American Elephants

Lessons in the Art of Plain Old Persistence, by The Elephant's Child


A retired mathematician found a rotting cabin, dating from 1830, in sad shape, but he determined to restore it — proving once more that persistence pays. This is the original 1830 cabin, or what was left of it. Much was rotting, but he labeled and transferred as much of it as possible to the family’s land. See the amazing story below the fold.
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The New Skagit River Bridge Is Open for Business by The Elephant's Child


The new permanent replacement span over the Skagit River has been rolled into place and reopened, though seven hours later than scheduled. It was expected to open at 7 a.m. but the cutting of steel plates took longer than expected, and then work crews had to wait for newly painted stripes on the roadway to dry.

Construction crews worked overnight to slide a new 915 ton bridge into place to replace a temporary military style span installed on June 19. We wrote about the collapse on May 24, to point out that it was neither “spectacular” nor was it one of President Obama’s “crumbling roads and bridges” as David Axlerod tried to claim. It is an important bridge on I-5 between Vancouver BC and all points south from Seattle to San Diego.

Perhaps it was a slow week, but the media wanted to jump on the event as a very big deal, envisioning a rushing river and spectacular bridge. Coastal River, not the Grand Canyon.  Good Job, DOT.

The Fry-Scraper: A Tale of Unintended Consequences by The Elephant's Child

Three-Dimensional Illusions in Street Art by The Elephant's Child

(h/t: Maggie’s Farm)


The Obama Agenda? The More You Learn, the Scarier it Gets! by The Elephant's Child


Those of us on the right who have spent time puzzling over the supposed agenda of the Left and the Greens and where they intersect, have run into their idea that cities should become much more dense, with corridors connecting the large cities (think high-speed rail) with lots of environment in between. No suburbs. Where the small towns and the farms go, I’m not sure — they will, I assume still need to eat if all food is not grown in a laboratory.

Whether we sardines still get to go out into the environment for pleasure is questionable. Just what the environment contains is not clear. National Parks without people? Abundant wildlife — unmolested? Certainly no drilling for fossil fuels, that’s already off the agenda.  I always considered it the fantasies of the loony left and the green dreamers, but there is evidence that it is not entirely deranged fantasy.

The libertarian Pacific Legal Foundation last week filed a lawsuit against the Obama-supported bureaucrats who have created “Plan Bay Area,” an ambitions blueprint to block the creation of new suburbs and force the next 30 years of development in the nine-county San Francisco metropolitan region into a few hyper-dense Manhattan-style enclaves.

Stanley Kurtz describes the agenda: The bureaucratic name for “this kind of social engineering is TOD, Transit Oriented Development,” short for letting suburban highways deteriorate while squeezing as many apartments and businesses as possible into tiny neighborhoods around subway stations, so people stop using their cars.”

With help from the Obama administration, ambitious plans to impose TOD  are about to drop on the Minneapolis–St Paul metropolitan area. The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s new “fair housing’ rule is laying the groundwork for the nationalization of TOD.

The Pacific Legal Foundation’s lawsuit slams TOD as a bunch of “draconian development prescriptions” designed to “micro-manage people’s lifestyle choices.” There is a way forward, Pacific Legal  says “without curtailing people’s freedom to live in detached homes in suburban and rural areas with lawns and gardens.

Shall we say that — not everyone’s idea of trying to do the correct thing for the common good — is the same? No, that is far too mild. Do read the whole article . Stanley Kurtz is a serious scholar who has laid out the history, philosophy, and strategy behind Obama’s second-term assault on America’s suburbs in his latest book Spreading the Wealth. An earlier post explains how the plan is advancing in San Francisco. In the Twin Cities, Katherine Kersten, a conservative journalist, writes about the situation in Minneapolis–St. Paul. I guess you file this under “That Sinking Feeling” or”I Can’t Handle One More Thing to Worry About.”

Obama does not like suburbs. He’s a city person. (Nevermind the multimillion dollar residences he chooses for vacations and where he is presently installed). This is the area where the Left goes all haywire. They feel tremendous empathy for the poor and the underclass. They want them to be equal to everyone else, so no one will discriminate, because discrimination is bad. Making them equal involves taking the undeserved wealth of the very rich and big corporations and using it to fix the poor and the underclass. They keep trying different things, and assume that if they can just give them the accoutrements of the middle class, and enough stuff, then their pathology will disappear.

They have had “the War on Poverty,” Welfare, AFDC, Head Start, SNAP, Free Phones, Job Training, raised the minimum wage, Busing, Affirmative Action, taxed the rich, tried a Luxury Tax, given more and more money to the public schools, subsidized student loans, added program after program. Today they are forcing everyone on ObamaCare which will force the people to demand single-payer government health care so we can match Britain’s worst in the world health care. Program on top of program — and there are still poor people and still an underclass. It has been said recently that if you just junked all the poverty programs, you could give each poor family $69.000 a year to get by on, and save money. I can’t vouch for the numbers.

The Welfare to Work program from the Bush administration worked. Women who had never worked held jobs, got paid, moved up, and felt pride and accomplishment in getting off welfare. Welfare may help needy people get by,  but it is also demeaning. Temporary help for those in need is one thing; becoming a dependent of the government is quite another. A healthy growing economy offers opportunity for all. Most of the social pathology exhibited by the underclass has its origin in ideas that have filtered down from the intelligentsia. Long-term poverty is caused by a dysfunctional set of values that is continually reinforced by an elite culture searching for victims.

The Obama Agenda does not offer opportunity, nor hope, nor change. Oh, he speaks with focus-group tested words, but Obama’s agenda is a self–agenda, He has lots of programs — the usual ‘infrastructure’ (that aren’t shovel ready) the green jobs, but the high-paying jobs on the Keystone pipeline will have to wait. They have passed out lots of free phones, but the jobs-training programs don’t lead to jobs, and the green jobs don’t exist, And opportunity? There’s not much of that around for anybody.

This 47-Story Skyscraper in Alicante, Spain Has Some Surprising Problems by The Elephant's Child


This 47-story skyscraper under construction in Alicante, Spain has had its construction fraught with problems, including allegations of fraud from both customers and suppliers who are owed $3.3 million. The fact that it looks like a giant pair of pants is beside the point. The real problem — the really, really big one is that they forgot the elevator shafts. “In what will surely go down in history as one of the greatest architectural blunders, the building was almost completed when it realized that it had excluded plans for elevator shafts.” Great analogy for ObamaCare.

(h/t: Althouse)

The comments were a riot!

“On the other hand the advertising potential of this design is impressive. Haggar and Dockers are in a bidding war right now.”

“Can I show you something nice in a 40th floor walk-up?”

“On the subject of Spanish design flaws, their new, 2 Billion Euro submarine is 70 tons too heavy. If it submerged it wouldn’t be able to resurface.
Its named the Peral.”

“This is a great apartment if you ‘re into cardio.”

ADDENDUM: This story is turning out to be a hoax. The building is so dramatically ugly that it is easy to believe stories of major mistakes. The building, according to a Spanish blog, Barcepundit, does have elevators—11 of them: 3 in each tower plus 4 for the penthouses on top and a panoramic one on the outside. If you look really closely at the left tower, you will see an orange stripe which is the panoramic elevator.

Supposedly a bad translation from a confusing article in El Pais, a Spanish daily newspaper that only touched on the elevator issue tangentially. American TV crews are reportedly on the way to investigate. Der Spiegel reported on the story and had a building planned for only 20 stories, a late decision to make it significantly taller, with no freight elevator until the first 23 stories were constructed. When the freight elevator was finally installed, it collapsed, injuring 13 workers.

So what will happen when U.S. TV crews arrive? If it is a non-story and they have been hoaxed will they still report it? The town is apparently Benidorm, not Alicante, but is Alicante a province, a county? I have no idea how a story can get so fouled up. It seems to be a town with a magnificent long beach. The building towers over the rest of the town and is beyond ugly. I apologize for falling for a story without further checking, but further checking would not have been accurate anyway.

The White House, Gutted and Rebuilt From the Inside Out. by The Elephant's Child

During the Depression and the War years of the Roosevelt administration, the White House’s annual repair budget was neglected. When Harry Truman became president in 1945, he wanted to build an addition on the south side of the West Wing. Ground was broken and appropriations made by Congress, but Congress had second thoughts and recalled the funding. That irritated Mr. Truman, so he decided to build a balcony on the South Portico using money already allotted for White House maintenance. Usual flap, public objection, but the balcony was constructed according to plan.

Once they started poking around the construction of the White House, it was discovered that the main body of the mansion was structurally unsound. Floors no longer just creaked, they swayed. The president’s bathtub was sinking into the floor. A leg of Margaret’s piano broke through the floor in what is today the Private Dining Room. Engineers did a thorough assessment of the whole building, and found plaster in a corner of the East Room sagging as much as 18 inches. Wooden beams had been weakened by cutting and drilling for plumbing and wiring that the mansion did not have over 150 years, and the addition of the steel roof and full third floor in 1927 added weight the building could no longer handle. They declared the whole building on the verge of collapse.

Plans were discussed to demolish the building and build it in the same design, but Truman went to Congress and requested the funding to rebuild the White House from the inside out, leaving the stout brick outer walls, largely on the same plan as the original house— very much the way President James Madison had done after the British burned it in the War of 1812.

The old interior was dismantled, leaving the house as a shell with two modern wings. Some of the existing interior detail was saved, especially fireplace mantles. The mansion was then rebuilt, using concrete and steel beams in place of the original wooden posts.

During the reconstruction, Harry and Bess Truman moved to Blair House across the street. Blair House was a combination of two adjoining houses built by the prominent Blair family. It became the official guest residence for visiting dignitaries in 1942, as it is today.

The Telegraph, in Britain, just published a fascinating group of pictures of the White House being gutted and restored. The Trumans moved back in, in March of 1952.  Here is a link to the White House Museum for a tour of the Mansion, the only tour you will get in the present, as President Obama has shut down the tours, which have been conducted by volunteers, to erroneously claim that saving the money they didn’t pay the volunteers was necessary because of the dreaded sequester.  Enjoy your tour. You will see more on this virtual tour than you would in the White House anyway.


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