’s Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and surprising Use of American Power describes in remarkable detail the Obama administration’s previously secret cyberwar campaign against Iran, the targeted drone strikes against Al Qaeda and affiliated  fighters, and any number of other covert operations including the one that killed Osama bin Laden. Sanger concludes that the biggest surprise of the Obama presidency is just how aggressive Obama has been with military power. Obama has apparently signed an executive order to give himself the authority to kill whoever is on his list.

The Stuxnet attack on Iran’s nuclear establishment was rumored to be either from Israel or the US. Actual information was expected to be a military secret no matter who devised it. Obama’s use of drones to kill members of al Qaeda, their associates and families, and the details of just how he goes about it weren’t expected to become public knowledge. Obama is waging unacknowledged and undeclared war, according to Sanger, quite thoroughly. Senator Diane Feinstein was shocked by learning, as she said, more from one of the books than she did in her top oversight post on the intelligence committee. Leaks about the SEAL team, their mission and what they acquired from the Osama compound shocked the committee.

Longtime Newsweek reporter Daniel Klaidman’s new book Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency doesn’t suggest that the authors are particularly concerned, but does paint a disturbing picture of power stretched to new lengths in an environment, as the Huffington Post review states, where politics trumps principle. Public statements are wobbly about collateral deaths from drone strikes, but one investigation has documented the deaths of 482-849 Pakistani civilians including 175 children in drone strikes. Capture and question are seemingly off the table, as is the information that might be gained. And there have been errors in just who was to be eliminated.

Bestselling author Richard Miniter’s new book Leading from Behind: The Reluctant President and the Advisors Who Decide For Himis available for pre-order, but the Daily Caller got a look at one chapter, which contains the revelation that “at the urging of Valerie Jarrett, President Barack Obama canceled the operation to kill Osama bin Laden on three separate occasions before finally approving the May 2, 2011 Navy SEAL mission.” Obama has been pictured by his team as a decisive leader who took down America’s greatest enemy. Indecisive and reluctant to make any decision is a more apt description, according to Miniter, Valerie Jarrett makes the decisions.

Stanley Kurtz is a serious scholar and his meticulously researched new exposé due out August 2, is available for pre-order: Spreading the Wealth: How Obama is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities. “Obama,” he says,” has been laying the regulatory groundwork for a profound transformation of American society…. In the eyes of Obama’s community organizing colleagues, America’s suburbs are instruments of bigotry and greed. Moving to a suburb in pursuit of the American dream of an affordable family home and quality, locally controlled schools looks to Obama and his organizing mentors like selfishly refusing to share tax money with the urban poor.”

“Obama means to fix that with regulations designed to force Americans out of their cars and into high-density urban centers, squeezing the population into a collection of new Manhattans.”

Barack Obama has been President of the United States for nearly four years, and we really don’t know much about who he is. The Obama of the 2008 election campaign was a creation for the media by David Axlerod, who wanted a different campaign for a different candidate, that made him seem to be inevitable for a 21st century America. We know by now that wasn’t the real Obama, but we also don’t know just who the real one is. Richard Epstein,professor of law at University of Chicago and  New York University,  who knew him in Chicago, said he imitates an intellectual, his ideas are fixed in concrete — he does not change his mind, and he has no respect for the separation of powers.

David Gelernter, professor of computer science at Yale says of his foreign policy:

Iran disdainfully snubs him, Russia snubs him, Europe ignores him, the Israelis can’t stand him, the world grows more dangerous by the hour. He did indeed take out Osama, and has moved aggressively to kill terrorists. But any other president would be deemed to have turned these victories into defeats by his tone-deaf campaigns afterward to squeeze out maximum political gain–as if he had killed Osama himself, bare-handed. The cost to US intelligence sources or the dignity of the office matters nothing, evidently, as the Obamiacs mash every last drop of juice out of the pulp. In fact this is a man to whom “cost” seems like a foreign concept, a word he has never learned.

If you wander around the web quite a bit, you can find all sorts of serious opinions about just who Barack Obama really is and why he does what he does.  There are of course those who hold wild opinions with no basis in fact, but there are many serious thinkers who have given long thought to their ideas. And they are all over the map. So, here you go. Study up, do your homework, here are the resources from serious, responsible authors.



South Korea is In For a Treat, And Washington State Benefits Too. by The Elephant's Child

The free trade agreement between the United States and South Korea (KORUS), negotiated in 2007, passed at last in October 2011 after years of delays and re-negotiations. That’s good, and now the decision is bearing fruit —literally.

We need all the bits of good news we can find. As of this year, the cherry growers of Washington State have shipped 368,000 boxes of fresh cherries to South Korea. Usually fresh cherries can be found only in upscale supermarkets there at a startling $10 a pound. A real luxury treat. This year’s shipment more than doubles last years export of 171,000 boxes, and the Korean Free Trade agreement eliminated the tariff of 24 percent.

The price of cherries in Korea will go down and more people will be able to enjoy them. South Korea is the fourth largest market for Washington goods and last year represented $1.4 billion of exports. They grow good cherries on the other side of the mountain, and they’re a real treat in season. We can expect cherry exports to South Korea to grow.

Free trade is a huge benefit of economic freedom. Takes more workers here to grow and ship cherries, and South Korea gets great fruit at a more reasonable price. We are so accustomed to the marvelous trade that brings us fruit from the Southern Hemisphere in the Winter, and fruits that we have never known before, that young people don’t know that there was not always this plenitude.

I always remember a novel by MacKinlay Kantor, I think it was Spirit Lake, about early pioneers in the upper Midwest who got through the winter because they had a good crop of pumpkins that stored well, and every day it was pumpkins for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Can’t remember much about the story, but I remember the horror of unending pumpkins. The variety offered by free trade is a blessing. And trade only happens if it is beneficial to both sides.



Did You Enjoy The Housing Bubble’s Collapse? Obama Wants To Do It Again! by The Elephant's Child

Barack Obama has claimed that the financial crisis was caused by all the money George W. Bush spent on “a dumb war” and the tax-breaks he gave only to the rich, or something like that. But most people, I think, recognize the collapse of the housing bubble.  It began with liberals’ conviction that banks wouldn’t lend to blacks and Hispanics because they were racist. They called it “Redlining.” Studies showed that the denial of loans was related to the inability of customers to pay the loans back, but everybody thought that encouraging more Americans to own their own homes was a very good thing. Home ownership meant that people would be more involved in good communities, and good schools.

They passed the Community Reinvestment Act so that banks were forced to reduce down payments and lend to a lot of people that would not get loans under normal prudent rules of banking. And when not enough minorities were owning their own homes, they pushed a little harder on the banks. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bundled those mortgages and sold them to Wall Street Investment houses who sold them to investors around the world, and when it became clear that people weren’t going to be able to pay their mortgages, banks everywhere were left holding the bag, and the Wall Street investment houses either went under of had to be bailed out by the federal government.

This cost the taxpayers close to a trillion dollars and put the economy in a hole, in which we remain, because the administration was more interested in “transforming America” than in doing the things necessary to heal the economy. Liberals said it was all the banks’ fault for “deceiving” all those poor people into thinking they could afford to buy homes, and the banks should be punished and those poor people should be allowed to keep their homes anyway. Big lesson for us all to learn.

Except they didn’t learn anything, and they are about to do it all over again.

The federal government is beginning another initiative to force banks to lend mortgage money to low-credit-rated blacks and Hispanics — specifically blacks and Hispanics — and is threatening and already imposing punitive fines if they don’t. This time they are going even farther, and are going to take over the credit rating agencies and force them to change their standards to accommodate blacks and Hispanics so that nobody will be able to tell who is a bad credit risk and who is not. The federal government is going to impose its will on the home-loan industry and force another round of bad loans, because they believe everything is about race.

This time the program comes from the brand-new Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, headed by the illegally appointed Richard Cordray, [without Senate approval when the President claimed the Senate was in recess because he said so, but it wasn't]. Authorized by the disastrous Dodd-Frank bill, it has suddenly acquired 900 employees. The CFPB has just announced that it is adopting a 20-page “Policy Statement on Discrimination in Lending.”

Two weeks ago, Wells Fargo gave in to a Justice Department offensive and paid $175 million for “alleged past discriminating against minority borrowers.” The bank had received an “outstanding” grade in its most recent Community Reinvestment Act exam. The government did not bother to prove discrimination in a single instance but relied instead on statistics showing lower rates of homeownership in minority neighborhoods. The Justice Department ‘s Thomas Perez, who heads the campaign, says banks discriminate “with a smile” and “fine print” and are “every bit as destructive as the cross burned in a neighborhood.” Interesting language.

There are some simple rules for escaping poverty in America. Graduate from high school, don’t get married until after you graduate, don’t have babies until after you get married, and stay off drugs. Works most every time.

Combine this exciting new program with the president’ new budget that aims to spend $46.2 trillion over the next ten years. Add in the fact that this is a 57 percent increase over today’s spending levels and the budget proposes to have debt remaining permanently above 100 percent of GDP. And some people actually propose to vote for this man because he is “likeable.” Have we reached such a point?

 



Bar Stool Economics by The Elephant's Child
July 29, 2012, 8:01 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Democrat Corruption, Economy, Election 2012, Politics, Socialism, Taxes

Bar Stool Economics has been around for a long time, but it’s always worth reviewing, as is any clear presentation of a fairly complicated subject. It’s particularly needed in the current economic climate, since so many of the players don’t seem to grasp the basics. Here’s who pays the taxes now. Obama wants to ignite a class war because he doesn’t think the highest quintile pay enough, and the lowest quintiles pay too much. He believes in redistribution of income, and believes that we should have equality of income — except those ideas never seem to include himself or his friends because he keeps redistributing taxpayer money to his friends and supporters. Go figure.



“We Tried Our Plan,” Obama Said, “And It Worked!” by The Elephant's Child

87,897,000 Americans are no longer in the work force. Nearly 13 million are officially unemployed. So the Democrats in the Senate narrowly voted (51-48) to raise taxes on 1.2 million small businesses. Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Jim Webb (D-VA) joined the Republicans in voting against the tax hike, which would likely kill more than 700,000 jobs. Ernst and Young estimates that these small businesses  who pay their taxes as flow-through  businesses employ 54 percent of the private sector work force.

The rule that you just don’t raise taxes in a recession is denied by Democrats who expect to win the election by running against “the rich” and portraying Mitt Romney as unspeakably, disgustingly rich. They hope to impress voters with how thrifty they are by insisting that the rich pay just a little more of their “fair share.”

And if that weren’t enough, the Senate actions would raise the death tax from 35 percent to 55 percent. Democrats try to portray this as the (probably illegally gotten ) gains of people who got rich through no efforts of their own. The rich can usually deal with their wealth with foundations or trusts.  Small businesses and farms often have to sell all or part of the business to pay the death tax. Ruins many, and slows the growth of others. And to top that they would increase the top tax rate on capital gains and dividends from 15% to 20%.

The President recently told a fundraising crowd that his economic plan has been working. “Just like we’ve tried [Republicans'] plan. We tried our plan— and it worked, he said.  To prove that it worked, he cited the auto industry bailouts. “I refused to turn my back on a great industry and American workers,” he said. “Three years later, the American auto industry has come roaring back.”

Obama’s violations of bankruptcy law made the bailout of GM and Chrysler $26.5 billion more expensive than it had to be. Taxpayers stand to lose around $35 billion if GM stock were sold today. GM’s recovery is based, at least in part, on the increasing use of subprime loans.

It is becoming apparent that President Obama will say anything if he thinks it will help him win the election. He is currently running an ad that says he has a plan to “pay down the debt in a balanced way.” He tries to justify his call for a tax increase on the grounds that the increased revenue will reduce the deficit. Obama belatedly — July 27 — complied with the law that requires that he submit a budget every year no later than July 16. Senator Jeff Sessions said:

His updated budget proposes a $10.6 trillion increase in gross debt through 2022, with debt remaining permanently above 100 percent of GDP. The picture in the out-years looks even bleaker. No change is proposed to our dangerously unsustainable debt course.

The President’s claim his tax hikes are for deficit reduction is shown to be false as well. His budget proposes to spend $46.2 trillion over ten years—an increase of nearly one-and-half trillion dollars above the current law baseline and a 57 percent increase above today’s spending levels. The President’s $1.8 trillion tax increase is not used to reduce the deficit but to fund this massive increase above what we are currently planning to spend.

His economic plan has been working? The only president who combined tax cuts and spending cuts as policy was Ronald Reagan, and that brought us  a twenty year-long economic boom. This wasn’t the worst recession since the Great Depression, as Obama has constantly claimed. But instead of correctly addressing the downturn, the administration turned at once to a huge, unfunded, unworkable  government-sponsored health insurance program that nobody wants. Layer on a huge financial bill that strangles business, and does not address the factors that caused the recession, and add on a war on fossil fuels with an attempt to replace them with two ancient technologies hampered by the same drawbacks that made them only mildly useful centuries ago. It didn’t have to be this way, and we didn’t have to be in such disastrous straits.  His plan has been working?

Fortunately, Obama’s plan will not pass the House.

(click to enlarge)

This is the President’s economic plan.



U.S District Court Has Ruled that Stem Cells Are Drugs. by The Elephant's Child

The U.S. District Court in Washington DC has ruled, last Wednesday,  that a person’s own cultured stem cells are drugs subject to regulation by the Food and Drug Administration.

Peter Aldhous from New Scientist, reported:

It’s official: stem cells are drugs. At least, that’s the opinion of the [court]… which has ruled that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has the authority to regulate clinics offering controversial stem cell therapies.

Treatments in which stem cells are harvested from bone marrow and injected straight back into the same patient are deemed part of routine medical practice – not regulated by the US government. But if the cells are subjected to more than “minimal manipulation”, the FDA maintains that the therapy becomes a “drug”, which must be specifically approved for use.

The argument, of course, is that the FDA should have no jurisdiction over one’s own cells, versus the argument that the FDA is needed to make sure that everything is pure, sterile,  and to the standards of the FDA. The companies argue that the FDA is trying to tell them how to practice medicine, the FDA claims that stem cells fall within FDA’s jurisdiction as they affect interstate commerce, and the cultured stem cells are drugs.

This interpretation of the interstate commerce clause shows how stretched that one clause has become. The results from regenerative medicine and adult stem cells have been enormously encouraging, and one would like to see it move much faster.

The FDA has a reputation for extreme slowness in approvals for new drugs, unnecessary regulation and too many costly barriers. I am only a bystander and my opinions of no matter, but I distrust government regulation and government bureaucracy, and the current administration.



Working Hard for the American People by The Elephant's Child

On Thursday, July 26th, according to President Barack Obama’s official schedule, “later in the afternoon, the President will hold a Cabinet Meeting in the Cabinet Room. There will be a pool spray [?] at the top of the meeting.”

Well, there you go. He is too working hard. He had one meeting back in January, on the 31st, and now he’s had another.




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