American Elephants

Unveiling Presidential Portraits by The Elephant's Child

Today, the Obamas invited President George W. Bush and Laura Bush to the White House for the unveiling of the official presidential portraits.  The ceremony was warm and friendly, more so on the video, which is here, than in the transcript, which is here.  You will enjoy watching the video. George W. is charming, funny, and very gracious. I really miss that man.

The photos of the portraits below, are cropped, but you can get an idea. Mrs. Bush’s portrait is full length, and from the pictures, her dress may have been navy blue, or black, or possibly something else. The portraits are skilled, and it was charming of Mrs. Bush to thank the artist and mention his family.

These ceremonies are always more awkward when the portraits are of a previous president of a different party who you’ve just been blaming for everything for three years. But they mind their manners and do it nicely. Jonathan Horn at Ricochet dug up the speech that President Bush gave when unveiling the portraits of the Clintons. It’s short, but gracious, and a model to follow.

These portraits will be there for the ages, barring some awful incident, and Michelle has promised to save George W’s portrait, as Dolley Madison saved the other George W.’s.


A Tone-Deaf and Classless White House. by The Elephant's Child

America’s highest civilian award is the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In the ceremony last Tuesday, while presenting World War II Polish resistance hero Jan Karski with a posthumous medal,  President Obama  made a reference to” Polish death camps.”  It was Jan Karski who brought evidence of the existence of Nazi Death Camps to America.

You can’t go stumbling along in foreign relations without an understanding of history. Europeans have long memories, and Poland was a Nazi-occupied country, and a great many Poles were executed at Auschwitz and Birkenau. The presence of the Nazi concentration camps in Poland was a deep affront.  To suggest that the camps were Polish when awarding a medal, posthumously, to a resistance hero is more than tasteless. To assign the task — not of apologizing — but of saying oh, the President just misspoke, is a greater insult.

But then Obama is the one who notified the Poles with a midnight phone call on September 17, 2009, the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland, that we were pulling the plug on our missile defense base they had stuck out their necks to host.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk responded: “I am certain that our American friends are capable of a more explicit reaction than issuing a correction and the spokesperson of the White House expressing regret. When someone says “Polish death camps,” it’s as if there was no Hitler. That is why our Polish sensitivity in these situations is so much more than just simply a feeling of national pride.”

Embarrassing incidents can be smoothed with a real apology.

ADDENDUM:Lo and behold. “The issue hasn’t gone away just because he wants it to,” and, as Jim Treacher at the Daily Caller reports, “in an undoubtedly ego-bruising development, he’s been forced to publicly apologize.” The Hill reported:

President Obama has penned a letter of apology expressing “regret” over using the phrase “Polish death camps” in a ceremony earlier this week, which has drawn heavy criticism from Polish officials.

“In referring to ‘a Polish death camp’ rather than ‘a Nazi death camp in German-occupied Poland,’ I inadvertently used a phrase that has caused many Poles anguish over the years and that Poland has rightly campaigned to eliminate from public discourse around the world,” Obama wrote in a letter released by the Polish government. “I regret the error and agree that this moment is an opportunity to ensure that this and future generations know the truth.”

Why Do People Move? It Really Isn’t Mysterious! by The Elephant's Child
May 30, 2012, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Energy, Taxes

Why do people move? Packing up all your stuff and moving to a new location is not an easy task, and it’s not fun. Trust me, I’ve done it a lot. It’s one thing if you decide you can finally afford your dream house, and quite another when you downsize.

But think of the boundless courage that sent the Pilgrims across months of the North Atlantic in a leaky ship, or even the Puritans, a little later, in the Winthrop fleet. Taking all your earthly possessions and leaving everything you have known to strike out for the completely unknown is something else entirely.  Americans continued to up and move — across mountains, looking for better farmland. They pushed into what is now Tennessee and Pennsylvania. And consider those who embarked on wagon trains to cross an unknown Indian territory bound for an unknown Oregon.

Fast forward to today. California, the ‘Golden State’ has, in the last two decades, lost four million more people than have come to California from other places. Lots of reasons. High taxes, if you don’t own a big chunk of Google or Apple, your chance of owning a home in the Bay Area is close to nil. Environmental extremism, with a goofy cap-and-trade law resulting in skyrocketing energy costs drives out jobs and business. Jerry Brown believes that green jobs will replace vanishing industry.

New York’s high taxes have made the Empire State a place to flee. In the past ten years, it has suffered an exodus of some 3.4 million New Yorkers, nearly a million more people than those who escaped East Germany for West Germany or West Berlin from 1949 to 1961 — an exodus that led the Communists to construct the Berlin Wall in 1961.

The outflow hasn’t stopped. New York State’s income loss for the state is $45.6 billion, according to the Tax Foundation. There is still plenty of immigration from abroad. It’s not surprising that most refugees have headed for sunny, income-tax free Florida. New Yorkers who leave an estate of more than 1 million get hit with a state death tax reaching 16%.

Governor Andrew Cuomo admits the problem, but hasn’t threatened New York’s status as “tax capital of the nation” with any substantive reforms.

I don’t know why it is so hard to understand, but people who live in high tax states are moving to states with no income tax. States with high energy costs and high taxes are losing businesses to low tax states with reasonable regulation. Some of the folks who are moving are the hated rich, and they seem to be rich because they  run their businesses — which they are also moving — efficiently, and find it more profitable to do business in states where taxes are low, energy costs are low, and the states are preferably right-to-work.

Oddly enough, most of the states with a business-friendly climate seem to be run by Republican governors who go for balanced budgets and low taxes.  Must be a coincidence.

The Green Lobby Wants to Destroy Modern Civilization. by The Elephant's Child

America has undergone a monumental change, and the major media are just waking up to it. The administration has apparently not heard. America is awash in fossil fuels. We have lots. All that bit about being dependent on foreign oil — nevermind. America has a boom in shale natural gas, and even Fortune magazine admitted it in a cover story.

So, naturally, as night follows day, the Sierra Club has announced a new battle plan called “Beyond Natural Gas.” This is a companion piece to “Beyond Coal,” in which the Sierra Club has been lobbying for rules to force the shutdown of America’s coal-fired power plants, the closure of coal mines, an end to the use of coal — which supplies just a little less than half the electricity in the country.

The theme was previously that coal was dirty, disgusting, dangerous, and we should rely instead on clean natural gas. Now that they have the closure of coal-fired power plants well underway, they are turning to eliminating natural gas. Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune announced their goal this month.”We’re going to be preventing new gas plants from being built wherever we can.” They have rolled out a new website that says:

The natural gas industry is dirty, dangerous and running amok. The closer we look at natural gas, the dirtier it appears, and the less of it we burn, the better off we will be.

Sounds vaguely familiar. But this is no idle threat. The Sierra Club has deep pockets, with 1.4 million members, generous funding from liberal foundations, and the knowledge of just how to work the media and the politicians. The lobby has successfully helped to block new nuclear plants for more than 30 years, the “Beyond Oil” campaign helped to keep much of America off-limits to oil drilling, and its “Beyond Coal” campaign has all but shut down new coal plants, and is working on shutting down the old ones.

The Sierra Club was once a modest affair, founded by John Muir in 1892, to “make the mountains glad.”It is the oldest and arguably the most powerful environmental group in the nation.  But it is no longer my father’s Sierra Club. It used to offer  summer horse packing trips into the high Sierra, featured Ansell Adams’ beautiful photographs of Yosemite, and grew into photography books, animal books and all those nice things that make us love nature — that we can put on our coffee tables to show how ecologically with it we are.  It has grown into a radical environmentalist organization of 1.4 million members with leadership positions held by activists with radical ties. It has managed to maintain a “mainstream” image, but its goals are hardly mainstream.

The radicalism of radical environmentalism is way out there, and makes little sense. They essentially oppose modern civilization, and all its peoples.  They are attempting to shut down the power plants that power the wind farms and solar arrays that they, for now, favor.  How long will wind energy be acceptable when Congress offer special waivers to the wind farms for the eagles they chop up? The green energy bubble is bursting everywhere.  The Energy Tribune notes:

The EU’s ideologically-driven Energy Road Map prioritized ‘green’ renewable energy, diverting away from Russian natural gas dependency and harmonizing energy and environmental needs. The result: a devastatingly inept screw up that threatens continent-wide power outages even, as Die Welt recently reported, in Germany as early as next winter.

In short order, EU energy policies have created an unsustainable, publicly-subsidized, market-skewing ‘green’ energy bubble, eschewed a cheap fossil fuels policy and realistic alternatives to Russian gas imports. Together those failed policies have resulted in the double double-whammy of soaring of energy prices and, as is now being reported, diminishing European industrial competitiveness.

The Sierra Club gets no awards for consistency. They were all for natural gas when the price was $8 or more per million BTUs and the supply seemed to be limited.  But gas prices have fallen to $2.50, and natural gas may come to dominate U.S. energy production. Wind and solar and biofuel power may never be competitive. If the subsidies are removed, there will be no profit in wind and solar anyway. It’s ordinary people who will benefit if there is a plentiful supply of cheap natural gas. It will benefit industry and the economy, and there are somewhere around 600,000 jobs in the natural gas industry alone, not to mention the jobs provided by a thriving economy fueled by cheap, abundant energy from natural gas and coal.

Morning Cute III by The Elephant's Child

A Bison calf was born in Chicago at the Brookfield Zoo on May 16. the first birth of this species since the early 1970s. Feisty little girl. Zoo Borns is a great website for moments when you are tense, or down. Who can look at baby animals and not relax.

And there are so many species that I’ve never heard of. Great website to share with the kids. Zoos all over the world are cooperating in an effort to save endangered species.

Not Even Half by The Elephant's Child

This Recovery is the Worst Since World War II. by The Elephant's Child

Recovery? What recovery? In almost every speech, President Obama proudly claims that he inherited the worst recession since the Great Depression. He has added new jobs each month, and while we need to do more, we are heading in the right direction.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis which tracks economic performance for each recovery, compares the growth of gross domestic product for each recovery, and job growth for each recovery; there have been 11 recessions and 11 recoveries over the past 60 years. This recovery is near the bottom of all 11.

Average normal job growth is 6.5%.  Cumulative non-farm job growth is just 1.9% 34 months into the ‘recovery.’ Cumulative growth of GDP is just 6.8% 11 quarters into this ‘recovery.’ The average is 15.2%, and GDP growth is the worst of all 11 recessions.

The administration has tried every Keynesian method for achieving economic growth to no avail. The recovery remains one of the worst since World War II. The problem lies with the way the “stimulus” was carried out, the uncertainty of a looming tax Armageddon,  the anti business rhetoric, and the piles of new regulation. This is, I believe, the first President that has ever run for office opposing capitalism and the free market.

The monetary policy of the Federal Reserve has resulted in extraordinarily low interest rates — almost zero for the past three years. In a normal world, low interest rates wold lead to increased borrowing by individuals and businesses — increasing economic activity. What it has done instead is to help the government to borrow more cheaply, the big banks to recapitalize quickly, and homeowners to refinance at low rates.

The uncertainty concerning ObamaCare and what it will do to business and individuals, higher taxes on business combined with anti-business rhetoric from the administration, and the constant threat from EPA actions has discouraged the kind of borrowing and lending that low rated usually encourage. The low interest rates have meant historically low yields on savings, and encouraged riskier investments.

The president’s fiscal policy has increased expenditures by about $700 billion per year since 2008. The increased spending has had a temporary stimulating effect, but has resulted in an increase in the national debt of over $5 trillion. Where has all the spending gone? The money for the most part, was badly spent. Billions went to reward government employees, and the auto unions. More billions went to training programs that don’t work, (the government has 49 job training programs administered by nine agencies —  all ineffective), extended unemployment insurance that reduces the incentive to find work. That which was directed to infrastructure was mostly wasted because those “shovel-ready” jobs weren’t shovel ready.

In Obama’s first three years, 105 major federal regulations have added more than $46 billion per year in new costs for Americans.  32 new major regulations in 2011 increased regulatory costs by another $10 billion annually with an additional $6.5 billion in one-time implementation costs.

The mindset that says that innovation, growth,and  job creation come from government; and that the economy will perform better if government tells people what to do; is a real problem.  It’s not just the hubris that assumes that they know better, nor the contempt they have for the American people.  It is that they simply do not understand who Americans are.

We are a courageous people who picked up our lives and went forth to an unknown country in the hopes of more freedom and a burning desire for a better life. That’s true for the first immigrants, and the most recent. Those who were lacking in courage or content with things the way they were stayed put.

Those who didn’t find what they dreamed of on the East coast picked up and struck out for the West. Americans don’t need a lot of regulation, they don’t need to be told what to do, and they just want government to get out of their hair, and leave them alone to innovate, create, to try, fail, and succeed.

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