American Elephants


Common Sense is Not Anywhere as Common as Assumed by The Elephant's Child

Mitch Daniels, President of Purdue University, had an excellent article in the Washington Post last Wednesday about GMO foods. The campaign against GMO foods he says, is the kind of foolishness that only rich societies can afford to indulge.

Of the several claims of “anti-science” that clutter our national debates these days, none can be more flagrantly clear than the campaign against modern agricultural technology, most specifically the use of molecular techniques to create genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Here, there are no credibly conflicting studies, no arguments about the validity of computer models, no disruption of an ecosystem nor any adverse human health or even digestive problems, after 5 billion acres have been cultivated cumulatively and trillions of meals consumed.

And yet a concerted, deep-pockets campaign, as relentless as it is baseless, has persuaded a high percentage of Americans and Europeans to avoid GMO products, and to pay premium prices for “non-GMO” or “organic” foods that may in some cases be less safe and less nutritious. Thank goodness the toothpaste makers of the past weren’t cowed so easily; the tubes would have said “No fluoride inside!” and we’d all have many more cavities.

The article is an excellent plea for a little common sense. Mitch Daniels points out that suggesting that the poor in developing countries should fear GMO foods is not just wrong, but immoral. The story of the Green Revolution and the work of Norman Borlaug who should be one of the great heroes of the world should be taught in school.  Golden Rice is a variety of rice (Oryza sativa)  produced through genetic engineering (there are the ‘scary’ words) to biosynthesize beta-carotene in the edible parts of rice. It is intended to produce a fortified food to be grown and consumed in areas where there is a shortage of dietary vitamin A, a deficiency which is estimated to kill 670,000 children under the age of 5 each year.

This is a broad problem of political and scientific ignorance. Ilya Somin of the Volokh Conspiracy added his views on the problem.He links to Reason science writer Ron Bailey and William Saletan of Slate. The basic problem of ignorance is heightened by the very words “genetically engineered” which sound, to the ignorant, really scary. Ilya Somin notes that a 2012 National Science  Foundation survey found that about 25% of Americans don’t know that the Earth revolves around the sun rather than visa versa. There’s a lot about basic knowledge in Ilya Somin’s article that certainly suggests that we have a major problem with our schools. Do read that whole thing too.

I would suggest though, that much of the problem exists because of our grocery stores. Food producers are concerned with their marketing, and inclined to cater to any possible fears of the consumer. Hence you have “low sodium” products, “sugar-free,” “low-fat,” and “No GMO products” among others on every can or carton in the store. If everyone is telling you that GMO is a bad thing, pretty soon you’ll start to believe it.

Another article by Ilya Somin explains the problem of mandatory government warnings where the state of Florida required producers of skim milk that does not contain added vitamins to label it as “imitation milk” which it of course is not. The European Union has imposed mandatory labeling of GMO foods, even though there are no dangers involved. Read the comments on Mitch Daniels’ fine essay. You might wonder if perhaps Leftism is just a cult.

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Explaining the Trump Derangement Syndrome: by The Elephant's Child

All is explained. Or at least a goodly part of all. Economist Mark Perry refers us to an article by Jeffrey A. Tucker last May in FEE. All good things eventually become clear, but the path may be a little tangled. Dr. Perry offers a condensed version:

For the center-left crowd, all their hopes and dreams are bound up with particular political processes, outcomes, and institutions. The state is their favorite tool for all the good they aspire to do in this world. It must be protected, guarded, defended, and celebrated. The illusion that the government is not a taker but a giver and the source of all good things must be maintained. The gloss of the democratic process must be constantly refurbished so that the essential sanctity of the public sector can be constantly cited as the highest calling.

The center-left has at least one hundred years of work and resources invested in the state’s health, well-being, reputation, and exalted moral status. Nothing must be allowed to threaten it or take it down a peg or two. Any failures must be deemed as temporary setbacks. The slightest sign of some success must be trumpeted constantly. The population must be subjected to unrelenting homilies on the essential holiness of the public sector.

They believe so strongly that they can make the world a better place through the managerial state that it has become their religion. It’s their very core! The president is supposed to at least pretend to be the high priest of the statist religion. That’s his job, according to this outlook.

Everything seemed to being going so well under the Obama administration, which was so earnest, so decorous, so civil. He was funny, smart, respectful of process, and sincere in his pronouncements. He ran on hope and change but governed as the person who kept hope for a new freedom and any radical change at bay.

Trump has profoundly disturbed the balance(click here for the rest)

We keep wondering just what spurs the Trump Derangement Syndrome. This is not a bad diagnosis.



Even The Democrats Should Be A Little Grateful by The Elephant's Child


Democrats were quite sure that by now we would be mired in a global recession, with the end of the world just around the corner. Tom Steyer is still pursing his attempts to impeach Donald Trump, sure that he has committed some high crime, but nobody has found one just yet.

Americans have a lot to be grateful for, though Democrats aren’t much on gratitude either. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the NASDAQ and S&P 500 have been hitting one new record high after another. The Wilshire 5000 Index says that some $3.4 trillion in new wealth has been created since the Inauguration, and $5.4 trillion since President Trump’s election.  Some global recession! Business is confident again.

In the second quarter, the real GDP hit 3.1 percent increase, and 3.0 in the third quarter, and the New York Federal Reserve predicts that the 4th quarter output will expand by 3.8 percent. The average feeble GD growth in the Obama years was 1.5 percent. Even the IMF expects the global GDP to rise by 3.5 percent this year.

Unemployment is at 4.1 percent—a 17-year low.  New unemployment claims were the lowest since 1974. American companies are expanding their operations here instead of shipping jobs overseas. Foreign firms are planning new facilities and creating jobs here. Taiwan’s Foxconn will spend $10 billion on a new electronics plant in Wisconsin, (3000 employees) and Beijing has agreed to invest $84 billion in new energy projects in West Virginia.

The Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline are under construction with 42,000 jobs to be created.  The War on Coal is gone. The fake Paris Climate Accords are over. Obama’s Clean Power Plan,  $993 billion waste of economic sabotage is gone. For every new regulation from the Trump administration, 16 unnecessary regulations are gone.

President Trump signed legislation that enabled the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire incompetent or corrupt officials. So far, the VA has sacked more than 500, suspended 200 and demoted 33. He has also endorsed bills that give vets a greater choice in their own health care.

These numbers come from an essay by Deroy Murdock in National Review just before Thanksgiving, suggesting that there truly is quite a bit to be thankful for. It is certainly not Leftist big government, nor conservative nattering over every tick of the tax bill. It’s plain, common sense middle-of-the-road centrist progress. There’s lots more as well.

The Justice Department is investigating Harvard University for possibly discriminating against Americans of Asian descent who argue that they are being rejected in favor of less qualified applicants of other ethnicities. And good for the Justice Department.

President Trump has appointed a commission to investigate the glitches in our entire system of casting ballots and how it can be made tamper-proof. VP Pence chairs the effort. Does that put an end to the Democracy Alliance’s Secretary of State Project? And there is Obama’s announced effort to work with Eric Holder to prevent any Republican Gerrymandering: of electoral districts. I think it was Judicial Watch that estimated there were 1,100,000 illegal aliens who voted for Hillary.

ICE has arrested 97,482 illegal aliens as of October 27. Among those arrested 70 percent were convicted criminals. In an international operation from September to November 267 members of the deadly immigrant gang MS-13 have been arrested. Gang members are largely from El Salvador, with some from Honduras and Mexico.

That sounds like a remarkable amount of progress to me.



About Draining That Swamp… by The Elephant's Child

How about a little good news for a change? You may be astonished to learn that it comes from Canada. Conrad Black says that “the Canadian media has failed in its coverage of the biggest political news in the world in many years. Trump is the most successful U.S. president since Reagan.” (Do read the whole thing.)

But no one relying on the Canadian media would be aware that he has more than doubled the economic growth rate, reduced illegal immigration by about 80 per cent, withdrawn from the insane Paris Climate accord, helped add trillions to U.S. stock market values, created nearly two million new jobs, led the rout of ISIL, and gained full Chinese adherence to the unacceptability of North Korean nuclear military capability. He will probably pass the greatest tax cuts and reforms since Reagan, if not Lyndon Johnson, by Christmas, and may throw out the most unpopular feature of Obamacare, the coercive mandate, with it.

And here’s Victor Davis Hanson at American Greatness:

After 10 months of governance, Trump’s deregulations, a foreign policy of principled realism, energy agendas, judicial appointments, efforts at tax reform and health care recalibration, cabinet appointments, and reformulation at the Departments of Education, the EPA, and Interior seem so far conservative to the core.

In the few areas where Trump conceivably differed from his 16 primary Republican rivals—immigration, trade, and foreign policy—the 20th-century Republican/conservative orthodoxy was actually closer to Trump’s positions than to those of recent Republican nominees, John McCain or Mitt Romney.

Vast majorities of conservatives always favored enforcement of federal immigration law rather than tolerance of sanctuary cities. They wanted to preserve legal, meritocratic, diverse, and measured immigration, not sanction open borders. And they championed the melting pot over the identity politics of the salad bowl.

After the daily criticism and angst from the junior journalists, it’s nice to hear about the president’s accomplishments for a change, for there are a lot of them.  A little celebration is in order.



How Goes The Existential War for the Soul of America? by The Elephant's Child

Victor Davis Hanson  starts off today’s post at American Greatness saying:

“We are in a veritable war of competing visions. The strife inside the two parties is irrelevant—when compared to the larger existential war for the soul of America.

Like it or not, Donald Trump in fits and starts has chosen not to accommodate the progressive vision. But in most unlikely fashion he leads the fight against it. …

And yet, warts and all, the Trump presidency on all fronts is all that now stands in the way of the completion of what was started in 2009.

He adds that “we are  no longer in an era of liberal reform, it is now a postmodern world of intolerance and lockstep orthodoxy.” that certainly sounds about right.

Trump’s approval polls are supposedly dismal, yet consumer confidence is way up, as is employment, and  unemployment is down, so perhaps the internals of the polls are off.  The media seems to be solidly against Trump and thoroughly confused about what is a valid complaint and what is just silly. Today’s silliness was the occasion of President Trump feeding the Koi with Prime Minister Abe in Japan, when the media erupted because they thought Trump dumped in too much Koi food.  He was following the example of the Prime Minister.

The Bushes, father and son, have announced that Trump is a blowhard, and they don’t approve of him, but where were they when Obama was blithely throwing away the hard progress in Iraq, for nothing, and making the despicable Iran Deal, helping Iran to achieve nuclear weapons.

There are complaints that all that Trump is doing is by executive orders, and the next president can just dump those as Trump is doing now. We’ll see. If President Trump can really get the economy going again, he will be reelected and be the most important president since Reagan.

It seems not to be a financial war, but a class war. Trump sounds like somebody from Queens, and tweets. Apparently letting the public know what he thinks and feels is not “presidential.” Is it bad?  Mr. Trump seems to be an emotional man, and unaccustomed to hiding his feelings.

The Silicon Valley Oligarchs, at least as evidenced by Tom Steyer, who is willing to invest $10 million in the attempt to impeach  Donald Trump, with the help of  Maxine Waters and wassername from Florida who wears the sequined cowboy hats. Strange bedfellows indeed. Mr. Steyer is particularly agitated about the Paris Climate Accords, because he is very worried about the planet’s warming, in spite of a lack of any evidence, since the climate continues to cool. Impeachment requires “high crimes and misdemeanors” and the purported contacts with the Russians seem to be entirely with the Clintons, the Podestas, and the DNC.

I’m pretty pleased with what Trump is doing. I’m impressed with his cabinet, and his judges, and I like what they are doing. Scott Pruitt is stopping the insanity at the EPA, and insisting that regulations be about clean air and clean water. No more midnight raids and outrageous fines for nothing at all. Ajit Pai, Rick Perry, Nikki Haley, Ben Carson, Jack Kelly all doing important work, as are all the rest. It is definitely not all executive orders. What a relief to have Obama’s Rules of Engagement gone. He was so afraid that he might be blamed for something.

It clearly is a War of competing visions, and our millennial generation according to polls, apparently thinks socialism or communism would be just fine. I would suggest that their tender feelings and need for safe spaces would not fare well under those regimes, but they apparently aren’t learning anything at all in our universities for their $60,000 a year.

There is quite a bit that really needs to be done, but there’s an enormous amount of nonsense floating around. Democrats have major problems with human nature,and want to fix it. They are all hung up on ideas of racism, white supremacy, inequality, diversity, hate speech, global warming, the survival of the polar bears, and gun control. Issues that are focus group-tested to stir up Democrats, but will not respond to ‘fixing’.  Not very impressive as a goal.



Democrats Are All About Control of the Language by The Elephant's Child

(Click on View Image to Enlarge)

John Hinderaker of Powerline blog returned yesterday from an eleven day vacation in England. While there he had several conversations with Brits about politics,including one Member of Parliament. He said they were “few and unscientific, but were with well-informed people.”

Several people asked what I think about President Trump. All were surprised when I said I think he is doing a good job, and if he keeps it up will be our best president since Reagan. All said they have hardly heard anyone defend him. All the people I talked politics with were intrigued by my defense of Trump, since they had never heard it before. Trump is restoring the rule of law? Who knew?

The other thing I observed was that the level of interest in the Mueller investigation is high, but knowledge about it is nil. Everyone I talked politics with thought it was a big deal that Manafort and that other guy no one ever heard of have been arrested. One lefty I spoke with was literally rubbing his hands with glee at the prospect of another endless Watergate drama. Needless to say, he was shocked at my suggestion that Trump should appoint a second independent counsel to investigate 1) the Uranium One scandal, 2) the role of the FBI in general, and Bill Mueller and James Comey in particular, in covering up the Uranium One scandal, and 3) collusion between the Clinton campaign and Russians to influence the 2016 election.

It isn’t only the British Left that takes the Mueller investigation seriously. Relatively conservative Brits seemed to have essentially the same view, mostly (I think) because they never hear the other side of the story. They suffer from the delusion that the New York Times and the Washington Post are reliable news sources.

Democrats have purposefully taken command of the language. The instant a new issue arises, they are out there naming and carefully defining the problem. You may have noticed in yesterday’s news that Tony Podesta, (John’s brother) resigned from the Podesta Group, which is a lobbying firm like Fusion GPS, who do opposition research. John Podesta. was not only Hillary’s campaign chairman, a former White House Chief of Staff, but also is the founder of the Center for American Progress.

Which I believe is  the source of the “talking points” that come out daily (?) to tell Democrats what language to use about daily events and problems. This is evident from the identical language used by all Democrats when they speak, including the media. They are also quite familiar with the “Big Lie” technique which says that if a falsehood is repeated long enough and loudly enough, everyone will start to believe it.

If you are a Republican or a Conservative, you are familiar with being called “Racist”, and are bewildered by charges of “White Supremacist, KKK, far Right, and alt-right.” You are familiar with the Republican history as the abolitionists who freed the slaves, fought a war to make it so, made them citizens, made sure they have the right to vote. Republicans, tired of illegal voting, insisted on Photo ID when you sign up to vote. Democrats immediately claimed this was a racist denial of the vote to black Americans, and if that didn’t work, that some black voters were too poor to get to city hall to get their photo ID.  They have also insisted that there are no illegal voters, and the numbers of illegal votes reported never make major headlines. Democrats believe most voters don’t follow the news carefully, and if they can control the headlines, they’ve won.

With the talking points to guide them, many Democrats fail to worry about little things like history, or science, or what I call “studying up” to really grasp what’s going on. That means they believe the globe is warming and the planet is at risk. They believe that the polar bears are endangered and dying off as the Arctic melts. They believe that, for the sake of the planet, we should put much of our corn crop (that could feed the hungry), into our gas tanks. They believe that nasty fossil fuels should be kept where they belong —in the ground, and we should rely on natural sources of energy like wind and solar to power our society. And Republicans are evil “deniers.” Control of the language matters.



Paying More to Save Your Family’s Health and Nutrition? by The Elephant's Child


I’m sure your grocery store features Organic food. It costs about 30% more than the identical items in the regular displays. A program alleged to serve the well-being of the public has received a scathing report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General.

Henry I. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist who was the founding director of the FDA’s Office of Biotechnology, and a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He notes, writing at American Greatness, that Milton Friedman used to say that “only in government, when a program or project fails dismally, the instinctive response is to make it bigger.”

The USDA”s Inspector General details fraud, mismanagement and negligence throughout the global organic agriculture/food supply chain, Congress wants to throw more money at the problem.

Obviously, if things are not working, it’s because they need better funding?

When the organic designation was established in 2000. then-Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman emphasized its fundamental meaninglessness.”Let me be clear about one thing, the organic label is a marketing tool. It is not a statement about food safety. Nor is ‘organic’ a value judgment about nutrition or quality.” The Faso-Grisham legislation is yet another special interest bonanza designed to further subsidize domestic organic farmers and enrich the bottom line of already hugely-profitable organic businesses.

The entire industry is built on the hazy idea of some consumers that “chemicals” are poisonous and bad, therefore food that had never been contaminated with chemicals (like nitrogen fertilizer) or sprays to ward off insects somehow made that food dangerous. So organic growers use natural fertilizer like manure to supply the needed nitrogen, although that carries a risk of e-coli.

Your grocery store is a warehouse full of competing brands and products, and the competition is intense, so they use whatever selling points they can find. A good many of which are absolutely meaningless, and you are being fooled by them. Free-Range Chicken, All Natural Ingredients, Verified, non GMO, Gluten Free, No MSG,  O Trans Fat, No Artificial Flavoring and so on, and so on. The Organic label is essentially meaningless, but allows the organic farmers to charge you about 30% more. It is not a value judgment about nutrition or quality. Imported agricultural products, whether organic of conventional are sometimes fumigated at the port of entry to keep alien pests out. USDA inspectors found pesticides that are prohibited under organic protocols were being sprayed on organic shipments.

The USDA reported in 2012 that 43 percent of the 571 samples of “organic” produce tested were in violation of the government’s organic regulations. Some of the samples were mislabeled conventional products, and others had not been protected from prohibited pesticides. Dr. Miller adds:

Organic agriculture is an unscientific, heavily subsidized fraud-riddled marketing gimmick that misleads and rips off consumers. That is important because free markets don’t function efficiently when consumers are misinformed.

If you’re worried about pesticides, wash your produce carefully before you put it in the refrigerator. Genetic engineering is safe, and state-of the-art  agricultural chemicals ensure the integrity of their own sector.

 




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