American Elephants


“Our Kids Are Flunking Eating” by The Elephant's Child

d_JPGThis very large mouth is part of an exhibit called “Body Venture,” a 45-foot by 50 foot exhibit that “has kids walking through a giant person’s open mouth, travel through a stomach and small intestines and end up in the “brain dome” an ogre-like creature with a huge nose.” They get to brush and floss very large teeth and dance in the stomach. This is all part of a grant from the USDA  to the Kansas State Department of Education created because “our kids are flunking eating.

They claim that one in three children are overweight or obese, which someone has determined by body mass index (BMI) which is not an accurate measurement of any such thing. The USDA has announced a new round of grants of up to $5.5 million to convince the kids that Michelle Obama’s “Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act” new lunch standards are really good, so they should stop complaining.

bb_JPGThe USDA has almost always been wrong about telling us what to eat. They pushed a high carbohydrate diet, and gave millions of Americans diabetes. Fat was bad, eggs were bad, salt was bad, and eat lots of fruit. Current statistics say fat is fine, and needed. Bacon is fine. Eggs are good for you and an excellent source of protein. You need some salt in your diet, and fruit is mostly just pure sugar.

I am really tired of hearing reports that our kids graduating from high school are poor at reading, can’t write, poor at math, and don’t measure up in international comparisons. And in entering college they need remedial work to catch up.After they got through the digestive system, students “participated in cooking/tasting activities and received a student activity booklet with recipes and weekly activities,” according to the USDA.



Why I Despise The Federal Bureaucracy In One Easy Lesson by The Elephant's Child

13-04-nutrition-choices

The federal government is obsessed with teaching children to eat what they believe the children should eat. It seems to be Michelle Obama’s childhood obesity thing. Kids come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes and some get their growth early, and others late. Watch the kids come out of a junior high school at the end of a school day.

Here is an article from the Free Beacon titled “Feds Spend $149,890 on ‘Mindful eating Intervention’ for Third Graders” It is a study based on the techniques of a Zen teacher to try to  “fight childhood obesity” and turn kids into “change agents” to teach their peers and their family how to eat healthy.

The project, entitled, “Foodie U: The Impact of a Pilot Mindful Eating Intervention on Food Behaviors Among Children and Families,” will focus on low-income Hispanic children.

“The elementary school age is a crucial period for developing life-long dietary habits while parents still significantly influence their food intake,” the grant said. “A school-based mindful eating intervention with parent involvement may positively influence children’s food behaviors.”

Mindfulness is a New Age meditation technique that traces its origins from Buddhism. People engaging in mindfulness are encouraged to focus on the present moment “non-judgmentally.” A 60 Minutes segment on mindfulness showed Anderson Cooper using the practice by eating in silence very slowly, focusing on every bite.

The article adds that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has spend $100.2 million on studies testing mindfulness meditation. The study will involve focus groups and include activities about enjoyment of flavor, texture and appearance, hunger and fullness awareness, food and mood, family sit-down meals, and a cultural feast.

They’ll rope in the parents as well to teach them about “mindful eating practices, like beginning the meal with grace, playing the “how full is my stomach” game and telling children creative things like “broccoli is trees for dinosaurs to eat.”(It’s always broccoli, isn’t it?) Cal State University students will serve as “nutrition educators” and “Mindful eating facilitators” for the children involved.

I find this offensive and outrageous. Am I out of line? I don’t think it is the government’s business. “The goal of the USDA project is to make children consume fewer “high palatable, high calorie foods,” while also raising the “awareness and appreciation” of food. No cupcakes, you must like broccoli better. For class birthday celebrations they can have “broccoli parties.”

There’s actually a reason why chefs invented hollandaise sauce.



Sunshine vs. Secrecy. No Change! Still Secret. by The Elephant's Child

sunshine

This is Sunshine Week, And this is a post (revised) I published at this time last year. Has anything changed?  “Open government is good government.” Celebrating Your Right to Know. Yoo Hoo, Hillary…

The government watchdog group Cause of Action released a Freedom of Information Act report card for 15 federal agencies that receive the bulk of all FOIA requests. Six of the 15 agencies received failing grades. Three agencies—the Departments of Education, Homeland Security and Treasury—earned “F” grades for failing to comply with the law’s annual reporting requirements. Whether their grades included agencies that are part of, for example, the IRS which is part of Treasury is not clear.

The Center for Effective Government also rated 15 government agencies, not quite the same list, but even worse grades.

“Transparency and the Rule of Law
will be the touchstone of this  presidency.”
Barack Obama, January 31, 2009

Nice public statement spin, but Obama has been trying to figure out ways around it ever since, and Congress has been trying to figure out how to make it stick. I have 55 articles in my “transparency” file.

You may be unaware that President Obama rewrote the Freedom of Information Act, without telling the rest of America.

The rewrite came in a memo from then-White House Counsel Greg Craig on April 15, 2009, instructing the executive branch to let White House officials review any documents sought by FOIA requestors that involved “White House equities.” That word is not to be found in the law, but the Obama White House effectively amended the law to justify keeping public documents locked away from the public. Cause of Action, is  a Washington-based nonprofit watchdog group that monitors government transparency and accountability.

The exception “applies to all documents and records, whether in oral, paper, or electronic form, that relate to communications to and from the White House, including preparations for such communications.”

Oh, ho, ho. Open government indeed. The FOIA requires federal agencies to respond within 20 days of receiving a request, but the White House equities exception can make it impossible for an agency to meet that deadline.

Cause of Action is still waiting for documents from 16 federal agencies, with the Department of Treasury having the longest pending request of 202 business days.  (Would you care to wager that this has to do with the IRS?) The Department of Energy comes in second at 169 business days. 20 days indeed. Can’t have the  great unwashed viewing politically sensitive documents.

That’s the promised “most transparent administration in history.” As usual, there is the big public announcement which the peasants might hear, followed by the actions that the administration prefers, which people probably won’t hear. Not transparent at all, except where it doesn’t make any difference.

—”Obama Just Officially Decided White House Emails Aren’t Subject to the Freedom of Information Act” Mother Jones 3/17/2015

—”Obama administration stonewalls FOIA request on IRS targeting scandal” Hot Air, 2/10/2015

—’Serious limitations‘: Gov’t watchdogs unite in letter slamming Obama administration transparency,”Fox News, 8/06/2014

“Transparency Groups Seek White House Position on FOIS Reforms” Washington Free Beacon, 10/27/2014

“FOIA request revealed Obama family vacation to Hawaii cost taxpayers over $3.6 million in flight costs alone”
Political Insider, 3/13/2015



Dentists Will Now Feel the Bite of Competition by The Elephant's Child

Many professions have banded together to establish boards for professional licensing. Boards that are composed of people who practice the profession are the norm. Nobody else really knows the details of the profession, what education or training is needed, what is ethical and what is not. In many cases the boards are required by statute to be staffed by a majority of active market participants. So it is easy to slip over into making the requirements more stringent, or to eliminate competition.

In 2006, the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners banned salons, spas and other businesses from offering teeth-whitening services — essentially eliminating the competition. The FTC sued, arguing that the move constituted unfair competition in violation of the 1914 Federal Trade Commission Act. In Ninth Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission, the Supreme Court affirmed the FTC’s position that state licensing boards controlled by “active market participants” are exempt from antitrust lawsuits only if they are also supervised by the state government.

It’s all very complicated, but it means that professional boards won’t be able to get away with trying to prevent competition.

Here in Washington State, the professional decorators have been trying to get the people of Washington to make it illegal for anyone to be compensated for decorating a home unless they belong to the professional organizations of decorators, and meet the standards required. Hasn’t worked. Most people seem to think that if a friend wants to give you advice on what color to paint your kitchen and help you with the tile, they shouldn’t require a special license.

Probably more people are familiar with cosmetologists and hair- braiders. The cosmetology boards require lengthy education in permanents, hair cutting, styling, dyeing (some of that stuff is dangerous) have wanted to require those who are engaging in hair-braiding to get a cosmetology license, since it’s also involved with hair. Hair-braiding is a distinct art, and quite beautiful, but does not involve the skills of a cosmetologist, and the schooling and licensing is expensive. I have seen braided hair that is so elaborate and lovely that I want to stop the woman and ask if she would mind if I stare a bit, but I’ve never had the nerve.

The ruling would seem to be a very good thing, requiring mostly some common sense. When practitioners just want to exclude competition, they are out of line.

This self-regulation has led to self-dealing: Cosmetologists, for example, are required on average to have 10 times as many days of training as emergency medical technicians. In Alabama, the unlicensed practice of interior design was a criminal offense until 2007. As the dentist case illustrates, even the boards of licensed “learned professions”—dentists, physicians and lawyers—create arbitrary restrictions.

But as with all thing legal and illegal, more lawsuits are possible. In general, the Supreme Court is opposed to cartel activity, and this seems like a good step forward.



What Did Obama Mean By “Fundamentally Transform”? by The Elephant's Child

Obama lecturing

Most of us are apt to divide the world up into the good guys and the bad guys. Opposites.  Simplistic thinking, of course. No nuance. (when did that word slip into the daily vocabulary?) Winners and losers. Short and tall, rich and poor, hard-working and lazy, handsome and ugly, cruel and kind, smart and stupid. It helps us to understand those things we encounter in the world, we can modify our judgment later.

World War II was clear — Allies and Axis, and the Cold War — Communists and the Free World. Things began to get confused with the War in Vietnam. Protesters couldn’t decide who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. Jane Fonda has never been forgiven for her stupidity, but she was not alone among the far left. It was a confusing time, and when the Draft was ended, surprisingly so were the protests.

Questions today on the internet ask “Is Obama a Christian?” and “Is Obama a Muslim?” But those are the wrong questions. Obama has given every indication of signing up with the bad guys, the Axis, the Communists, and those who oppose our country. His dislike for the Israeli prime minister is obvious; his distaste for the United Kingdom is clear; his support for a deal with Iran; his support for the Muslim Brotherhood; for the deposed president of Egypt; inability to reach a status of forces agreement with Iraq; Benghazi; refusal to help the dissidents in Iran, and in Syria; and the silly outreach to Cuba; and the support for most anti-American governments in South America.

There is a pattern.  A pattern which is behind Rudy Giuliani’s asking if the president loves America. One would think that the media would be somewhat aware of the direction of the entire Obama administration, instead of dissolving in wrath when someone actually notices. (Or is that why the media boiled over —they’re beginning to notice?)

I think he is just doing exactly what he said he would do: attempt to “fundamentally transform the United States of America.” Everybody was so excited with the idea of the first black president, the mellow baritone voice, the moving phraseology “Yes We Can!,” “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for!,” that they didn’t really pay any attention to what he actually said that he wanted to do. I don’t think he is trying to destroy the country, he just wants to “fix” it.

We are paying the price for our inattention. And it’s up to us to find out exactly what he meant by “fundamentally transform.” It matters. It matters a lot.



Democrats Are Out Trying to Mobilize Public Emotions, But Screwing-Up Big Time! by The Elephant's Child

The moment some Republicans appeared as possible presidential candidates, the Left was out combing the weeds and bushes for dirt with which to discredit them with — imaginary crimes. The Democrats are big on imaginary crimes, because most Republican politicians are not particularly sleazy.

In the last few weeks Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin has emerged as a popular possible candidate. Unleash the attack dogs!  New York Times columnist Gail Collins wrote that Walker had cut state aid to education, causing valued teachers to be laid off in 2010. Unfortunately, Scott Walker didn’t become governor until 2011. Conservative news sites had great fun with the error over the weekend. Perhaps, Politico said “In hindsight, perhaps the headline ‘Scott Walker Needs An Eraser’ wasn’t the best idea.”

The New York Times issued one of their frequent corrections:

Correction: February 15, 2015
An earlier version of this column incorrectly stated that teacher layoffs in Milwaukee in 2010 happened because Gov. Scott Walker “cut state aid to education.” The layoffs were made by the city’s school system because of a budget shortfall, before Mr. Walker took office in 2011.

Well, everybody makes mistakes, frequently in the pages of the New York Times —”the paper of record.”

Then on Monday evening, the unions that Governor Walker has defeated three times in elections, recall election, and election,unloaded a busload of union toughs in front of the home of the Governor’s elderly parents. The Journal Sentinel reported dutifully that the unions were protesting in front of the Governor’s house. Oops! The Governors sons corrected the media. Update:

B-AjQ4tCUAAW-C.jpg-large-5b47ad3eb289b410VgnVCM100000d7c1a8c0____

Here are the protesters, who seem to be from the teachers’ union. The pre-printed signs say “Governor Walker’s Budget hurts Public Education.”



You Must, You Must, You Must Divest, Because… by The Elephant's Child

divestFI

Friday is apparently the kick off for “Global Divestment Day,” though it is a two day event. Climate activists will try to stir up a lot of college kids and campus hangers-on into marching and carrying homemade signs to scare college administrators into acceding to activists’ demands to sell off any fossil fuel-related equities in their endowment portfolios, because — sustainability.

Where to start? If you ever hope to get a job in the American economy or any of the industrial world’s economies, you should be aware that those economies run on fossil fuel. There is, for the foreseeable future, no other choice. Wind and solar energy don’t produce enough energy to be of any significant use, and to produce any energy at all require 24/7 backup from conventional power plants fueled by — fossil fuels. Climate activists have been lying to you for years. Wind is intermittent. Solar is too diffuse. The major greenhouse gas is not CO², but water vapor, more familiarly known as clouds. You are not doing something positive for the climate, you are being used.

Divestment of fossil fuel stocks could significantly harm an investment portfolio. Investing in something that everyone needs is usually a good idea, as opposed to investment in things like Solyndra (bankrupt) or the giant Ivanpah solar array (losing money and killing birds in very large numbers). So you want to march to make your university’s endowment to collapse? Bright idea. Your college costs will just go up sharply.

If you pay the college regularly, take out enough student loans, and in general behave yourselves, you still have no say whatsoever about the college endowment. The endowment is built of the savings and investments of many generations of previous students who have expressed their gratitude to their alma mater by leaving them some money. If you study hard and really learn, you may eventually with hard work, become rich, and able to add to your university’s endowment.

The reason you have been admitted to a college or university is in the hope that over four or more years the faculty can drum enough information into you that you can hope to get an entry-level job if you do manage to graduate. You are there because you don’t know anything yet, and the school and your parents are hoping that some of it will take.

You are messing up that faint hope by investing your time and your parent’s money in marching and drinking and smoking pot and trying to be activists about some cause which you don’t understand, but feel very passionate about. Social Justice is crap — there is no such thing. Justice refers to the body of laws and the Constitution of our country. If you spend more time in the library and less time in the streets, you may be able to avoid encountering the justice system, which would be wise. And do try not to embarrass your parents.




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