American Elephants


Happy Constitution Day! by American Elephant
September 17, 2014, 3:23 pm
Filed under: Conservatism, History, Pop Culture, Television | Tags: , , ,

I’ve known the Preamble of the Constitution by heart since I was a little kid because of Schoolhouse Rocks, which used to come on in between Saturday Morning Cartoons–so they had a captive audience. Great Way to introduce your kids to our founding document. Can you recite the Preamble by heart? If not, you probably didn’t grow up with Schoolhouse rocks. Try learning the chorus. And teach it to your kids.



Bill Whittle Talks About “Magical Thinking” by The Elephant's Child

Here’s Bill Whittle at his best. The Defending the Dream Summit 2014. Dang, but he is good. Common sense multiplied.



The Left Controls the Words We Use, Or Tries To. by The Elephant's Child

The administration has determined that in the current immigration crisis we should not use the word “illegal”, so demeaning, you know. We must be more compassionate.

Words, however, have meaning that is not determined by the Democratic party, but by the dictionary. In this case — Merriam Webster:

illegal, il•le•gal, adjective:  not allowed by law.
……………………………….not according to or authorized by law. …………………………………………
That’s pretty straightforward, and descriptive. The meaning is plain, solid fact. Do you see anything demeaning there?

alien, noun:  a person who was born in a different country and is not
……………….a citizen of the county in which he now lives.

……………….a foreign born resident who has not been naturalized ……………….and is still a subject or citizen of a foreign country.

The administration has said that we must not use these terms, although there are no others that accurately describe the situation.  We’re supposed to go for “unaccompanied children” though “minors” more accurately describes the situation, and the majority of the illegal alien “children” are between the ages of eleven and 18, and many are members of Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13, a violent street gang already infesting many of our cities, whose members are mostly between age 11 and 21.

This is one of the great problems in our nation’s political battles. The Left spends a lot of time on words, slogans, bumper-stickers, and phrases. They believe if they can get the words right, they can control the narrative. Different words evoke differing emotions, and the right choice can compel people to do what you want.

The Right is so concerned with how a policy or program works and what it means and how it will play out. We worry about cost and incentives, the economics and probable effect—and seldom notice that they are manipulating us with clever use of words. Our minds are just off in a different direction, and we aren’t very good at slogans anyway. Propaganda works!



Nouns Are Just the Names of Things, and Can Be Changed To Suit The Moment. by The Elephant's Child

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Conservatives need to borrow a page from the Democrats, Liberals, Progressives, who casually change the names of things when the previous name becomes unworkable. The whole concept of a minimum wage needs both a new name and a new definition. The present terminology is simply confusing everybody.

“Minimum wage” is defined by Conservatives as a beginner’s wage. Absolute beginners in the world of work need a place to start, where the person who hires them will train them in the job so that they can become productive. The wage must be low, ideally there would be no minimum. Haven’t you heard people advise those who can’t find a job to offer to work for free just to show what they can do?

[Somewhere in here we need to mention that the White House does not pay their interns, so they must be the children of those who can afford to feed and house them in the nation's capitol. It becomes a prestige internship, for some, an unlucky choice for others.]

Around the beginning of the twentieth century, child labor laws were gradually passed, along with laws to keep children in school. A child under 12 years of age may not be employed, between 12 and 16 — allowed occupations and limited hours. There are exceptions for parents, newspaper delivery, but kids with lemonade stands may run afoul of the law, depending on the town.

An absolute beginner in the workplace is all cost, little productivity. Employers must be willing to train the beginner into a productive worker. The minimum wage for a beginner must be low enough to entice an employer to take a know-nothing on in the hope that he/she will eventually develop into a desirable employee.

Liberals think of the minimum wage as a wage to support a poor, unfortunate family. Obviously, if you think of it that way, a wage must be higher than a “minimum.” They speak of a “living wage,” and think of themselves as compassionate and concerned and their argument becomes as much about feelings as about economics.

Statistics show that most minimum-wage workers get a raise within 6 months, which confirms the training-to-productivity theory, and most minimum wage workers belong to families where the household income is over $50,000 a year, which casts doubt on the idea that the minimum wage supports a family. But clearly you have two sides in the debate who are not talking about the same thing at all.

In my community, the minimum wage is $9.25. The City of Sea-Tac, which is small, containing the Seattle-Tacoma airport, strip malls, bars, motels, and not much else, voted in the last election for a $15 minimum wage, which probably doesn’t affect many at the airport. The last election also elected a Socialist to the Seattle City Council, who is campaigning for a $15 minimum wage, so it is a subject of considerable debate here.

We badly need to separate, re-name, and probably lower the wage for beginners to entice businesses operating on narrow margins to take on absolute beginners. ObamaCare has thrown a monkey wrench into that with an incentive for employers to cut workers back to 30 hours or less, with ObamaCare regulations.

The unemployment rate for teenagers is 16.3 percent, measured in July which is the period of highest youth employment, but 28.2 percent for black youth. How about calling it “Beginner’s Wage?” That might help those who have learned to be a cheerful and productive worker, with skills, to move on to a better job. We never expected anyone to stay at the minimum wage, but to climb the ladder to success.  Conservatives believe in growth and mobility.



Empty Buildings Are Costing Us Billions! by The Elephant's Child

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“The boarded up building in the photo sits a mere 6 blocks from the White House on prime real estate, but it’s been empty for 30 years! What’s the problem? The building is owned/controlled by the Federal government which often doesn’t even know what it owns, lacks the incentive to control costs and whose bureaucratic strictures make selling difficult even when motivation exists.”

A Google search suggests that most articles have picked up on a 77,000 number, as the number of empty or underutilized buildings owned by the federal government—as a proxy for you and me. The “federal government” is simply the representative of us—a fact that is worth remembering.

Other numbers range from 45,000 to 100,000 and 300,000 which really points out that they have no idea how many empty, underutilized, abandoned buildings or properties there are across the whole country. Missile sites are included, as are buildings so abandoned that trees are growing through the roof. Taxpayers own them, and even when they are vacant—they are still expensive.

The Office of Management and Budget estimates that these buildings could be costing taxpayers $1.7 billion a year. Even empty, someone has to mow the lawns, keep the pipes from freezing, maintain security fences, or pay for some basic power, except when it doesn’t. The only known centralized database that the government has is the inventory maintained by the General Services Administration called the Federal Real Property Profile and it’s not reliable.

Doing something with these buildings is complicated—even when an agency knows it has a building it would like to sell, bureaucratic hurdles limit what they can do. No federal agency can sell anything unless it’s uncontaminated, asbestos-free and environmentally safe. Expensive fixes.

Then the agency has to make sure another agency doesn’t want it. Then state and local governments get a crack at it, then nonprofits—and finally a 25-year-old law requires the government to see if it could be used as a homeless shelter. No wonder many agencies just lock the doors and say forget it.

These publicly owned properties are managed by the federal government for the benefit of the people. There are also enormous amounts of public lands. Military bases: Fort Hood, Texas, now sadly in the news, is 340 square miles in size.

There are National Parks and National Monuments, National Forests, and land ‘managed’ by the Bureau of Land Management. Trillions of dollars worth of land.  And I am undoubtedly neglecting other jurisdictions. My brief Google search made it clear that we are not alone. It is a common governmental problem. I did find one article on “how to squat in abandoned property,” (probably British) and of course, reference to the empty cities of China.

I emphasize taxpayer ownership because President Obama, for political reasons, chose to shut down what he thought of as “government land” under his purview, during the “government shutdown.” The Constitution clearly says “We the People.” Bureaucrats, far too often, forget just who is the boss. They may prefer to think of themselves as enlightened public servants. They are the hired help.

This is one reason why Republicans believe in smaller government, but they aren’t much better at property management. It’s bipartisan.

The boarded up building in the photo sits a mere 6 blocks from the White House on prime real estate but it’s been empty for 30 years! What’s the problem? The building is owned/controlled by the Federal government which often doesn’t even know what it owns, lacks the incentive to control costs and whose bureaucratic strictures make selling difficult even when motivation exists. – See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/03/wasted-resources.html#sthash.2Wo3AW3Q.dpuf
The boarded up building in the photo sits a mere 6 blocks from the White House on prime real estate but it’s been empty for 30 years! What’s the problem? The building is owned/controlled by the Federal government which often doesn’t even know what it owns, lacks the incentive to control costs and whose bureaucratic strictures make selling difficult even when motivation exists. – See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/03/wasted-resources.html#sthash.2Wo3AW3Q.dpuf


More About Our “Ruling Class,” And What To Do About Them by The Elephant's Child

Back to Angelo Codevilla:

“Our ruling class is a machine. That is, it lives by providing tangible rewards to its members. “Machine parties” around the world often provide rank-and-file activists with modest livelihoods, and enhance mightily the upper level members’ wealth. Because of this, whatever else such parties might accomplish, they must feed the machine by transferring money or jobs or privileges—civic as well as economic—to the party’s clients, whether directly or indirectly. …

Hence, our Ruling Class’ first priority in any and all matters, its solution to any and all problems, it to increase the power of the government—meaning of those who run it, meaning themselves. Secondly it is to recompense political supporters with public money, privileged jobs, contracts, etc. That is why our Ruling Class’ solution, not just for economic downturns and social ills but also for hurricanes and tornadoes, global cooling and global warming, has been to claim more power for itself. A priori, one might wonder whether enriching and empowering individuals of a certain kind can make American kinder and gentler, much less control the weather. But there can be no doubt that such power and money makes Americans ever more dependent on those who wield it.

By taxing and parceling out more than a third of what Americans produce, through regulations that reach deep into American life, our Ruling Class is making itself the arbiter of wealth and poverty. …By endowing some in society with the power to force others to sell cheaper than they would like to, and forcing others yet to buy at higher prices—or even to buy in the first place—modern government makes valuable some things that are not, and devalues others that are. Whatever else government may be, it is inherently a factory of privilege and inequality. “

***************

Reason said: “Few essays attracted as much attention from right-wing readers this summer as “America’s Ruling Class—and the Perils of Revolution,” an extended argument that an incestuous social set “rules uneasily over the majority of Americans.” Written by Angelo Codevilla of the Claremont Institute and first published in The American Spectator, this very long article has now been expanded into a very brief book, called The Ruling Class.”

I’ve found the book fascinating because there are so many good arguments to ponder. Real food for thought about just where we are and what we might do about it. Recommended



The Secret Knowledge: The Origins of “Social Justice” by The Elephant's Child

From the archives: October 28, 2012

The Left is deeply concerned about income inequality, you know that, they tell us so often enough. They have observed that some people live in poverty while others, particularly corporate CEOs, who get ridiculously enormous salaries that they certainly don’t deserve, are very rich. The Left considers this observed inequality as unnatural. In his book The Secret Knowledge, playwright David Mamet tackles the origins of the problem:

To correct this observed inequality, which the Left sees as unnatural, it invented the term “social justice.” But a system of Justice already exists, formulated by Legislature, in supposed expression of the will of the people, and administered by the Judiciary. This is called the Judicial System.  What then is this additional, amorphous “social justice”? It can only mean, as Hayek wrote, “State Justice.” Here, though the Left will not follow the reasoning out to its end, the State (operating upon what basis it alone knows, and responsible to no law enacted by the people) confiscates wealth accumulated under existing laws and redistributes it to those it deems worthy.

History proves that the worthiest in these Marxist schemes are or quickly become, those in charge of distribution, which is to say “the State,” it’s constitutional powers usurped by those we know as “dictators.”

To the Left it is the State which should distribute place, wealth, and status.  This is called “correcting structural error,” or redressing the legacy of Slavery,” or Affirmative Action, or constraining unfair Executive Compensation; but it is and can only be that spoils System which is decided at the ward level as “cronyism.” And lauded at the national level as “social justice.” It is nothing other than the distribution of goods and services by the government for ends not specified in the Constitution; and in response to pressure from or in attempts to curry favor with groups seeking preferment or goods not obtainable either under the law, or through those practices of mutual benefit called the Free Market. What obscenities are created in the name of “social justice?” What could possibly be less just than policies destructive of initiative and based upon genetics?

David Mamet was once a Democrat, and thought better of it. Actually he thought long and deeply about it, read a lot, and turned his considerable writing skills to explaining just why he changed his mind. It is a perfectly delightful book, and as a lifelong Conservative, I learned a lot.

David Mamet is an American playwright, screenwriter, author,and director renowned for Glengarry Glen Ross (Pulitzer, Tony nomination). As a screenwriter, he received Oscar nominations for The Verdict and Wag the Dog. His books include: The Old Religion, Five Cities of Refuge, The Wicked Son, and a long list of books and movies, television shows and even radio dramas.

 The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture,  is Mamet’s book detailing his conversion from modern liberalism to “a reformed liberal.” It was released in June of 2011, and I recommend it heartily.




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