American Elephants

Strange, and Quite Wonderful. by The Elephant's Child
April 28, 2010, 10:58 pm
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , ,

I borrowed this video shamelessly from Ace of Spades, simply because it is so fascinating.  I have no information beyond what is shown in the video.  Apparently there is a nightly ceremony of closing the gates between Pakistan and India, so  elaborate that it attracts a large and partisan audience.

There is so much more one would like to know.  What do they do the rest of the day?  Are they simply regular border guards, or is a special team hired for the display ceremony?  It is almost like the mating dance of rare tropical birds. Does the ceremony take place at all border crossings, or is this one special?  Any travelers to India among our readers?  It’s nice to have such a peaceful ceremony when there has been so much unrest between the two nations.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. Lots of Talk, Little Action. by The Elephant's Child
April 28, 2010, 10:03 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Freedom, Politics | Tags: , , ,

Economic freedom helps to create jobs.  For over a decade, the Wall Street Journal and The Heritage Foundation have tracked the march of economic freedom around the world with the Index of Economic Freedom. Now there is more evidence from a state-level study from the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis.  The authors state:

Our results suggest that policy-makers concerned with employment should seriously consider the degree to which their own labor market policies, as well as those of the national government, may be limiting economic growth and development in their respective states.

Economic freedom is the fundamental right of every human to control his own labor and property.  In a society that is economically free, individuals are free to work, produce, consume and invest in any way they please, with that freedom both protected by the state, but unconstrained by the state.

In economically free states, governments allow labor, capital and goods to move freely, and refrain from coercion or constraint of liberty beyond the extent necessary to protect and maintain liberty itself.                                          (click to enlarge)

The stimulus was supposed to bring back the jobs and keep unemployment below 8.8 percent. The reality is something quite different.   Long- term unemployment has been growing significantly, and the stimulus bill and other “job bills” didn’t change the trend.  There are another 5.8 million  workers who want employment but are excluded from BLS unemployment statistics.

Texas significantly continues to outperform the rest of the American economy, especially California.  The reasons can be summed up in three little words:  unions, taxes and spending. The role of unions, particularly public unions is huge in California.  Texas has a relatively low rate of unionization — about a third of Californias.

Texas has had a good long run of small-government, low-tax conservatism.  Texas has a trillion-dollar economy that would make it the 15th largest national economy in the world if it were a country.  By one estimate, 70 percent of the new jobs created in the United States in 2008 were created in Texas.  That’s economic freedom, and it works.

The Obama administration had spent lots of words on job creation, but the legislation passed has favored unions, higher taxes, and lots of spending.  For example, the Democrats’ student-loan “reform” which was tacked onto the health-care reconciliation bill caused student lender Sallie Mae to close a call center in Killeen, Texas, eliminating 500 jobs.

The health-care bill itself will eliminate many jobs.  Higher taxes, higher premium costs, an ineffective small business credit, and the high cost of complying with health care regulations will hinder growth of small business and make increased hiring unlikely.

The inclination and beliefs of the administration lean toward big government.   Few in the administration have any significant experience in the business world, and they do not grasp the fact that government jobs are just another drain on the pocketbook of taxpayers.  They are jobs, but it simply doesn’t count as job growth.

Try explaining that to a Democrat.

It’s International Laugh at San Francisco Day! by The Elephant's Child

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced today an absolute moratorium on official city travel to Arizona. The ban on travel takes effect immediately, well, except for law enforcement officials investigating a crime, officials said. And they’re not quite sure what to do about planned trips.  But they really want to emphasize how indignant they are.

The move comes in the wake of Arizona’s new immigration law. Surely a wave of crime on the border, a recent murder of a long time Arizona rancher on his own land, drug wars, smuggling, and constant incursions of illegals is just no reason to ask people, stopped for some other reason, to show some identification. The fact that the federal government has invested most of their border control effort on California’s short border with Mexico, and when the border patrol attempts to do their job in Arizona, the Interior Department is standing in their way, has nothing to do with anything.

There are also online boycott campaigns calling for everything from a boycott of the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team to a boycott of the Grand Canyon.  (The average tourist visit to the Grand Canyon only lasts for 20 minutes).  There was talk of banning Arizona Iced Tea, but it seems that is bottled and manufactured in New York.

Supervisor David Campos and the City Attorney Dennis Herrera have called for a boycott of Arizona businesses.  If the Board of Supervisors’ resolution passes, Herrera will try to identify any contracts with Arizona companies that could legally be terminated.

Well, asking someone for identification is certainly an immensely discriminatory step.  I haven’t done any traveling lately, so I only have to show my driver’s license when I write a check or use a credit card.  I’ve been very careful not to exceed the speed limit as well.

To emphasize the urgent nature of the potential boycott, the mayor today convened a taskforce that includes representatives from the City Attorney’s Office, Controller, City Purchasing Office and his Chief of Staff  to look at a “smart and effective” targeted boycott, Newsom’s spokesman said.  Well, big boycotts do distract attention from a $483 million budget hole.

Arizona’s law, carefully constructed by constitutional scholars to conform to federal immigration law, is a direct result of long federal inaction, and federal failure to enforce current immigration law.  Seventy percent of Arizona voters support the tough new law, and a majority of citizens of Latino heritage do as well.

Victor Davis Hanson, who lives in an area heavily impacted by illegal immigration and legal immigration, and who has Mexican-American family members, deconstructs the outrage in a post at National Review that is very worth your time (it’s short) to help understand the problems and the politics.

Town Called Malice by American Elephant
April 28, 2010, 12:49 pm
Filed under: Music, Pop Culture, United Kingdom | Tags:

The Jam (1982). Don’t know why, but I’m on a 1980’s Brit pop/punk kick lately.

Conflict of Interest or Crony Capitalism? Take Your Pick. by The Elephant's Child

Assistant Secretary of Energy Cathy Zoi, as revealed by disclosure documents, has a huge financial stake in companies likely to profit from the Obama Administration’s “green policies.”

Zoi was previously CEO of the Alliance for Climate Protection — founded by Al Gore — and left that position to serve as assistant secretary in charge of energy efficiency and renewable energy.  She manages billions in “green jobs ” funding.  Disclosure documents show that she is  in a position to affect the fortunes of her previous employer — former Vice President Al Gore — but she has large holdings in two firms that could profit directly from policies proposed by the Department of Energy.

Zoi and her husband hold 120,000 shares in Serious Materials,where he is  in charge of public policy operations, as well as stock options.  Zoi also holds between $250,000 and $500,000 in “founders shares” in Landis+Gyr, a Swiss “smart meter” firm.  She also still owns between $15,000 and $50,000 in ordinary shares.

Smart meters are electric meters that return information about customer power usage to the power company immediately and allow the power company to control the amount of power that a customer can consume.  Note that control is the key word.

Obviously, DoE funding to encourage the adoption of smart meters would lead to increased sales by Landis+Gyr and a windfall for Zoi.  And insistence on insulated windows will lead to increased sales by Serious Materials.  After all Serious Materials has received visits and endorsement by both the President and the Vice President — something their better-known competitors have not received.

This is what I have always understood to be called a conflict of interest.  John Stossel did a show on what he calls crony capitalism — featuring —  Serious Materials.  This is problematical.

As a condition of employment with the Obama Administration, while Ms. Zoi maintained her holdings, she promised that “she would not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter that has a direct and predictable effect on their financial interest” without obtaining a waiver first.  Uh huh.

People in government usually divest themselves of problematic investments. Given the often verbalized interests of the Obama administration’s Department of Energy it would seem impossible for her to avoid a serious conflict of interest.

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