American Elephants


Gaze Upon My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair! by The Elephant's Child

From the archives, September 28, 2010:

President Barack Obama was interviewed by Rolling Stone, and is typically modest about his accomplishments.  He tells the Democrats to “wake up” and gaze upon his works:

When I talk to Democrats around the country, I tell them, “Guys, wake up here. We have accomplished an incredible amount in the most adverse circumstances imaginable.” I came in and had to prevent a Great Depression, restore the financial system so that it functions, and manage two wars. In the midst of all that, I ended one of those wars, at least in terms of combat operations. We passed historic health care legislation, historic financial regulatory reform and a huge number of legislative victories that people don’t even notice. We wrestled away billions of dollars of profit that were going to the banks and middlemen through the student-loan program, and now we have tens of billions of dollars that are going directly to students to help them pay for college. We expanded national service more than we ever have before.

The Recovery Act alone represented the largest investment in research and development in our history, the largest investment in infrastructure since Dwight Eisenhower, the largest investment in education — and that was combined, by the way, with the kind of education reform that we hadn’t seen in this country in 30 years — and the largest investment in clean energy in our history.

You look at all this, and you say, “Folks, that’s what you elected me to do.” I keep in my pocket a checklist of the promises I made during the campaign, and here I am, halfway through my first term, and we’ve probably accomplished 70 percent of the things that we said we were going to do — and by the way, I’ve got two years left to finish the rest of the list, at minimum. So I think that it is very important for Democrats to take pride in what we’ve accomplished.

We hear from international statistics on education that our kids are deficient in math, science, reading and just about everything except that they excel in self-esteem, where they are right off the charts.  Brings a bit of verse to mind, from Shelley:

I MET a traveller from an antique land
Who said: —Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert.  Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

What made me think of this were the 2013 Twitchy Awards for this year’s top 5 most malignantly narcissistic Obama moments: (which made me laugh), and it seemed appropriate to add this Photoshop, but I don’t know who created it.

BZufMyGCUAEFEUh



Finally, Someone in The Media Fesses Up! It’s Not Affordable. by The Elephant's Child

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USA Today passed out a nugget of truth as a Boxing Day Gift:

More than half of the counties in 34 states using the federal health insurance exchange lack even a bronze plan that’s affordable — by the government’s own definition — for 40-year-old couples who make just a little too much for financial assistance, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

Many of these counties are in rural, less populous areas that already had limited choice and pricey plans, but many others are heavily populated, such as Bergen County, N.J., and Philadelphia and Milwaukee counties.

More than a third don’t offer an affordable plan in the four tiers of coverage known as bronze, silver, gold or platinum for people buying individual plans who are 50 or older and ineligible for subsidies. …

The prices of exchange plans have shocked many shoppers, especially those who had plans canceled because they did not meet the ACA coverage requirements. But experts are not surprised.

“The ACA was not designed to reduce costs or, the law’s name notwithstanding, to make health insurance coverage affordable for the vast majority of Americans,” says health care consultant Kip Piper, a former government and insurance industry official. “The law uses taxpayer dollars to lower costs for the low-income uninsured but it also increases costs overall and shifts costs within the marketplace.”

The law’s name notwithstanding! That’s why we call it “ObamaCare” not the Affordable Care Act.



Foreign Policy, Naivety, Gullibility And The Mullahs by The Elephant's Child

Deals between democracies and dictators seldom turn out well. Democracies assume that dictators seek peace, and are as concerned for the well-being of their people as democracies, which is seldom the case. We assume they want compromise, which they don’t. Years of talks intended to prevent North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons resulted in abject failure. The big “reset” with Russia, with Hillary’s mistranslated symbolic red button, led to American concessions on such important issues as missile defense, and Russia has given …? We assume that, like us, the bad guys are seeking common ground and are open to compromise. The bad guys’ goal is victory — not conflict-resolution.

According to Clifford May, head of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, they estimate that over the next six months, Iran will receive $20 billion or more in sanctions relief both directly from the Geneva agreement and through positive changes in Iranian economic activity.  Last Friday a State Department spokesman finally answered a query about what concessions Iran has given in return. On the Iranian side, the agreement “has yet to be implemented.”

In the meantime, Iran’s centrifuges continue to spin, turning out 20 percent enriched uranium. Construction is ongoing at the Arak heavy-water reactor, a facility that will be able to produce weapons-grade plutonium. Weaponization and ballistic-missile development have not been halted — such activities are not even included in the Joint Plan of Action despite the fact that a 2012 U.N. Security Council resolution obligates Iran to “not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” All these issues are to be addressed in a new round of negotiations expected to begin in January — though no date certain is yet on the calendar.

Not only are we assuming that our goals are similar, we are assuming that both sides agree on what the language of the agreement actually says. That is not the case. “The government of new president Hassan Rouhani says the deal recognizes Iran’s right to enrich uranium.” The mullahs know how to play hardball, and they are so doing.

Scott Johnson at Powerline says:

[T]he Iranians have Obama’s number and they mean to advertise it. They are sending a message. They see him as a pathetic weakling whom they can push around without consequence. Obama and Kerry are smart enough to know they are being humiliated, but they don’t care. They are more than willing to endure humiliation in the service of what they deem to be a higher cause.

 



Ronald Reagan Explains States’ Rights by The Elephant's Child

It is easier to change regulations imposed by a community, a county, or a state than it is to deal with the federal leviathan. Not that it always works, but it is easier to see the results of regulations locally.  And if the imposition of regulation is too dire, you can pick up and move to another state where the market and the people are more free.

The free enterprise system is the on-ramp to economic progress and rising incomes. A Heritage Foundation study on economic progress around the globe finds clear and compelling evidence that the poor are always and everywhere better off in those countries that are economically free countries than in nations that are not free. If we judge society by how well it serves the poor, then free enterprise is far and away the greatest anti-poverty program known to man.   (Stephen Moore: Who’s The Fairest of Them All )



Endangered, Threatened, And Extinct Species vs. Bureaucracy. by The Elephant's Child

the utah prairie dog cynomys parvidens is a federally threatened mammal species found only in parts of souther Utah
(davewelling. photoshelter.com)

The Endangered Species Act became law on December 28, 1973, forty years ago.  A law intended to conserve species and habitat has meant recovery for less than 2% of the approximately 2,100 species listed as endangered or threatened, but as an industry for enriching lawyers and environmental activist groups it has been remarkably successful. Benefiting the environment? Not so much.

The law was well intentioned, but was meant to depend on science and data. The bureaucrats in charge have administer the law poorly and ignored provisions designed to promote good science and good sense. In the late 1970s, officials erased the distinction between different levels of endangered species listings. Originally it was only when an animal or plant was labeled “endangered” — on the verge of disappearing — that landowners were hit with heavy regulations, including prohibitions on activities that could “harm” or ‘harass” the species. The Carter administration extended these restrictions to species that are “threatened” — in trouble but not facing extinction.

It is not easy to tell when a species is “endangered.” Wild animals prefer to avoid humans, which makes it hard to count them. And if there is only a small population here, is there another on the other side of the mountain? Animals move in response to food.  Animals have predators. It is very, very complicated.

Polar bears were supposed to be “endangered” but they found enough to call them “threatened,” but those designations were based on flawed predictions of melting Arctic Sea ice. The globe warms and cools in natural cycles and the bears have done fine through both cycles. Emperor penguins were supposed to be heading toward extinction in the Antarctic — again based on predictions of vanishing ice. The predictions have been wrong, the globe has not warmed for over 17 years. In 2009, the Beverly herd of Caribou which numbered over 200,000 a decade previously could not be found. But a more diligent search turned them up right where the aboriginal elders said they would be.

If there is a project that environmental activists don’t like, they will fan out over the land involved, searching for a species that might be useful to delay or halt the project.

In Cedar City, in southwest Utah, Endangered Species Act regulations have given the Utah prairie dog the run of the town since it was listed in 1973. The rabbit-size rodent is now listed as “threatened” even though there now seem to be around 40,000 in the area. Residents cannot take measures to control the population nor even try to relocate the animals to federal property. Federal regulation is not amenable to common sense. Homeowners’ yards are pockmarked, mounds and tunnels on airport property create real hazards on runways and taxiways. At one airport hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent to prevent prairie dog infestation.

Small business owner Bruce Hughes bought a 3.4 acre parcel to develop. “Then the prairie dogs moved in,” making it impossible to use the property productively.”If I killed even one, it would be a $10,000 fine and five years in federal prison. I could rob a convenience store and get off easier.” A lesson in small government where legislation should be made as close to the people concerned as possible.

Many of the most damaging Endangered Species regulations come from federal “biological opinions” issued by U.S. Fish and Wildlife or NOAA staff. Man-made drought in the San Joaquin Valley came from a “biop” that claimed that irrigation harmed a tiny fish, the delta smelt. To protect the smelt, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ordered severe restrictions on water deliveries by government water projects. At the height of the man-made drought, hundreds of thousands of acres went fallow, and unemployment in some communities reached 40%. And with so many acres lying fallow in the great Central Valley breadbasket, the cost of your groceries went up.

If the law is to be retained, its execution needs drastic reform, reliance on poorly informed science needs to stop, and some consideration needs to be paid to the jobs and communities involved. If you are interested, enter “Not Extinct” in the search bar over Bob Hope’s head. Seems that nearly a third of supposedly extinct species aren’t, which is good news indeed.

 



The Chicago Union Station’s “Magical Piano” by The Elephant's Child

Amtrack and Rob Bliss Creative teamed up to bring a little holiday cheer to Chicago’s Union Station using a “magical” piano. The piano reacts to the environment and people around it. It performs impromptu duets with strangers and even adds special music themes for certain situations.



Can’t Afford The ObamaCare Premiums? A New Tax Starts January 1. by The Elephant's Child

Just when people are learning about how much their new ObamaCare policy is actually going to cost them, comes news of a large new tax on small business, beginning January 1. If you thought, correctly, that Obama’s tax on medical devices and prescription drugs was,  ill-informed, dumb, and ill-advised, this one caps them all. This is a tax on health insurance premiums that targets small business and individual markets.

IRS regulations published in November excluded “any entity that is a self-insured employer to the extent that such employer self-insures its employees’ health risks.” About four out of five employers with more than 500 workers, and most union-negotiated health plans are self-insured so they don’t get taxed. Neither does insurance on behalf of “government entities,” such as original Medicare (but not privately-run Medicare Advantage. Confusing? Of course.

This selectivity means that the most gold-plated public, private and labor plans are exempt, and the tax burden falls on the poor saps who work for small businesses, the self-employed and individuals — the people who can least afford it.

The White House claims that the tab will be picked up by “deep-pocketed insurers.” Uh huh. The tax will “largely be passed through to consumers in the form of higher premiums” and “will ultimately raise insurance premiums by a corresponding amount,” according to the Congressional Budget Office. Former CBO director Douglas Holtz-Eakin says the tax will boost insurance costs by about 2% tp 2.5%. Consultant Oliver Wyman estimates the take will rise to as much as $500 per covered worker by the end of the decade.

Democrats don’t understand that business doesn’t pay taxes, they pass through that cost to consumers. They don’t understand that when the cost of doing business gets too high, they cut back on workers or dump coverage. Democrats do not understand how jobs are created, and every initiative dreamed up includes a job-destroying element. If you wonder why there has been no recovery — there it is. The research arm of the National Federation of Independent Business calculates that the higher cost of insurance will shrink hiring by 146,000 to 262,000 jobs over the next decade. They will also be encouraged to dump coverage and send their workers to the ObamaCare exchanges — which may be what was intended in the first place.

As Ms. Pelosi says, “It’s going to be a glorious thing.” Uh huh.




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