American Elephants

A History Lesson for Obama. by The Elephant's Child

I didn’t expect to use the same image again so soon, but it fits this story even better.  Obama believes in government spending (Boy, do we have evidence of that!) so much so that he refers to it as “investment.” Last Thursday, here in Seattle, reported the Wall Street Journal, he once again displayed his unfamiliarity with history — at least the parts that he has not inserted himself into.

“When I hear people talk about the free enterprise system and entrepreneurship, I try to remind them, you know, all of us made that investment in Darpa [the Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] that helped to get the Internet started,” said Mr. Obama. “So there’s no Facebook, there’s no Microsoft, there’s no Google if we hadn’t made this common investment in our future.”

Microsoft—a product of the Internet? That may surprise Bill Gates and Paul Allen, who founded the software company in 1975. The company didn’t introduce its first Internet browser for another 20 years, and in the meantime it became the dominant computer software company long before the Internet became economically important. The irony of Mr. Obama’s error is that for much of Microsoft’s history the Internet was seen as a threat to its desktop dominance.

Darpa is engaged in funding research. This can be a proper role for government. But Darpa does not attempt to commercialize products. Facebook and Google, like Apple and Microsoft, were founded by private investors. In his State of the Union speech in January, Mr. Obama suggested that federal research spending “led to the computer chip.” Credit for the first integrated circuit has generally been awarded to Jack Kilby at a company called Texas Instruments back in 1958.  Other innovations came from Bell Labs, Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel.

Mr. Obama’s error in his assumption that all prosperity flows from government, demonstrates why he keeps trying to solve problems by throwing money at them. Notably, he is putting pressure on Congress to approve another economic stimulus plan. “Each of the ideas on this list will help create jobs and build a stronger economy right now,” Mr. Obama said.  Well, no they won’t.

He wants to give small businesses tax breaks for hiring more workers, but that’s not how it works. He wants to help homeowners to refinance their mortgages, he wants to help veterans find jobs. And he wants to spend up to $34.7 billion for those proposals — but that’s just a part of a more comprehensive $447 billion jobs program that Congress has mostly resisted, for good reason. And he really doesn’t want to cut spending at all— because he believes that spending is how you fix things. Calling spending “investment” leads you into strange pathways.

You would think that at this point one would learn from experience, but the One doesn’t. And that’s the real problem.

Just How Paranoid Are You? Here’s a Test. by The Elephant's Child

“Intellistreets” is coming to your city before you know it.  I am not a conspiracy type, but in a time when we have government expanding their role, regulating, controlling, intruding into all sectors of American life where they have no business — you have to wonder. These talking streetlights can not only give you instructions, orders, but observe you, record your conversation and  take your picture. Seems very strange that major cities would be purchasing these expensive gadgets when budgets are so tight and out-of-control.

Oddly enough, this comes at a moment when Congress has given their  approval for drone flights to patrol and observe the domestic front. The only barrier to routine use of drones for persistent surveillance are the procedural requirements imposed by the FAA for the issuance of certificates, and the Department of Transportation, parent of the FAA, has announced plans to streamline certification. According to some estimates, the commercial drone market in the United States could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars once the FAA clears their use. How many drones and how much patrolling?

It was only last month that I was writing about the proposed Senate Bill 1813, the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act.” As far as I know, it hasn’t advanced beyond the pretentious name, but it makes it mandatory for all new cars in the U.S. to be fitted with black box-like recorders beginning in 2015. Called “Mandatory Event Data Recorders,” the devices would be capable of monitoring your speed, driving habits, braking habits, miles driven, location and distance of travel — and removal of the device would be a civil offense. The measurements would remain the property of the vehicle owner, but the government would have the authority to retrieve the data.  I suppose it measures your carbon footprint as well.

I can certainly see the use of drones to patrol the border. We not only have the illegal alien problem, but there is a vicious drug war going on just south of the border. Suspected drug gang killers dumped 49 headless bodies on a highway near Mexico’s northern city of Monterrey this last week. But they are not talking about patrolling just the border, if they are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars. Observing farmer’s crops, your barbecue?

Each of these innovations has some positive benefits. I am not at all sure that the benefits outweigh the governmental intrusion. If you are of a conspiratorial turn of mind — it could be pretty scary. There has been an outcry over surveillance cameras. I would prefer to see strong legal restrictions on the use of any of these new technologies, or better yet, just don’t do it.

Leftists begin with trying to regulate everything, and that becomes control, for the left doesn’t like disagreement or disapproval and wants to stamp it out. They want a green world, and they want it now. They believe themselves to be doing nice things that will benefit society as they put more restrictions on what dissenters may do.  That’s what prompted George Orwell to write 1984, after all. And that book was not meant just as an entertainment.


Pity the Poor Professors: They’re on Food Stamps Too. by The Elephant's Child

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, between 2007 and 2010, the percentage of people with a graduate degree who were on food stamps or were receiving another kind of federal aid more than doubled, reaching 360,000.

In 2007, 9776 people with PhDs were receiving some kind of aid.  In 2010 that number had more than tripled to 33,655. For people with Master’s degrees, the number spiked from 101,683 to 293,029.  Austin Nichols of the Urban Institute crunched those numbers for The Chronicle using census data.

Walter Russell Mead surveys the situation:

And we have nothing but admiration for the love of knowledge that leads young people to want to study these fields in greater depth.

But that respect and affection shouldn’t blind us to the sad reality that much of the American academy today works as a Ponzi scheme. PhD programs in many fields are churning out grads for whom no jobs will ever be found. They have to produce excess grads because if they cut back enrollment, the programs would be too small to justify the continued employment of their current staff. …

Worse, if we decided to cut the number of programs so that the number of job openings matched the number of PhD graduates each year, the number of job openings would crash. Currently, suppose that 200 professors of medieval history retire or otherwise leave the field each year; that would mean we need 200 new PhDs each year to replace them.

The jobs of the current practitioners depend on recruiting a steady stream of new hopefuls into the profession, even though many of those new hopefuls won’t get jobs themselves. This is pretty much how Ponzi schemes work, and besides being unfair to the young, it undercuts the integrity of the teacher-student relationship and it puts the whole scholarly enterprise under a dark ethical cloud.

The Baby Boom started all this. Colleges and Universities expanded like crazy to cope with the army of new students.  The first 18 year-olds started college in 1963, and the numbers increased exponentially until the peak year of 1977, and dropped off precipitously in the baby bust. These same years saw students avoiding the Vietnam War by staying in school for advanced degrees. We have had a temporary boom in the need for PhDs as anyone who could think up a grant proposal linking their specialty to global warming  became deeply involved in some kind of (profitable) climate research. There is a higher education bubble, and it is collapsing. Mead adds:

This is beginning to break down. Governments — federal, state and local — have less money for higher ed, and the student loan burden is becoming insupportable.

The current system will change. It imposes unsustainable costs of society at large even as it leads tens of thousands of aspiring professors down the primrose path to the food stamp line.


Obama Said the Troops are Fighting on His Behalf. Not really.. by The Elephant's Child

Uncle Jimbo, from Blackfive, takes exception to President Obama’s ‘strategy’ in Afghanistan. He wouldn’t have gone for the idea that the troops were fighting on Obama’s behalf either. The administration’s plans to ‘dialogue’ with the Taliban seem to be some vague part of the ‘strategy,’ whatever that is. It seems to be about— getting out before the election. There’s certainly a lot of rather large problems that must succumb to electoral politics.

Everybody Playing by the Same Rules? Nah. by The Elephant's Child

You remember, the huge disagreement between the Obama administration and the Catholic Church. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued a ruling that all organizations would have to pay for health  insurance  that covered contraceptives, sterilization and abortifacient drugs for all their employees or students. Ms. Sebelius is Catholic, so you would assume that she would understand the Church’s position.

When Catholic Bishops made the Church position clear, the Administration rewrote the mandate to say that the insurers would have to pay for the drugs and contraceptive, but this was merely a matter of words, not fact, as the Church would still be paying the bill. The administration obviously wasn’t taking the Catholic position seriously.

Franciscan University has announced that they will no longer cover health-insurance at all. Before, the Catholic institution required all students to carry health insurance, those who did not have insurance were required to buy it through the school. PPACA additionally increased the mandated maximum coverage amount for student policies to $100,000 for the next school year. Dozens of Catholic institutions have insisted that they will not comply, but the Obama administration has not been concerned, figuring that they would fall in line.

Here’s where it gets interesting. ObamaCare uses Social Security’s language of the Internal Revenue Code to determine who is eligible for “religious conscience” objection to the insurance mandate. The law provides exemptions for adherents of “recognized religious sects” that are “conscientiously opposed” to accepting benefits from any insurance, public or private.

So—Muslims may claim a religious exemption that is denied to Christians and Jews. Islam believes insurance is haraam (forbidden) and likens insurance to gambling, so the religion is excluded from requirements, mandates, or penalties set forth in the bill. Others who fall into the same category are the Amish, American Indians, and Christian Scientists. But not Catholics nor Jews. Although the U.S. Constitution grants all Americans equal protection of the law — some Americans are more equal than others.

Max Baucus (D-MT),Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee indicated that the purpose of ObamaCare is as much about redistributing income as it is about reforming health care. Another fine example of the iron fist of leftist government putting income distribution and religious discrimination in the hands of ‘wise’ government bureaucrats.

ObamaCare has soared off on its own, completely unrestrained by the Constitution, logic, or common sense. The young are to support he elderly, non-Muslims are to support Muslims, and the Obama mantra of  everyone having a fair shot, doing their fair share, and everybody playing by the same rules was just words, and thrown under the bus when not convenient — as is the norm for this administration.

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