American Elephants


You Voted for Republicans in 2014? The Community Organizer Strikes Back! by The Elephant's Child
June 22, 2015, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Economy, Education, Progressivism, Regulation | Tags: , , ,

According to the Obama administration, in too many neighborhoods “housing choices continue to be constrained through housing discrimination, the operation of housing markets,[and] investment choices by holders of capital,” information directly from the Housing and Urban Development  — “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) proposed rule.

Obama apparently believes that your neighborhood may not be inclusive enough, so he has instructed HUD to issue a new rule to force communities to diversify.

Under Obama’s proposed rule, the federal government will collect massive amounts of data on the racial, ethnic and socioeconomic makeup of thousands of local communities, looking for signs of “disparities by race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, or disability in access to community assets.” Then the government will target communities with results it doesn’t like and use billions of dollars in federal grant money to bribe or blackmail them into changing their zoning and housing policies.

Don’t misunderstand, this is not about housing discrimination, which has been illegal since 1968. It is unlawful to deny you a loan or prevent you from buying a home because of your race, creed or color. Socioeconomic status is another matter, and should be. If you want to buy a nice house in the suburbs, you have to be able to afford it. Obama apparently believes that this is unfair discrimination by the “holders of capital.” Remember that Obama’s previous chosen occupation was as a “community organizer,” a job heavily invested in claims of “red-lining” and banks’ loan policies.

The effort calls for HUD to set aside taxpayer funds to upgrade poorer communities with amenities such as better schools, parks, libraries, grocery stores and transportation routes as a means of gentrifying those communities. It also calls for using grant money to build affordable housing in wealthy neighborhoods.

The Left is deeply engaged in the pursuit of “equality.” Their goal of a future utopia where everyone is equal and lives together in perfect harmony dominates their dreams and motivates their political aims. Communitarian ideals, though it doesn’t seem to penetrate that it has been tried and failed over and over from Lenin to Venezuela and the communes of the Sixties. Those people just didn’t do it right. The Progressives would.

There is clearly a natural urge for “community.” How often do you hear the term “the Black Community?” But many cities have a Chinatown, Seattle has a Norwegian community, and it was true from the beginning — up-country South Carolina was heavily settled by the Scots-Irish. My German immigrant ancestors settled in Germantown, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania itself was settled by Quakers, New England by Puritans. People who can afford it buy around a favored golf club, or buy waterfront around a lake. Are the rest of us harmed by that? Or does it drive a better economy that benefits everyone, with more people striving to succeed?

There is a human instinct for associating with like-minded people. Consider the retirement communities, where golf-carts are the usual transportation, and escape from loud rock music is welcomed. and homes for senior citizens where health care is part of the deal. Does low-income housing fit into the gated community in the name of diversity? Is a massive influx of immigrants or welfare recipients into a highly regarded school district called for in the name of correcting good schools in the name of discrimination?

The final regulations are due out this month and HUD is pitching them as a plan to “diversify” America. “HUD is working with communities across the country to fulfill the promise of equal opportunity for all,” a spokeswoman for the agency explained.

The House has passed an amendment to the Transportation Housing and Urban Development Bill that prevents HUD from implementing their AFFH regulation, which has been issued in preliminary but not yet final form by the Obama administration. “AFFH repudiates the core principles of our constitutional system by allowing the federal government to usurp the zoning powers of local governments. Over time it would transform the way Americans live urbanizing suburbs and Manhattanizing cities,” according to Stanley Kurtz. This may well become a campaign issue. Anything to get the Iran deal off the airwaves. This represents the death of the neighborhood.

Obama wants to reengineer your neighborhood.” by Marc A. Thiessen, Washington Post

“Inside Every Liberal is a Totalitarian Screaming to Get Out: The Death of the Neighborhood” by Arnold Ahlert, Front Page Magazine

“Ultimate White House trolling: Obama to “diversify” wealthy neighborhoods” by Jazz Shaw, Hot Air



The Commencement Speech You Need to Hear by The Elephant's Child
June 4, 2015, 6:34 am
Filed under: Education, Humor, Politics | Tags: , ,

George Will has a graduation speech that nobody will give, but somebody should. Great fun.



The Choices Available At The End of the Civil Rights Era by The Elephant's Child
May 27, 2015, 6:12 am
Filed under: Education | Tags: , ,

From William Voegeli’s The Pity Party:

The question of self-reliance affects the relationship between emphathizers and empathizees in a further way. If compassion rules out expecting much from those who suffer, then the moral and political leverage that empathizees wield against those who feel sorry for them will come to depend on their own incapacity. This correlation of moral forces operates with particular strength when empathizers and empathizees unite in the belief that the historic grievances of those who suffer preclude anyone else from calling on them to be self-reliant.

The basic choice open to blacks after the landmark legislation and court decisions of the civil rights era, according to the Hoover Institution’s Shelby Steele,* was between advancing “through education, skill development, and entrepreneuralism,” or  “pressuring the society that had wronged us into taking the lion’s share of the responsibility for resurrecting us.” The second course became all but inevitable when the post-civil rights narrative of white guilt and black victimhood decreed “that no black problem— whether high crime rates, poor academic performance, or high illegitimacy rates—could be defined as largely a black responsibility, because it was an injustice to make victims responsible for their own problems.”

*Shelby Steele, White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era (New York: HarperCollins, 2006)



“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.




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