American Elephants


The White House, Gutted and Rebuilt From the Inside Out. by The Elephant's Child

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During the Depression and the War years of the Roosevelt administration, the White House’s annual repair budget was neglected. When Harry Truman became president in 1945, he wanted to build an addition on the south side of the West Wing. Ground was broken and appropriations made by Congress, but Congress had second thoughts and recalled the funding. That irritated Mr. Truman, so he decided to build a balcony on the South Portico using money already allotted for White House maintenance. Usual flap, public objection, but the balcony was constructed according to plan.

Once they started poking around the construction of the White House, it was discovered that the main body of the mansion was structurally unsound. Floors no longer just creaked, they swayed. The president’s bathtub was sinking into the floor. A leg of Margaret’s piano broke through the floor in what is today the Private Dining Room. Engineers did a thorough assessment of the whole building, and found plaster in a corner of the East Room sagging as much as 18 inches. Wooden beams had been weakened by cutting and drilling for plumbing and wiring that the mansion did not have over 150 years, and the addition of the steel roof and full third floor in 1927 added weight the building could no longer handle. They declared the whole building on the verge of collapse.

Plans were discussed to demolish the building and build it in the same design, but Truman went to Congress and requested the funding to rebuild the White House from the inside out, leaving the stout brick outer walls, largely on the same plan as the original house— very much the way President James Madison had done after the British burned it in the War of 1812.

The old interior was dismantled, leaving the house as a shell with two modern wings. Some of the existing interior detail was saved, especially fireplace mantles. The mansion was then rebuilt, using concrete and steel beams in place of the original wooden posts.

During the reconstruction, Harry and Bess Truman moved to Blair House across the street. Blair House was a combination of two adjoining houses built by the prominent Blair family. It became the official guest residence for visiting dignitaries in 1942, as it is today.

The Telegraph, in Britain, just published a fascinating group of pictures of the White House being gutted and restored. The Trumans moved back in, in March of 1952.  Here is a link to the White House Museum for a tour of the Mansion, the only tour you will get in the present, as President Obama has shut down the tours, which have been conducted by volunteers, to erroneously claim that saving the money they didn’t pay the volunteers was necessary because of the dreaded sequester.  Enjoy your tour. You will see more on this virtual tour than you would in the White House anyway.



Our Northern Border is More Complicated Than You Thought! by The Elephant's Child

With a new Immigration Bill being battled in Congress, we’re hearing a lot about the southern border and all its problems, but we don’t hear as much about our northern border. It too is a long border, but with some surprising history and  odd facts. That straight line you see on maps is not quite as simple as it looks.

Borders are complicated. We had wars over our southern border which we won, and some Mexicans want a do-over. That’s not the way it works. We had several wars over our northern border, our Revolution, the War of 1812, and don’t forget the Pig War  and 54-40 or Fight!  If you don’t know that history, you’ll have to look it up. This is a fun video.

(h/t Vanderleun)



Mexico is Outraged! How Dare You Try to Secure Your Border! by The Elephant's Child

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With Obama off on his African Vacation, the news has been much centered on the battle over an immigration bill in the Senate. The bill that emerged from the Senate would double the number of Border Patrol agents along the southern border with Mexico, and the number of drones guarding them from above would triple. The measure also would provide 700 miles of fencing along the border and around-the-clock surveillance flights with drones. (Since there are no teeth in the bill, and huge amounts of pork, it is unlikely to be taken seriously by the House.)

This has ignited fury in Mexico, where officials rushed to any available microphone to flood the Spanish-language media expressing their outrage. One renowned academic insisted that deploying more federal agents is tantamount to an increase in human rights violations. One Mexican congressman (Fernando Belaunzaran) said “we are friends and neighbors” as is repeated ad nauseam, but the U.S. is about to militarize the border with Mexico as if we were at war.”

The fact remains that our southern border is dangerously porous, and it’s not just humble migrants seeking a better life who cross the border. Drugs, criminal gangs, and terrorists are all part of the mix. But our hypocritical friends south of the border prefer that we have open borders, for it relieves their problems with their poorest citizens, and helps to support their economy.

Not only that, but the remittances, such as Western Union Moneygrams from the United States represent the second largest source of income for Mexico, second only to the Mexican oil industry. In 2009, Mexican workers, mostly illegal aliens, sent home $21.2 billion in such transfers. According to the Inter-American Development Bank, all of Latin America received $69.2 billion in remittances from the U.S. in 2009 alone. The U.S. Post Office now offers now offers a wire transfer service, but only to Latin American countries.  In May 2012, wire transfers totaled $2.34 billion.

Between June 2009 and June 2010 immigrants have gained 656,000 jobs while U.S. born workers lost 1.2 million jobs during the same period. The Pew study found that 57% of those referred to as “immigrant” workers were actually non-citizens.

Mexico annually deports more illegal aliens than the United States does. Under Mexican law, it is a felony to be an illegal alien in Mexico. Mexico welcomes only foreigners who will be useful to Mexican society. Foreigners are admitted into Mexico “according to their possibilities of contributing to national progress.” Immigration officials must ensure that immigrants will be useful elements and that they have the necessary funds for their sustenance” and for their dependents. Foreigners will be barred if their presence upsets “the equilibrium of the national demographics, when they do not behave like good citizens in their own country, when they have broken Mexican laws, and when they are not found to be physically or mentally healthy.

A National Population Registry keeps track of ‘every single individual who comprises the population of the country,” and verifies each individual’s identity. A National Catalog of Foreigners tracks foreign tourists and immigrants and assigns each individual with a unique tracking number. And don’t even think of fake immigration papers or false signatures. Foreigners who violate the terms of their visa may get 6 years in prison.  There’s more, lots more, but you get the idea.

Mexico has its own problems with corruption and poverty, criminals and the drug cartels, but sending their own problems across the border because it is financially attractive helps them avoid cleaning house at home. We need to understand what the demonstrations here and the hysteria coming from Mexican officials actually mean. It is more complicated than just a matter of Democrats wanting more low-skilled, low-paid migrants to become reliable Democrat voters.




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