American Elephants

The Information From a Government Shutdown May Be More Important than We Realize! by The Elephant's Child


During President Trump’s government shutdown, the partisan media daily gave us a play-by-play account of the agonies of government workers, clearly starving to death and unable to pay for food or fun. Several major banks offered no-interest loans, many DC restaurants offered free meals, and if any federal employees wanted to complain about their horrific treatment, the breathless media was right there with a microphone and a camera.

It should be a lesson to all federal workers, put aside six months of savings. Presidents do try shutdowns now and then, and it’s nice to be prepared. A few dollars at a time works. However the reality on the ground didn’t seem to indicate that furloughed employees suffered enough to satisfy the media.

Perhaps you recall President Obama’s government shutdown. He shut down all the national parks, tried to block viewpoints where people could look into national parks, and shut down federal monuments in Washington D.C. which meant that the special flights bringing elderly WWII veterans to see their monument in the nation’s capitol spoiled their visit. And younger, more able vets took it on themselves to take down the barriers. This time around the drama was all in the press, and there was no attempt to inconvenience ordinary citizens.

Of course Democrats are now trying to come up with a bill that prevents shutting down the government when Republicans are in charge while not interfering with their own ventures.

It’s all theater, of course. What a government shutdown actually does demonstrate is that there are a remarkable number of tasks performed by federal workers that would be better done by the private sector, and quite a lot that don’t need to be done at all. A correspondent for Reason said there was a story in his local paper that National Park Rangers were fining “trespassers” at sites including the Montezuma Well Indian ruins. But that wasn’t quite accurate., the site is free to enter and the small ranger station there is often unstaffed.

Air Traffic Control is, however, a job that needs to be done. A recent report from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Inspector General pointed out that Canada, the U.K. Germany and France have “commercialized their air t traffic operations via independent air navigation service providers” that “are financially self-supporting.” He added that we could learn from their experience. The Airline trade association supports privatization, and industry analysts say the shutdown gave them a bi boost.

We already know that government workers are paid significantly more than their counterparts in the private sector, for no particular reason except that it’s easy for Congress to approve constantly growing budgets. It’s not something that gets attention from their voters at election time.

Do make the effort to write to your representatives and tell them what you think. They may not read your actual letter or email, but if you are a constituent your opinion gets tallied and the fact that you troubled to write gives it extra importance. You might turn out to be an activist.

Today’s Commentary for Today. Posts I Liked. by The Elephant's Child

Important columns from today:

Thomas Sowell: Investors Business Daily “Lessons from the Past” Partly from his own history in 1948, when he was a black 17 year-old school dropout,  compared with the experience of 17 year old black teenagers today.

— Sally Pipes: Investors Business Daily “To Win the White House, Democrats Will Have to Hide the Truth About Single Payer.” It’s hard to believe that anyone would be pushing this.

— Bjorn Lomborg: “What science could teach Ocasio-Cortez about climate change” She knows we are all going to die starting in 12 years, and she’s not interested in other opinions.

—Byron York: Washington Examiner: “In border talks, a new fight for barrier deniers.” The ongoing efforts of the House-Senate committee. There are some areas of agreement, but not many.

— Editorial: Investors Business Daily “Growth Paid for 20% of GOP Tax Cuts, New CBO Data Show. Republicans argued during debates that the tax cuts would partially pay for themselves by spurring economic growth. Democrats, of course, said they were a giveaway to the rich. GOP was right.

Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence by The Elephant's Child

From the new issue of Imprimus from Hillsdale College:

Alex Berenson is the author of Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence

The following is adapted from a speech delivered January 15, 2019 at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington D.C.


Seventy miles northwest of New York City is a hospital that looks like a prison, its drab brick buildings wrapped in layers of fencing and barbed wire. This grim facility is called the Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Institute. It’s one of three places the state of New York sends the criminally mentally ill—defendants judged not guilty by reason of insanity.

Until recently, my wife Jackie­—Dr. Jacqueline Berenson—was a senior psychiatrist there. Many of Mid-Hudson’s 300 patients are killers and arsonists. At least one is a cannibal. Most have been diagnosed with psychotic disorders like schizophrenia that provoked them to violence against family members or strangers.

A couple of years ago, Jackie was telling me about a patient. In passing, she said something like, Of course he’d been smoking pot his whole life.

Of course? I said.

Yes, they all smoke.

So marijuana causes schizophrenia?

I was surprised, to say the least. I tended to be a libertarian on drugs. Years before, I’d covered the pharmaceutical industry for The New York Times. I was aware of the claims about marijuana as medicine, and I’d watched the slow spread of legalized cannabis without much interest.

Jackie would have been within her rights to say, I know what I’m talking about, unlike you. Instead she offered something neutral like, I think that’s what the big studies say. You should read them.

So I did. The big studies, the little ones, and all the rest. I read everything I could find. I talked to every psychiatrist and brain scientist who would talk to me. And I soon realized that in all my years as a journalist I had never seen a story where the gap between insider and outsider knowledge was so great, or the stakes so high.

I began to wonder why—with the stocks of cannabis companies soaring and politicians promoting legalization as a low-risk way to raise tax revenue and reduce crime—I had never heard the truth about marijuana, mental illness, and violence.


You might want to read this one. The whole issue is here, and you can subscribe to Imprimis at the end. I have enjoyed my subscription. Only comes once a month, and it’s completely free.

What Do We Do When Social Media Isn’t Social At All? by The Elephant's Child


The watchmen at the big social media websites are busily trying to police the flow of conversation that they initiated with their ideas about how to become rich and powerful. They thought people would like to share their thoughts, news, ideas, recipes and pictures with their friends. They have indeed become rich and powerful, but they forgot everything they learned in grade school and junior high, or perhaps did not learn about human nature.

The perpetrators of the constant hum of the online conversation we call “social media” blame any problems on “hate speech”, a poorly defined selection of words that someone, somewhere, objects to. All too often, it is simply the opinion of someone in the opposing political party.

One can say whatever one chooses if they agree with what you say, but your words must pass tests of race, ethnic origin, sex, sexual preference, age, political affiliation, part of the country you come from, and a few dozen other qualifying questions. Vulgarity is fine, and broadly circulated, as is any amount of coarseness, crassness, crudity, grossness, indelicacy, rawness, rudeness and tastelessness or don’t you read the comments on popular websites? Here is one definition I found:

Primarily internet or cellular phone based applications and tools to share information among people. Social media includes popular networking websites, like Facebook and Twitter; as well as bookmarking sites like Reddit. It involves blogging and forums and any aspect of an interactive presence which allows individuals the ability to engage in conversations with one another, often as a discussion over a particular blog post, news article, or event.

Having created this mess and trying desperately to find a way to manage the flow of conversation or discussion before the government steps in to slap them down, as Europe is already beginning to do, they are attempting to pacify by creating “independent” judges to parse your speech for anything that might get them in trouble. The fact that they are simultaneously parsing your speech to sell to advertisers is a separate problem.

Human nature. We are a quarrelsome lot. We have a hard time getting along with our immediate family, let alone a bunch of complete strangers. People do not speak well, and write even less well. We have a hard time saying what we mean, and it is usually poorly thought out. We have never really thought clearly about the big questions, let alone the little ones. That’s why Jordan Peterson has made such an impact. He tries to clarify what we are thinking and saying and point out where we have gone astray.

Oddly, with the enormous increase in people using social media, psychologists tell us that loneliness is an increasing problem. I think in the effort to connect people, we have created far greater problems that are just beginning to emerge. I suspect we may have been better off when you had to pick up the phone and dial your friend’s house, and didn’t stay on the line too long because it would cost too much.

I think this phenomenon has had some very unfortunate effects on our society that we do not yet understand. If you have any answers let me know.

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