American Elephants


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.



Parenting Isn’t Always a Picnic! Happy Mother’s Day! by The Elephant's Child

 

Baby fox
Bear urinal
Lions3
Horses
Hippos 2

Keep going, there’s more after the fold
Continue reading



A Truly Weird Electoral Season. by The Elephant's Child

vote_indiana
They are voting in Indiana, and the polls will be closing soon. I do not understand this presidential campaign at all. We are told that the people are really angry. According to the media and Donald Trump, they are angry about illegal immigration, and unfair trade policy that is negatively affecting our country. According to exit polls, the people are not particularly concerned about immigration as it is far down the list of concerns, and majorities prefer a path to citizenship.

Mr. Trump is going to build a huge big wall. And he is going to put big tariffs on any country that isn’t being fair. He’s going to be nicer to our friends so we will be closer, but he will insist that they pay a larger share of  the cost of protecting them from radical Islam. He liked World War II and the Cold War, but is against any foreign adventures since.

What the people seem to be angry about is the economy, the lack of jobs, jobs going to immigrants, they are fearful about terrorism, angry about the ridiculous hooplah over women’s restrooms being open to men, the increased cost of ObamaCare, the lack of jobs and economic growth, and increased inflation while salaries have not risen at all. Jobs have vanished on coal country, employment is down in oil and gas country because of the drop in the price of oil, some manufacturing jobs have gone overseas because of high corporate taxes, and some high-tech jobs have gone to H1-B immigrants.

All of these problems are the direct result of policies of the Obama administration. The stimulus didn’t work. Republicans warned that ObamaCare was not going to work and would cost more, not less; every Republican voted against he initial law, and have voted to repeal the act five times, Obama has vetoed their efforts each time. Jobs have gone to offshore companies as a direct result of the highest corporate tax in the world. The rise of ISIS and the war in Syria and the Middle East is a direct result of Obama pulling the troops out of Iraq too soon. President Obama vowed early to bankrupt the coal companies, which he has done in a misguided and fruitless battle against catastrophic global warming which exists only in the computer programs of the IPCC. And in refusing to utter the words Islamic terrorism, Obama has skewed all of our perceptions of  the Middle East and what is happening.

So the people are furious with the Republicans? Huh?

They blame the policies of the Obama administration on the Republicans? They don’t think the Republicans have done enough to stop the administration?

This is the first time, as far as I know, when a President of the United States has deliberately decided that “he has a phone and a pen” and he will accomplish by executive order or actions of agencies whatever he wants, and that he will pay no attention to the Constitution of the United States of America, because he believes it to be a tired old document that needs repealing or fixing.  The remedies available are to proceed through the courts in one lawsuit or another or to impeach the president. The Republicans have voted to repeal ObamaCare five times, Obama has vetoed every bill.

Results are in from Indiana, and Donald Trump has enough votes that he will be the presumptive nominee, for he is sure to pick up enough from states like California and Washington, for example, from the remainder of states left.  Ted Cruz has suspended his campaign.

I am not and have not been a Trump supporter. I do not understand what they hope for from what little Mr. Trump has had to say in his speeches.  His supporters seem to put a lot of faith in “Make America Great Again”  and “America First” which was a discredited slogan from  the America First Committee which was highly non-interventionist in the days just before World War II. I guess they see it as patriotism and strength. I see it as lacking in evidence.

We’ll see. Mr. Trump hasn’t even released his tax returns, and is due to face trial for fraud regarding his promotion of Trump University.  But then the case against Hillary proceeds slowly as well. What a weird, weird electoral season.



Communicating With the American People: We Don’t Like Being Lied To! by The Elephant's Child

5c9b2bee-d476-4bc7-a181-e8c787cd9dd6
“The rate of real economic growth is the single greatest determinate of America’s strength as a nation and the well being of the American people.” President Obama has not delivered a single year of 3,0% growth. The Commerce Department reported that the U.S. economy expanded at the slowest pace in two years, rising at an anemic 0.5% rate after a 1.4% fourth quarter advance. Not good, and one of the reasons why so many people are angry.

From Investors Business Daily:

Legacy: The same day the 0.5% GDP growth came out, President Obama is quoted in the New York Times saying the country has done “better” than “any large economy on Earth in modern history.” Delusional doesn’t begin to cut it.

The only real problem with the economy, as far as Obama is concerned, is that he hasn’t been selling his successful policies aggressively enough.

“We were moving so fast early on that we couldn’t take victory laps. We couldn’t explain everything we were doing. I mean, one day we’re saving the banks; the next day we’re saving the auto industry; the next day we’re trying to see whether we can have some impact on the housing market,” he told the Times’ Andrew Ross Sorkin.

Investors added that Obama didn’t “save” either industry. His only contribution to the GM and Chrysler bankruptcy process was to protect union interests at taxpayer expense. Dodd-Frank killed many, many community banks. The stimulus was an enormous expense and accomplished nothing at all.

At a townhall meeting in London, Obama was asked about what he wanted his  legacy to be after eight years.

There are things I’m proud of. The basic principle that in a country as wealthy as the United States, every person should have access to high-quality health care that they can afford — that’s something I’m proud of, I believe in. (Applause.) Saving the world economy from a Great Depression — that was pretty good. (Laughter and applause.)

Well, laughter indeed, but no applause. In early days, Obama was hailed as a great communicator. He was even awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for merely talking about peace. As Noah Rothman said today at Commentary:

The image of Obama as the left’s Great Communicator was always a fabrication. Given how often Obama himself has admitted his persuasive skills have failed his supporters, you might think this invention of a center-left media would have long ago been buried. Yet, it remains with us even today. Born out of a wish and unresponsive to falsifying evidence, the idea that Obama was somehow a marvelously successful communicator will probably be with us long after the president leaves office.

Mr. Trump’s foreign policy speech was similarly hailed as strong and wide ranging.  A lot of people believe what Mr. Trump said, and they’re wrong.

Mr. Trump: “NAFTA, as an example, has been a total disaster for the United States and has emptied our states — literally emptied our states of our manufacturing and our jobs.  Not true.

The North American Free Trade Agreement went into force January 1, 1994. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these were the numbers at the end of December in 1993:

  • Manufacturing employment: 16.8 million
  • Labor force participation rate: 66.4%
  • Unemployment rate: 6.5%

These were the numbers at the end of December 2000:

  • Manufacturing employment: 17.2 million
  • Labor force participation rate: 67.0%
  • Unemployment rate: 3.9%

After seven years of NAFTA, unemployment was down, more people were in the labor force, and there were more people who were employed in manufacturing. In year 8 China joined the World Trade Organization, and problems came from that. This is when the drop in trade came. China is not a good economic partner, but the Obama administration is negotiating an investment deal with China. Either they should stop or Congress should stop them. In any case, Mr. Trump is plainly mistaken on his major arguments.



“Notable & Quotable” by The Elephant's Child

The Wall Street Journal included these lines from the Mayo Clinic’s online entry on narcissistic personality disorder in their “Notable & Quotable” column.

If you have narcissistic personality disorder, you may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious. You often monopolize conversations. You may belittle or look down on people you perceive as inferior. You may feel a sense of entitlement—and when you don’t receive special treatment, you may become impatient or angry. You may insist on having “the best” of everything—for instance, the best car, athletic club or medical care.

At the same time, you have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. You may have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation. To feel better, you may react with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make yourself appear superior. Or you may feel depressed and moody because you fall short of perfection. . . .

[The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5] . . . criteria for narcissistic personality disorder include these features:

Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance

Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it

Exaggerating your achievements and talents

Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate . . .

Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner



We Need a Remedial Course in Knowing, How to Retain Knowledge and What to Do With It. by The Elephant's Child

library_the-old-library-trinity-college-dublin-thomas-burgh

One of my perennial worries is about the state of knowledge. The world is, of course, always changing, but what has changed most dramatically is the flow of information.

We seldom give it a thought, but in the early days of the republic, news was transmitted by horse and rider, or coach.  And then the town crier  cried the news —and the simple word of mouth. Most people didn’t  have books, except for the Bible. The Revolution, the making of the Constitution, the War of 1812 all happened without telephone or radio to spread the news. The new Capitol in Washington D.C. was burned by the Brits, and it took days or weeks for anyone to find out.

The great Civil War took place entirely without a radio or a telephone, no newsreels, but there were newspapers and magazines, and even new photography, which has left a first visual record for us. There were railroads, and canals and roads.

Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876. Most people thought it was little more than a toy, but they soon began to install telephones in their towns, homes or businesses. The first one appeared in Appleton, Wisconsin in 1877 when a banker ran a line from his home to his bank.

The first transcontinental telephone call took place in 1915 from New York to San Francisco. In 1948 Bell Labs’ Claude Shannon published a landmark paper on “a Mathematical Theory of Communication” which provided mathematicians and engineers with the foundation of information theory which sought to answer questions about how quickly and reliably information could be transmitted.  Direct long distance dialing came about in 1951, and the first transatlantic telephone cable was installed between America and Britain.  It took 3 years and $42 million to plan and install using 1,500 miles of specially insulated coaxial cable.

The first television was introduced at the World’s Fair in 1939, but TV didn’t become common in people’s homes until the 1950s and sixties. The first public tests of a cellular phone system took place in 1978, and it wasn’t till the year 2000 that we finally reached 100 million cellular telephone subscribers.

Even the millennials probably know a little something about the history of the computer, but the kids in college who are protesting freedom of speech, don’t want to hear disagreeing words, need “safe spaces” and think buildings or statues, or crests that remind us of people who thought incorrect things in the past, should be removed.

Even Democrat Attorneys General and Rhode Island’s Senator Whitehouse are out to stamp out the utterances of those who have the gall to deny that a warming climate is going to destroy the earth.

The absurdity in the nation’s colleges and universities is happening at the rare time in our history when we are completely connected to all the information in the world, in an instant, at our fingertips. They are connected to networks of friends wherever they are and to thousands of people they only know through their devices.  Mine’s a tiny computer — roughly 2¾” by 5½”— and I can carry it around in my pocket, and talk to anyone in the world, and call up information from practically anywhere. But how am I supposed to know what is true and what is false?

We had to find out for ourselves how to deal with this flow of information and the even greater flow of advertisements and enticements and lies and scams. But we have had all the years of our lives to get used to things gradually.

Our schools, which are supposed to be the foundation of knowledge, have drifted off into realms of “social justice” and “diversity” and “white privilege” and women’s studies and black studies and college tuitions that range upwards from $50,000 to $60,000 a year and more, to receive less and less in the knowledge department.

Yet they are not only NOT teaching how to manage this flow of words and pictures and ideas, but don’t seem to recognize that the world has changed and they need to fill the kids on the past and how we got here as well as how to cope with the present and plan for the future.

Handwriting is out, ancient history is gone, what use is geography when you can call up Google maps in an instant? Social Justice isn’t even real. There is only one ‘justice’ which is found in the Constitution and the body of laws and in the courts. Students at Stanford (Stanford!) have petitioned for the return of Western Civ. Shakespeare is mostly gone, and Churchill is completely out of fashion. Yet there are more remedial courses in colleges than ever before, because too many students arrive unprepared to do college level work.

A political campaign is a bad time to bring up this subject, but it is the moment of our highest awareness. You can’t help but notice. When Hillary is attempting to make equal pay for women a central part of her campaign — and is unaware that it has been the law since 1963, She mentioned last year that Muslims have nothing to do with terrorism, more than once, in spite of the obvious facts of 9/11, Paris and Brussels. Bernie Sanders is espousing the most discredited political system the world has ever known, which is failing before our eyes in Venezuela, and Cuba, and other countries around the world.

I picked up a book a while back called Too Big To Know by David Weinberger, read some bits and put it aside to read later. Guess I’ll have to read it now.Here’s one paragraph from the Prologue:

So we are in a crisis of knowledge at the same time that we are in an epochal exaltation of knowledge. We fear for the institutions on which we have relied for trustworthy knowledge, but there’s also a joy we can feel pulsing through our culture. It comes from a different place. It comes from the networking of knowledge. Knowledge now lives not just in libraries and museums and academic journals. It lives not just in the skulls of individuals. Our skulls and our institutions are simply not big enough to contain  knowledge. Knowledge is now a property of the network, and the network embraces businesses, governments, media, museums, curated collections, and minds in communication.

I wouldn’t have chosen the words ‘exaltation of knowledge’, nor described it in quite those terms, but I’ll have to read the book. I’ll report back when I have.

*The photo is of the Old Library, Trinity College, Dublin, and those are the stacks.



Obama Managed to Ignite a Firestorm in Britain by The Elephant's Child

i4nzcxmze6tywisv8pggqnddvixjr8nv-large

I always understood that the White House had a Protocol Office that kept  Presidents informed on manners and customs in the various countries the President might visit, and with how to treat the diplomats and leaders of other countries. I don’t know if President Obama has abolished the office, or if he just doesn’t pay any attention.

On his visit to England, President Obama felt called upon to write an op-ed in The Telegraph, one of the leading British newspapers. He skirted the history of British-American relations, and then summarized what he expects the British need to do to get our full support. We must be resolute and adaptive in preventing terrorist attacks, resolve conflicts in the Middle East, invest in NATO so we can meet our commitments and then he stuck his nose into the upcoming Brexit election, which is a difficult and touchy issue in England about whether to continue membership or leave the European Union.

That ignited a firestorm. It was a remarkably poor choice for an American president to tell the British what to do.

So I will say, with the candour of a friend, that the outcome of your decision is a matter of deep interest to the United States. The tens of thousands of Americans who rest in Europe’s cemeteries are a silent testament to just how intertwined our prosperity and security truly are. And the path you choose now will echo in the prospects of today’s generation of Americans as well.

As citizens of the United Kingdom take stock of their relationship with the EU, you should be proud that the EU has helped spread British values and practices – democracy, the rule of law, open markets – across the continent and to its periphery. The European Union doesn’t moderate British influence – it magnifies it. A strong Europe is not a threat to Britain’s global leadership; it enhances Britain’s global leadership. The United States sees how your powerful voice in Europe ensures that Europe takes a strong stance in the world, and keeps the EU open, outward looking, and closely linked to its allies on the other side of the Atlantic. So the US and the world need your outsized influence to continue – including within Europe. …

When it comes to creating jobs, trade, and economic growth in line with our values, the UK has benefited from its membership in the EU – inside a single market that provides enormous opportunities for the British people. And the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the EU will advance our values and our interests, and establish the high-standard, pro-worker rules for trade and commerce in the 21st century economy.

— “President Obama’s warning to those championing Britain’s exit from the EU was stark: Leave, he said, and the “U.K. is going to be in the back of the queue” on trade deals with the U.S.”

Mr Obama’s catchphrase is ‘Yes, you can! – so why is he telling us Brits “No you can’t’?

— “Obama infuriates the Brits as he threatens to send UK to the back of the queue’ if they vote to leave the European Union.”

— “Barack Obama, our fair-weather friend, is wrong about the EU”

— “Armed Forces Minister: Obama ‘Woefully Ignorant ‘ of Threat EU Membership Poses”

— “Obama might as well have declared: ‘Britain lost the War of Independence because you have small d**ks’

American presidents usually do not comment or express opinion publicly in elections in other countries, but Australia and Canada have heard from Mr. Obama about their internal affairs.

Mr.Obama has been very outspoken about his irritation at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress when he was invited by Republicans to address them. When Honduran President Zelaya was ousted in a military coup after he tried to rewrite their Constitution to extend his tenure in office, President Obama commented in favor of Zelaya and in contradiction of Honduran Law. Obama’s campaign people have turned up in other elections.




Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,521 other followers

%d bloggers like this: