American Elephants


If At First You Don’t Succeed, Do a Better Job Next Time! by The Elephant's Child

The Republican bill to take a tiny poke at fixing ObamaCare went nowhere. They didn’t have the votes—largely because the bill didn’t do much of anything. Everything you need to know about ObamaCare can be summed up in one quotation from Thomas Sowell.

It is amazing that people who think
we cannot afford to pay for doctors,
hospitals, and medication somehow
think that we can afford to pay
for doctors, hospitals, medication
and a government bureaucracy
to administer it.

Aside from affordability, federal government bureaucrats have no idea how to manage or control or supply health care. Every attempt by government to do health care has ended in disaster. The federal government cannot do VA health care, and veterans die while waiting to be seen. Indian health care is a disaster. Even the FDA is a disaster. Over regulated and over controlled.

Medicare was built on the idea that a growing population meant that if each generation paid in for the smaller generation that came before, then Medicare would go along smoothly with the old folks always cared for. This is usually called a Ponzi scheme. Nobody planned on the baby boomers. They are a huge generation beginning to retire, and Medicare is going broke, because the next generations are not larger. Oooops!

The Democrats devised all sorts of things that they thought would make their health care plan work better, and all sorts of regulations that they thought would save money, and all sorts of requirements that they thought would make people like the program better, and they lied about their basic purpose. Their basic purpose was to initiate a Single Payer Plan. But not because it would provide better care.

The British have a single payer plan in the National Health Service. The people get taxed and they get free health care. And the reason that it was the Democrats’ basic purpose was because the British people were so afraid of losing their health care that they always voted for keeping it, and for the Labour Party who promised that they could keep it. Unfortunately it doesn’t work, and the government keeps making new regulations to cut costs, and old folks die from neglect, and dehydration, and dirty sheets and infection, and long lines of ambulances line up at hospitals waiting for a vacant bed for the next patient. That’s Single Payer.

Here at home, the ideas that were behind all the regulation and requirements that they thought would save money didn’t, because Democrats do not understand the free market—that’s why they are Democrats. And because they do not understand the free market and competition, their bureaucrats had no idea how to devise plans that worked, and they didn’t even know how to get people to sign up, nor how to get enough insurance companies competing to bring costs down. Being Democrats, they assumed that insurance companies were evil (Capitalists) without any understanding that insurance companies have a lot of expertise in devising insurance, and with all insurance companies competing, there’s a lot of demand to be efficient, to create policies that work for consumers, to figure out how to keep prices down so the other insurance companies can’t take their business away. That’s how the free market works.

The Republicans said they had been working on a replacement for 8 months, but we have been stuck with a failing and unworkable ObamaCare for 7 years.

We are going to have to pay for most of the little stuff ourselves, with help for those who cannot care for themselves, and remember just what insurance really is. Insurance is meant to protect you from the big disasters, not the little things.Your car insurance protects you when someone runs into you and wrecks your car. Your homeowner insurance protects you when you have a kitchen fire or a broken pipe that floods the house. Health insurance should protect you when you break your leg, or find a cancer, or need immediate surgery, not buy your tampons or pay for your immunizations.

And if you devise a new health care plan for the people, you’d better damn well make sure that every member of Congress and the bureaucracy has to deal with exactly the same system.



The Best and Worst States for Business, and What They Have in Common by The Elephant's Child

The newly-created McGee Report from Fayetteville State University is an annual report on the Best and Worst States for Business. “The fifty states are ranked based on the extent to which they facilitate business creation and expansion. This study incorporated the data collected from five other studies, which included the examination of hundreds of variables. Utah was found to be the most business friendly state; California was least business friendly. States that voted Republican in the 2016 presidential election tended to be more business friendly than states that voted Democratic.” Social justice at work.

Reading the comments is almost as much fun as the list. The commenters seem to be mostly Californian. In San Francisco, you can rent a bunk bed, sharing a room with several others for $1,200 a month. The place packs in 25 people and rent runs from $1,250 to $1,900.

Three Democrat representatives have introduced a bill that would punish any contractors who dare to work on the border wall by withdrawing any investments in their companies by state-controlled pension funds.

California’s boondoggle bullet train was initially budgeted at $32 billion and the price tag is now up to $68 billion (which the taxpayers are on the hook for), and the initial stretch of track, the easiest to build part of the entire 700 mile route is now $10 billion, and not a single mile has been laid. Just seven years behind schedule. The governor is begging for help, but the Trump Department of  Transportation has  put the brakes on. Jerry Brown’s California suffers the nation’s highest housing prices, largest percentage of people in or near poverty of any state and an exodus of middle-income, middle-aged people. Job growth is increasingly concentrated in low-wage sectors.

The state is the front line for Sanctuary Cities, is zealously fighting natural climate change, their schools are lousy, and they are the worst state in the country for their business climate. Good on social justice though.

Do take a look at the charts. Besides the McGee rankings, it includes the ranking from Forbes, Tax Foundation, Institute for Legal Reform and the Cato Institute. If you scroll down through the comments you will come to one gentleman who did read the whole thing, including how the rankings were calculated — who actually lives in California, and wishes he didn’t. I’ve lived in both the Bay Area and in Southern California, and couldn’t wait to leave.



The Federal Government Is Not Your Friend, And They Have Interests of Their Own by The Elephant's Child

Most Americans believe that the federal government does a poor job and wastes most of the taxpayers’ hard earned money. Waste, fraud and abuse are rampant. We hear stories of employees spending their days watching porn. Agencies spend millions on beautifying their offices, and rush to spend every last cent of their budget so they can pretend they need more for the next year. There are some things that can only be done by a federal government, but most things are far better done by the private sector.

There are specific reasons why this is so. For a business to exist, it must turn a profit. If there is no reward for operating a business, it will cease to exist. Businesses do not operate to provide jobs or to do good works. They operate to make a profit. It is astonishing how many people do not understand this. Competition forces business to be efficient, to offer good products that people want, to deliver on time, make products that last, or offer services that do what they are supposed to do. Leftists are always sure that competition is bad, and what is needed are lots of rules and regulations, which only serve to make a mess of the situation.

Government regulators seldom have a good understanding of how a business works, and the regulations they devise do more harm than good. For example: Regulators, concerned about fat people, decide that all restaurants must display the caloric content of all the ingredients in their food. For pizza places the number of ingredients is enormous, the signage, often on a large lighted panel over the counter doesn’t have much room, customers are aware that some pizzas are high calorie and fattening. They don’t care—they want pizza. The cost to restaurants with low profit margins is enormous in changing all their signage. The result of the regulation is unmeasurable, and probably didn’t change anyone’s dinner preferences.

The free market does an excellent job in controlling business, without interference from bureaucratic busybodies. Very few members of Congress have much experience in running a business, and few of Washington bureaucrats do either. The marketplace offers all sorts of information and lessons, often information that you cannot obtain elsewhere. Incentives matter. The incentives that drive government workers and their managers are not the same as those faced by the businesses to be regulated, and are often counter to the public interest in any case.

Here’s an excellent article that surveys the government bureaucracy and how we should or should not respond. And a valuable lesson in why government does such a poor job of the tasks that are assigned to them. It’s a guide worth keeping with lots of resources. But then you don’t know until the government gets you on their “to do” list just what you’re in for, and where to go for help.



Consequences. There Are Always Consequences. by The Elephant's Child

James P. Rubin, a former assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration wrote a piece in Politico Thursday that called German Chancellor Angela Merkel the “leader of the free world,” largely for her role in taking in Middle Eastern ‘migrants.’ Rubin worked in Hillary’s failed 2008 campaign and was an advisor to Clinton.

“Angela Merkel, whether she wants the job or not, is the West’s last, best hope,” was the subtitle. Rubin claimed that by taking in some one million “refugees,” Merkel assumed the mantle of “moral leadership.”

The German chancellor is the only leader in Europe who even has a plausible claim to moral leadership. As a victim of Soviet communism, Merkel was always going to be listened to carefully on the question of morality. And given her longevity she was always going to be respected. But it was her unexpected decision to accept some 1 million refugees that established her moral credentials, especially since no other political leader has taken such a political risk.

At PJ Media, Michael Walsh points out that Merkel,

more than anyone, is the woman who destroyed the notion of European cultural cohesion, the unity of its history, and its Western identity. Her folly in throwing open the borders of the European Union (which is itself a Franco-German political fantasy now coming unglued) to the “migrant” hordes of an invading Islamic world will reverberate for decades to come. In an effort to replace the German population — which, largely thanks to its women, is almost wholly uninterested in reproducing itself — the childless chancellor could only see a mechanical solution to a problem of reproductive biology, without ever once (in true East German fashion) asking herself why.

Iben Thranholm is one of Denmark’s most widely read columnists who focuses on political and social events focusing on their religious aspects, significance and moral implications. She was asked how Denmark views Sweden and Europe’s demographic future? She answered: “With absolute horror.”

The Swedish media, which is quite pro-government and its leftwing policies, does not always report the full extent of the problems in their society. So it is hard to have a very accurate picture of what is going on. But we in Denmark have a good sense. We are very aware of the murders, rapes, riots, violence and the hand grenades that go on there. This does not often make the news but we know it is going on. And we don’t want to go down the same route. 

This is the result of decades of policies promoting multiculturalism in Sweden. And what is left is this hollow house. You know, in the Bible it is said that if a house is left swept, tidied and unoccupied it eventually it will be taken over by evil. And I fear that this is what is happening in Sweden. Far from being a multicultural paradise, the problems can no longer remain hidden.

Every few weeks or days, there is another report of an attack on the public in Europe. Yet nobody admits that there is a problem. Sweden, most of all, seems to be trying to cover up, hide, and neglect to mention things that clearly are going haywire, because if they acknowledged it, they would have to do something about it.

That may be the characteristic that is behind the populism, nationalism and revolt against governments that is moving through all the Western societies. Governments have tried to cover up their own failings, shove things aside till later, fail to address matters directly and eventually it reaches a boiling point.

Yet, yet—Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced he will step down after his anti-Trump vow to hire 10,000 Muslim Refugees because of Trump’s supposed “Muslim ban” backfired substantially. Consumer perceptions of the company dropped by two thirds. Aside from politics, there’s a significant portion of young people who can’t find jobs.  But how interesting that the idea that Muslims from 7 countries cannot be vetted to be sure they are not members of ISIS or alQaeda never occurred to him. They are refugeeees and we have to help them so we will be perceived as good people. That was the Swedish mindset.

Over and over, you will find Leftists changing the dialogue from a straightforward analysis of the issues to one which will allow them to feel like good people, doing good and kind things. Sanctuary cities, jobs for refugees, open borders, welcoming illegal aliens — Howard Schultz is a billionaire and his ‘kindnesses’ will not affect him personally.



We Have Separate Conversations Going On Here, And We Don’t Seem to Speak the Same Language by The Elephant's Child

Early today I watched a video of the first press briefing for the State Department under new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, for the Trump administration. It was over an hour long, conducted by Mark Toner who has been in the job for a number of years, is very competent, and knows most of the journalists present. I’ve seen excerpts of these things before, but this was the first time I have watched the whole thing.

I found it somewhat astonishing, for the liberal journalists trouble in grasping the distinctions among immigrants, illegal immigrants, refugees and the countries involved. They were really having a hard time understanding why some refugees should be turned away at the border, for example—why would we not allow refugees from Iran who didn’t like the government there. Certainly not all Iranians liked the government, why wouldn’t we accept those people? They clearly just didn’t grasp that we cannot tell or vet those who come from a nation that wants to destroy us, nor can we tell who is a jihadi and who is not.

I’ve been mulling over these language distinctions for some time. for it seems that Journalists just don’t grasp that when the Ayatollah Khomeini leads his people in chants of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”— that is exactly what he really means, and what his government is working for. That there isn’t really any way to tell the good people from the jihadis, and the next terrorist attack may hit their D.C. neighborhood. They are involved with the news, but they don’t grasp the nature of the world.

Rex Tillerson has said that we have been paying the UN for years to monitor and control North Korea’s experimentation with nuclear weapons and it has not worked at all, so perhaps it is time to try something different. I would add that when Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un had his older step-brother executed in another country, and just recently executed five of his supporters who offended him with anti-aircraft cannons, that something different is probably what is needed. I just don’t get the feeling that these journalists get it, and they are still out wandering around in issues of diversity and social justice. But perhaps I am unjust.

A very large issue is the one of religion. Two federal District Judges, one from Seattle and one from Hawaii, have issued stays on President Trump’s Executive Orders, which issued a 90 day ban on immigration from seven countries selected by the Obama administration because immigrants or refugees from those countries cannot be vetted adequately. Why would we have any special concern for Christian refugees?

The First Amendment to the Constitution says Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof… That seem so straightforward and clear. Congress cannot make any laws that establish a state religion. ( No Church of England here) Yet that First Amendment has caused an amazing amount of trouble as people try to overthink and over dissect the words. If a Christian cross is displayed on federal land is that “establishing a religion?” Do the Little Sisters of the Poor have to support abortion for their workers in spite of the fact that their religion prohibits abortion?

So the question becomes—what happens if the religion in question wants to destroy the United States of America because our existence conflicts with their religion. Do al-Qaeda and ISIS represent the Islamic religion, or are they something separate? Do they get to try to destroy us because they don’t believe in our Constitution or religions, and we have to refrain from fighting them because of freedom of religion? When you spell out the questions that arise, it clarifies things, but a full discussion becomes ever more necessary. And the questions that arise are litigated and re-litigated.

The Federal District Judge in Seattle and the Federal District Judge in Hawaii are dragging in casual remarks from the difficult election campaign as if that had anything to do with the President’s Executive Order. They can’t do that. The only thing they have to consider are the exact words of the Executive Order. They cannot drag in extraneous things. Federal Judges get a lifetime appointment and cannot be removed by Congress, though they can be impeached for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” So this will all have to go to the Supreme Court.

Our Founders were a lot closer to the European Wars of Religion 1524-1646, following the Protestant Reformation. That ended with the Peace of Westphalia, which recognized three separate Christian traditions in the Holy Roman empire: Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism and Calvinism.That was followed by the British Civil Wars or The Wars of the Three Kingdoms: England, Scotland and Ireland. The Reformation of the Church of England, begot Presbyterianism, Congregationalism, and the breakdown of state-controlled religious conformity bred an explosion of radical denominations: Ranters, Baptists, Diggers, Levelers and Quakers. The New England colonies were settled by Puritans, Pennsylvania by Quakers, the Carolinas by Presbyterians, and Virginia by the Church of England, and they changed as they were established in America. All fascinating, but necessary to understand at least a little, when we get into simple questions about freedom of religion.

To circle back to where I started, I got no feeling that the reporters at the State Department briefing had any understanding of the real nature of the religious questions involved. Religion is those backwoods people clinging to their Bibles and guns, or something like that. It undoubtedly plays a major part in our current problems with the mainstream media. Our conversations are not about real things, but about social justice, race, diversity, pronouns, race, safe spaces and snowflakes. We’ve got some very real problems out there and they remain essentially unrecognized.

 



How Intelligence Works by The Elephant's Child

Herbert E. Meyer served during the Reagan Administration as Special Assistant to the Director of Central Intelligence and Vice Chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council. He is a recipient of the U.S .National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, the author of several books, including Real-World Intelligence and Hard Thinking, and many of his speeches are available on YouTube.

In the most recent copy of Imprimus, an excerpt from a recent speech on Intelligence is fascinating. “How Intelligence Works (When It Does)

Just utter the word “intelligence” and most people conjure up images of spies, secret satellites peering down on foreign cities and terrorist camps, and rooms full of young technocrats reading private emails and listening to private conversations. These images are accurate, but they reflect the tools and techniques of our intelligence service, rather than its purpose.

To understand its purpose, think of a jumbo jet flying at night through turbulent skies—thunder clouds, lightning, other airplanes streaking in all directions and at all altitudes. To navigate through this, the pilot and his crew rely on their radar—the instrument that paints a picture of their environment, enabling them to see what’s going on around them and what lies ahead so they can chart a safe course. Radar doesn’t tell the captain and his crew what to do, but it gives them the accurate information they’ll need to make good decisions.

Our intelligence service is our nation’s radar. Its purpose is to provide the president and his national security team with an accurate picture of what’s going on in the world and what’s likely to happen in the days, months, and years ahead. The assumption is that if the president and his team have this information, they can chart a safe course for our country. And if they can see the distant future soon enough and clearly enough—and if they don’t like what they see—they can take steps to change the future before it happens.

Good intelligence is a combination, he says, of information and insight. Information is the raw material, while insight is the finished product.The key to producing good intelligence lies in getting this combination of information and insight right. …You start with a thesis—in other words you decide what you want to know, then you send your collectors out to get it. The key is asking the right question.

In the period from the end of World War II until 1981, every president’s objective had been not to lose the Cold War. If things were no worse when a president left office than when he took office—he’d done a good job. President Reagan, instead, wanted to win the Cold War. He had switched from Defense to Offense. His Director of Central Intelligence asked the CIA’s Soviet Division  two questions. Where is the Soviet Union weak? and Where is it most vulnerable? The answer he received was: We don’t know. No one’s ever asked this before.

You can read the rest of this most interesting post at the link above.

Imprimus is a brief publication from Hillsdale College delivered to your email once a month. You can subscribe, it’s free. They also offer a number of free courses you can take. Hillsdale receives no federal money, remains stubbornly independent and teaches subjects like the Constitution and American History, things like that. No safe spaces, no riots. Excellent professors. Real education.



The Teacher, The School System, The City Council, the Legislature. the Governor and Maybe Even the Courts Will Tell You the Schools Need More Money! It’s All Lies! by The Elephant's Child

What about America’s public education? There are a lot of complaints about K-12 as well. Many hope that Betsy DeVos, the newly confirmed Secretary of Education, can make a big difference in the schools that are failing our most-at-risk children in poor neighborhoods. She is a big proponent of school choice, which allows parents to choose where their child should go to school—something well-to-do parents do quite naturally without realizing that choice is not available to all. One of the great tragedies of the Obama administration was the president’s failure to support the nation’s capitol’s Opportunity Scholarships which have changed the lives of poor kids.

Most ordinary Americans support their community schools, and believe public education to be a good thing. Yet college professors are complaining that their incoming students don’t know anything. There was a small note of cheer this week when I ran across an article that said “Cursive Writing Is Making a Much- Needed Comeback in Schools.” Alabama and Louisiana passed laws in 2016 that mandate cursive proficiency in public schools, the latest in 14 states that require cursive. Fads, unfortunately, pass through the education system destroying everything in their wake. There is a generation out there who never learned cursive skills. They hold a pencil awkwardly, and write in big block letters.

Penmanship proponents say writing words in an unbroken line of swooshing l’s and three-humped m’s is just a faster, easier way of taking notes. Others say students should be able to understand documents written in cursive, such as, say, a letter from Grandma. And still more say it’s just a good life skill to have, especially when it comes to signing your name.

A remarkable amount of dross comes out of the schools of education. When computers arrived on the scene, they decided everyone would communicate with keyboards, and all kids needed was to learn “keyboarding.” You also have to learn how to read other people’s handwriting. I was lucky in that my father and an aunt had the world’s most execrable handwriting possible, and learning to cope with them made me pretty good at deciphering anyone’s scribbles.

The act of handwriting helps to fix the thought in the mind. You learn better if you write it down. That’s why people intuitively write lists, directions, rules and anything they want to remember. The more you write things down the better you will do in the memory department. This is an actual scientific fact. It’s all very nice to have things in 12 to 15 point type in a clear font, but the teeny keyboards you can pull up on your phone are not an improvement on a pencil and a scrap of paper. (If this kind of thing is of interest to you, try to get your hands on the 4 books by Richard Mitchell, beginning with “Less Than Words Can Say” or simply Google “Richard Mitchell underground grammarian,” and you will have access to his works)

“Diversity” is another fad that swept the schools. Children obviously couldn’t learn properly unless the classroom had a wide array of skin tones, ethnicity, countries of origin, language, etc., etc.  That schools were supposed to be about reading, writing and arithmetic, as they used to say, escaped the educators in the education schools. Teachers used to learn how to teach in “Normal Schools.” These were 2-year schools that covered the basics of grammar school. (There was also once a reason why they called it “Grammar” school) By the time kids got to high school, it was a bit more demanding so teachers gradually were required to have a college degree. Departments of Economics, Philosophy, Physics, that sort of thing, were apt to look down on Departments engaged in how to draw the letters of the alphabet on a blackboard, and unimpressed with PhDs in Education, which has made Professors of Education very sensitive, and apt to fall for the latest new thing.

Even more recent is the discovery that many black adolescent boys behave badly in school, and get sent to the principal, sent home or expelled more frequently than white adolescent boys. Obviously racism. And the cure is to just not expel or punish those who misbehave if they are black. If you know anything about kids, this is an invitation for more bad behavior. There is a rash of teachers being attacked in schools across the country. Science says successful students need hours of physical activity every day. They don’t get enough exercise. Boys particularly. But we have to protect children from physical dangers. Did you ever wonder where the teeter-totters went? Or what happened to the swings and the merry-go-round?

Parents trek to the schools for parent-teacher conferences and the teacher tells them how splendidly their kid is doing, and you assume all is well. But you have not learned the basic lesson of the schools. All problems are to be solved with more money. Class size is deemed to be a major problem, if the classes were smaller your kid would get more attention. More money. Even the courts have gotten into the money problem ordering states cough up equally for all districts everywhere. Some of the best schooling I ever had was in a one-room country schoolhouse with a very good teacher, a pump on the front porch, a stove in the classroom and two separate outhouses in the separate back corners of the property. It’s not the money, it’s not the playground (there wasn’t one, just fields) it’s not fancy equipment. It’s a skilled teacher. And the Schools of Education are failing, and it’s not their money either.

 




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