American Elephants


Free Speech Has Been Expelled From Our Universities. Students Must Be Shielded from Uncomfortable Ideas. by The Elephant's Child

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The cries of pain from our coddled college students grows ever more shrill. It would be helpful if the media stopped paying attention. It is not newsworthy. It is largely about a misunderstood First Amendment to the Constitution with which they are seriously, deeply, unfamiliar. Clearly, they have not the slightest understanding of freedom of speech, human nature, nor real life. No wonder they don’t seem to know anything.

The problem is that they are easily offended, and not just that, but they somehow have the idea that they have a right not to be offended. And even beyond that, there is an expectation that they shouldn’t encounter opinions that conflict with their own. And these are supposed to be institutions of higher learning? Jack Kelly wrote at Real Clear Politics:

The Center for Campus Involvement at the University of Michigan recently cancelled a screening of “American Sniper” the Clint Eastwood film about Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. It was cancelled after sophomore Lamees Mekkaoui gathered “roughly 200″ signatures (out of a student body of 42,700) on a petition alleging that the film “promotes anti-Muslim rhetoric and sympathizes with a mass killer.”

The Center for Campus Involvement said in a statement “We deeply regret causing harm to members of our community, and appreciate the thoughtful feedback provided to us by students.”

In a recent essay for the Weekly Standard, historian Gordon S, Wood wrote about his own history professor and mentor Bernard Bailyn and the state of history in our colleges and universities. Bailyn got off on the wrong foot from the outset with his “Peopling of British North America Project.” Didn’t he know, his critics carped, that there were people, indigenous people already here before the English came?”

College students and many historians have become obsessed with inequality and white privilege in American society. And this obsession has seriously affected the writing of American history. The inequalities of race and gender now permeate much of academic history-writing, so much so that the general reading public that wants to learn about the whole of our nation’s past has had to turn to history books written by nonacademics who have no Ph.D.s and are not involved in the incestuous conversations of the academic scholars.

But a new generation of historians is no longer interested in how the United States came to be. That kind of narrative history of the nation, they say, is not only inherently triumphalist but has a teleological bias built into it. Those who write narrative histories necessarily have to choose and assign significance to events in terms of a known outcome, and that, the moral critics believe, is bound to glorify the nation. So instead of writing full-scale narrative histories, the new generation of historians has devoted itself to isolating and recovering stories of the dispossessed: the women kept in dependence; the American Indians shorn of their lands; the black slaves brought in chains from Africa. Consequently, much of their history is fragmentary and essentially anachronistic—condemning the past for not being more like the present. It has no real interest in the pastness of the past.

Back at the University of Michigan, the screening was back on a day later. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said he would show “American Sniper” to the football team.”Proud of Kris Kyle and proud to be an American,” Mr. Harbaugh tweeted. “if that offends anybody, then so be it.”

Denying free speech is “a horrible betrayal of everything universities are supposed to be about” wrote Walter Russell Mead, a professor at Bard College. But the worst thing about “PC stupidity and mandatory cocooning on campus is…the catastrophic dumbing down of a younger generation that is becoming too fragile to exist in the current world.”

If you expect to get through life without being offended, you’re going to have a hard time of it. Colleges are offering “safe spaces” to students who are traumatized by “microaggressions.” Smith College President Kathleen McCartney apologized for causing students to be “hurt” and “made to feel unsafe” because she didn’t object when a fellow panel member uttered the “N word” during a discussion about teaching “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Free speech advocate Wendy Kaminer, wrote “It’s amazing to me [students] can’t distinguish between racist speech and speech about racist speech.”

Back at Michigan, the CCI scheduled an alternative film for those who objected to “American Sniper,” a children’s movie about a stuffed bear. When “American Sniper” was screened, the 150-seat room was filled to near capacity. Most applauded as the credits rolled. Only seven students chose to watch “Paddington Bear.”

It is interesting, if appalling, to pay a little attention to the whining students to see just what subjects or what speakers draw the outrage and offense of students, and just who those students seem to be.The Media will not touch that question.They remain unidentified.

ADDENDUM: Christina Hoff Summers of the American Enterprise Institute, also blogs as the “Factual Feminist.” An outstanding scholar, she took on a misleading ad campaign by Verizon which portrays girls as victims of sexism in math and science. Actually, girls are thriving in math and science, and it has nothing to do with sexism. But the precious little girls at Georgetown were “invited to a “Safe Space” if they feel triggered or upset by today’s events. Hate speech will not be appreciated in this space.” Can’t have their ideas questioned. They are victims, and proud of it.



Obama Does His King Canute Imitation, Or Is It the Emperor with the Mythic Clothes? by The Elephant's Child

President Obama said today in his Weekly Address that “Wednesday is Earth Day, a day to appreciate and protect this precious planet we call home. And there is no greater threat to our planet than climate change.” So never mind Iran’s bid to eliminate Israel and America with nuclear weapons. Never mind Putin’s agreement to supply them with advanced missiles. Never mind Putin’s worrisome efforts to do a little expansion among his neighbors. Pay no attention to China’s interesting efforts to expand their control over the China Sea. Use the federal agencies, the EPA. CEQ and others to fundamentally transform America. Obama said:

2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record.  Fourteen of the 15 hottest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.  This winter was cold in parts of our country – as some folks in Congress like to point out – but around the world, it was the warmest ever recorded.

And the fact that the climate is changing has very serious implications for the way we live now.  Stronger storms.  Deeper droughts.  Longer wildfire seasons.  The world’s top climate scientists are warning us that a changing climate already affects the air our kids breathe.  Last week, the Surgeon General and I spoke with public experts about how climate change is already affecting patients across the country.  The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security.

And on Earth Day, I’m going to visit the Florida Everglades to talk about the way that climate change threatens our economy.  The Everglades is one of the most special places in our country.  But it’s also one of the most fragile.  Rising sea levels are putting a national treasure – and an economic engine for the South Florida tourism industry – at risk.

Would you like to wager that there’s a nice golf course in Florida near wherever he is making his Everglades speech? One would think that someone in the White House would make a small effort to see if the presidential facts had some tiny bit of truth to them. It’s not hard. The facts are widely available.

He recently announced his big effort to claim that human health was being affected by climate change, and global warming gave his daughter Malia asthma, except Michelle had explained that Malia had an allergic attack at the circus because she has a peanut allergy.

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N’s Framework Convention on Climate Change admitted at a news conference a couple of weeks ago in Brussels, that the goal of environmental activists is not to save the world from an ecological catastrophe, but to destroy capitalism.

There has been no warming for over 18 years. None, nada, zilch. If there are widely differing opinions about something in the news, is there no impulse to see what the other side is talking about? Wouldn’t you hesitate to push a vast new program enlisting the medical profession and giant corporations in a completely phony effort? I guess if you can destroy capitalism and dispense with all the “deniers”, what’s not to like?

I guess you put on your Tyrant hats, attempt to deny, as Hillary did, the value of free speech, and just say whatever you feel like. The rubes out there haven’t got a clue anyway.



Is The Constitution Dead? Did It Die While We Weren’t Paying Attention? by The Elephant's Child

Constitution

This lovely paragraph is in Myron Magnet’s review of Philip Hamburger’s Is Administrative Law Unlawful? in City Journal, the magazine of the Manhattan Institute:

The world-historical accomplishment of the American Revolution, and of the Constitution that came out of it, Hamburger notes, was that they turned upside-down the traditional governmental model of “elite power and popular subservience.” Americans “made themselves masters and made their lawmakers their servants” through a Constitution that they themselves had made. They observed laws that had legitimacy because they themselves had consented to them, through representatives whom they themselves had chosen. And “they made clear that not only their executives but even their legislatures were without absolute power.” Citizens claimed for themselves the liberty to do anything that the laws didn’t expressly forbid, and that freedom richly nourished talent, invention, experimentation, specialization—all the human qualities that are the fuel of progress and modernity.

It struck me that much of what drives the Left is contained in that paragraph. What the Left aims for is elite power and popular subservience. Obama, today, in response to a Republican sweep of the 2014 election, has decided, instead of making an effort to work with Congress in a bipartisan manner, to conduct foreign policy and legislate all on his lonesome. Politicians, by their very nature have a healthy dose of self-esteem, and they choose their rhetoric carefully to place their accomplishments or lack of accomplishments in the best possible light. That’s just natural. But insisting that because you are President of the United States you can do whatever you want to do by executive order, ignoring the tripartite nature of our Constitutional government, is just wrong.

The Constitution lodges all legislative power in Congress, which therefore cannot delegate its lawmaking function. It is, Hamburger says, “forbidden for Congress to pass a law creating an executive branch agency that writes rules legally binding on citizens—for example, to set up an agency charged with making a clean environment and then to let it make rules with the force of law to accomplish that end as it sees fit. The power of the legislative’ as the Founding Fathers’ tutelary political philosopher, John Locke, wrote, is   ‘only to make laws and not to make legislators.’ And if Congress can’t delegate the legislative power that the Constitution gives it, it certainly cannot delegate power that the Constitution doesn’t give it—namely, the power to hand out selective exemption from its laws, which is what agencies do when they grant waivers.”

James Madison, architect of the Constitution saw the separation of powers as an essential bulwark of American liberty. Administrative agencies, however, make rules, carry them out, adjudge and punish infractions of them, and wrap up legislative, executive and judicial powers in one noxious unconstitutional mess. Judicial power cannot be delegated as legislative power, the Constitution puts all of it in the judicial branch. Unlike real judges, administrative judges carry out the policy of their agency, as set and overseen by their department chief or the relevant cabinet secretary who in turn oversees him. This is not a court, and not a law, and not legal. Yet they can and do order  parties to appear before it, and extort millions of dollars in settlements, force companies to allow inspectors to enter their premises without warrants, and impose real criminal penalties. It can even kill a whole industry, as Obama’s EPA is attempting to do to the coal industry and the coal-fired power industry because the President mistakenly believes the carbon dioxide they emit is the cause of global warming.

Elites, particularly Leftist elites, do not like the Constitution which restrains their grasp for power. Many have accused Barack Obama of wanting to be a king. He laughs it off, and tries to pretend that his executive orders and executive notes and memorandums and signing statements are all perfectly constitutional, and adds, of course, that Bush did it.

Constitutional government is by its nature slow, designed to force new laws to be discussed and argued about, which will incline them to be better written and better law. But Congress, at some point got lazy, and felt it would speed things up if they just handed the administrative function in its entirety off to the assorted agencies of the government.

Thanks to Obama, we have a prime example of the failure of that whole endeavor in the Environmental Protection Agency. Good intentions come up against the nature of bureaucracy which is to grow and elaborate their mission and enhance their power. The Clean Water Act has long since accomplished it’s intent, and the EPA is vigilantly attempting to extend its regulating power to the trickles that flow into the ditches that flow into the creeks that flow into the streams that eventually flow into the “navigable waters,” the big rivers, that were originally given into their oversight. That’s pure power grab.

Congress must take back the legislative power assigned to it, agencies must shrink drastically in size, authority, and reach. They are not allowed to make law, administer law, investigate and judge law and assign penalties. Things have gotten so far out of whack that most, if not all, agencies have their own swat teams.

Part of the problem is that judges don’t know or understand the intricacies of the underlying facts of that which the agencies are attempting to regulate. Congress told the EPA that the navigable waters of the United States should be reasonably clean. The courts don’t necessarily understand where the dividing line for “enough” should fall.

Even while adhering to Supreme Court precedents about administrative power, they “remain free—indeed, [the courts] are bound by duty—to expound the unlawfulness of such power.” And at some point, Hamburger expects, the Supreme Court will have to man up and frankly state that what the Constitution says is the supreme law of the land.

And the people are going to have to let their representatives know that we care about the Constitution and our freedom, and are opposed to the administrative state.



There Is No Deal. There Is No “Framework” Deal. There Is No Truth! by The Elephant's Child

The New York Times headline claimed “Iran Agrees to Detailed Nuclear Outline. The Washington Post followed up with: “Iran agrees to nuclear restrictions in framework deal with world powers.” All hogwash. The “historic agreement” that President Obama is trying desperately to sell is pure fantasy. There has been no agreement on any of the fundamental issues that have led to international concern about Iran’s highly secret nuclear activities and have led to 13 years of diplomatic thrusts and talks and six mandatory resolutions by the United Nations Security Council.

What we have is a bunch of contradictory statements by the assorted  participants in the latest round of talks in Switzerland and an ignored deadline. Everybody is trying to make positive statements that spin things in a desirable manner without exceeding the boundaries of reality. So there was a 291 word joint statement in English by Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif and the EU foreign policy leader Federica Mogherini who led the so-called P5+1 group of nations including the US in the negotiations.

Then there was the official Iranian text in 512 Persian words, and the text from US Secretary of State John Kerry who has put out a 1,318 word document which acts as if all is a done deal. The three different documents not only do not agree, they are frankly contradictory. The Mogherini and French texts are vague and not even good spin.

The Persian text carefully avoids any words that might in any way give the impression that anything has been agreed by the Iranian side or that the Islamic republic has offered any concessions whatsoever. The Iranian text is labelled as a press statement only. It opens insisting that it has no “legal aspect” and in intended only as a “guideline for drafting future accords.” Last April they were caught cheating on the amount of oil they were allowed to export under the relaxed sanctions.

The American text pretends to spell out “parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” and claims that key points have been “decided” — and what remains to be done is  to work out the “implementation details.” The U.S.version claims that Iran has agreed to certain restraints for example reducing the number of centrifuges from 19,000 to 6,500.

The Iranian text, however, says that Iran “shall be able to …” or “qader khahad boud” in Farsi to do such a thing. The same is true about enrichment in Fordow. The Americans say Iran has agreed to stop enrichment there for 15 years. The Iranian text, however, refers to this as something that Iran “will be able to do,” if it so wished. Sometimes the two texts are diametrically opposed.

The American statement claims that Iran has agreed not to use advanced centrifuges, each of which could do the work of 10 old ones. The Iranian text, however, insists that “on the basis of solutions found, work on advanced centrifuges shall continue on the basis of a 10-year plan.”

The American text claims that Iran has agreed to dismantle the core of the heavy water plutonium plant in Arak. The Iranian text says the opposite. The plant shall remain and be updated and modernized.

The American text talks of “sanctions relief” while Iran claims that the sanctions would be  “immediately terminated.” Which is it? This is not a small matter. Remember that Obama is a fierce competitor and determined to build a legacy, and get his way.

In his Rose Garden statement, Obama said:

Over a year ago, we took the first step towards today’s framework with a deal to stop the progress of Iran’s nuclear program and roll it back in key areas.  And recall that at the time, skeptics argued that Iran would cheat, and that we could not verify their compliance and the interim agreement would fail. Instead, it has succeeded exactly as intended. Iran has met all of its obligations. It eliminated its stockpile of dangerous nuclear material.  Inspections of Iran’s program increased. And we continued negotiations to see if we could achieve a more comprehensive deal.

Today, after many months of tough, principled diplomacy, we have achieved the framework for that deal.  And it is a good deal, a deal that meets our core objectives.  This framework would cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.  Iran will face strict limitations on its program, and Iran has also agreed to the most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated for any nuclear program in history.  So this deal is not based on trust, it’s based on unprecedented verification.

According to the Persians, they have agreed to no such thing. Iran has said clearly that Obama is lying. Iran has cheated on every single restriction ever placed on them. There have been 20 years of nuclear deal-breaking. In 2003, after Iran came clean, inspectors kept finding new and undeclared sites within Iran. In December they were caught shopping for components for its heavy-water reactor which can produce weapons-grade plutonium.

Iran says plainly that they will not shut down a single facility, will not dismantle a single centrifuge, and will not ship it’s stockpile of enriched uranium out of the country. The UN inspections people say they really don’t know just what the Iranians have, and won’t know without being able to do surprise inspections.

But Obama wants you to know that the deal he has not made is a good one. He claimed that the only alternative to his deal was another ground war in the Middle East. Yet anyone who has been paying the slightest attention could come up with several alternatives. Obama is regarded as completely weak. The Arab nations have joined together with Israel to protest the deal he seems so determined on. He says “this is our best bet by far to make sure Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon.” But he also says that ” Iran wants to join the community of nations” just at the moment that they are sponsoring genocide in Syria. He seems to think the Iranian people want to be part of that community, without any understanding that Iran is a dictatorial theocracy, and if the people dared to speak out, which they don’t, they would swiftly be executed.

Willful ignorance, and a frightening fantasy. When they shriek “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” — they actually mean it.



Best Headline Of The Week! by The Elephant's Child

Economist Mark J. Perry, wrote at the American Enterprise Institute:

Why do progressives hate Walmart for low prices and its 3% profit margin but love high-priced Apple and its 24% profit margin?

Evil Walmart makes a lot of money, right? We hear that all the time even though the retail giant’s profit margin was only 3.12% in the most recent quarter. Interestingly, we never seem to hear as much about the much higher profit margin of Apple, the “darling of the progressives.” In the most recent quarter, the computer behemoth with a market capitalization ($725 billion) that exceeds the value of the entire stock markets of Mexico, Thailand and Russia, had a whopping profit margin of 24.2%. No wonder its market cap is so astronomical.

Here’s one way to put Walmart’s 3.12% profit margin in perspective. Over a typical 31-day period like the month of March for example, Walmart generates about $40.5 billion in sales revenue (roughly $1.3 billion per day). To generate that amount of sales, it costs Walmart about $39.3 billion every 31 days to pay for all of its expenses: merchandise to stock its stores, shipping expenses, the cost of labor including fringe benefits, utilities, corporate income taxes, property taxes, payroll taxes, interest expenses, advertising, etc. After incurring all of those costs to provide the merchandise for consumers over a 31-day period, there’s about $1.26 billion left over for profits, which is also 3.12% of the $40.5 billion in sales revenue.

In contrast, Apple’s whopping 24.2% profit margin means that the company can typically cover its costs to operate for 31 days in a little more than three weeks (23.5 days) and it then usually has 7.5 “profit days” every 31 days. That is, for more than an entire week every month, all of the sales revenue collected by Apple during those 7.5 days turns into profits for Apple’s shareholders.

Do read the whole thing. There’s lots more, and a good lesson in both politics and economics. And Progressivism as well.



The Left Gears Up For The Coming Campaign by The Elephant's Child

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We have one declared candidate for President of the United States, but the media cannot wait. They want the contest on now, because campaigns always make for better opportunities for stories, and that’s easier than trying to understand the ups and downs of daily policies and events.

This time it’s PolitiFact, and whatever it is they are going to fact check it! Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker said in January, before a New Hampshire audience, that he paid just $1 for his sweater at Kohl’s. He said there was a time when the word “thrift” was not in his vocabulary. He said he had bought something at the price on the tag, and his wife couldn’t believe he didn’t understand the concept of bargain hunting. He learned his lesson.

Now, we grant this is not the most important topic in politics today. But we decided to fact check it for two reasons,” PolitiFact’s James B. Nelson wrote. “First, we heard from readers from around the country who thought it was an unbelievable story — as in, literally impossible to believe. Second, it goes to what has been a major theme of Walker’s visits to some of the early primary states — that he is just an average guy.”

PolitiFact, a division of the Tampa Bay Times, noted that Walker’s reputation for being a regular Joe contrasts nicely with the more “well-heeled” GOP 2016 hopefuls, particularly former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

They called the Kohl’s in Hooksett, NH, and an employee in menswear said all of their Henley sweaters were on the clearance racks. Based on photos of Walker in the sweater, it appeared to be a “Chaps twisted button Mock Sweater” in ‘walnut twist.’ Unable to find it on the Kohl’s’ website they went to the local store and found plenty of Chaps sweaters marked between 80 and 90 percent off, even more than Walker had claimed. Some were originally priced at $70 and marked down to $7, but Walker said he used his “Kohl’s Cash” a store discount card based on previous purchases.

Politifact was forced to hand Gov. Walker a “true” rating for his claim. Dang! No big story there. But you see what I mean.



How to Catch The Easter Bunny by The Elephant's Child

Re-posted from last Easter:

You need some preparations first. The Easter bunny comes in the early morning hours, right at dawn, when the sun is just coming up and the dew is still shining on the grass. You have to find a likely spot which seems as if it might be a bunny path. You will require a standard bushel basket, a long straight stick of kindling, and a good strong straight pin or slender nail. And you will need a nice fresh young carrot with its greens still intact.

You must set up the trap the night before Easter, just when it is about to get dark. Turn the bushel basket upside down, and prop up one side with the stick of kindling. Attach the carrot so it hangs on the front of the stick of kindling. You many have to take the kindling out and attach the carrot with a hammer.  It must be well attached, and yet still look enticing. When the Easter bunny comes hopping along, he will spot the carrot right away. Bunnies cannot resist nice fresh carrots. When he takes a bite of the carrot, the stick of kindling will fall and the basket will land on top of the bunny, and he is captured.

Then he needs only love and care.  Bunnies are particularly fond of carrots, of course, and soda crackers, and rabbit chow, grass and clover.

It always worked for me. You can tell if it is the real Easter bunny because he will have a blue ribbon around his neck.




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