American Elephants


The Wonders of Free Market Capitalism by The Elephant's Child

The Manhattan Contrarian (Francis Menton)  wrote a while back:

In the progressive project to remake humanity and civilization, nothing counts but good intentions, and the details will all be worked out by experts, using the infinite credit card. And thus we get $1 trillion or so of annual “anti-poverty” spending that never makes a dent in poverty. As hard as that one is to top, nothing can top the delusional thinking on the subject of renewable energy, particularly the idea that it will be easy and costless to transition over a few years to a world where fossil fuels have been banished, and yet we want and need.

Today, from FEE (the Foundation for Economic Education) we have the encouraging headline “The World’s Poorest People are getting Richer Faster Than Anyone Else.” “The speed of poverty alleviation in the last 25 years has been historically unprecedented. Not only is the proportion of people in poverty at a record low, but in spite of adding 2 billion to the planet’s population, the overall number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen too.

As Johan Norberg writes in his book Progress, “If you had to choose a society to live in but did not know what your social or economic position would be, you would probably choose the society with the lowest proportion (not the lowest numbers) of poor, because this is the best judgement of the life of an average citizen.” Well, in 1820, 94 percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty (less than $1.90 per day adjusted for purchasing power). In 1990 this figure was 34.8 percent, and in 2015, just 9.6 percent.

In the last quarter century, more than 1.25 billion people escaped extreme poverty – that equates to over 138,000 people (i.e., 38,000 more than the Parisian crowd that greeted Father Wresinski in 1987) being lifted out of poverty every day. If it takes you five minutes to read this article, another 480 people will have escaped the shackles of extreme of poverty by the time you finish. Progress is awesome. In 1820, only 60 million people didn’t live in extreme poverty. In 2015, 6.6 billion did not.

Do read the whole thing, I thought a little very good news might be welcome in the face of the outrage and anguish that are the daily fare of the media. No, it is not the result of the progressive project to remake humanity. It’s the result of plain old free market capitalism. Works every time.

 

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How the EU went Wrong and Why they did. by The Elephant's Child

George W. Bush gave a speech last Thursday at “The Spirit of Liberty: At Home, In the World” event in New York City. Politico called it a speech on Trumpism, but they were perhaps a bit hasty with their definition. But then, any opportunity to accuse Trump of designated awfulness, is the goal of the current news media.  I had admired George Bush for his ability to avoid speaking out on politics as a past president, especially in not commenting on Obama who had canceled all his executive orders, which must be galling.   I know it’s hard, but we really don’t want to hear from past presidents or past candidates. Their time is past.

We’re having some trouble with definitions, and throwing way too many “isms” around:  nationalism and nativism, for example. The Left, big on wide open borders, prefers to define nativism something evil, as if favoring your own citizens over illegal immigrants is reprehensible? Look up the definition of nativism. Other troublesome words are bigotry, prejudice, civility and incivility, and immigrant and migrant. ABC recently called illegal aliens (illegal: not according to law, alien: owing allegiance to some other nation) to avoid using such negative language, “undocumented citizens.” No, they’re not.

We are living in a time when the difference between undocumented citizens, immigrants and migrants is increasingly important. Europe, because of their cradle-to-grave social welfare benefits, has a declining birthrate. Because they have a declining birthrate, without enough young people working to pay for the cradle-to-grave social welfare benefits they so generously offered in order to get elected, they thought by inviting more immigrants to work and pay for the benefits, they could still prosper. “Poor” Americans have more living space than ordinary Europeans who are not poor. And more amenities.

The inviting immigrants in was a mistake for Europeans. They were feeling sorry for those in Middle Eastern refugee camps, and the well-meant invitation quickly became a flow of migrants from every hell-hole on the planet, and many ordinary countries that just didn’t have the presumed wealth of Europe.

Charles Hill explained how modernity went astray, based on a system that made room for wide cultural diversity based on a judicial doctrine of “the equality of states.”      (Do read Hill’s whole piece linked just above. It’s not long.)

The EU would become a new form of trans-national entity that would eschew war, abolish sovereign borders, exalt diplomacy, and supersede the Westphalian system by offering the world a compelling model of how to dismantle the state by devolving some of its powers downward according to the concept of “subsidiarity” while pulling other powers up into a pan-European bureaucracy in Brussels which, however defined, would not be a state. The EU assured that it was entirely un-religious and noted the care with which the text of its voluminous constitution – unratified – avoided any reference to Europe’s Christian heritage.

Put simply, the EU made itself the epitome of the Modern Age by relentless secularization. Islamism, emerging from the post-World War I collapse of the Ottoman Empire and Caliphate, made itself the vanguard of jihadist religion’s rise to become the implacable adversary of modernity. If Europe is where the siege is to take place, the drawbridge already is up:

Ambassador Hill adds: “Transatlantic unity has been the keystone of the defense and extension of freedom in wartime for a hundred years and must remain so.”

It is not the EU but NATO that has been the key to transatlantic solidarity. Strengthening NATO as a military alliance with political consequences in support of a reformed EU must be at the core of American policy. NATO’s role “out of area” will be vital along with continued efforts to integrate like-minded partners to the extent possible: Russia, Israel, the Gulf Arab states. The Modern Age itself is at stake.



We Mostly Do Not Understand How Differently Other People Think by The Elephant's Child

Perceptions. We’re mostly inclined to believe that other people think pretty much as we do, and are surprised to find out that there are true believers in something radically different. And even when we grasp that they really do believe, and don’t believe that they are wrong, but that you are—it’s still a little hard to get your mind around it. Aside from Maxine Waters, who has now announced that Vice President Pence should also be impeached—(do you think she is just grandstanding for attention, or does she really believe her nonsense?)

Many Americans believe that Europe is well on the way to becoming Islamic. Only 45% of Europeans believe that the massive influx of asylum seekers is a cause for alarm, but 71 percent of Germans listed climate change as their greatest cause of personal concern. Looming less important than fluctuations in the Earth’s climate are things like new wars, the threat of terror attacks, or crime (which 63% fear). Apparently they do not associate the massive influx of asylum seekers, with the rapes and sexual attacks, and terror attacks. Must be a very strong societal emphasis on compassion or empathy going on. Birth rates in Europe are very low as well, and far below a replacement rate.

The results of the study come at a time when Germany is facing an unprecedented Islamist terror threat, with a new report showing that more than half (54 per cent) of plots in the nation have involved asylum seekers and refugees since 2014, and the onset of the migrant crisis.

And on Wednesday it was revealed that the influx of a million migrants in 2015  — who arrived after Chancellor Angela Merkel opened Europe’s borders — has already left a huge mark on Germany’s demographics.

Chancellor Angela Merkel stood out as a credible environmentalist when she attacked Donald Trump for his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement, which scientists largely agreed would have little or no effect on the climate by 2100. A boost for the coming elections.

The study comes at a time when Germany is facing what would seem to be a major terrorist threat. The report shows 54 percent of attacks in the country have involved asylum seekers and refugees, ever since 2014 and the onset of the migrant crisis. Yet they are more frightened by the threat that the climate might get a degree or two warmer. Terror attacks like Manchester or the cases in Sweden don’t seem to bother them, and they are not influenced by the Eastern European countries like Poland and Hungary who are defying the EU demand that they accept asylum seekers. It would seem to us like a major case of denial. It’s hard to understand how differently others can see the world around them.



How Do You Deal With A Problem That You Refuse to Recognize? by The Elephant's Child

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One of the British papers remarked recently that people were beginning to refer to themselves as ‘English’ rather than ‘British.’I think that is significant, but I’m not quite sure just what it means. The BREXIT exit is still in a state of uncertainty. PM Theresa May was not in favor of leaving the European Union, but believes that the people have spoken and intends to shepherd the nation’s exit. There’s been a  legal ruling that says she has to get approval from Parliament, but I’m not sure of all that either. Across Europe there is rumbling of populism, but what will happen remains unknown.

In Sweden, sexual assault has increased by 70%. Many are saying that Angela Merkel will not survive another election.  Mark Helprin, writing in the Claremont Review of Books suggests that Europe has constantly shifted between unification and dissolution.

The European Continent and for a time even the British Isles have been partially unified—by the Romans, Charlemagne, Spain, Austria, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Hitler, and the European Union.  Even if it didn’t get very far, the Mongols, Muslims, and Turks gave it the college try, and then there was the papacy. The Romans were champions of endurance, but Napoleon’s stint was as short as he was, the empire of the Thousand Year Reich didn’t make it by 995½ years and the Soviets got only halfway across.

As it evolved from the European Coal and Steel Community into the European Economic Community, and the the Schengenized “E.U. plus,” bureaucracy’s pacific conquest of Europe was different, its weapons the ballot box, rubber stamp , and pen. Furthermore, other than in one civil war, the U.S. had shown that 50 states could unite to great advantage.

Now we have Britain ready to leave the E.U., Scotland and Wales want independence, Belgium and Italy want to break in two and Spain in three parts. Yugoslavia is already is pieces, Hungary may either be expelled or quit. Greece is a complete mess, and Marine Le Pen wants France out, and everybody blames Angela Merkel for inviting the Middle East in.

One need not be hostile to the idea of this union to know the essential flaw in its conception, namely the statist assumption that bureaucratic conceit will prevail over geography, history, tradition and individual attachments, preferences, and loyalties. Greek profligacy and German prudence cannot sleep in the same bed. Good luck to the Frenchman who tells an Englishman how much sugar to put in his tea. Rivers, alpine ranges, marshes, and seas have carved into the landscape physical barriers that for millennia have shaped the economics, histories, and cultures of these disparate nations. Unlike the United States—at its founding English in culture and language, with a pressure-relieving wilderness to the west—Europe as it united was a densely populated grudge-filled continent with scores of major languages and their dialects. Its people had been governed in a hundred different ways , fought countless wars, and inherited dozens of philosophical traditions.

Grand designs don’t work. If government becomes a machine, then everything becomes a machine part. This is where the Left’s dream of addressing human needs with a universal mechanism always fails and fails badly. Humanity cannot be fixed. Human nature may be untidy, but any war against that untidiness is designed to fail.

But the question of the invasion of Europe by Islamist “refugees” can be avoided only so long. As I said, Sweden has had an increase of 70% in sexual assaults. There are No-Go areas everywhere, where even the police are reluctant or refuse to go. Angela Merkel invited the refugees; empathy and kindness were presumed to be the way to welcome them. The hordes have more young men than families, and the young men are of military age. They have been instructed by their religion that European women, as unbelievers, are whores and fair game., and assaults are the rule. Hungary has put up a wall and is refusing to admit refugees. ISIS brags that they have sent their forces to Europe. Many of the refugees refuse to work and expect to be supported.

Refugees seem to be from all over, including Russia and Africa. If the morality you have been taught is empathy and religious freedom, it’s very difficult to turn hostile without feeling like a bad person. Syria is obviously a battleground and unsafe, but Syrian passports are cheap and readily available. Terrorist attacks happen and are deadly. Top that mess off with an unaccountable bureaucracy in Brussels that is not responsive to the fears of the people, and there  you are. What do you do, what do you believe and how do you deal with it? Nobody seems ready to decide, but to just wait and see how things work out.   There will be more terrorist attacks.

Our history is not the same as Europe’s, and our immigrants have mostly wanted to become Americans, learned the language, and in a generation or two become indistinguishable from anyone else. But we have had an administration that refuses to identify terrorism by name. And in his “farewell speech” Obama blithely said that we haven’t had any terrorist attacks here. I’m not sure that that is any less avoidance than Europe’s, and the results of avoidance will be undoubtedly be much the same.

 



Donald Trump’s Generals: The Most Renowned Wartime Commanders of Their Generation by The Elephant's Child

A blog called “Breaking Defense” has written well on Trump’s Generals. The Left, constantly looking for something horrible in Trump’s plans, finds the naming of so many retired military men to top positions will possibly undermine the principal of civilian control—as if Constitutional niceties are of enormous concern to the  Left—who have been ignoring that ancient document at their convenience for the last eight years. I’m getting really tired of the Left and their antics.

Donald Trump’s decision to lean heavily on generals in building his national security team has been received with sighs of relief by many foreign policy and national security experts. By the nature of their profession, senior military leaders tend to be pragmatic internationalists who know how to run large organizations. They understand from experience how the world works. They are generally disciplined and well-read. Having come of age on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, these generals are also intimately familiar with the horrors of war, and the second- and third-order consequences of firing the first shot. …

Indeed, the generals likely to form the top ranks of a Trump administration are among the most renowned wartime commanders of their generation. As the presumptive Secretary of Defense, retired Marine Corps General Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis will have as his chief military adviser Marine Corps General Joseph “Fighting Joe” Dunford, appointed by Obama as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Both flag officers earned their nicknames the old fashioned way during multiple combat tours. They are also close to retired Marine Corps General John Kelly, another combat veteran and the former commander of US Southern Command, who will reportedly serve as Trump’s Secretary of Homeland Security. According to a knowledgeable source, it was Mattis who took upon himself the heartbreaking task of telling John Kelly that his son, 1st Lieutenant Robert Michael Kelly, had been killed in Afghanistan in 2010.

Trump’s Generals, Part 2: Jim Mattis vs. Iran

Trump’s Generals, Part 3: Mike Flynn vs. Al Qaeda

Trump’s Generals, Part4: John Kelly vs. The Narco-Terrorists

Like many Republicans, when President Elect Trump announced his first nominees for cabinet positions, I was reassured that Mr. Trump knew what he was doing and was getting excellent advice. After 8 years of an administration that assured us that they were completely in control of foreign policy, but could not manage to call the enemy by name or even admit that it was an enemy (junior varsity?) I was delighted. It’s a pretty impressive national security lineup. Get acquainted.



A Vaccine For A Virus: Burying Ebola by The Elephant's Child

How about a little good news for a change? An invention has come along that has changed the landscape completely.

A vaccine invented in Canada was tested in a large scale inoculation in Guinea and Sierra Leone by the World Health Organization to assess just how well it protected people against Ebola—the dreadful virus that ravaged Africa in 2014, killing 60 percent of the people who were infected. What happened? It succeeded spectacularly. It protected 100 percent of the people who received it. This is the first and only therapy for Ebola other than the previous supportive measures.

The vaccine, which is a glycoprotein (1) called rVSV-ZEBOV, was tested in Guinea and Sierra Leone. The group gathered samples from an individual, either alive or dead who had a positive lab test for Ebola, and then identified a cluster of their contacts, contacts of the contacts, and the contacts of the contacts who weren’t around when the team arrived. Each uninfected person got a single injection of the vaccine in the arm. The results are stunning.

The group identified a total of 4539 people in 51 clusters between March 2015, and January 2016. About half (2119 people) received the vaccine immediately, and another 2041 got it 21 days later.

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The name of the vaccine sounds daunting, but it’s really not. The “r” means recombinant—formed by alteration of viral DNA, which can be done using standard molecular biotechnology techniques. VSV stands for vesicular stomatitis virus—the virus that was modified (2). ZEBOV is short for Zaire Ebola virus, which was the most deadly circulating strain.

This is a very big deal. The safety profile is excellent, and only two adverse effects were attributed to the vaccine itself. It is an enormous achievement, and could rid the world of a very scary, very dangerous disease.

The epidemic in 2014-15 claimed the lives of 11,300 people in West Africa, spread the virus as far as New York and Texas, and demonstrated the failures of the world public health system.”The public health bureaucracy resists therapeutics, which threaten traditional manpower-heavy quarantines and tracking.” By 2015, cases were low and declining and researchers were able to gather real world information on an accelerated schedule. The study was so successful that it was stopped early since not providing the vaccine to the control group was unethical.

Ebola is a complex and mutating pathogen, and no scientific triumph is ever final. But the public-health bureaucracy demonstrated no such humility, and its overconfidence showed how unprepared the world is to respond to biological threats. Developing and deploying more vaccines like rVSV-Zebov may be the best defense.



It Snowed in the Sahara Desert! by The Elephant's Child

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This image was taken Monday afternoon. The Sahara Desert experienced its first snowfall in 37 years. It is the first time since February 1979 that snow has fallen in Ain Sefra, Algeria. The last time it snowed in the area, the snow only lasted for about an hour. Told you it was getting colder.




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