American Elephants


R.I.P. Robert Conquest by The Elephant's Child

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The great historian of Russia has passed away at the age of 98. Robert Conquest spent 28 years at the Hoover Institution where he was a Senior Research Fellow. He has, perhaps, been best known for his landmark work The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties. Thirty-five years after its publication, the book remains one of the most influential studies of Soviet history and has been translated into more than 20 languages. It is a detailed log of Stalin’s assassinations, arrests, tortures, frame-ups, forced confessions, show trials, executions and incarcerations that destroyed millions of lives.

Conquest was the author of twenty-one books on Soviet history, politics, and international affairs, including Harvest of Sorrow, which exposed the terror famine in the Ukraine, Stalin and the Kirov Murder, The Great Terror a Reassessment, Stalin: Breaker of Nations and Reflections on a Ravaged Century and The Dragons of Expectation. The last two are treasured books of mine.

He wrote one science fiction novel, and lots of poetry for which he also received awards.

He had no shortage of awards, the Jefferson Lectureship, the highest honor bestowed by the federal government for achievement in the humanities (1930), the Dan David Prize (2012), Poland’s Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit (2009), Estonia’s  Cross of Terra Mariana (2008), and the Ukrainian Order of Yaroslav Mudryi (2005).

Educated at Winchester College and the University of Grenoble, he was an exhibitioner in modern history at Magdalen College, Oxford, receiving his BA and MA in politics, philosophy, and economics and his DLitt in history.

Conquest-2005-copyConquest served in the British infantry in World War II and thereafter in His Majesty’s Diplomatic Service; he was awarded the Order of the British Empire. In 1996 he was named a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George.

He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.

( from the Hoover Institution, and Cynthia Haven)



A Coffee Shop in Addis Ababa Was the Site Of Comments On Mr. Obama’s Speeches by The Elephant's Child

_84535912_kaldi'scoffeeI had to laugh at Abe Greenwald’s line: “The United States has been too eager to throw its weight around and impose it’s norms on other countries without giving sufficient thought to the resentment it might sow.” Which he attributes to Barack Obama’s worldview.

Obama went to Africa to make a speech.  He spoke in the Mandela Hall in the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and he spoke at the Young African Leaders Initiative Town Hall on the University of Johannesburg’s Soweto campus. He told Africans to stamp out corruption, get more young people in school. Africa’s population will double, he said, but it is urgent to get more young people trained. Africa’s growth will depend on unleashing economic growth, and ending the cancer of corruption. He tried to push  education for girls, gay rights in Africa, fighting corruption and “clean energy” and — solar panels, not ‘dirty’ fossil fuels.

The young Africans, according to the BBC, said their feeling about America is ‘clean your own house first.’ They are shocked and horrified at what is going on in the black community in America — police brutality, all these killings, everything being swept under the rug, investigations don’t happen. They were horrified by the lack of freedom of speech and expression in the U.S. Many said they found Obama’s views about gay rights unpalatable. “When Obama declares gay rights is about human rights, most of us feel he’s not Christian.”

Mr. Obama may be laboring mightily to keep anyone from thinking that America is an “exceptional” country. He wants it to be just one of the “community of nations,” and not any more important than any other. Strange ambition. But the nations of the world haven’t lost interest, and everything American makes it onto the front pages of the world’s newspapers, and with the increasing spread of technology, they have only to log on. After all, we are the source of movies, celebrity gossip and strange behavior, fashion, what’s new, and just what’s happening in America.  So they know quite a bit about what’s going on here. In spite of the compliments, Obama seemed to be there to throw his weight around as the American president, and impose some American norms without giving sufficient thought to the resentment it might sow.

Here are “Remarks by President Obama to the People of Africa

Here are “Remarks by President Obama at Young African Leaders Initiative Town Hall

Here are remarks from young Africans of East Africa in Addis Ababa



It’s Seafair Weekend! by The Elephant's Child

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This is Seafair Weekend in Seattle. Means Blue Angels, Hydro Races, a  parade, and usually a visit from the Navy with a tour of their ship. Went to the hydro races once, but found it was crowded, you couldn’t see anything, and parking was impossible and expensive.

I do love the Blue Angels, they usually fly right over my house at least once, often several times. The usual grouches complain about the noise. This year the Marxists, Code Pink and Socialists are out insisting that we “don’t want any weapons of war in Seattle.” This is the north west corner of the left coast, and somewhat predictable.

They cancelled the Blue Angels last year. Wasn’t in the budget, sequestration, and Obama wanted everyone to feel the pain.



A Little Reminder of the Astonishing Changes In the World by The Elephant's Child

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President Obama spoke on Sunday in Kenya about Africa’s bleak history, referencing the racism his grandfather faced as a cook for the British during the colonial era, and the ethnic violence that erupted after a disputed election in 2007. He urged Africans to build stronger and more tolerant democracies. Graft, he said, is “not something that is just fixed by laws, or that any one person can fix. It requires a commitment by the entire nation—leaders and citizens—to change habits and change culture.

What does this have to do with rather primitive cell phones? It’s that modern cell phones are now common in Africa. You may see a Masai tribesman in the remotest part of Africa, herding goats in his red blanket, talking on a cell phone. Poverty is being eliminated, life expectancy is longer, and trade and investment are changing Africa. Leon Louw urges more “exploitation.” More people buying things from Africa, investing in Africa and employing people in Africa. Yet the assumption is that poverty is increasing, while the opposite is the case, and should be celebrated.

If you have not watched the 9 minute video below, you can see the important part about eliminating poverty and the proliferation of cell phones at about 9: 30, and the potential difference that BitCoin may make. Mr. Obama’s advisors did not prepare him for recognizing the advances that Africa has made.

Last time he made a speech in Africa, Obama told the people that they couldn’t all have cars and air-conditioners or the oceans would boil over.

Time and technology move on, and change the world.



The Amazing Success of Africa. Botswana Is the Fastest Growing Country in the World. by The Elephant's Child

Leon Louw is an author, policy analyst, and executive director of the South Africa-based think tank: The Free Market Foundation. “Thank goodness people are ‘exploiting ” Africa by buying things from it, by investing in it, by employing people in it,” he said. “The worst thing that would happen is if people decide to stop exploiting Africa.”

The statement might sound provocative, but Louw is responding to a a pair of critiques he hears often: That economic development is akin to exploitation and that the gap between rich and poor is growing dangerously large. But Louw says that the focus on economic inequality is a distraction from a more important metric.

“The world is experiencing the most amazing accomplishment of humanity: The virtual elimination of poverty,” says Louw. “It’s strange that as that happens, we are talking about it as if there is more of it.”

Another illustration of “One of the Most Remarkable Achievements in Human History.”Some good news to be celebrated. The Decliners are sure that there is more poverty, more unfairness, more decline. About 9 minutes long. It is getting really hard to get a straight, true look at the state of the world. Those things which are hard and bad are ignored, misunderstood, and the dangers made light of. And the good things? We don’t even know they are happening. It would be helpful if there was way less talk about the supposed gap between the rich and the poor, and a lot more appreciation for free market enterprise that moves people out of poverty.



Democrats Would Erase and Rewrite History In the Name of Their Ideology by The Elephant's Child

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More than a  month after the coldblooded murder of nine Black churchgoers in South Carolina by an overt racist, the event prompted an intense discussion of racism. Within hours the conversation, at least in the media, had switched to the Confederate battle flag as a symbol of racism that was flying over the South Carolina capitol, well, not the capitol, but over the confederate memorial on the capitol grounds.

Across the South the flag was furled, but a public hysteria quickly emerged demanding that monuments to Confederate leaders should be torn down, roads and bridges renamed, and at least the remains of one leading Confederate general should be dug up and…? The fight to make history conform to today’s moral standards was just in its beginnings, and it continues.

Ben Affleck discovered to his intense embarrassment that he had an ancestor who owned slaves, and attempted to eliminate any evidence of that from the broadcast of Roots. Actually it seemed to be four ancestors. Re-airings of The Dukes of Hazard were cancelled and the owner of the prop car, the General Lee, said the car’s famous rebel flag on the roof was to be painted over. Connecticut’s Democrat Party has dropped the names of Presidents Andrew Jackson and Thomas Jefferson, founders of the Democratic party, from the title of the annual dinner.

Democrats, like Ben Affleck, are embarrassed by the party’s connections to slavery. Well, yes, and segregation, and the KKK, and Reconstruction, the Trail of Tears, and Margaret Sanger, and Woodrow Wilson. After a brief campaign by the Left to banish Andrew Jackson from the $20 bill, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew decided on removing Alexander Hamilton, the father of the modern banking system, instead — to be replaced by — a woman. What woman? He’s asking for suggestions, because no woman comes to mind as being that outstanding. He might try reading up on Alexander Hamilton to avoid embarrassing himself. I’d recommend  Hamilton’s Blessing: The Extraordinary life and Times of Our National Debt by John Steele Gordon.

Please! History is a record of what happened in the past. The more distant the past, the more historians have to rely on fewer records. When we go back before recordings, before film, before photographs, historians must try to fill in the blanks. Newly discovered letters, diaries, or  papers can change our knowledge of the period. But we don’t get to rewrite history to suit our modern prejudices and ideas of the correct morality. We need history, as it is, warts and all, to guide us in the present. But we also need truth, not some made-up history that advances the Left’s idealized future.

Part of the problem is that Democrats are a little short in the history department. They grew up in the sixties, reading Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, which is pure Soviet propaganda, and Noam Chomsky’s assorted Marxist crap, and  consequently know nothing about history at all.

The drive to re-write history comes from the faculty lounges. The WWI Centennial Commission has been accepting design submissions, to memorialize The Great War, but they have already decided to move General John Pershing out of Pershing Park in Washington D.C. because they “have moved away from the ‘great man’ approach to war memorials.”

There has been a battle with the College Board over the Advanced Placement examination for U.S. history, to be released later this summer. Fifty-six professors and historians published a petition on the National Association of Scholars, urging opposition to the College Board’s framework. “Students should be able to explain how various identities, cultures, and values have been preserved or changed in different contexts of U.S. history, with special attention given to the formation of gender, class, racial and ethnic identities.” Orwellian.



The Unintended Consequences of Demanding Higher Pay by The Elephant's Child

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The law of unintended consequences strikes again. Low wage workers in Seattle spent months agitating for a city-wide $15 an  hour were successful in their agitation. The City of Sea-Tac (the area surrounding the Seattle-Tacoma airport) had passed a $15 an hour bill. The state wide minimum wage locally was already $9.32.

Workers in local hotels and restaurants and in the airport soon found out that the raise was not as profitable as they had assumed. Hours were cut. Workers suddenly had to pay for their own parking and their own lunches. Politicians, those unfamiliar with basic economics, often assume that they are lifting poor people out of poverty.  Not so fast.

Some workers across the city are suddenly asking their bosses to give them fewer hours, because the higher wage is forcing them off the welfare programs they rely on, so they can earn less to avoid losing assistance. 

Who are low-wage workers, and why can ‘t they get higher pay? A very large percentage are young people in their first job, learning how to work. A hike in the minimum wage law that is unrelated to economic growth, means the hike will be an unemployment act for young people. Ideally, the low-wage worker will learn on the job, skills that are transferable to better jobs. Most employers prefer to hire skilled workers than beginners.

Looking through the images of “Fight for $15” protests, it’s clear that the main driver and sponsor of the protests was SEIU, hoping to unionize fast food workers. The main target was McDonalds. Oddly enough, a very large percentage of McDonalds restaurants are franchises or small-businesses, who are no more capable than other small businesses of absorbing the cost of a government-ordered increase in wage costs. Restaurants in Seattle are closing at higher than normal rates.

No one has ever doubted that it’s quite possible to increase employment and the minimum wage at the same time. But it happens when the economy is growing and demand increases. And, contrary to Mr. Obama’s usual bragging, the economy is not growing healthily.

Most people have encountered low-wage workers who hate their jobs, are unpleasant, but say the required “Have a nice day.” A worker in a local store fits that description, and adds to it tattoos on arms and neck, and ear-lobes stretched out to take huge disks. A long-sleeved shirt would take care of the tattoos, but the earrings will limit his future job prospects.

On the other hand, my grocery had a box-boy, high-school and Jr. College age, who always appeared to enjoy his job, remembered my name, and that I had two cats, and was cheerful and efficient as well. He’s gone on to college now, but he will do well in life.

If you work hard and become the best worker in your current job, you may be ready to move up. Work is not meant to be just a payment to you, but fair pay for fair work. There are plenty of unskilled workers ready to take those jobs you sneer at, and there are other replacements who don’t protest and don’t demand time off, overtime nor sick pay.

I should probably add that this is a case history in the way government welfare is set up to keep the recipients from turning to real work to escape dependence. They are not into helping people on welfare to become self-supporting.




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