American Elephants


Is Google Being Run by Human Resources? by The Elephant's Child

We seem to have a society being run by the Human Resources Department. At least that’s what the flap at Google appears to be about. Diversity and inclusion. But just what is diversity, and why is it important? It clearly is the correct mix of skin color and ethnic origins, and gender too, of course. More complicated now as we seem to have increasing numbers of possible genders, since gender is no longer attached to your natal distinction, but rather to what you feel like today.

Does the number of skin colors have to match the skin colors of the world, or only the country or the city in which you operate? And, for example, if you have Asians represented, is that enough or do you need each Asian country represented? There aren’t all that many Mongolians in our country. But what does any of this have to do with skills, and abilities, information, education, personality, politics, temperament and the ability to do the job required? When you start actually having to explain the meaning of diversity, it all begins to fall apart.

Victor Davis Hanson’s column “The Problem of Competitive Victimhood” gets right to the heart of the matter.

Many working-class voters left the Democratic Party and voted for a billionaire reality-TV star in 2016 because he promised jobs and economic growth first, a new sense of united Americanism second, and an end to politically correct ethnic tribalism third. …

Recent scholarly studies, here and abroad, have found that the aggressive effort to win government preferences for particular ethnic and religious minorities descends into “competitive victimhood.” In other words, such groups battle each other even more than they battle the majority.

After all, who can calibrate necessary government set-asides and reparations for a century and a half of slavery, for ill-treatment of Native Americans, and for descendants of victims of the Asian immigration exclusionary laws, of segregation, of the unconstitutional repression of German citizens during World War I and of Japanese-American internment during World War II?

In another paradox, immigrants came to and stayed in America because they saw it as preferable to their abandoned homelands. Romanticizing a forsaken culture that one has already decided offered far less opportunity and security than America is incoherent.

Democrats have largely pinned their hopes on competitive victimhood. Nancy Pelosi is fundraising on “Trump’s Immoral Border Wall.” It seems that protecting our border is immoral. Sanctuary City Portland was attempting to prevent ICE from deporting the illegal immigrant accused of raping a 65 year old woman after being previously deported something like 20 times. He stole her car as well. Others attack little kids of 10 or 12. Sanctuary Cities attract illegals. Leftists want the extra population when it’s time for the census, which will get them another representative in Congress. Concern for the victims doesn’t measure up to political needs.

So diversity seems to be one of those noble goals — stamping out prejudice, and all that — that doesn’t hold up to closer inspection. It’s just another round of politically correct nonsense.  Sounds good on a list of goals for Human Resources though.

 

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“The Resistance” versus The Constitution by The Elephant's Child

The United States Constitution is quite clear. Article II, Section1.  The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States. That’s it. A very clear and simple statement about the executive power of the United States. Every single person in the executive departments of the federal government answers to the President.

Back in February, Acting attorney General Sally Yates instructed Justice Department lawyers not to defend President Donald Trump’s executive order suspending immigration from seven majority Muslim countries. (There are 49 majority Muslim countries. The 7 temporarily banned make up a relatively large portion of refugees entering the country, but only a small share are visa holders.) Yates sent an email to the lawyers in Justice’s Civil Division instructing them not to defend President Trump’s executive order in court. She acknowledged, in the email that the executive order had been reviewed by the Office of Legal Counsel, which had determined it was lawful on its face. She asserted the federal bureaucrats “I don’t care what you say and I’ll do what I please.” Trump promptly fired Yates. As a federal bureaucrat, she has the right to disagree, but she has no authority to order the Justice Department to refuse to enforce it.

It’s not talked about much, but these things are “catching”. On college campuses, there are a few bad actors, or members of Black Lives Matter, or others sent by ‘community organizers’. But if somebody is protesting and screaming and carrying torches or signs, it’s easy enough to join the crowd.

Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, pointed to news reports about upset employees, social media campaigns and “civil disobedience” training for staffers looking to push back against the White House.

GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak, a contributor to The Hill, attributed the blowback to a host of factors, from the political make-up of civil servants to the use of holdover officials in government offices that are still waiting for the Senate to confirm Trump political appointees.

He said there is also a “real industry now behind recruiting whistleblowers inside the resistance movement,” and creating public outcry about the administration.

“It’s not enough just to be a government employee and resign because of the direction your agency is going,” he said, noting that officials’ concerns are often sincere. “Now you have to do it in a highly public way, out of social pressure and personal motivation.”

These are arrogant bureaucrats, refusing to do the job they were hired to do. They serve at the pleasure of the president. He should make that known by firing the lot.

The Democrats are in deep difficulty and they know it. They’ve been hauling out one potential candidate after another to see what the reaction is. Not good. They have no bench. They have no ideas. They have been trying to stall every nomination of the president to impede his policies. They imagine themselves romantically standing on the barricades bravely as “The Resistance” in some illusionary French Revolution. Well, it won’t fly.

 

 



Government Employees Earn Almost Double the Average American’s. by The Elephant's Child

The average American wage, as calculated for 2015 (the most recent  available calculations) was $48,908, according to the Social Security Administration. Interestingly enough, the average government salary in 2016, was $83,072—almost double the average American worker.

Federal employees in Washington D.C. and the surrounding metropolitan areas of Maryland and Virginia — where the managers and top-level agency executives live had the highest average salaries. Government employees make slightly more than their counterparts in the private sector on average.

Supposedly the disparity between public sector and private sector employees can be blamed on the need to create incentives to keep experts from moving from a government agency to  private sector business that the agency regulates.

The disparity depends greatly on the employee’s level of education. Federal non-military workers with no education after high school earned 21 percent more than the average non-government worker. Employees with bachelors and masters degrees earned about the same amount in the government as in private enterprises. Government employees with a professional degree or doctorate, however, earned about 23 percent less than private sector counterparts.

While the federal workforce is hardly representative of the entire U.S., the gap disparity between average salaries has been growing for some time. In 2001, the average government worker made 1.39 times what non-government employees made, but that ratio grew to 1.58 by the middle of 2016, according to BLS data compiled by Bloomberg News.

I don’t mind the disparity as much as I mind the fact that Congress excuses themselves from the laws they pass for the rest of the country. That should be changed. Any law should apply equally to Congress and government employees as it does to the American people.

 



Can Someone Explain The Democrats’ Ideology? by The Elephant's Child

Daniel Henninger ‘s column on Thursday in the Wall Street Journal was a particular gem (subscription barrier). Like most of us he is trying to grasp the current configuration of the Democratic Party. They are stuck. Don’t know where they are going nor why, don’t understand why they lost, and their ideas are all old, very old, and very tired.

On climate change, Democrats believe they know to the 10th decimal place that Earth is on the brink of an apocalypse. But by their own admission this week, they don’t have a clue about which way the wind is blowing with the American voter.

On Monday the Democrats released something called “A Better Deal,” a set of policy ideas to win back voters. Think of it as the party laying down the first quarter-mile of blacktop on its road back to power.

The short version of “A Better Deal” is that they would bust up corporate trusts (Teddy Roosevelt, circa 1902), ramp up public-works spending ( FDR, circa the Great Depression) and enact various tax credits (Washington, circa eternity).

The more interesting question here lies in the document’s unspoken subtext: How in God’s name did we lose a presidential election to . . . him?

There’s a very famous old cover of the New Yorker magazine demonstrating the map of the United States as the mind of New York city’s elite conceive of it. Hillary referred to middle America as “the deplorables” (probably one of the reasons she lost), and how many columns have you seen since the election explaining that those who voted for Trump were working class who were not college educated. The Democrats do like to emphasize the “not college educated” and “working class” which is, of course nonsense. The working class ( doesn’t almost everybody work?) is, I suppose, identified as those who work in the trades, or factory workers.

I know lots of people who graduated from college who didn’t learn much of anything from that experience, and lots of people who never attended college and have made a great success of their lives. Sneering at “flyover country” really identifies those who (usually incorrectly) think especially well of themselves. Most Americans think of themselves as middle class patriotic Americans, and that “class distinctions” were something we left behind with the Brits when we won the Revolution, and we enjoy when we watch old British movies and root for the “underclass” in the kitchen.

The American Dream has always been that anyone can rise and they can  hope that their kids can do better than they did. Equal opportunity, not equal outcome. That everyone has the opportunity to make the most of themselves and their talents and abilities. The idea that you can make everybody equal has always been absurd, but Democrats also seem to believe that you can fix human nature, and get rid of the annoying traits that they don’t like. But human nature, by definition, is immutable and unchangeable—even with leftist indoctrination and instruction. Unfortunately, you can’t teach lefties much of anything. It all seems to be ideology.

In the news, a 20-time deported Mexican national moved to a Sanctuary City, in this case, Portland, and allegedly broke into the home of a 65-year old woman, tied her up, held her at knifepoint, and raped her. Court records show a long criminal record, besides the 20 times he was deported. Criminal aliens are drawn to sanctuary cities. Some 300 jurisdictions in the country refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities.

In another case, Sanctuary cities are protecting MS-13 gang members from deportation. Can someone explain why Democrats defend Sanctuary Cities, and ignore the fact that they lure the criminal aliens, ignore the murders and violence? Surely the idea that the sanctuary designation allows them to feel good about their compassion  is not an adequate justification. That is merely an example in a long list of what would seem to be a very confused ideology. It makes no sense at all.



Fake News and the Hunger for Information by The Elephant's Child

Johannes Gutenberg is widely credited with the invention of the first printing press in 1455. However Chinese monks had been using block prints even earlier, by A.D, 600, and there were attempts to create type as a means of conveying information. Too many characters in the Chinese language, and conveying important messages with blockprints didn’t really go anywhere.

The first newspaper in America was Public Occurrences, Both Foreign and Domestic, and the first (and last) issue was published in 1690. The 1st Amendment to the Constitution says “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom…of the press.” The Constitution establishes a government with three branches, but it does not establish a press or a media. What it does do is try to prohibit the government from trying to control what people say in the press or outside the press. Free speech.

It’s more useful to think about the way news was disseminated before there were a wide range of newspapers and subscriptions. Try to imagine a town crier, shouting out news of marriages, births and big events as he strolls around the town. People depended on riders to convey the news from one town to another. News of war and the battlefield had to wait until a rider could be sent back to town, and farmers and small communities were out of luck until someone happened by.

Illustrated news came to be long before photographs were invented, and depended on artists who could make reproducible engravings or blockprints. Americans yearned for news of the old country, but had to wait until a ship came in. Gold was discovered in California in January of 1848, but it wasn’t until December that the first rumors reached New York. Sailing ship going around the horn — the Panama Canal did not yet exist.

Samuel Morse invented the telegraph in 1844, and Morse code, but it wasn’t until 1860 that a bill was passed in Congress to authorize the telegraph to be built across the continent. They built from each coast with fascinating stories of Indians, the pony express, and the trans-continental line was completed on October 24th, 1862, linking the continent.

So here we are with “Fake News” and a profession is disrepute. The telegraph was followed by the telephone, the Atlantic Cable, photography, radio, movies, recordings, sailing ships were replaced by steam, the Panama Canal was built. Wars intervened, and news from the battlefield, but the front lines had to communicate with Division headquarters, and the medics, so there were runners. Then there were walkie-talkies. Each improvement in communication meant changes in the way things were done. Lives were saved.

With the advent of television, everyone said it was a great step forward, the American people would watch symphonies, the best of the New York stage, lectures, history. Uh huh.  They thought the same thing when we first got computers. You can watch porn online, and pretend comedians holding up an efigy of the head of a newly elected president. A goodly percentage of the people do not pay any attention to the news, and are open to the most partisan claims because they don’t understand what is happening. Cell phones, and people get mowed down on the street because they are paying attention to their phone instead of where they are going, and ditto for cars.

Victor Davis Hanson writes on the Media Meltdown between 2008 and 2016 at the Hoover Institution’s ‘Defining Ideas,’ and how it all happened. We are being manipulated by a partisan media, and the Left is capitalizing on focus-tested vocabulary and pictures to influence the unwitting—and unfortunately all of us are unwitting at least part of the time. I emphasize “the Left,” but of course the Right tries to do it too, but is not as skilled at manipulation, and more inclined to explanation.

So now we have reached a point telephone calls are made by robots, we have the immensely annoying telephone trees when you just want to shriek “I want to speak to a human.” We can turn on the air-conditioning or close the shades at home—from the office. Ordering anything online is killing the retail industry and you no longer have to go out to get dinner, you can have it delivered, as a kit to produce your own, or as a fully prepared meal. There’s a lot going on in that sector, and we can probably look forward to a time when we don’t have to cook at all.

What is becoming very clear is that new inventions will not develop in the way we assume. Our schools are making us dumber, and human nature being what it is, we probably won’t become wise consumers, very well-informed, or lifelong learners striving to know as much as we possibly can. After all, we’re still watching movies about comic book characters and playing silly games on our computers—rather than listening to symphonies and the finest Broadway productions.



20,000 Regulations To Control You and Your HealthCare Provider by The Elephant's Child

Along with millions of others, I’m really frustrated with Congress. When the Democrats rammed through the Affordable Care Act, most Republicans recognized instantly that it was not going to work. Way too much bureaucratic control. It was clearly a step towards single-payer health care like Britain’s National Health Service. Of course there are probably not all that many Americans who read the British papers, but the failures of the system were apparent. Physicians have become government employees, hospitals so short of money that ambulances are parked in long lines on the street, waiting their turn to dislodge their desperately ill patients, and old people dying of neglect in the hospital, from dehydration, lack of food, dirty sheets. You have to pay attention to the symptoms of failure.

I know, most people just think that the medical care establishment is just way too expensive, they can’t afford it and want the government to pay for it. The thing everyone must remember is that government has no money of its own. Congress can raise taxes, especially on the rich, but you can’t take enough money away from the rich to take care of everybody who is not rich, and in the meantime, the rich stop becoming rich. High taxes mean less economic activity, fewer people getting rich, and everybody getting a little poorer.

What should have happened is that the moment ObamaCare passed, Republicans should have started planning how to reform health care in a way that was good for the most people and did the least harm. Instead, they did regular grandstanding votes of repealing ObamaCare when there was no chance of the vote succeeding in passing Congress nor being signed by the President. So, here we are seven months into a new administration, and the Republicans said they have been working on it for 8 months, but they can’t agree on a bill. They had eight years.

Part of it is that although Republicans boast of believing firmly in the free market, when push comes to shove, they are loath to lose control. We need to remember, first of all, that we are not talking about health care — we are talking about health insurance, and who is going to pay for what, who is going to receive what under what circumstances and what the insurance companies are going to offer at what price. What medicines and treatments you can have and how much that will cost.

Here’s an example of the actions of the free market: A long established pharmacy discovered a box in a back room that was full of bottles of old pharmaceuticals. Really old. Instead of just throwing them out, someone there decided to test them for efficacy. Was it possible that any of them could still work after so many years? Most of them were still effective. Yet when a new drug is approved, it gets assigned an expiration date because they have tested for 3 or 5 years, because the rules say they don’t have to test beyond that. Must they test for longer? Do the rules prevent more realistic expiration dates? It could obviously be cheaper if they didn’t expire so soon.

In 2016, it was pointed out that when the patents expire on a medicine it means that other manufacturers can produce the medicine at a lower cost. Yet last year a few companies that acquired the rights to lifesaving medicines  immediately jacked up prices, which helped make the situation far worse. Federal policies facilitate monopolies by erecting regulatory barriers to new entrants.

There are a few physicians in Congress who understand in part the flaws and failures of Government health care, but I don’t know that they understand the problems of insurance companies. And who understands the pharmaceutical industry and it’s problems? Bureaucrats want to make rules, they often believe the rules they make are sensible, protect the people, etc. but that isn’t often true.

Here’s an example of market-driven innovation—the free market at work —from 2012, about a group of doctors  who posted a list of prices for 112 common surgical procedures online, founded the Surgery Center to escape from the bureaucracy of a major hospital center. A provision in ObamaCare effectively prohibits doctors from starting their own hospitals or expanding hospitals (which was widely interpreted as a give-away to the American Hospital Association.)  I assume it’s still going strong, I haven’t followed through.

And here’s a fascinating article from The Atlantic, this morning, that points to new scientific studies that may lead to new medicines, that are still in stage of basic new exciting discoveries —with unknown promise. Free people and free markets can come up with amazing solutions. That’s what created the dynamic American economy, and drives innovation. Surprise —it’s not more regulation and more control.

Democrats are congenitally programmed to demand control. They are afraid of the free market, hate capitalism, and make a mess of everything they attempt to govern by that philosophy.  You cannot effectively attempt to change human nature. Human nature is fixed and unchangeable. Most free market ideas we come up with will fail or never be tried, but some will succeed brilliantly and society will advance a little more.

 



Why Intellectuals Hate Capitalism by The Elephant's Child

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods explains why Intellectuals hate Capitalism. Professors at our Universities have long seethed with envy when they see the published income of corporate CEOs. After all, they have PhDs, it is their ability to pass on real knowledge that made these upstarts able to become corporate big shots. If you wondered why college tuition has so far eclipsed any rise in the economy, part of it is the demands of professors to receive what they believe to be their due emolument. This video is from August 2015, pre-Amazon, but illuminating nevertheless. It explains a lot.




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