American Elephants


Peter O’Toole: 1932-2013 R.I.P. by The Elephant's Child
December 15, 2013, 6:40 pm
Filed under: Entertainment, Movies, United Kingdom | Tags: , ,

peter-otoole

Consummate actor Peter O’Toole has died in London at the age of 81.
From Lawrence of Arabia which brought him to stardom, he brought much pleasure to world audiences over the years. And there was Becket, The Lion in Winter, Goodbye Mr. Chips, My Favorite Year, and even the Pixar animated Ratatouille. So many memories. His movies will live on.

 



Daniel Hannan on the Anglo Saxon Tradition by The Elephant's Child

In “Inventing Freedom”, Daniel Hannan reflects on the historical origin and spread of the principles that have made America great, and their role in creating a sphere of economic and political liberty that is as crucial as it is imperiled. Hannan argues that the ideas and institutions we consider essential to maintaining and preserving our freedoms — individual rights, private property, the rule of law, and the institutions of representative government — are the legacy of a very specific tradition that was born in England and that we Americans, along with other former British colonies, inherited.

 



You Can’t Turn Your Back On Russia! by The Elephant's Child

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Ukraine seems to be caught once again between the West and Russia. The European Union has wanted to establish a more modern policy towards Eastern Europe through the proposed association with Ukraine. The highlight of Friday’s Eastern Partnership Summit was supposed to be the formal signing of an agreement between Ukraine and the European Union. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, instead put the deal on hold.

Ukraine is a huge country torn between a western portion that looks towards Europe and Brussels and an eastern region that remains highly influenced by Russia. Kiev erupted with massive and bloody protests as hundreds of thousands of protesters poured into the Independence Square. But it is not just about Ukraine’s relationship but with Europe’s relationship with Russia, the sensitive former world power. Ukraine was once a part of the Soviet Union, and although few remain who lived through the Holodomor, when the Soviets deliberately starved Ukraine in the 1930s, the national memory is strong.

President Yanukovych was elected promising to smooth relations with the Russians, but had intended to sign the agreement with the EU. EU member states like Poland want to direct the EU’s influence toward the east, in part as protection against Russia. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin plays power politics. The EU has its own financial crisis, as does Russia, but Russia is promising to give Ukraine billions in loans, but without guarantees.

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso rejected Russian interference, saying “What we cannot accept is a condition on a bilateral agreement to have…a possible veto of a third country.”

Russia once lorded it over the entire Eastern bloc, but for the last 25 years has had to sit back and watch as one country after another has turned its back on Russia, and looked towards the West. The Soviets gave them good reason to turn their backs on Russia, but it must be humiliating for the Russians. Putin wants to stop what he sees as the West’s advance all the way to Russia’s borders. Lots of sticky problems here. Russia is  well-provided with natural gas, and has threatened to blackmail a Europe that is flush with expensive alternative energy that is far more costly than anticipated. Yanukovych is widely regarded as corrupt, and has complained about the International Monetary Fund’s refusal to simply give him billions in loans without conditions.

Police responded violently, leaving many of the 500,000 protesters bloody and beaten, but officials from both Russia and the West were taken aback by the scale of the protests. The battle is now between the street and Yanukovych.

In some ways this is just the continuation of an old story. For the background, I highly recommend Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder.  A new kind of European history, presenting the mass murders committed by the Nazi and Stalinist regimes as two aspects of a single history. Required reading for anyone seeking to understand the central tragedy of modern history.



A Glimpse of the Future of Obamacare: Everything You Wanted to Know. by The Elephant's Child

People all over the country are being dropped by their insurance plans and  the replacements offered have shocked them with increased monthly cost and way bigger annual deductibles. The question is if this is a planned ObamaCare effect designed to push people into ObamaCare or if it is possibly innocent. The conclusion is almost certainly that when the President said “If you like your insurance you can keep your insurance,” he lied, quite deliberately. Ditto keeping your doctor.

As far as that goes, the claim that the website crashes were due to high traffic volumes was a lie too. And the claim that the Affordable Care Act is affordable quality health insurance made available to everyone — that’s a lie as well. Will anything about ObamaCare be an honest improvement? It’s very doubtful.

The basis on which they tried to sell this was that our health care was the most expensive in the world, and our outcomes weren’t even as good. But that was a lie too. In Canada, if you need a CT scan, you might have to wait for weeks to get an appointment. Here it takes maybe 25 to 35 minutes. You need to see a specialist, an appointment might take a few days or even a couple of weeks — in Canada it can take months, and worried Canadians can cross the border to find a specialist here.

Survival rates are influenced by the fact that we consider all babies born alive — as born alive. Most countries consider only those likely to survive as born alive, while we try to save them all. Because we are a very large country with many vehicles and highways, we have lots of traffic accidents. Those things skew the statistics. On the other hand we pay more for medicine because we like private rooms and short waits for care. And the idea that poor people could not get care was a lie as well. Emergency room treatment is available for all — by law, and hospitals give lots of charity treatment which makes it more expensive for the rest of us.

ObamaCare was modeled after Massachusetts’ 2006 healthcare law. It is worth understanding just how  that law has worked out. Romneycare pioneered ObamaCare’s now familiar individual mandate, government-built health exchanges and Medicaid expansion. Romney in 2012 said that reform should be state-based and not centrally-planned from Washington. Romneycare was tailored for the known demographics of Massachusetts’ uninsured population. Henry Payne takes a careful look at how Romneycare has fared in the last seven years in his column. It is not pretty, but as clear an indication of what will happen to Obamacare as you will get. Do read the whole thing, it is important, and an excellent column.

The Canadians are trying to figure out how to return their health care to a doctor-patient relationship that is not government controlled. Britain’s National Health Service is going broke, as well as killing lots of its patients and mistreating others. Go to any of the British papers and enter NHS or National Health Service in the search function. I’ve been following it for years and it just gets worse and worse.

Government-run healthcare doesn’t work. We should have known that without having to go through all this mess simply by looking carefully at the Indian Health Service and Veterans’ Health Care. Most of what is wrong with heath care in this country is because of government interference in the marketplace.

Yet many say that ObamaCare was designed to fail, and in failing to force you into single-payer government-run socialized medicine. But that does not work successfully anywhere either. To use the favorite liberal buzz word — it’s not sustainable.



Nations Spy on Each Other? Can This Be True? by The Elephant's Child

How do governments find out what other countries are thinking, what they really plan, what they are talking about behind the scenes? Read the papers? Listen to the speeches? Hang around people who might know something? Yes, and much more. Nations need intelligence about what other nations may do. Nations have interests, and nations have allies, but we still need to know what’s going on behind the facade. So do they.  Nations spy. So what? When a spy infiltrates the government of another nation, they try to root it out, and may send him to prison or shoot him.

For some real insight into the current flap about the revelations of whashis name Edward Snowden, please read this piece by a career diplomat who has served in many parts of the world. Actually, add him to your blog list while you’re at it. He is invaluable.

Hardly necessary to emphasize the absurdity of Germany, France, and other nations getting so huffy about American taps on their communications. American outrage about communication monitoring has given other nations room to pose. Their citizens will act as if the United States has treated them with intolerable suspicion, and believe that the American president may have lost control of his own intelligence services and they have become victims. Germany and other nations have shown no commitment to hard power or in taking sides. Europe has long settled comfortably under the umbrella of American power. With Mr. Obama trying hard to diminish American power, other nations are getting nervous. It’s easier to feel put upon by the Americans.

Will Mrs. Merkel say again, as she did in 2007, “For me, as German chancellor, Israel’s security is never negotiable. Protecting Israel is part of my country’s reason of state. I believe that an hour of truth has now arrived when we must show we stand by our word.

Funny how the chancellor of the world’s third-largest arms-dealing country, in her reluctance to talk of any use of force anywhere, is looking like Mr. Obama’s doppelgänger. Yet she says America needs friends—although surely not ones thinking Washington will want to spy less effectively.

This excerpt from Walter Russell Mead writing on U.S. Negotiations with Iran explains a lot.

Judging from what we see from the outside, the White House does not appear to have a clear strategy in mind at this point, but the trajectory of its internal drift suggests that many there (perhaps including the President) would be ready to sell the Crescent to Iran in exchange for a face-saving, war-avoiding nuclear deal. This is probably how Jerusalem, Moscow, Beijing, Tehran and Riyadh are all reading the President’s deep reluctance to take decisive action against Assad. In Jerusalem, this belief leads people to want to engage closely with the Americans in an effort to make sure that any deal addresses Israel’s red lines on nukes and Hezbollah. In Tehran it strengthens the hands of those who favor the course of negotiations; Obama appears willing to pay a substantial price for the nuclear deal and the very act of engaging weakens American power and promotes the Shi’a cause. In Riyadh this perception heightens the rage and fear that people there feel and has led to what, by Saudi standards, is a public tantrum of epic proportions. In Moscow this is seen as both a satisfying symbolic setback for the United States and a substantial victory over the Sunni jihadi threat the Kremlin sees as a major threat. In Beijing it is read as another chapter in the story of American decline.



When a Story Plot Becomes All Too Real by The Elephant's Child

It’s a favorite plot, so overused that it has become trite: something happens to the pilot and a passenger, a stewardess, someone who is not a pilot has to be coached into bringing the plane in for a landing. Heard it all too many times, right? Tiresome.

Except it just happened, in England. Officials at Humberside Airport in northwest England put emergency plans into place and called in flight instructors when the pilot of a small Cessna 172 collapsed in the cockpit and his passenger, 77 year-old John Wildey took the controls and began his first landing with help from flight instructors.  Soon after he landed, his friend, the pilot, died.

It has always been a possible scenario, as so many scary situations are — and sometimes they turn real.  Here’s the full story;

 



Haying in Umbria by The Elephant's Child
September 28, 2013, 8:32 pm
Filed under: Europe, Freedom, History | Tags: , ,

Here’s how they cut hay in the mountains in Umbria, in Italy. I’ve seen plenty of haying, and various methods of stacking, baling, and storing hay. I don’t know if this is as relatively easy as it looks, but I’m impressed.  In my part of the world, you grow alfalfa on the flat parts and let the hills grow wild and the cows wander.

In many ways this is a reminder of how old Europe is as a well settled place. America grew gradually by waterways. Towns were built here there was a source for transportation: rivers, the confluence of trails, mountain passes, old Indian trails eventually became modern highways. Because land was plentiful, the best level farming land close by a water source was taken up first. Railroads followed the lay of the land and connected the areas that were built up. Europe was more crowded, towns and cities are built in places that in America would remain national parks. Building on a mountain or on an outcropping could protect from invading armies, and in Europe there were always invading armies.

(h/t: Maggie’s Farm)

ADDENDUM: If you are so inclined, it’s fun to go to You Tube, and enter haying in the search function. You can see the Amish method, haying with mules, and all sorts of amazing farm machinery.



The Fry-Scraper: A Tale of Unintended Consequences by The Elephant's Child



The Story of an Unpublished World War II Propaganda Poster: by The Elephant's Child

(h/t: Vanderleun)



Perpetuum Jazzile Performs a Tribute to ABBA by The Elephant's Child

Time to revisit Perpetuum Jazzile, the Slovenian a capella jazz choir. Here they pay tribute to the Swedish vocal group ABBA with a medley of ABBA’s songs. We have long admired this group.



Europe Is Facing A Self-Inflicted Crisis. Sometimes You Have to Learn the Hard Way! by The Elephant's Child

Country after country in Europe is abandoning, curtailing or reneging on once-generous support for renewable energy. Green dreams are giving way to hard economic realities. In a time of straightened budgets and recession, they are beginning to recognize that their ill conceived projects have been a self-inflicted economic and political debacle.

A study by British public relations consultancy CCGroup analysed 138 articles about renewables published during July last year in the five most widely circulated British national newspapers: The Sun, the Times, The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Daily Mirror, which have a combined daily circulation of about 6.5 million.

The study found a number of trends in the reporting of news about renewable energy. The media’s sentiment toward the renewable industry was cold. More than 51 percent of the articles published were negative or very negative toward the industry.

EU member states have spent about €600 billion  ($882 billion) on renewable energy projects since 2005, Germany’s green energy transition alone may cost consumers up to €1 trillion by 2030. These billions of Euros are being paid by ordinary families in what is certainly one of the biggest wealth transfers from the poor to the rich in modern European history. Rising energy bills are dampening consumer spending, a poisonous development  for a Continent struggling with a severe economic crisis.

Germany has Europe’s most expensive electricity at 26.8 euro cents a kilowatt hour. Angela Merkel has warned that the rapid expansion of green energy is weakening Germany’s competitive advantage in the global economy. More than half the world’s solar panels are installed in Germany, meeting almost 40 percent of the nation’s peak electricity demand. But during many weeks in December and January, Germany’s 1.1 million solar power systems generated almost no electricity.  Solar panels just stopped generating, and Germany had to import nuclear energy fro m France and the Czech Republic.

Siemens, one of Germany’s biggest companies is abandoning the industry. They  announced in June that they are closing the entire solar division, at a loss of about €1 billion. Last month they fired the chief executive. Interestingly, as I was writing this I was startled to hear a commercial extolling the wonders of solar energy — from Siemens. They’re going to unload their excess stock on us?

One of the unintended consequences of Germany’s Energiewwende has been that preferential treatment for wind and solar has meant that natural gas plants have become unprofitable, and are being mothballed. Governments are not successful in picking winners and losers, Competition and the free market will do a far better job of directing investment. Government subsidies simply suppress the information that the marketplace is trying to send.

Would someone please explain this to President Obama?



This 47-Story Skyscraper in Alicante, Spain Has Some Surprising Problems by The Elephant's Child

spain-houses

This 47-story skyscraper under construction in Alicante, Spain has had its construction fraught with problems, including allegations of fraud from both customers and suppliers who are owed $3.3 million. The fact that it looks like a giant pair of pants is beside the point. The real problem — the really, really big one is that they forgot the elevator shafts. “In what will surely go down in history as one of the greatest architectural blunders, the building was almost completed when it realized that it had excluded plans for elevator shafts.” Great analogy for ObamaCare.

(h/t: Althouse)

The comments were a riot!

“On the other hand the advertising potential of this design is impressive. Haggar and Dockers are in a bidding war right now.”

“Can I show you something nice in a 40th floor walk-up?”

“On the subject of Spanish design flaws, their new, 2 Billion Euro submarine is 70 tons too heavy. If it submerged it wouldn’t be able to resurface.
Its named the Peral.”

“This is a great apartment if you ‘re into cardio.”

ADDENDUM: This story is turning out to be a hoax. The building is so dramatically ugly that it is easy to believe stories of major mistakes. The building, according to a Spanish blog, Barcepundit, does have elevators—11 of them: 3 in each tower plus 4 for the penthouses on top and a panoramic one on the outside. If you look really closely at the left tower, you will see an orange stripe which is the panoramic elevator.

Supposedly a bad translation from a confusing article in El Pais, a Spanish daily newspaper that only touched on the elevator issue tangentially. American TV crews are reportedly on the way to investigate. Der Spiegel reported on the story and had a building planned for only 20 stories, a late decision to make it significantly taller, with no freight elevator until the first 23 stories were constructed. When the freight elevator was finally installed, it collapsed, injuring 13 workers.

So what will happen when U.S. TV crews arrive? If it is a non-story and they have been hoaxed will they still report it? The town is apparently Benidorm, not Alicante, but is Alicante a province, a county? I have no idea how a story can get so fouled up. It seems to be a town with a magnificent long beach. The building towers over the rest of the town and is beyond ugly. I apologize for falling for a story without further checking, but further checking would not have been accurate anyway.




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