American Elephants

No Common Sense, But Plenty of Paranoia. by The Elephant's Child
December 31, 2012, 9:21 pm
Filed under: Law, National Security, Pop Culture | Tags: , ,

When there is a horrendous incident, such as the terrible shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT., the do-something disease strikes with devastating effect. A boy, described as odd, or disturbed?— did anyone describe him as disturbed or only in retrospect? — shot his mother in the face and proceeding to the elementary school, shot teachers and many  little children and then himself. Devastating.

The immediate assumption is that we must do something to prevent a repetition, any repetition anywhere, any time. But going back over other shootings, the perpetrators were not singled out, no one recognized their delusions or their danger. None cold have been prevented by any of the new laws being proposed. If we are unable to recognize mental illness in any of these people prior to their act, new laws about not selling guns to the mentally disturbed are not going to help. None of them purchased their guns at gun dealers. We have tried a ban on “assault weapons” to little effect because the banners have no understanding of what an assault weapon is. So you end up with all sorts of incidents like this one, that Reason headlined this way:

Boy, Not Making Bombs, Arrested for Having Things Cops Think Could Blow Up (And For Drawings That Spooked a Teacher).”

When a 16-year-old New Jersey boy doodled in his notebook on Tuesday, December 18, he probably didn’t expect to be arrested by the end of the day. However, when school officials saw the sketches, which they state appeared to be of weapons, and the boy “demonstrated behavior that caused them to be concerned,” the police were called. ( The drawing was apparently of a glove spouting flames).

The school is a magnet school with programs focusing on engineering and environmental science and specializing in hands-on learning.

A subsequent search of the boy’s home led to his arrest because they found several electronic parts and chemicals. He was charged with the possession of an explosive device and put in juvenile detention. His mother said her son had “a passion for collecting old stuff, taking it apart and rebuilding thing.”

No threats to anyone, no bomb, no making a bomb, no using a bomb, no detonating a bomb. Only a drawing of a flaming glove. No indication that there was any danger to anyone or any school property. Hope the kid got out of the Juvenile Detention facility in time for Christmas.


The British Have Lost the Right to Self-Defense. Obama is After Ours. by The Elephant's Child

In 1953, British law banned carrying anything for the purpose of self-defense.

In England, self-defense is not considered a “good reason” to carry a knife, much less a gun, as an “offensive weapon” is “defined as any weapon designed or adapted to cause injury, or intended by the person possessing them to do so.”

The BBC offers this advice for anyone in Britain who is attacked on the street: “You are permitted to protect yourself with a briefcase, a handbag, or keys. You should shout “call the Police’ rather than ‘Help.’ Bystanders are not to help. They have been taught to leave such matters to the professionals. If you manage to knock  your attacker down, you must not hit him again or you risk being charged with assault.

A report from the Cato Institute points out that self-defense is an endangered right.

The withdrawal of a basic right of Englishmen is having dire consequences in Great Britain, and should serve as an object lesson for Americans. Today, in the name of public safety, the British government has practically eliminated the citizens’ right to self-defense. That did not happen all at once. The people were weaned from their fundamental right to protect themselves through a series of policies implemented over some 80 years. Those include the strictest gun regulations of any democracy, legislation that makes it illegal for individuals to carry any article that could be used for personal protection, and restrictive limits on the use of force in self-defense. Britons have been taught, in the words of a 1992 Economist article, that such policies are “a restraint on personal liberty that seems, in most civilized countries, essential to the happiness of others.” The author contrasted those policies with “America’s vigilante values.”

The result of that tradeoff of rights for security has been disastrous for both. Many Americans, either unaware of, or unconcerned with, the perverse impact of British policy, insist that our public safety demands a similar sacrifice. But an examination of the experience of the British people offers a cautionary tale. A few examples underscore the situation in Britain today.

A homeowner discovered two robbers in his home, and held them at bay with a toy gun, while he telephoned the police. When the police arrived, they arrested the two burglars and also the homeowner, who was charged with putting someone in fear with a toy gun.

An elderly woman who scared off a gang of youths by firing  a cap pistol was charged with the same offense. The government is now planning to make toy guns illegal.

In 1999, a 55-year-old farmer, Tony Martin, living alone in a dilapidated house, was awakened by the sound of breaking glass as two burglars broke in. Martin had been robbed six times previously. Like 70 percent of rural villages, his had no police presence. He crept downstairs in the dark, shot at the burglars, killing one and wounding the second.  Both had many prior convictions. Martin was sentenced to life in prison for killing one burglar, 10 years for wounding the second, and 12 months for owning an unregistered shotgun. The prosecutor claimed that Martin had lain in wait, and caught the burglars “like rats in a trap.”

The wounded burglar was released after serving 18 months of a three-year sentence. He then sued Martin for the injury to his leg, claiming it prevented him from working and interfered with his martial arts training and sex life. He was awarded £5,000 of taxpayer money to prosecute the suit. Martin’s sentence was reduced on a finding that he had an abusive childhood, but he was denied parole because he had expressed no remorse for killing one so young, and posed a danger to other burglars.

A trend of 500 years of declining interpersonal violence reversed abruptly in 1954 as violence began to increase dramatically. In 2001 England ranked highest in the level of homicides in Western Europe, and violent crimes were three times worse than the next worst country, and climbing. It is far higher than the United States.

The safety of the public has taken second place behind the government’s political preference for order and power. It is an alarming lesson for us.

In the meantime, President Obama on Sunday pledged to put his “full weight” behind a legislative package next year aimed at containing gun violence. He voiced skepticism about armed guards at schools. He said he intended to press the issue with the public. “Will there be resistance? Absolutely there will be resistance.”

In California, the number of guns sold in the state has risen sharply, doubling since 2002. Oddly enough, gun injuries and deaths have fallen. Across the country many teachers are signing up for firearms training on their own.

The Wisent, Roaming Free in A European Forest. by The Elephant's Child
December 31, 2012, 6:49 am
Filed under: Europe, Freedom, Heartwarming, History | Tags: , ,


Walter Russell Mead always has interesting essays at The American Interest and today’s was no exception.”For the first time since 1746, a herd of wild European bison, close cousins of the American variety, will be roaming free in a German forest owned by Prince Richard of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg.” Now how could you resist an introductory sentence like that?

Since he hit upon the idea almost a decade ago, Prince Richard has been at the center of Germany’s most interesting experiment in species conservation. Now the project, which receives about €1.5 million ($2 million) in government subsidies, is about to enter its critical phase.

The state Environment Ministry in Düsseldorf issued its approval shortly before Christmas, and over the next few days several men will drive into the forest and remove the fence around an acclimation enclosure in place since 2010. When that happens, a herd of eight European bison, or wisent, will be free to roam in the woods. It consists of an enormous bull, five cows and two calves.


The last wild European bison was killed in 1927 in the Caucasus, but the few specimens that lived on in zoos now have 3,000 descendants. Some Europeans are nervous worrying about dangers to hikers or the environment. Others worry about the wild West nature of the animals. Goodness, they’re talking about one bull, five cows and two calves. Hardly the thundering stampede of Western history. It is interesting that these bison are woodland creatures, unlike American bison who roamed free on the Great Plains. The picture above is a bigger herd than the one now free in the forest. It is encouraging to see a species preserved in zoos, once again being released to thrive in the wild. A nice story for the New Year.

Oh Fiscal Cliff, Fiscal Cliff, Fiscal Cliff! by The Elephant's Child
December 30, 2012, 8:42 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Law, Taxes | Tags: , ,

Twenty-Six Years Ago: President Ronald Reagan passed significant tax reforms that lowered the individual income tax rate, limited deductions, and brought equality to tax rates at all levels. Previously, there had been 15 different marginal rates that reached as high as 50 percent for those in the top brackets. By the time Reagan left office, the number of tax brackets had been reduced to two: 15 percent and 28 percent.

In 1993: President William J. Clinton raised the top two income rates to 36 percent and 39.6 percent while also raising the corporate tax rate, increasing the taxable portion of Social Security benefits and increasing the amount of income taxable for Medicare. This has become known as the “Clinton tax rates.”

In 2001: President George W. Bush reduced the tax rate from 39.6 percent to 35 percent, lowered the capital gains rate and the dividend income rates and expanded credits and deductions such as the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Smoke, mirrors and time and energy is being spent advancing the myth that raising taxes is the best way to avoid falling off the “fiscal-cliff.”

If you raise taxes as President Obama wants, you would generate maybe $1 trillion over a period of ten years. President Obama’s spending has resulted in trillion-dollar deficits in each of the previous four years. At this rate in ten years we would be looking at $10 trillion in new debt. Under no proposed scenario does raising taxes limit or eliminate the deficit and return us to a balanced budget. The problem is government spending.

The Democrat-run Senate under Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has refused to produce a budget since April 27, 2009. Refused. They are required by law to produce a budget each year.

There is nothing in any proposal that will satisfy President Obama’s obsessive desire to spend. He’s still talking about “roads and bridges”— the same roads and bridges that he’s been promising to fix since 2008, that turned out not to be “shovel ready.” He wants a new batch of offshore wind farms all along the East Coast. He wants more solar arrays, wind farms, Solyndras, in the name of green energy though even the IPCC has determined that global warming is not anthropogenic, not caused by CO2 or greenhouse gasses, but caused by the action of the sun and cloud formation. The globe has been cooling for 16 years, not warming. And to top it all off, Obama wants another stimulus. The previous stimulus was wasted— all $825 billion of it, and another one would be similarly wasted.

The money is not going to come from raising the rates on the rich. They don’t have enough money, and there aren’t enough of them. So it boils down to this. Either he cuts way back on spending, or he raises taxes big time on the middle class. There are solutions, but no real interest.

Or ask yourself this: Why would a president who has any sense of the American people, the American economy as it is, the 24 million people who are out of work,  feel that this is the right time to end the pay freeze on federal employees who are already vastly overpaid compared to their counterparts in the private sector, and do vastly less work? And why would he choose this moment in time to give Vice President Joe Biden a $6,370 raise?  Members of Congress only got $900 bucks a year raise.

Tremper les riches est inconstitutionnelle by The Elephant's Child
December 30, 2012, 5:38 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Europe, Humor, Taxes | Tags: , ,

Francois Hollande

This year France elected a new socialist president, Francois Hollande, who immediately announced his intention to undo whatever Sarkozy and Merkel dreamed up. He also announced an intention to raise taxes on millionaires, as he seeks to cut France’s public deficit to 3 percent of gross domestic product next year from a projected 4.5 percent deficit this year. Mon Dieu!  But this sounds somehow somewhat familiar.

Ooops! President Francois Hollande’s 75% tax rate on the rich, France’s top court just ruled is unconstitutional.  The tax was a focal point of discontent among entrepreneurs and wealth creators, many of whom have moved to Britain or other more friendly climes. Noted French actor Gerard Depardieu moved across the border to Belgium.

Politically, this has an impact because it was a symbol for French public opinion, and was considered abroad as the emblem of French tax excess, of “French tax hell,” said Dominique Barbet, senior economist at BNP Paribas SA in Paris. “In deficit terms, it’s truly negligible.

The decision could be positive for France’s bond market because it show there is a limit to the government’s ability to raise taxes on the wealthy and may decrease the flight risk of more rich French citizens.

Hollande’s 2013 budget relies on 20 billion euros in additional taxes: 10 billion euros from companies and 10 billion euros from individuals. There were also new taxes on capital gains, an increased tax on wealth, higher inheritance taxes and an exit tax for entrepreneurs who sell their companies. There is also a new 45% tax bracket for incomes exceeding 150,000 euros per year.

The Laffer Curve applies in France as well as here. The taxes would not bring in the amount expected. But the whole thing does sound familiar.

Birth of a Tool: Damascus Steel Knife Making (By John Neeman Tools) by The Elephant's Child

I love these videos that show how things are made, because there are so many things and I am so ignorant about how it is done. Skilled craftsmen are a joy to watch.

(h/t: Vanderleun)

American Exceptionalism is Defined By Our Income Mobility. by The Elephant's Child

Will Obama’s wrongheaded policies destroy American Income Mobility? You cannot take enough money from the rich to make the poor not poor. There simply aren’t enough people in the top 1%, and they don’t have to sit around and pay those increased taxes. They can rearrange their finances. They can pack up and move. Sounds like it would work, you demonize the rich, claim that they are not paying their fair share. But don’t stop to ask what their fair share is, for the top 1% of taxpayers already pay almost as much in federal taxes as the entire bottom 95%, and half of that group paid no taxes at all in 2010.

Have you noticed that the Democrats keep talking about “tax cuts for the rich” when there are no tax cuts for anyone even under discussion. If the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire (the fiscal cliff) then everybody’s taxes go up. Republicans would like to see tax cuts for everyone, for that would help the economy to grow and more jobs to be created, but that is not on the table, because Barack Obama will not cut back on his spending. He doesn’t think he has to, and he wants to do a lot more spending.

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