American Elephants


Doing Battle With Bureaucracy by The Elephant's Child
July 30, 2015, 10:27 pm
Filed under: Bureaucracy, Domestic Policy, History, Regulation, Taxes | Tags: ,

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I had to go do battle with the toll bridge authority. They have an office here in a plain storefront with their catchphrase “Good to Go” over the door. A plain large room with a counter at the end opposite the door. A taped off aisle for those waiting to confront the occupants of the three chairs (out of six) behind the counter. V-e-r-y long line of very grumpy people. One of the walls was adorned with photos of the new toll plazas on the state’s three tolled bridges, mounted on plain black paper. No frames.

The wait was l-o-n-g, about 40 minutes, which gave me time to observe my surroundings. The three people at the counter mostly typed on their keyboards, frequently rising to punch the security keys on the one door behind the counter, and vanish into the back room, apparently to consult the commissar. I know she was a commissar because she appeared briefly from the back room, and returned promptly to her more luxurious quarters in the rear. If you can identify a commissar by appearance, she fit the bill.

Robert Conquest, famed historian, author of several important books about Russia, The Great Terror, about Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties, and The Harvest of Sorrow, which exposed Stalin’s collectivization and the terror-famine that starved millions of peasants in the Ukraine to death, once remarked that “the behavior of any bureaucratic organization can best be understood by assuming that it is controlled by a secret cabal of its enemies.”

That’s a good quotation to remember when you are standing in a line with a dozen or so other testy people. I had won my previous battle with the agency when the judge threw it out of court. I lost this one.



Carly Fiorina’s Speech at the Reagan Library by The Elephant's Child

Carly Fiorina is marvelously articulate. She doesn’t just say things well, but she says things that need saying. Great Speech. Do watch the whole thing.

The contrast with Hillary could not be more extreme. Hillary has been in government for over 20 years, and when it comes time for her to fulfill her longstanding goal of being the first woman president, she seems to have learned nothing from those 20 years beyond how to game the system.



The Amazing Success of Africa. Botswana Is the Fastest Growing Country in the World. by The Elephant's Child

Leon Louw is an author, policy analyst, and executive director of the South Africa-based think tank: The Free Market Foundation. “Thank goodness people are ‘exploiting ” Africa by buying things from it, by investing in it, by employing people in it,” he said. “The worst thing that would happen is if people decide to stop exploiting Africa.”

The statement might sound provocative, but Louw is responding to a a pair of critiques he hears often: That economic development is akin to exploitation and that the gap between rich and poor is growing dangerously large. But Louw says that the focus on economic inequality is a distraction from a more important metric.

“The world is experiencing the most amazing accomplishment of humanity: The virtual elimination of poverty,” says Louw. “It’s strange that as that happens, we are talking about it as if there is more of it.”

Another illustration of “One of the Most Remarkable Achievements in Human History.”Some good news to be celebrated. The Decliners are sure that there is more poverty, more unfairness, more decline. About 9 minutes long. It is getting really hard to get a straight, true look at the state of the world. Those things which are hard and bad are ignored, misunderstood, and the dangers made light of. And the good things? We don’t even know they are happening. It would be helpful if there was way less talk about the supposed gap between the rich and the poor, and a lot more appreciation for free market enterprise that moves people out of poverty.



The Continuing Battle Against The Left’s Tragic Delusions by The Elephant's Child

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Heather MacDonald is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute. She has made a career of painstakingly going into the nation’s police departments, town meetings and impacted urban neighborhoods to research the facts on the ground about how police practices actually affect lives.

She appeared on July 21, 2015 on the Harvard Lunch Club political podcast. The 35 minute podcast is at the bottom.

MacDonald spoke out against the poisonous influence that the “Black Lives Matter” movement is having on the quality of life in the very neighborhoods where the protests are taking place.

I think this is an even more extreme example of the way this country deals with race and policing, which is to talk fanatically about police in order not to talk about the far more difficult problem of black crime.

This type of policing that pays attention to public order is demanded by the residents of poor communities. They want the police to get the drug dealers off the corner, they want them to get the kids off their stoop who are hanging out there loitering and smoking weed and so that sort of policing is in fact a moral imperative.

Proactive police practices have been the target of protests against “police racism.” In what is called “the broken windows” style of policing, police detain perpetrators for minor violations like turnstile jumping or loitering and smoking weed. Far from being a threat to Black lives and Black communities, the one government agency most dedicated to the idea that “Black lives matter is the police force.”

Maintaining order on the small things makes it clear that the big things will be addressed as well. It demonstrates a low tolerance for crime. Rudy Giuliani’s policy of “broken windows” in New York City cleaned up the city of petty crime and big problems.The complaints from residents currently are getting louder.

The second part of the podcast  addresses  MacDonald’s recent City Journal essay “Microaggression, Macro Crazy.” It deals with University of California President Janet Napolitano’s asking all deans and department chairs in the ten university system to undergo training in overcoming their “implicit biases” toward women and minorities.

(H/t: Legal Insurrection)



Democrats Would Erase and Rewrite History In the Name of Their Ideology by The Elephant's Child

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More than a  month after the coldblooded murder of nine Black churchgoers in South Carolina by an overt racist, the event prompted an intense discussion of racism. Within hours the conversation, at least in the media, had switched to the Confederate battle flag as a symbol of racism that was flying over the South Carolina capitol, well, not the capitol, but over the confederate memorial on the capitol grounds.

Across the South the flag was furled, but a public hysteria quickly emerged demanding that monuments to Confederate leaders should be torn down, roads and bridges renamed, and at least the remains of one leading Confederate general should be dug up and…? The fight to make history conform to today’s moral standards was just in its beginnings, and it continues.

Ben Affleck discovered to his intense embarrassment that he had an ancestor who owned slaves, and attempted to eliminate any evidence of that from the broadcast of Roots. Actually it seemed to be four ancestors. Re-airings of The Dukes of Hazard were cancelled and the owner of the prop car, the General Lee, said the car’s famous rebel flag on the roof was to be painted over. Connecticut’s Democrat Party has dropped the names of Presidents Andrew Jackson and Thomas Jefferson, founders of the Democratic party, from the title of the annual dinner.

Democrats, like Ben Affleck, are embarrassed by the party’s connections to slavery. Well, yes, and segregation, and the KKK, and Reconstruction, the Trail of Tears, and Margaret Sanger, and Woodrow Wilson. After a brief campaign by the Left to banish Andrew Jackson from the $20 bill, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew decided on removing Alexander Hamilton, the father of the modern banking system, instead — to be replaced by — a woman. What woman? He’s asking for suggestions, because no woman comes to mind as being that outstanding. He might try reading up on Alexander Hamilton to avoid embarrassing himself. I’d recommend  Hamilton’s Blessing: The Extraordinary life and Times of Our National Debt by John Steele Gordon.

Please! History is a record of what happened in the past. The more distant the past, the more historians have to rely on fewer records. When we go back before recordings, before film, before photographs, historians must try to fill in the blanks. Newly discovered letters, diaries, or  papers can change our knowledge of the period. But we don’t get to rewrite history to suit our modern prejudices and ideas of the correct morality. We need history, as it is, warts and all, to guide us in the present. But we also need truth, not some made-up history that advances the Left’s idealized future.

Part of the problem is that Democrats are a little short in the history department. They grew up in the sixties, reading Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, which is pure Soviet propaganda, and Noam Chomsky’s assorted Marxist crap, and  consequently know nothing about history at all.

The drive to re-write history comes from the faculty lounges. The WWI Centennial Commission has been accepting design submissions, to memorialize The Great War, but they have already decided to move General John Pershing out of Pershing Park in Washington D.C. because they “have moved away from the ‘great man’ approach to war memorials.”

There has been a battle with the College Board over the Advanced Placement examination for U.S. history, to be released later this summer. Fifty-six professors and historians published a petition on the National Association of Scholars, urging opposition to the College Board’s framework. “Students should be able to explain how various identities, cultures, and values have been preserved or changed in different contexts of U.S. history, with special attention given to the formation of gender, class, racial and ethnic identities.” Orwellian.



The Unintended Consequences of Demanding Higher Pay by The Elephant's Child

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The law of unintended consequences strikes again. Low wage workers in Seattle spent months agitating for a city-wide $15 an  hour were successful in their agitation. The City of Sea-Tac (the area surrounding the Seattle-Tacoma airport) had passed a $15 an hour bill. The state wide minimum wage locally was already $9.32.

Workers in local hotels and restaurants and in the airport soon found out that the raise was not as profitable as they had assumed. Hours were cut. Workers suddenly had to pay for their own parking and their own lunches. Politicians, those unfamiliar with basic economics, often assume that they are lifting poor people out of poverty.  Not so fast.

Some workers across the city are suddenly asking their bosses to give them fewer hours, because the higher wage is forcing them off the welfare programs they rely on, so they can earn less to avoid losing assistance. 

Who are low-wage workers, and why can ‘t they get higher pay? A very large percentage are young people in their first job, learning how to work. A hike in the minimum wage law that is unrelated to economic growth, means the hike will be an unemployment act for young people. Ideally, the low-wage worker will learn on the job, skills that are transferable to better jobs. Most employers prefer to hire skilled workers than beginners.

Looking through the images of “Fight for $15″ protests, it’s clear that the main driver and sponsor of the protests was SEIU, hoping to unionize fast food workers. The main target was McDonalds. Oddly enough, a very large percentage of McDonalds restaurants are franchises or small-businesses, who are no more capable than other small businesses of absorbing the cost of a government-ordered increase in wage costs. Restaurants in Seattle are closing at higher than normal rates.

No one has ever doubted that it’s quite possible to increase employment and the minimum wage at the same time. But it happens when the economy is growing and demand increases. And, contrary to Mr. Obama’s usual bragging, the economy is not growing healthily.

Most people have encountered low-wage workers who hate their jobs, are unpleasant, but say the required “Have a nice day.” A worker in a local store fits that description, and adds to it tattoos on arms and neck, and ear-lobes stretched out to take huge disks. A long-sleeved shirt would take care of the tattoos, but the earrings will limit his future job prospects.

On the other hand, my grocery had a box-boy, high-school and Jr. College age, who always appeared to enjoy his job, remembered my name, and that I had two cats, and was cheerful and efficient as well. He’s gone on to college now, but he will do well in life.

If you work hard and become the best worker in your current job, you may be ready to move up. Work is not meant to be just a payment to you, but fair pay for fair work. There are plenty of unskilled workers ready to take those jobs you sneer at, and there are other replacements who don’t protest and don’t demand time off, overtime nor sick pay.

I should probably add that this is a case history in the way government welfare is set up to keep the recipients from turning to real work to escape dependence. They are not into helping people on welfare to become self-supporting.



Here Is Another New Material: Metal Foam! by The Elephant's Child

Here’s another. North Carolina State University researchers have found that lightweight composite metal foams they have developed are effective at blocking X-rays, gamma rays, and neutron radiation, and are capable of absorbing the energy of high-impact collisions. These findings are promising for use in nuclear power plants, space exploration, and CT-scanner shielding.

“This work means there’s an opportunity to use composite metal foam to develop safer systems for transporting nuclear waste, more efficient designs for spacecraft and nuclear structures, and new shielding for use in CT scanners,” says Afsaneh Rabiei, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NC State, where they first developed the strong, lightweight metal foam made of steel, tungsten, and and vanadium for use in transportation and military applications.

But she wanted to determine whether the foam could be used for nuclear or space exploration applications — could it provide structural support and protect against high impacts while providing shielding against various forms of radiation?

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Metal foams? Vanadium? And uses for blocking harmful rays, and for absorbing the energy of high-impact collisions. Amazing.




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