American Elephants

Spending, Appropriating, Mandating, Spending, Repeat Endlessly. by The Elephant's Child

Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) appeared before the camera after a vote on the House floor last night.  The members of Congress are about to go home for summer recess, and electioneering.  You can hardly expect them to deal with something like responsibility or the budget.

Free and Fair Elections or Permanent Electoral Dominance? by The Elephant's Child

In 2009, Senator John Cornyn of Texas co-authored a law mandating that states mail absentee ballots to military voters at least 45 days before the election, to be sure that members of the military were able to get their ballots returned in time to be counted.

In 2008 more than 17,000 Americans serving overseas were denied the vote.  This has not been uncommon in previous elections.  Military personnel are thought to lean conservative, and Democrat election officials have often gone to unusual lengths to find reasons to reject their ballots.

Both parties have had their turn at gerrymandering districts to their tastes, but Democrats have been unusually vigorous in their quest for ways to tilt election results.  Just plain old raising funds and explaining what you stand for to attract the attention of voters is not enough. Democrats are seeking  permanent electoral dominance.

There is the “Secretary of State Project”, designed in the last election to put special effort towards electing Democrats to the state secretary of state office because that official is in charge of elections.  Usually a minor office that nobody pays much attention to, but now it is receiving extra interest.  ACORN electoral fraud is a matter of record in many states, and busing in students to vote is common, as is encouraging voting by illegal immigrants.  And now they are attempting to codify the right of felons to vote.

Electoral fraud is nothing new.  You only have to read a little history of elections to see that the clean and proper process we want is far removed from reality — but I for one value my vote and want it to count — in a free and fair election.

The Clinton administration put “motor voter” laws in place that allow anyone to register to vote when they get their license tabs, without showing any proof of citizenship or eligibility to vote.  Democrats in my state (WA) have changed all elections to entirely mail-in ballots — a situation ripe for fraud.  Entire boxes of votes are suddenly “found” or “lost” as the situation demands.

Eric Holder’s Justice Department official Rebecca Wertz told a Feb. 1 conference of the National Association of Secretaries of State that the new law’s requirements are somehow open to interpretation.  On July 28, an attendee at that conference told the Washington Times that:

Ms. Wertz’s message was “totally undermining” the law. The earlier reports actually underplayed the effect of Ms. Wertz’s comments. “It was even more pronounced at the meeting,” said the source. “She undermined [the law] right in front of everybody. When I heard what she was saying, I thought: ‘You’ve got to be kidding!’ … It was a clear reversal of roles for Justice to no longer be enforcing the law.”

Senator Cornyn has reacted forcefully.  He placed a hold on the nomination of  James M. Cole to be deputy attorney general until the attorney general ensures full protection for military voting rights, and associated civilian personnel stationed abroad. The senator wrote:

The statute does not create any discretion for the Executive Branch to decide whether or not to enforce its legal requirements.  Ms. Wertz’s comments fly in the face of the clear statutory language, undermine the provisions in question and jeopardize the voting rights of our men and women in uniform.

The senator presented four steps he wants Mr. Holder to take to ensure that states respect the 45-day deadline, including a demand that the Justice Department provide a state-by-state accounting of compliance efforts.  The hold on Mr. Cole, who is reportedly a personal friend of Mr. Holder is apt to grasp his attention.

Our troops deserve more respect, as does our electoral process.

Dreams of the Great Air Battles of the Past. by The Elephant's Child
July 29, 2010, 9:30 pm
Filed under: Freedom, History, Military, Sports | Tags: , ,

This strange meeting of two generations took place in New Zealand in 2004.  A meeting of the most famous weapons from World War I and World War II:  A Sopwith Camel and a Spitfire, the latter flying almost at stall speed to keep in formation with the old timer.

“Real men don’t build ships in a bottle for a hobby.  Real Men get fools to remove the wheel chocks on the Sopwith Camel they built and then fly around with a Supermarine Spitfire.”

(h/t: The Borderline Sociopathic Blog for Boys)

Seventy-Six Million Americans: The Baby Boom Generation. by The Elephant's Child
July 29, 2010, 9:13 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, History, Politics | Tags: , ,

Today’s senior citizens often speak about “the War.” Younger generations may wonder “Which one?” but for the older generation, there is only one that is “the War”.  It changed everything, and after VE Day and VJ Day, when they all came home, no one had any idea how much change was yet to come.

After “the War,” returning veterans flocked to America’s colleges and universities to take advantage of the GI Bill, one of America’s better ideas.  It made it possible for the young men who had given so much, and lost so many friends in the war, to go to college on the taxpayer’s dime. And they signed up and they married the girl they had left behind, and off they went.

Colleges and Universities were unprepared.  Barracks and Quonset huts became dormitories and housing for married students.  Cartoons in the New Yorker showed graduating classes of masses of young men, and on the sidelines, the chairs were filled with young women — each with a baby in her lap or in an adjacent buggy. The United States had a population of 140 million, soon to expand in a generation that changed America, and is still changing it.

In February of 1946 , exactly 9 months after VJ Day, there were 206,387 babies born in the United States.  In May, there were 233,452 babies, in June the number had swelled to 242,302.  In October births had spurted to 339,499.  An all-time high of 3.4 million babies had been born in the United States — one every nine seconds.  In 1947, 3.8 million babies were born.

Demographers were unimpressed.  The rise in births was sudden…but a classic case of satisfying pent-up demand. …In 1946, the Census bureau director said that the U.S. population would  not reach 163 million until the year 2000.¹

In eleven straight years from 1954 through 1964 there were more than 4 million babies born each year.  By 1964, four out of every ten people in the United States were under 20 and there were more children under 14 than there had been people in the entire nation in 1881.

They grew up on steak and milk and Wonder Bread that made strong bones and good teeth.  Advertisers quickly discovered that American mothers had created the biggest market in history, and from that moment on the boomers were surrounded with products created just for them.  There were Slinkys and Silly Putty, skateboards and hula hoops.  They grew up with bomb shelters and the knowledge that their world could someday end in a flash of light and heat.  They revolutionized everything they touched.

Car companies churned out station wagons, developers built Levittown,  housing tracts sprang up all over the country, with fenced back yards and patios for the barbecue and cul-de-sacs where the kids could ride their bikes in safety.  Malvinia Reynolds wrote a song about “little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky-tacky” when she saw the sprawl of suburban houses in Daly City, California that “all look just the same.”

The country has been dominated by the baby boom ever since 1946.  There were simply so many boomers that what they did and thought and bought influenced everything.    There was rock music and there were protests, assassinations, Vietnam, flower children.  Businesses who catered to the tastes of the boomers grew and succeeded.  Journalists who wrote stories about the boomers always had an audience.  But they were also the over-crowded generation, standing in line for school, for lunch, for concerts.

And now the first boomers are turning 65 next year, eligible for Social Security and Medicare, and the numbers of seniors will increase exponentially until 2026.  This is the problem unaddressed by the stimulus bill,  ignored by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, by Barack Obama, by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and untouched by any other bill drummed up in the back rooms of Congress, or in the White House.

Citizens alarmed by the profligate spending by Democrats are indicating in the polls that the upcoming election will be a difficult one for Democrats.  Democrats have fiercely resisted any effort to reform entitlements.  Claiming that Republicans will take away old folks Social Security and Medicare may gain them some votes from credulous senior citizens, but we have run out of time.  Reform is possible that will not harm those who depend on these programs. The problem will not go away, it must be faced.  Pretending otherwise is a recipe for real disaster.

¹Landon Y. Jones: Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom Generation.

The Upcoming Publication of Radical-In-Chief. by The Elephant's Child
July 29, 2010, 6:30 am
Filed under: Capitalism, Freedom, Politics, Socialism | Tags: , ,

Nearly two years into Barack Obama’s term as president, people are still trying to figure out just who he is, and what his beliefs are.  He is unusually controlled and reveals little of himself.  It’s not like labels like “radical” and “socialist” have not been thrown around.  But I’m not sure how much meaning people attach to those labels anymore.

The schools don’t teach about Nazism, Fascism, Communism and Socialism.  Thirty-year-olds have no personal memory of Communism,  for they were only 9 when the Berlin Wall fell  in 1989.

Leftists have tried to label Hitler’s Germany as a “right-wing” government although Nazi is an acronym for National Socialism, and in many ways was indistinguishable from Communism.  Socialism never works.  Wherever it is tried — it fails. The radical dreams never work out.  The examples of the Great Famine in Russia, and the Gulag; China’s Great Leap Forward, and the laogai; Korea; Vietnam; Cambodia’s killing fields;  East Germany; Eastern Europe; Cuba; and now Venezuela.  I only include the specially bad examples here, but the left never learns.

Stanley Kurtz is a serious and careful scholar who researched Barack Obama’s associations with Bill Ayres of Weathermen Days, and with ACORN, so carefully during the last presidential campaign.  He now has a new political biography of President Obama.  It will be published on October 19, by Simon and Schuster.  Here is the information from the press release.

Part biography, part history, part detective story, RADICAL-IN-CHIEF reveals the carefully hidden tale of Barack Obama’s political past.  Stanley Kurtz, whose research helped inject the Bill Ayers and ACORN issues into the 2008 presidential campaign, presents the results of more than two years of digging into President Obama’s radical political world.  The book is filled with previously unknown information about the president’s past, tied together by a bold argument about what Obama’s deepest political convictions really are.

RADICAL-IN-CHIEF marshals a wide array of never-before-seen evidence to establish that the president of the United States is indeed a socialist.  Tracing an unbroken thread of socialist activities and political partnerships, from Obama’s youth through his community organizing days and beyond, the book confirms that the president’s harshest critics have been right about his socialism all along.

RADICAL-IN-CHIEF also exposes the truth about community organizers–the socialist beliefs they hold and hide, and how they trained and groomed a president.  Obama’s community organizer colleagues had a strategy for slowly and stealthily turning the United States into a socialist nation.  The Obama administration is carrying out that strategy today.

This book will forever change our national debate about who Barack Obama is.

Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) Takes On Chris Matthews! by The Elephant's Child

You don’t want to take on Congressman Paul Ryan.  He knows what he’s talking about, and he has the answers at the tip of his tongue.  He knows his math and economics, and he understands the federal budget. His Road Map is a serious attempt to rein in the spending and put the entitlements on a sustainable path.  And he can explain every step.

Chris Matthews is a passionate activist for his beliefs, but even he recognizes that spending is a huge problem, and here he seems to recognize that the Obama administration is heading down a dangerous road.  He has the typical liberal doubts that ordinary people can understand such complicated problems.  From what I hear every day,  I think ordinary people may have a better understanding than the beltway crowd.

Small Business Doesn’t Much Like ObamaCare Either! by The Elephant's Child

Democrats are debating the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.  They particularly want to end any tax cuts that went to “the rich,” for they have been yapping about “tax cuts for the rich” for the last ten years.

This theme sounds good, and is a favorite populist sound bite.  What Democrats refuse to grasp, because they need that sound bite,  is that many of those who are defined as “the rich” are small business owners who file as individuals. If you own a business, even though you may employ many people, there are advantages to filing as an individual rather than incorporating.

Democrats are anxious to blame the Bush tax cuts, and the War in Iraq for the financial crisis.  “The Bush tax cuts substantially reduced 2006 revenues and expanded the budget deficit,” they say. ” Capital gains tax cuts do not pay for themselves,” they say.  “Raising taxes is the best way to raise revenue,” they say.  “The Bush tax cuts are to blame for the projected long-term budget deficits,” they say. No!  No!  Sorry! And just plain wrong!

The economy usually responds strongly to tax cuts.  Capital gains tax revenues doubled following the 2003 tax cut.  Higher tax revenues correlate with economic growth, not tax rates.  Pro-growth tax cuts support incentives for productive behavior.

Obama has already put in place all sorts of taxes and mandates that will make doing business harder, especially for small businesses, whether in ObamaCare or the Financial Reform bill or in new energy requirements and costs.  The uncertainty about what taxes will be raised, how new government bills will affect them when applied, and what rules will make their activities more difficult has business sitting on their hands and not hiring.  Obama has no one to blame but himself for the dismal unemployment scene, but he continues to blame Bush, and thus solves nothing, nothing at all.

As If ObamaCare Isn’t Bad Enough, Now They Want to Make it Worse! by The Elephant's Child

If you remember, when ObamaCare was passed in the back rooms of the House and Senate to excited cheers from Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, there were noisy grumblings from the far left.  “Where is the Public Option?” they cried.  Last week, the House attempted to remedy that.  After all, the left must retain the votes of the far left, their base.  This would seem to be an effort to regain a modicum of far-left enthusiasm.  H.R. 5808 was introduced in the House Ways and Means Committee to add a “public option” to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

The PPACA already lays the groundwork for a vigorous public option. The unnecessary new law would allow the Office of Personnel Management — which already manages the federal employees’ health plans — to administer plans in the exchanges.  Theoretically these plans would be offered by private insurers but run by unelected government officials.

Benefits, premiums and medical-loss ratios for plans would be set by OPM.  There is nothing to stop the agency from modeling the plans after a public option.  There are no requirements for solvency in the OPM plans, so they would probably require taxpayer bailouts.  The public plan is claimed to increase competition and choice among insurers.  It wouldn’t accomplish either.

Here is a glimpse of Your New Health Care System.  This is what the Liberals have in mind to control your health care.

It has been over a hundred days since the president signed ObamaCare into law.  Democrats are hoping that you will forget the secretive and partisan way they passed it, or won’t learn what it contains, or will decide that you like it after all.

They’re also hoping that the law’s “early benefits” that come into effect this year — the requirement that insurance plans cover “children” up to age 26 on their parents’ policies by this September — will sway voters  before November.  The adult “children” may appreciate it, I doubt if the parents do.  Unfortunately, millions of seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans will begin to get notice in the mail this fall about losing their coverage.  By 2019 the average cut in Medicare benefits will reach $800 per Medicare Advantage beneficiary per year.

In Britain, the National Health Service, beloved by Dr. Donald Berwick, is facing the most radical reorganization since it’s beginnings in 1948.

Currently, how and where patients are treated, and by whom, is largely determined by decisions made by 150 entities known as primary care trusts — all of which would be abolished under the plan, with some of those choices going to patients.

A remarkable idea, that patients should have some say about their own care.

Opponents are squawking like mad.  The vast bureaucracy of NHS represents thousands of labor union and bureaucratic jobs — and a major reason for the failure of the system.  Again, note the chart linked above.  A lecturer in politics at the University of Exeter wondered how the government would be able to “give patients more choice — a promise that seems to require a degree of administrative oversight — while cutting so many managers from the system?”

This is the problem.  Liberals always think that things would be better managed by wise, well-educated, compassionate  people like themselves. People who are sure that meeting for a few days in back rooms and scrabbling together some two-thousand pages of mandates will make medical care better than what is determined by a patient and his doctor.

The patient, who knows what hurts and the doctor who knows what will fix it. You need, they say, an unelected bureaucrat in Washington DC to tell the doctor what he may do, and how much time he might spend with you, and what tests he may order, and what records he must keep, and what details of your health he must report to the government, and what reimbursement he will receive.

If you don’t want a Washington bureaucrat, like Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi or Barney Frank deciding if you can have the knee replacement that you need, or whether you should just continue to take pain pills,  you might want to keep that in mind in November.

Obama Wants to Tell You “The Battery Story” by The Elephant's Child

There is more — as you probably suspected — to the battery story.  President Obama recently went to the groundbreaking ceremony for an advanced battery factory in Holland, Michigan. that he claims will produce 300 “permanent” jobs.  It was his fourth battery-factory trip as president, as the White House makes an aggressive effort to tell “the battery story.”

The story starts with the administration’s $2.4 billion investment in the development of batteries and electric-car technology — an enormous gamble on a product that has yet to gain any commercial success.  Hybrids, although they have been around for a decade, represent less than one percent of the nation’s roughly 259 million vehicle fleet, although Toyota claims the Prius as a major success after many years of losing money.

The global market for batteries is glutted,  and by 2014 will be 3 times greater than demand.   U.S. companies that have received federal grants are concerned that their capacity to build parts for electric cars is far outstripping consumer demand.  Not everybody will survive.  Without the federal incentives, Johnson Controls (the largest recipient)  would have built its factory in Europe or Asia. To ramp up demand the company is lobbying the government to buy more electric and hybrid vehicles.

Economist Veronique du Rugy is not buying “the battery story.”  There is immediate benefit for the factory owner, but the money comes either from taxing Americans or borrowing or printing money.

According to Harvard economist Robert Barro, $1 spent by the government means that the economy will shrink by $1.10.  New research from Harvard Business School shows that increased federal spending in states causes local businesses to cut back rather than grow.  [Aha!  Obviously a bunch of right-wingers] An interview with one of the authors showed that:

Recent research at Harvard Business School began with the premise that as a state’s congressional delegation grew in stature and power in Washington, D.C., local businesses would benefit from the increased federal spending sure to come their way.

They found that the opposite was true.

So the federal government is subsidizing factories to build products for which there is as yet no market, and subsidizing purchases of electric cars which people do not want, so to create markets for their unsalable products factory owners are lobbying the government to buy electric cars for the federal automotive fleet, for which there are no charging stations, and which would create a massive drain on the electric grid for which local utilities are unprepared. And they want them to buy the cars for $41,000 each.  Can I possibly have that right?  Sigh!

Are You in the Market for a $41,000 Electric Car? by The Elephant's Child
July 27, 2010, 5:49 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Energy, Law, Liberalism | Tags: , ,

Government Motors General Motors has announced that the starting price for the battery-powered Chevrolet Volt will be $41,000, a $1,000 more than original estimates.  The Volt’s closest rival, the all-electric Nissan Leaf, starts at $33,000.  Either of the cars could provide buyers with a $7,500 tax rebate.  The Volt will go on sale late this year.  Adding sales tax in my state would bring it up to $45,100.

GM says that the car can go about 40 miles on battery power alone.  When the battery runs down, a small gasoline engine connected to a generator will  power the electric motor. (How much and for how long wasn’t mentioned).

The Volt plugs in with a special adapter to recharge the battery.  Popular Mechanics says it takes about 30 minutes for the generator to recharge the battery.  There are ports on both sides to charge the battery from a 110-volt  outlet in about 6.5 hours.  The battery will come with an eight-year, 100,000 mile warranty on the battery pack.

Utilities are beefing up transformers in neighborhoods where they think there could be numbers of people adopting plug-in cars. ( I do want to see how they measure that.  Do Leonardo De Caprio and Streisand live in the same neighborhood?).  Rapid charging of batteries can put as much stress on circuits as adding new homes. Nissan’s Leaf is a pure electric vehicle.  Utilities are rolling out programs offering their customers discounted prices for electricity consumed overnight.

Toyota for years lost money on the Prius, but those losses have, according to the company,  more than paid off.   GM expects to sell only a small number of Volts this year, and around 10,000 in 2011.  But it expects eventually to make the Volt a high-tech car for “the masses.”

I dunno.  Where I grew up, for major shopping, we drove 150 miles (one way) and 35 miles (one way) to go to a movie.  $41,000 for a very local extra car seems pretty pricey.  But it is our government that is driving up the price of gasoline, I assume deliberately, to force the public into these cars and public transportation.  If you can figure out why this is a good idea, please let me know.

It May be Petty Larceny, but Shoplifting is Still a Crime. by The Elephant's Child
July 27, 2010, 3:46 pm
Filed under: Humor, Law, Politics | Tags: , ,

Shoplifters are generally apprehended as they leave the shop, when it is clear that they really meant to scarper with the goods.  But what do you do in a case like this?

As a parent, I have taken my child back to the store to return something pilfered when my back was turned, in the hopes that an embarrassing lesson will be a permanent cure.  But this is really a classic bad example!

The Solution to Anthropogenic Global Warming: by The Elephant's Child
July 27, 2010, 3:32 pm
Filed under: Environment, Humor, Junk Science | Tags: , ,

Pat Sajak, who I have never quoted before, has the solution to Global Warming.  If Kevin Costner and his brother can come up with a method to separate oil and water in drilling rig disasters — and they apparently can— perhaps we should listen to Mr. Sajak.  He says:

Manmade global warming, like so many other social and economic issues, has become hopelessly politicized. Each side has dug in its heels and has accused the other of acting irresponsibly and dishonestly. For the believers, the other side has become the equivalent of Holocaust deniers; and for the doubters, the other side has become a cult intent on manipulating mankind to remake the world in some sort of natural Utopian image. (…)

Let’s assume that a third of the world’s population really believes mankind has the power to adjust the Earth’s thermostat through lifestyle decisions. The percentage may be higher or lower, but, for the sake of this exercise, let’s put it at one-third. Now it seems to me these people have a special obligation to change their lives dramatically because they truly believe catastrophe lies ahead if they don’t. The other two-thirds are merely ignorant, so they can hardly be blamed for their actions.

Now, if those True Believers would give up their cars and big homes and truly change the way they live, I can’t imagine that there wouldn’t be some measurable impact on the Earth in just a few short years. I’m not talking about recycling Evian bottles, but truly simplifying their lives. Even if you were, say, a former Vice President, you would give up extra homes and jets and limos. I see communes with organic farms and lives freed from polluting technology.

He does state the problem pretty clearly.  So we only have to wait and see how it all turns out.  Or wait to see how long it takes for the True Believers to give up?

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