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.



Seven Amazing Inventions to Improve Pizza Boxes. Who Knew? by The Elephant's Child
December 29, 2013, 5:28 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Freedom, Pop Culture | Tags: , ,

When you use the term “invention,” what comes immediately to mind? I suspect that most of us think of something big and widely celebrated, and ignore the little ‘build a better mousetrap’ kind of plebeian invention that has brought a good business and success. I don’t know just when collapsing a pop can in your fist quit being a feat of strength and aluminum cans became so light that anybody could do it. Or the stackable can that fits neatly on top of another — I wish that one were more prevalent. There is always something new popping up at the grocery store that seems useful and fresh, but doesn’t get any major notice. This article from Slate is excerpted from a book about pizza box design, beginning with “the Package Saver,” that little white plastic tripod that was patented by first-time inventor and Long Island resident Carmela Vitale in 1985. From patent 4,498,586:

A temperature-resistant molded plastic device is described for use in boxes or packages such as pizza boxes where there is a tendency of large cover portions to sag downwardly to damage the soft pizza or other packaged products.

Here is a space-saving solution for cluttered pizza-eating situations that transforms into a serving stand to free up table space that would normally be eaten up by the box’s footprint. Perforated regions of the lid fold out to connect with tabs on the side and front flaps to lift the box  base 6″ off the surface. Since the box is not losing heat by direct conduction, the pizza theoretically stays hotter longer than it would if sitting directly on a table.

131220_TECH_Viva-la-Pizza-p98.jpg.CROP.original-original

Most inventions probably fall into the category of clever improvements rather than spectacular big new thing. Who would have thought that a simple pizza box could be re-invented in so many ways?  The book is: Viva la Pizza!: The Art of the Pizza Box by Scott Wiener, now out from Melville House.

Here are the boxes that are the “rest of the story:” There’s The GreenBox, Hell’s Pizza Coffin Box, The VENTIT Box, and The Pizza Hut Hot Spot.

 



And the Award for Dumbest Quote of The Year Goes To: by The Elephant's Child

Thomas Friedman of the New York Times

131228-thomas-friedman-dumbest-quote-o-the-year
(Click to enlarge)
What could he possibly have been thinking? Or was this simply the absence of all thought?

(h/t: American Digest)



“It’s Going to Be a Glorious Thing.” Can She Possibly Believe That? by The Elephant's Child

Pelosi

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) says December has been a “great month” for ObamaCare sign-ups, and she says things will only get better as more people enroll. “It’s worth the trouble. It’s going to be a glorious thing,” Pelosi told a conference call on Monday.

“It’s about life, a healthier life, liberty, the freedom to pursue our happiness. It honors the vows of our founders. A person can follow his or her passion and not be chained by a policy, so they could start a business, be self-employed, change jobs. It’s a very, very exciting thing. And it’s about wellness and prevention. It’s about the health of America, not just the health care for Americans. So we’re very proud of it, and our enthusiasm for it…strengthens our determination to make sure it works.”

Pretty amazing, huh. Do  you think she actually believes that?



Accept the World As It Is, Warts and All. by The Elephant's Child

I have refrained from mentioning the Duck Dynasty flap, now over, because I am unfamiliar with the show, but the controversy goes back to a familiar theme — the more things change, the more they stay the same, which is an English translation of the French plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. This Christmas has been remarkable for its political correctness.  Lo, it is the Winter Holiday, and you must refrain from offending anyone.

The Air Force rushed around banishing their nativity scenes, in case someone might find them offensive. School principals and Veterans Administration busybodies banned Christmas Carols, or changed the words to remove any reference to the reason we were having the holiday in the first place.  The VA wouldn’t allow Christmas cards made by children if they mentioned any religious words, references to Christmas, Christ, or Angels which might offend the veterans in VA hospitals. The Obamas sent Kwanzaa greetings to whoever celebrates that holiday, but mention of Christians is out of line unless it’s the media writing of all the Christians being slaughtered in the Middle East. Chaplains were told to knock off the Jesus talk, and not to mention God either.

I have never understood why anyone should be protected from being “offended.” Part of life is learning how to cope with being insulted, having your feelings hurt, being treated unfairly, or bullied. Life is unfair. You will have your feelings hurt, and protection doesn’t come from some social-engineering regulation passed by leftist loonies, but from your own internal armor and stoical resignation that recognizes the imperfect humanity of the world.  Not everybody is nice, even nice people are sometimes mean, and there is real evil in the world. Get used to it. You can always try to be nice yourself, that might help.

The United States has recognized that there are many religions in the world, though we remain a Judeo-Christian nation. Our very first settlers were seeking religious freedom to practice their own religion free from the dictates of the state. And they were escaping a long, long siege of religious wars. Catholicism, Church of England and Scottish Presbyterianism fought bloody, chopping off heads wars, and Puritans, Pilgrims, Shakers, Mennonites, Quakers, Episcopalians, Jews, Dutch Reformed, German Reformed, Irish Catholic, Scots-Irish Presbyterians, and all sorts of odd sects came to America and some new ones arose here, and for the most part they learned to get along, with a few notable exceptions here and there. But comparatively speaking, we Americans are pretty outstanding in the getting along department.

It seems to me that we have become more sensitive to offending by the mention of religion only in the wake of 9/11. Can we ask young Muslim women to uncover their faces for drivers’ license photographs? Must swimming pools set up separate hours for female swimming? TSA bans one inch long key chain knives, but finds no problem with 15″ metal knitting needles. Elderly people in wheelchairs will be subjected to invasive searches while young Middle Eastern men with one-way tickets will be passed through for fear of being accused of “ethnic profiling.”

It is a mindset that does not accept the fallible, imperfect nature of humanity. That does not truly recognize that there is evil in the world, and is prepared to deal with it. You cannot regulate niceness, kindness or peace.

Does tolerance mean constant tippytoeing to avoid giving offense? Good Grief. I was writing about this same thing two years ago. The more things change the more they stay the same. Troublesome words, troublesome ideas.



Your Power Bill Is Going Up. Blame The Environmental Movement. by The Elephant's Child

America is is the midst of an energy boom. Fracking technology has released abundant oil and gas stored in shale deposits. The amazing paradox of the domestic fossil-fuels boom has been overwhelming destructive federal government policy. The U.S.Oil boom driven by private investment and ingenuity has transformed North American oil markets. The International Energy Agency estimates that America will surpass Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s largest oil producers by 2015.

Oddly, in the midst of an energy boom, U.S. electricity prices have skyrocketed to new highs. This paradox is not a result of the free market, but of runaway “green” regulation by the government. In November, the BLS Electricity Price Index hit 202.284, an all-time record high nearly 20% higher than just six  years ago. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2008 the U.S. produced 2.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. Today, it’s 12.3 billion cubic feet and growing fast. But as energy booms, electricity prices are going up as well.

What is at work here is the green movement’s moral beliefs about what kinds of energy are “good.” Wind and solar power, which are “morally pure” cannot exist without generous governmental (taxpayer) subsidy. Wind and sunshine are of course free, but as producers of electricity, very expensive. The wind is intermittent and must be backed up 24/7 by conventional power, and the wind may not blow for days at a time. The sun goes down at night, and only shines in the day when the clouds don’t cover it. Trust me, I live in the Seattle area. We call the occasional appearances of the sun “sun-breaks.”

Electricity is now one of the most regulated goods in the U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency has sweeping powers to regulate CO2 — a power not found anywhere in the Constitution, electricity has become even more expensive, and will get more so. The EPA’s new rules, put in place to pander to the environmental movement will remove 34,705 megawatts of coal-based energy capacity off the market. This will increase electricity prices and the cost of everything where electricity is used.

This is a de facto ban on all new coal-fired power plants in spite of the fact that coal produces a third of all electricity in the country due to its cheap coast and plentiful supply.  Despite the fact that CO2 levels are falling in the U.S., not rising, and despite the fact that the earth is cooling, not warming, as it has been for the last 17 years.

The demonization of coal and other fossil fuels means that utilities must shut coal-fired plants, and replace them with more costly energy sources like wind and solar. This is an enormous hidden energy tax, levied on every individual and every business — killing jobs and adding to the unemployment rolls.

Chicago political rules mean you must reward your financial supporters. The environmental movement is flush with money, wind and solar are awash with crony capitalism, and besides, the cost of higher electric bills will be borne by taxpayers.

Of course higher electricity bills on top of higher grocery bills, higher cost health insurance and higher cost of medical care may seem unreasonable. When confronted with a problem, Democrats first reaction is to make a law, to regulate. But that’s where the whole problem came from in the first place — excessive regulation.

Ironically, the very success of economic and  political freedom reduced its appeal to later thinkers. The narrowly limited government of the late nineteenth century possessed little concentrated power that endangered the ordinary man. The other side of the coin was that it possessed little power that would enable good people to do good.  And in an imperfect world there were still many evils. Indeed, the very progress of society made the residual evils seem all the more objectionable. As always people took the favorable developments for granted. They forgot the danger to freedom from a strong government. Instead, they were attracted by the good that a stronger government could achieve — if only government power were in the “right” hands.
…………………Milton and Rose Friedman: Free to Choose




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