American Elephants

Plastic Bags Are a Great Modern Invention! by The Elephant's Child

bags2 As long as I’m on a roll, let’s address the plastic bag problem. Actually, there is no plastic bag problem, but a problem with aggressive Greens. I’ve written about plastic bags way too often. Just enter “plastic bags” in the search bar over Bob Hope’s head in the sidebar. You can learn how this all came about, the dangers of cloth bags, the cost-benefit effect, and all about City Councils’ overbearing regulations.

Seattle, always sensitive to ‘sustainability’ problems or sensitivity among their residents, essentially bans paper and plastic bags. They will charge you if you don’t bring your own cloth bag. Which may be fine and dandy for  a single person living in a small apartment just a few blocks from the grocery store.

I don’t particularly enjoy grocery shopping — it’s just another task, so I try to go no more than once a week. I load up something over 20 plastic bags. I’m supposed to buy 30 cloth bags and wash them (necessary for safety) between each use? I have ranted far too many times, but Katherine Mangu-Ward writing in Reason magazine says:

Plastic bags for retail purchases are banned or taxed in more than 200 municipalities and a dozen countries, from San Francisco to South Africa, Bellingham to Bangladesh. Each region serves up its own custom blend of alarmist rhetoric; coastal areas blame the wispy totes for everything from asphyxiated sea turtles to melting glaciers, while inland banners decry the bags’ role in urban landscape pollution and thoughtless consumerism.

But a closer look at the facts and figures reveals shaky science and the uncritical repetition of improbable statistics tossed about to shore up the case for a mostly aesthetic, symbolic act of conservation.

Her article is thorough and well done, and worth your time. She has traced the plastic bag back to it’s beginnings, and covers the dangers inherent in cloth bags, though I’m not sure she emphasizes them enough. But finally, she admits to cultural and economic pressures, and uses cloth bags herself.

I remain defiant and unreformed. The objections to modern plastic bags are ill informed, the dangers of unwashed cloth bags too severe, and besides I have two cats and I need plastic bags for the kitty litter, and the other noxious things that turn up around my house in the woods.

I’m also getting really tired of the ‘public service announcements’ that are designed to make me hew to the green agenda, and whatever new idea the EPA has this week.

Do You Recycle? Why? Does It Make You Feel Noble? by The Elephant's Child

Surely, if you live in a city in the United States, you recycle. If you are rural, or live in a small town, you are excused. I am suburban, and have 3 cans, one for yard waste, one for plain old garbage, and one for recycling. But there are rules. My Krups coffeemaker quit, but I cannot put it in the garbage, but must take it to a electronics recycling event, fortunately, this coming weekend. Batteries and lightbulbs go somewhere else. They aren’t supposed to go in the garbage either.

I pay a monthly bill for the privilege of recycling the yard waste, which the city turns into compost, which I then have the privilege of buying back for the garden. In neighboring Seattle, they will inspect your garbage to make sure you are not putting any food scraps in with the recycling or the garbage. If they find you guilty the fine is, I think, $50. Three cans, we get 3 different trucks to pick it all up. But is it worth it?

So — do you look for and buy recycled goods? Are you more likely to buy a product that brags on the percentage of recycled goods in their product? Thought not. And often, recycled goods are more expensive than their counterpart. The most desirable goods look as if they have been recycled. Gray-brown plastic bags, brown recycled paper. What use are recycled goods if they don’t show how admirable you are for buying recycled?

The original idea was that landfills were bad, and we were running out of room, which is absurd. Landfills are carefully constructed so there is no damage to the water table. If I remember correctly there was a famous barge of garbage that traversed the East Coast looking for somewhere, anywhere, that would accept their garbage, proving that landfills were all used up.

Recycled paper goods were supposed to save the trees. Catalog companies bought into a tree-planting scheme, assuring their customers that they would compensate for the tons of paper used by planting x number of trees. But most paper is made from tree farm trees raised specifically for the purpose of being turned into paper.

There are environmental groups that seduce cities with a big dog-and-pony show, and  offer them the chance to join a vast group of cities who are also coping with great masses of garbage. They offer pre-designed programs and expertise, posters and mailers, everything a with-it city might need to start their own program, and the opportunity to meet with other mayors in the club  and schmooze. So the correct position in the culture today is to have the very best recycling program. Sustainability is the au-courant buzz-word.

For anything beyond aluminum cans, it’s probably a waste of time and money. Aluminum cans go right back into making new cans. Prices for recyclable materials have plummeted because of reduced demand overseas, the worldwide recession, the drop in oil prices. I think locally the price we pay to have our yard waste composted, and then buy it back at a cost comparable to brand-name composts, but slightly less, is probably reasonably cost-effective (or they would raise the price).

There is no shortage of landfill space. “All the waste generated  by Americans for the next next 1,000 years would fit on one-tenth of 1 percent of the land available for grazing. Landfills are typically covered with grass and converted to parkland,”according to John Tierney, writing in the New York Times.

Many on the Left have confused recycling with morality, rather than politics where it accurately belongs, and environmentalism with a form of religion. They don’t care if it is wasteful, unnecessarily costly, and accomplishes nothing at all. Saving carbon from entering the atmosphere where it would become a fertilizer for plants and help to feed the world is not a useful enterprise. We need more carbon, not less. Environmentalism is essentially a political ploy, designed to bring an end to capitalism and has nothing to do with saving the earth. They were sure the suckers would fall for it.

Clever Economist Tricks And The Urge To Control Everything by The Elephant's Child

The Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing seemed like a good idea at the time. Cheap interest rates would let businesses borrow and grow and hire.The Wall Street Journal says household and nonprofit net worth climbed to $85.7 trillion

Economists had hoped that rising worth in U.S. households could induce — through what are known as wealth effects — enough spending and confidence to bring about a more robust economic recovery. That logic helped underpin the Fed’s decisions to hols interest rates near zero for nearly the past seven years, and to engage in repeated rounds of asset purchases, known as quantitative easing.

But while the value of U.S. assets has shot upward in recent years—stocks have reached new highs and home values have regained much of what was lost in the housing bubble’s collapse—economic growth has been sluggish, and many households have seen little of this wealth flow into their paychecks.

The American Interest says ‘Low Interest Rates Mask the Effects of Job-Killing Policies.’ “While the Fed’s quantitative easing has not led to the consumer price inflation that many feared, it has led to asset price inflation. Job growth, not asset  price inflation, is the best way to promote economic growth.”

To grow the economy, cheap interest rates are not going to work as well as reforms that make business formation and job creation more attractive. Yet Democrats these days have ever-lengthening lists of job-killing policies they want to enact, from tighter environmental regulations to dramatic minimum wage increases (especially in cities where unemployment is high) to tax increases. Paradoxically, that leaves liberals cheerleading for Fed policies that increase inequality and concentrate wealth because only ultra low rates (or truly massive deficits, which can’t be rammed through a GOP Congress) can mask the effect of left-wing microeconomic policies on the economy as a whole.

The Pizza shop owners have been ordered to list all the ingredients in each pizza with the calorie count, because people are too fat. They have also been ordered to comply with the newly raised federal minimum wage, because no one can raise a family on the minimum wage. And just how do they pay for all that?

Hospitals have been ordered to computerize every examining room so they can be centrally programmed to store all the patient’s information so it can be shifted between hospitals and the government to reduce the cost of health care.¹ A tax has been levied on every piece of medical equipment from the examination table to the mammogram machine to the disposable gloves, and the sterile swabs. That is also expected to reduce the cost of health care.

That’s just two tiny examples of the wrongheadedness of Democrats and their economists. Noble intent + stupid idea does not equal an improving economy, and yet here we sit after 7 very long years.

They are so intent on control and more closely directing all economic activity in the interest of greater “fairness” that we have reached a point where the Federal Reserve seems to be terrified at the possibility of what might happen if they raised interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point.

¹ This has largely been done, at great expense. Hospitals and clinics cannot talk to each other nor to the federal government. Each was separately programmed and they cannot communicate. However, just as was warned, medical identities and records are being stolen, and recovering from such a theft can cost as much as $15,000.

How Come We’re Always Surprised by Events? by The Elephant's Child

article-2343392-1A5EE249000005DC-338_634x479Once again the administration is being taken by surprise. Moscow has established a new airbase in Syria to go with its existing naval base. and they are determined to keep Bashar Assad’s regime in power. The U.S. no longer has any influence in Baghdad, and ever since the U.S. forces pulled out in 2011, Iran has become the dominant player in Iraq.

When Russia sent in flights to create a new Russian military base in Syria, our protests were ignored. President Obama’s failure to act on his red line in Syria has consequences. When he could not even act against Assad’s use of chemical weapons on his own people or Iran’s development of a nuclear program, it ‘s pretty clear that he’s not going to do anything.

Humiliated, Obama is now trying to pretend that Putin will “help”take care of ISIS, but he has been attacking the rebels fighting the Assad regime instead. This is a pure power play by the Russian President. Leon Aron, who is the director of Russian Studies at AEI, looks at why:

  • To establish a sustained, open-ended Russian military presence in the Middle East for the first time since President Sadat sent Soviet personnel home in 1972, thus recovering a key Soviet geopolitical asset as postulated by the Putin Doctrine.
  • To establish the Russia-Iran-Syria (and possibly Iraq) de facto alliance as the dominant military and thus political actor in the Middle East.
  • To boost patriotic mobilization in Russia, which increasingly is the Putin regime’s sole claim to legitimacy. With the economy tanking fast, the ruble down 57% from this time last year, inflation at around 15%, and the seemingly stalemated war on Ukraine no longer generating enough heat to keep the patriotic fervor a-boil, Putin needs another “short, victorious war” (as the Minister of Internal Affairs Vyacheslav Plehve hailed the ultimately disastrous Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05).

The question becomes how far will Putin go? Both Aron and Ralph Peters suggest that we should be prepared for an “accidental” shoot down of a U.S. or British or French plane? That Putin delights in humiliating the United States is not a surprise. That the Obama administration seems regularly to be surprised is more worrying.

September Was A Lousy Month for Jobs! by The Elephant's Child

Another dismal jobs report: only 142,000 new jobs were added last month.  Sixty thousand below the lowest estimate. And 236,000 jobs were lost in September. President Obama will add the 142,000 jobs to the total he has created, ignore the jobs lost and decide he just needs to spend a bit more to get more money circulating in the economy or something like that.

The August total was revised much lower from 173,000 to 136,000. Job growth in 2015 has averaged 198,000 per month, compared to an average monthly gain of 260,000 in 2014.

You might notice that people are leaving Democrat run states in droves for states with lower taxes and less regulation. There are things that can be done to help out an ailing economy, but they are not in the Democrat playbook. Their answer is always to add another regulation, control a little more  — that’s how you get to that bright Utopian future.

The Mysterious Results of Liberal Policies. by The Elephant's Child

uhaul-van-sizes-i14The people of the Left seem to have trouble not only with innumeracy, but also a general understanding of economics and free markets. In fact, every so often someone blurts it out,  their enemy is — capitalism. That gets a little awkward because the United States has long been a capitalist and free market nation.

Democrats hate corporations, though they happily use the goods that corporations create,  and enjoy the advances in our wealth and well being. They remain convinced that their policies will create a workers’ paradise where everyone is equal and there aren’t any more rich people lording it over everyone else, except for themselves, of course. Obviously someone has to control things.

So how is it all working out? Economist Stephen Moore reports that “new census data shows that day after day, month after month, year after year, people are fleeing liberal blue states for conservative red states.”

The top seven states with the biggest percentage increases in inbound immigration from other states are in order: North Dakota. Nevada, South Carolina, Colorado, Florida, Arizona and Texas. All of these states are politically red, except Colorado, which is purple.

Meanwhile, the leading exodus states, in percentage terms, are: Alaska, New York, Illinois, Connecticut, New Mexico, New Jersey and Kansas. These states, except Alaska and Kansas, are blue.

The American Legislative Exchange Council finds that nearly 1.000 people a day are leaving blue states and moving to red states. This is an immigration pattern that is changing the economic center of gravity in the country to the South and West.

IRS data shows the same pattern. They keep track of tax filers who move and the amount of wealth they are taking with them. And it is not an insignificant transfer of wealth. In 2013 Florida gained $8.2 billion in adjusted gross income from new arrivals. Texas  gained $5.9 billion. And five of the states who gained the most  don’t have an income tax: Florida, Texas, Arizona, Washington and Nevada.

Democrats simply do not understand why anyone would leave a blue state. The blue states offer higher minimum wages, pro-union work rules, higher taxes on the rich, generous welfare benefits, lots of regulations to help workers and the environment. Isn’t that the program that will lead to a workers’ paradise?

Stephen Moore said he debated the situation with NYT columnist Paul Krugman this summer, and Krugman’s explanation for the migration from North to South was that “air conditioning” had made the South more livable. Yet there’s a lot of in-migration to North Dakota, and that’s not for the air conditioning. Possibly high-paying oilfield jobs?

in the past decade, 1.4 million more Americans moved out of California than moved in. According to Thomas Sowell, at least one fifth of Californians pay at least half of their income for housing. You can  possibly rent a bunk in an apartment for $1500 a month. The drought continues, and thousands of buildings and some 300,000 acres have gone up in flames. The  problem, according to Governor Jerry Brown is fossil fuels. The wildfires, he says, are the result of cataclysmic climate change, and are only going to get worse. Foresters say it’s due to a century of fire suppression which has led to a huge buildup of vegetation.  I’d bet on the forest supervisors.

Unfortunately, the problems are the direct result of government policies. Once ordinary houses in Palo Alto are now selling for a cool million or two. The waters of the Sacramento River were flushed out to sea to protect a supposedly endangered  tiny bait fish, while farmers in the Central Valley were denied the water they had contracted for.

Liberals don’t understand the results of their policies. They can see that people and businesses are moving out, but the reason is a mystery. Some mystery!

Nancy Pelosi Has Not Seen the Videos, but Is Quite Sure they Are Lies, Because Democrat Talking Points. by The Elephant's Child

pelosi-fist-APThe U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) chimed in on the debate over defunding Planned Parenthood, about as expected. And her response is really quite revealing in a way.She questioned the truthfulness of the videos that show Planned Parenthood employees discussing the harvesting and sale of fetal organs, but admitted that she had not watched any of the videos.

“I don’t stipulate that these videos are real, and the fact is that the [fetal tissue] research that is being criticized … [is] being supported,” Pelosi said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper.

“I also know that some of it is not real and you can create any reality that you want,” she said, while admitting that she has not seen the videos, and has only read news reports about them.

This is the so-called information age, but as far as I can tell, schools do not have coursework in how to manage the flow of information. How do you tell what is real? How do you check?  And how do you tell who is telling the truth?

A quick search showed that 1) only 6% rate news Media as very trustworthy, and (2) most voters still get their news from television and consider the news reported by the media trustworthy. 56% of all voters regard the news reported by the media as at least somewhat trustworthy according to Rasmussen.

Gallup said that 44% of Americans have a fair amount or a great deal of confidence in the Mass Media. 55% have not very much confidence or none at all. Note that two different sources are reporting the same news differently.

I have found that most Democrats get their news from Democratic sources, and rely on Democratic talking points to avoid delving deeper into an issue. I have been astonished at Hillary Clinton’s complete dependence on Democratic talking points for her campaign. I had assumed that someone running for the presidency with the experience of being Secretary of State and a senator would have studied long and deeply about how to improve governmental operations.

Polls in general show that Americans support the ability to have an abortion. Attacks on the callousness of Planned Parenthood are usually interpreted as attacks on omen’s right to choose. No one is questioning that right, but there are an awful lot of choices poorly made before one gets to the need for an abortion — like  a poor choice in who to go out with, how much to drink, whether to go to his apartment, and so on and on. Planned Parenthood is not a health care facility. Their business model is abortions, and there is not a single mammogram machine in the whole organization.

The question is whether taxpayers should be forced to support the operations of Planned Parenthood, if they have deep ethical objections to cutting up aborted fetuses and selling the parts. Stem cell research has largely turned to using a patient’s own stem cells. It is a crime to sell aborted baby parts for profit using federal funds.

The Federalist has publishedA Quick and Easy Guide to the Planned Parenthood Videos” The picture is of Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood chief executive, who has just testified before Congress.


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