American Elephants


The Butterfield Fallacy Raises Its Ugly Head in the White House. by The Elephant's Child

When President Obama recorded his Weekly Address for today, Saturday, he took up the matter of criminal justice, and showed clearly that he is a victim of the Butterfield Fallacy—which consists of misidentifying as a paradox that which is a simple cause and effect relationship. When you put more of the people who are committing crimes in prison, the crime rate goes down. It is not a complicated matter of “Oh look, the crime rate has dropped, why do we have so many people in prison?”

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It’s true that more young black men are convicted of crimes and sent to prison. That is because more crimes are committed by young black men. There are more murders in the black community and they are committed by young black men. There are lots of reasons: gangs, fatherless households, young single mothers, peer pressure, unemployment, police backing off because of what has been called “the Ferguson effect” when the police were blamed for young black men killed in self defense by policemen. When policemen are attacked and threatened for trying to maintain order in the community, they are more hesitant to stop people on suspicion, make arrests, or try to prevent trouble. Higher crime rates mean lack of opportunity— the unemployment rate for young blacks is the highest of any category.

Lack of discipline in the schools: when school is orderly and the demand for excellence is high, more learning takes place, more kids are able and encouraged to go to college or to good trade schools.  This is another area where the Left shifts the blame. Schools are harshly criticized for expelling obstreperous kids who disrupt classes, so schools lighten up on the discipline because they are criticized, and the schools become more out of control.

Most of the protests in the universities and in the black communities is due to agitation by #Black Lives Matter, Acorn, Organize for America and other groups trained by community organizers to disrupt and encourage protest. The Left is deeply worried that the black community that turned out so resoundingly to support the first black president will not turn out at the polls in such numbers this time. From what I can see, that’s why there is so much emphasis on race, at a time when, except for agitation and protests, race relations have been so much better.

Locking criminals up does make communities safer. Discipline for badly behaving kids, and expelling those who won’t mind the rules from school makes for more orderly schools. Of course we need more uniformity in sentencing laws. Selling hard drugs is a crime and sellers should be put in prison. Released felons should be helped to reenter society successfully. I hope there is a sincere desire to help, not just an effort to increase racial tension for the sake of the next election.

ADDENDUM: I removed the graphic on gun violence because it is incorrect. Sorry about that!



Obama’s At It Again, Rewriting the Law and Legislating From the Oval Office. by The Elephant's Child

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President Obama has no intention of spending his last months in office trying to persuade Congress to do what he wants. He sees no future in that, and he dislikes Republicans anyway. So it’s not exactly a surprise that he is once again trying to make law from the oval office instead of bothering with the customary route to getting his own way. I guess in law school nobody ever explained the three branches of government and the role assigned to each. Or maybe it’s just that progressives don’t have any respect for the Constitution and see no reason to pay it any mind.

President Obama has no inhibitions about rewriting laws he doesn’t like—even those he’s signed. Witness the Administration’s revision of the Every Student Succeeds Act to allow the feds to regulate state and local school spending.

The law—which passed Congress last year with large bipartisan majorities—devolved power to the states and rolled back some federal mandates. In doing so, Congress rebuffed the White House’s previous attempts to direct local education policy with No Child Left Behind waivers.

The law allowed school districts more discretion over Title I funds which are designed to help poor students. Federal policy dating back to the 1970s required that Title I funds were to supplement state and local spending, not substitute for them.

Schools complained that completing so much federal paperwork diverted resources from teaching, and anyone who just finished their income taxes might well be sympathetic. But Congress allowed school districts to develop their own methods to show their compliance. “The law also specifically prohibited the Secretary of Education from prescribing the “specific methodology a local educational agency uses to allocate State and local funds” or mandating “equalized spending per pupil for a State, local educational agency, or school.”

That’s the part of the law the administration does not like, and that they are attempting to rewrite.

The Education Department recently proposed assessing the local school district’s compliance with the law by whether a Title I school “receives at least as much in State and local funding as the average non-Title I school.” In other words, the Administration is trying to do exactly what the law prohibits it from doing.

Progressives want to force local school districts to equalize spending among all schools. Staff compensation represents more than 80% of school spending. Because of seniority rules in labor agreements and state laws, younger teachers with lower base salaries are apt to be employed at low-income schools.

Demanding equalized spending in Title I schools and non-Title I schools would force states to rewrite their educational funding statutes and districts to redo their labor agreements. Experienced teachers who earn much higher salaries might have to be forcibly transferred to low-income schools, or teachers at Title I schools might have to be paid more.”

The goal on the left — is to force school districts to employ more staff at low-income schools.” Unfortunately quantity of teachers is no more indicative of quality education than is years of tenure. Unions are not particularly interested in teacher excellence, nor quality of education, but only in collecting dues, and exercising political power.  Educational excellence usually comes from the Principals, the individual teachers and the elected representatives of the local people — the local school board— not the federal government.



The Fake and the Real, Playing With Your Emotions and Your Mind. by The Elephant's Child

This is one of those posts that leaves you scratching your head and wondering if it is real — or just a giant hoax. It sounds authentic, but I’ll leave it to you to decide. It’s about crowd sourcing — as a business. It comes in The California Sunday Magazine, which I guess we will assume is real. I mean these days how can you tell?

The story is about a company called Crowds on Demand. The author signs on as a recruit, doesn’t know what he’ll be doing, really, but it pays $15 an hour.  The 24-year-old CEO started the company as a 21 year-old UCLA undergrad after he had volunteered with Jerry Brown’s gubernatorial campaign and found that it could be challenging to attract large crowds to speeches. He believed that there was an opportunity for a service to turn out—well— fake crowds. Plenty of bodies to give the impression of enthusiasm. Once he got started he found there was a demand not only for crowds to support a candidate, but for crowds to protest a candidate.

I just wrote about the increasing unreality as it becomes more and more difficult to discern what is real and what is not. In the age of Photoshop, with skilled artists, it’s impossible to tell. The young CEO is getting very rich, very fast, and drives a silver Tesla.

When people inquire about a potential event, Adam guides them through the possibilities and the approximate costs: $600 for fake paparazzi at a birthday dinner; $3,000 for a flash mob dancing, chanting, and handing out fliers as a PR stunt; $10,000 for a weeklong political demonstration; $25,000 to $50,000 for a prolonged campaign of protests. According to Adam, protests have become the company’s growth sector, and just as with advertising, repeat impressions are key. “When the targets of our actions see that we’re going to be back, day after day, they get really scared,” he says. “We’re in it for the long haul, and the problem’s not going to go away on its own.”

Fascinating article, excellent illustrations, and really quite scary. We are not doing well as a nation at managing the flow from the Information Age. As the information becomes more and more unreal, or more questionable, all the checks and balances are disappearing, and we need to pay more and closer attention — but are we up for it?



Finally, A College President Does the Right Thing by The Elephant's Child

Steven Hayward, who keeps a close eye on the absurdities of academe, reports on the rare sighting of a university president who actually has a backbone. I have been critical, mostly of the students, who although young, should know better. University presidents, however, have the assigned job of keeping order in their establishment.

Students are there theoretically to learn something, but because they are young and stupid, they are apt to engage in outbreaks of goofiness. Once long ago, it was a rage for swallowing goldfish that spread from campus to campus, then there were panty raids. It got far more serious and caused far more trouble in the Vietnam War era, because kids were afraid of being drafted. Today we’re back to the ridiculous.

The current brouhaha is at Ohio State University, and the hero is president Michael V. Drake. Students who attempted to occupy the area outside president Drake’s office got a taste of the real world “when a senior administrator  advised them that they would be arrested and expelled  if they didn’t retreat from their ‘occupied space’.”

Here are some of their demands:

We demand complete, comprehensive and detailed access to the Ohio State budget and investments immediately, as well as personnel to aid students in understanding this information.

OSU Divest: Divest fromCaterpillar Inc., Hewlett Packard and G4S due to their involvement in well-documented human rights abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and across the globe. . .

Real Food OSU: Sign the Real Food Campus Commitment. Ensure the administration work with Real Food OSU through the entire implementation of the Real Food Campus Commitment, in place of, or as a means of attaining, the university sustainability goal of increased “production and purchase of locally and sustainably sourced food to 40% by 2025.”

Steven Hayward added: “Memo to all college presidents: This is how you do it. Why is this so hard?”



A Little Straight Talk About Where we Are by The Elephant's Child

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Here’s some straight talk about our current problems. Unfortunately, straight talk is somewhat rare, but knowledge of what is true and what is not is a good first step.

Leon Aron, resident scholar and Director of Russian Studies at AEI.

—”The clash of philosophies

From Alabama to Denmark, Nevada to the Netherlands, and from Arizona to Sweden and Germany, Hungary and Poland, voters are flocking to right/left populist, nationalist, isolationist, and nativist demagogues, parties, and movements.

The trend sweeping Europe and the United States is broader and deeper than politics. …This chasm is not merely ideological. It is ethical, linguistic — almost anthropological

Victor Davis Hanson senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

How America Lost Its Groove

Deterrence is lost through lax foreign policy, an erosion of military readiness, and failed supreme command — often insidiously, over time, rather than dramatically, at once. The following random events over the seven years that Barack Obama has been in office have led to the idea abroad that the U.S. is no longer the world’s leader and that regional hegemonies have a golden opportunity to redraw regional maps and spheres of influence — to the disadvantage of the West — in the ten months remaining before the next president is inaugurated.

A Nation of Laws—Sort Of

Any fair reading of State Department and general federal government laws regarding the use of classified information by federal employees makes it is clear that Hillary Clinton violated the law—both by improperly setting up her own private server, and then by sending information through it that was classified. …

If she is not indicted by the Obama administration for violations of federal laws or conspiracy to obstruct justice, in the future it will be almost impossible to prosecute successfully any federal employee for violating government protocols about the handling of classified information.

Hold Colleges Accountable to the Real World

The public is steadily losing confidence in undergraduate education, given that we hear constantly about how poorly educated are today’s graduates and how few well-paying jobs await them.

The cost of college is a national scandal. Collective student-loan debt in America is about $1.2 trillion. Campus political correctness is now daily news.

How could higher education be held accountable and thereby be reformed?

These latest linguistic contortions to advance ideological agendas follow an established pattern of the Obama administration and the departments beneath it.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described Egypt’s radical Muslim Brotherhood as “largely secular.” CIA Director John Brennan has called jihad “a legitimate tenet of Islam,” a mere effort “to purify oneself.

Bill Gertz national security columnist for The Washington Times

Cybercom sounds alarm on infrastructure attacks

The commander of the U.S. Cyber Command warned Congress this week that Russia and China now can launch crippling cyberattacks on the electric grid and other critical infrastructures. …

Most military operations involve the use of commercial infrastructure and thus their vulnerabilities to cyberattacks are a major concern.

“If you were able to take that away or materially impact the ability to manage an air traffic control system, to manage the overhead [satellite] structure and the flow of communications or data, for example, that would materially impact [the Defense Department’s] ability to execute its mission — let alone the broader economic impact for us as a nation. …



Lunch. In Photos Uploaded by the Kids Who Hate the Lunches. by The Elephant's Child

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I don’t know what inspired Michelle Obama to take charge of the school lunch program in America, or what her qualifications are for that position. The kids have responded by uploading pictures of the  totally disgusting food on offer in their school cafeterias with the hashtag #thanksmichelleobama. “Mystery mush” is featured frequently.  The lunches are a far cry from the lunches the Obama daughters get at tony Sidwell Friends School. Elizabeth Harrington reports in the Free Beacon:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service issued a proposed rule Monday to codify parts of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was championed by Mrs. Obama.

The regulation would punish schools and state departments with fines for “egregious or persistent disregard” for the lunch rules that imposed sodium and calorie limits and banned white grains.

A West Virginia preschool teacher was threatened with fines for violating the rules by rewarding her students with candy for good behavior in June 2015. The teacher ultimately did not have to pay, but the school had to develop a “corrective action plan” with training on the policies.

The government now seeks to make fines enforceable by regulation. Section 303 of the law requires that the federal government “establish criteria for the imposition of fines” for all the Department of Agriculture’s child food programs.

More than 1,4 million students have left the lunch line since Mrs. Obama’s rules went into effect. There have been constant complaints of small portions and unappetizing fare. Pictures of the food have been circulating on the internet for several years, and from the pictures, I wouldn’t eat the stuff either. The standards have been blamed for cafeteria workers losing their jobs, and reportedly, some kids have resorted to creating black markets for salt to add some flavor to the food.

The government plans to fine schools that fail to comply with the rules, for egregious and persistent disregard for the lunch rules that imposed sodium and calorie limits, and banned white grains.Section 303 of the law requires that the federal government “establish criteria for the imposition of fines” for all the Department of Agriculture’s child food programs. The agency said the fines would amount to 1 percent of the total amount the school was reimbursed for lunches for the first fine. A second fine would be 5 percent of the total cost of the program and a third fine would be for 10 percent. Alabama received $210,937,195 in 2015. One percent would total $2.1 million and ten percent would be $21 million.

The rule will be open for public comment for 60 days once it is officially published in the Federal Register on Tuesday. The more public comment, the merrier. I presume you comment at the Department of Agriculture, according to the link given:

http://federalregister.gov/a/2016-06801, and on FDsys.gov

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No Difference between Capitalism and Communism? by The Elephant's Child

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In Argentina, in a Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative Town Hall, Obama argued that capitalism and communism are just two competing interests that need to be overcome.

I guess to make a broader point, so often in the past there’s been a sharp division between left and right, between capitalist and communist or socialist. And especially in the Americas, that’s been a big debate, right? Oh, you know, you’re a capitalist Yankee dog, and oh, you know, you’re some crazy communist that’s going to take away everybody’s property. And I mean, those are interesting intellectual arguments, but I think for your generation, you should be practical and just choose from what works. You don’t have to worry about whether it neatly fits into socialist theory or capitalist theory — you should just decide what works.

And I said this to President Castro in Cuba. I said, look, you’ve made great progress in educating young people. Every child in Cuba gets a basic education — that’s a huge improvement from where it was. Medical care — the life expectancy of Cubans is equivalent to the United States, despite it being a very poor country, because they have access to health care. That’s a huge achievement. They should be congratulated.

The Cubans do have access, but they have to take their own sheets and towels, and medicine, which they buy out of the $20 a month they are allotted.

But you drive around Havana and you say this economy is not working. It looks like it did in the 1950s. And so you have to be practical in asking yourself how can you achieve the goals of equality and inclusion, but also recognize that the market system produces a lot of wealth and goods and services. And it also gives individuals freedom because they have initiative.

And so you don’t have to be rigid in saying it’s either this or that, you can say — depending on the problem you’re trying to solve, depending on the social issues that you’re trying to address what works. And I think that what you’ll find is that the most successful societies, the most successful economies are ones that are rooted in a market-based system, but also recognize that a market does not work by itself. It has to have a social and moral and ethical and community basis, and there has to be inclusion. Otherwise it’s not stable.

What he apparently means is that a market-based system can get along if it is regulated and managed by those with superior knowledge and understanding like himself. We do have a remarkable number of examples of the brutality and terror of communist regimes throughout the world, something approaching 150 million dead, but never mind. Obama added:

And it’s up to you — whether you’re in business or in academia or the nonprofit sector, whatever you’re doing — to create new forms that are adapted to the new conditions that we live in today.

“Young Leaders of the America’s Initiative” indeed.

In the midst of double-digit inflation and a stagnant economy, Argentinians elected the 56-year-old Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri as their new president last November. “One week into office, he had slashed taxes, ripped out capital controls and restored the peso to its natural level. It takes guts, but this blaze of reforms has worked wherever it’s been tried.”

The IMF is forecasting a single tough year in 2016, followed by 7% growth in 2017. Obama’s speech seems oddly out-of-touch.




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