American Elephants


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.



Clinton Cash: The Movie. Everything is For Sale. by The Elephant's Child

I’m sure you  have heard of the movie “Clinton Cash” but have you watched it? Peter Schweitzer is an American author, and political consultant. He is president of the Government Accountability Institute, and a former William J. Casey Research Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. If you are curious about Mr. Schweizer, here he is for a speech at Hillsdale College. talking about “Money and Politics.

Hillary famously claimed that they left the White House “dead broke,” which is, of course absurd. Congress, shamed by Harry Truman’s plight when he left the presidency with only his Army pension to rely on, has provided a generous pension for former presidents as well as provision for an office and office help, whatever an ex-president needs. Hillary’s silly claim was the source for many a cartoon, but she now lives on a gated estate, and all her pantsuits are designer creations. Curious. You should see the movie before you vote.



“Why is the World So Dangerous?” by The Elephant's Child

“Herbert  E. Meyer (Herb) served as vice chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council under President Reagan. He was one of the few people in the 1980’s to perceive that the U.S. and its allies might have turned the corner and were on the way to winning the Cold War.”

You may not have noticed, but the media seldom talks about facts. It’s almost all opinion. Herb Meyer talks facts, and gives you the evidence on which the facts are based.  That original paper: “Why Is The World So Dangerous?” from 1983 has long since been declassified, and is available to be downloaded here. Most of his speeches are different versions of “Why is the World So Dangerous”— because that’s what we need to hear. This one was delivered to the Northwest Business Club on March 9th this year. He gives us his version of history, and explains what we need to know to cope. The address is a little over an hour and worth every minute, so try for some time this weekend. You’ll be glad you did, and you’ll think a little differently about the world today. He is a great speaker, funny, charming, and utterly fascinating.

ADDENDUM: If you go to You Tube, there are lots of Herb Meyer’s speeches, many with the same name. I picked this one as one of the most recent. and they are similar because Mr. Meyer has to put you in the right historical frame of mind to grasp the changing nature of the trends. His basic argument does not change, because, well, he’s clearly right, and a little repetition merely reinforces the point.



Let’s Have Some Really Good News for a Change! by The Elephant's Child

Here at home, the plumbing disaster has evolved into a replace a bathroom adventure. Sorry about the light blogging, but some days that just the way it goes. This is merely the beginning.

So I will turn to good news for a change. How’s this for a headline? “The Era of Great Famines is Over” Here’s Paul Ehrlich writing in The Population Bomb in 1968,

The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.

—India has been suffering from widespread drought in 11 states across the country, yet the country’s foodgrain production is actually set to grow marginally, the third advance estimates released by the agriculture ministry on Monday showed. The grain production for human consumption for 2015-2016 is estimated at 252.23 million tons, marginally higher than the 252.92 million tones produced in 2014-2015 according to the data. If the estimates hold up, it implies that the damage to the farm economy is less than was feared, but also demonstrates a bit of resilience of Indian agriculture to a deficit monsoon.

—Ethiopia is moving from being “the world’s symbol of mass famines to fending off starvation.” Ethiopia could choose to avoid another disaster because “Famine isn’t caused by overpopulation, and as Ethiopia’s experience shows, it’s not a necessary consequence of drought. Politics creates famine, and politics can stop it.” The New York Times, May 8 , 2016

—South Africa aims to be malaria free by 2018. The National Health Department in confident that they can reduce locally transmitted cases to zero, because they have already managed to reduce cases dramatically.

Malaria accounts for 40 percent of all public health spending on the continent, killing up to 438,000 people each year mainly in sub-Saharan Africa.

But, the World Health Organization (WHO)’s world malaria report for 2015 states that there’s been a major decline in global malaria cases and deaths since the year 2000, with the mortality rate decreasing by 60 percent.

—In the middle of the political season, everyone seems to be angry, unhappy with Congress because they didn’t stop Obama from using his phone and his pen to accomplish all the things that he could not get through Congress, and decided to accomplish by executive order.. The media is fascinated with following unpredictable candidates around, so we aren’t hearing all that much from the rest of the world.  From Guy Sorman at City Journal:

Worry over America’s recent economic stagnation, however justified, shouldn’t obscure the fact that the American economy remains Number One in the world. The United States holds 4.5 percent of the world’s population but produces a staggering 22 percent of the world’s output—a fraction that has remained fairly stable for two decades, despite growing competition from emerging countries. Not only is the American economy the biggest in absolute terms, with a GDP twice the size of China’s; it’s also near the top in per-capita income, currently a bit over $48,000 per year. Only a few small countries blessed with abundant natural resources or a concentration of financial services, such as Norway and Luxembourg, can claim higher averages.

“America’s predominance isn’t new; indeed, it has existed since the early nineteenth century.” By the 1830s American per-capita income was already the highest in the world. It wasn’t just our size and natural resources, for other countries had those attributes.

They couldn’t compete with Americas strong intellectual property rights. The U.S, Constitution was the first in history to protect intellectual property rights, and “secured for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” Two hundred years later, the U.S. has more patents in force —1.8 million—than any other nation. American wages were significantly higher than those in Europe, which meant that landowners needed high levels of productivity, which meant that the mechanization of agriculture got under way in America before it did overseas.

America’s enormous territory and “the freedom people had to move and work across it” encouraged an advanced division of labor, which is essential to high productivity.

Globalization is having the same effect today, making prices drop by assigning the production of goods to countries that are relatively efficient at making them.

Immigration has been another component of American economic dynamism, for evident quantitative reasons: national GDP grows when total population and productivity increase simultaneously. But this effect has worked particularly well in the United States because its immigrants have tended to be young, energetic, and open to American values. Immigration is a self-selecting process: those who find the courage to leave behind their roots, traditions, and family often have an entrepreneurial spirit.

Guy Sorman adds:

In the current sluggish economic environment, the remarkable history of American dynamism is thus more instructive than ever. America’s economic might is rooted in an entrepreneurial culture and a passion for innovation and risk-taking, traits nourished by the nation’s commitment to the rule of law, property rights, and a predictable set of tax and regulatory policies. Policymakers have lost sight of these fundamental principles in recent years. The next era of American prosperity will be hastened when they return to them.

Do read the whole thing. It’s not long.




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