American Elephants


“Kill Chic” by Victor Davis Hanson by The Elephant's Child


Kalashnikov AK47

If you read anything today, read this outstanding piece by Victor Davis Hanson, and share it with friends.

In movies, novels, music, and art, progressives murder their enemies, including presidents, in myriad ways.

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom.

We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping flesh, as if it is some sort of macabre ballet. Rap music has institutionalized violence against women and the police — to the tune of billions in profits, largely as a way for suburban kids to find vicarious street authenticity. And this idea of metaphorically cutting, bleeding, or shooting those whom you don’t like without real consequences has seeped into the national political dialogue.

For example, why does popular culture wink and nod at the widespread metaphorical killing of Republican presidents? Liberals used to believe that words mattered and images had consequences; the casual glorification of carnage trivialized violence and only made it more acceptable — and likely.

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Here’s Why You Should Object To “Presidents’ Day” by The Elephant's Child

Today is officially President’s Day, in lieu of having to celebrate a birthday for each of the presidents, which is just silly. The people were delighted to have another 3-day weekend, and the unions could offer that to the people from whom they demand dues as a gift from them, or something like that. I’m an anti-President’s Day crank, and firmly believe that we should celebrate only Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays, unless someone turns out to be spectacular in some way, which is unlikely.

We’ve had a few very good presidents, and a lot of mediocre ones and a few really unfortunate ones. Presidents are merely normal human beings with ordinary human failings, who somewhere along the line got the bug to run for the presidency. Some, once infected, never get over it, like Harold Stassen and Hillary.

Today, as a few have reminded us, is a day that should live in infamy. It’s the seventy-sixth anniversary of the day Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066  in February, 1942, which rounded up about 120,000 American immigrants and American citizens of Japanese ancestry and sent them off to internment camps.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, people were afraid of an attack on the West Coast. Many regarded the Japanese-American population of California as a threat. They were forcibly removed to ten “internment” camps. Most lost their homes and businesses. Immigration from Japan had been banned since 1924, and all Japanese immigrants were ineligible for citizenship.

Some people of German or Italian ancestry were also detained or interred, but most were already American citizens. Some were removed from coastal security areas, but authorities soon decided that Italians were not a problem. President Reagan made a public apology with the signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1998 which spoke to Japanese Americans and members of the Aleut community. President George H.W. Bush pledg   es to “take a clear stand for justice and recognize that injustices were done to Japanese Americans during World War II.

Some people writing about this today have attempted to make a parallel with President Trump’s exclusion of refugees from Islamic states where terrorism is supported with the Japanese American internment, which is silly, by not surprising in the current atmosphere. The Left is currently in favor of open borders because new immigrants are inclined to vote for Democrats, because they favor more government assistance.  The Left’s  only interest is in power, more voters and a larger body-count for the next census in 2020 so they can dispose of the Electoral College.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt is usually judged by academic historians to be one of our greatest presidents, presumably because he was president during World War II, and we won. He made a mess of the Depression with constant tinkering and it was far longer and more damaging than it would have been otherwise. And then there was Yalta.



If Banning Guns Won’t Work, What Should We Do? by The Elephant's Child

To reach a point where people can begin to talk sensibly about the problem of violence in our schools, you have to wait a while. Probably longer than this. All the people who have never held a gun, nor fired one, have time to insist that banning all guns is the answer. Unfortunately, it’s often the less they know, the more they sound off.

There are no reliable statistics that I could find on gun shootings in schools. Everytown for Gun Safety is an activist gun-banning group, and has listed every incidence when a gun has been discharged in or near a school in their statistics, including on school property when schools are not in session, which includes a suicide in his own car, that sort of thing, which has contaminated most lists.

There are some few sensible suggestions emerging. Most courthouses and state buildings have  metal detectors at their doors, and a guard inside to do something if a metal detector sounds off.  Interesting that government officials are ready to insure protection for themselves, but not for vulnerable students. So the first need is for some proper statistics enumerating the people who have attempted to attack school children as the most vulnerable and precious victims. This is not as easy as it should be. The United States is a big open country with all sorts of news outlets, some of them even reliable. Our news is reported as headlines in most other countries. Because we let it all hang out, so to speak, countries that are more sparing in what they tell the public are shocked by us.

Banning guns is everyone’s first choice, but will not change anything. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. The kid who was turned in by his grandmother this week because she read his journal, was not only talking about guns, but about making bombs at home.  If metal detectors at every entrance to a school are a good idea, then it detects as someone enters—and who responds to that and what do they do? Is it an armed guard? For every door? Or are all other doors but the main door locked, and checked to make sure they are locked? It gets complicated right off the bat, and needs to be thought through carefully.

The grandmother who called 911 after reading her grandson’s journal here in Snohomish County (Everett) just had to trust that the responders from 911 would know what to do. It would seem that adults in such a situation would be more apt to take action if they knew what and who to reach, and what would result.

It’s agreed that the FBI fouled up very badly by not following up on warnings they received about Nikolas Cruz. They had a definite warning call from someone who knew him and took his threats seriously. His father had died earlier, and his mother had died suddenly and recently from pneumonia. He was expelled from school. Police were reportedly called to the home some 39 times. That’s a remarkable number of red flags and call for help, to FBI and city police, but nothing happened, no one took him in for help. That suggests missing training in when red flags should go up, and in what avenues to follow. Is a jail cell the only answer? Taxpayers are supporting a vast array of agencies that are supposedly trained to deal with situations like these. School shootings are not as common as the gun-control advocates assume, but there have been others. Some of the attacks have been by adults which are a different situation.

Junior high and high school are difficult times for kids. They are dealing with  puberty, and sex education, that currently seems to tell them they they can be any sex they choose, when they are trying to figure out how to be popular like some other kids seem to be, having crushes, wanting to be good at sports or acting or singing or anything like other kids seem to be. Everybody remembers traumatic things from their own high school career. It’s a very emotional time, taking the first steps toward adulthood.

It has been widely, if quietly, reported that teachers are being attacked in their own classrooms, in many cases by unruly students. School districts do not want that to be reported so it is not frequently mentioned, but it happens, perhaps more frequently where there is gang activity. What is being done about that?

When a kid has acted up enough to be expelled from school, had the police called to his home 39 times, and  just lost his mother, that would seem to be a powerful call for help. You would have one very angry kid. What all of this suggests is that all those administrators that the taxpayers are supporting besides the teachers in the classroom, should be planning and working with other agencies to think through the possibilities and come up  with plans so people know what to do and who to call.

What about the kid who uses the internet to learn how to build a bomb? Or learns how to make Molotov cocktails?  Do we still have reform schools? There are a lot of quiet agencies who take on troubled kids in rural settings to straighten them out and set them on a better path. Very expensive. Military schools. Also very expensive. Can states and communities learn from them and put new programs for troubled kids in place? Some used to be encouraged to enlist in the military, and drill sergeants know a thing or two.

Banning assault weapons (aren’t those the scary looking guns with scopes and a military profile) and AK-47s sounds important, and accomplishes nothing at all. Countries that have really gone for banning guns have learned that it does not work. Our cities with the most restrictive gun laws are some of the most violent.



I Goofed. by The Elephant's Child

I see that I have once again been mistaken. President’s Day is this coming Monday, and I thought it was connected to Lincoln’s birthday rather than Washington’s. My tradition has been to recall the birthdays of the two rather than to celebrate the federal day off.  I apologize.



Today is Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday by The Elephant's Child

Today is  “President’s Day.” As a long time crank, I disapprove of moving days of remembrance to Mondays to make a  3-day weekend. I would prefer that we stuck with Lincoln’s Birthday, and when we get there, to Washington’s Birthday on the 22nd.

Both men deserve special honor. In elementary school, kids used to make log cabins with construction paper or crayon, and Washington got axes and cherry trees. Classrooms had portraits of the two men, and an American flag standing in the corner for the flag salute. I assume I am badly dating myself, but I’m not sure just when these formalities ended.

On Valentine’s Day we had a big decorated box in which to put the valentines for our classmates. The drugstore sold sheets of punch-out valentines in numbers suited to average class size. It was considered tacky not to be completely equal in favoring everyone with a card — even the ones you hated. I don’t think I have seen a picture of a classroom lately that has pictures of either president. I wonder if they still do Valentine’s Day?

Most kids have probably never seen a log cabin, and are unfamiliar with a split rail fence.  The tale about cherry tree and never told a lie is undoubtedly specious, and I don’t remember actually learning much of anything about either man.

Even little kids should learn something about history, but most colleges are dropping any Western Civilization or  American history requirement. The protests we hear on our campuses display a vast ignorance of U.S. History, and world history as well. Troubling.



Planning for A Self-Driving Future? by The Elephant's Child

Our local throwaway newspaper arrived today with an article about our city and autonomous vehicles. Traffic is a major problem in most cities, and governments have no idea how to solve it. So of course they are planning.

Experts in autonomous vehicle (AV) technology say the path forward requires city and state leaders to be proactive, making changes to local roadways, infrastructure, and legislation.

Our city, it seems is right on top of the question, and paving the way to accommodate the impact of replacing human drivers. The governor has signed an executive order allowing for easier testing and operation of self-driving cars. Our city is very technology friendly, it seems. Without going into all the radar system, detecting of objects, fiber optic stuff, I find that they are looking down the road and noticing that we have major transportation problems right now, mostly caused by big ideas from local and state governments.

They are looking down the road to a day when nobody will own a car. This seems to be an interim step to the flying car stage. There are shuttles now that are fully autonomous and will carry six people seated and six people standing. (See, we just got rid of six to 12 cars). They are envisioning a city  of solely ACES technology (Autonomous, Connected Electric and Shared) vehicles. This, they believe will allow all those parking lots and parking garages to become residential. When you need a vehicle, you will just summon one and it will pop over and take you where you want to go. Amazon, I guess, will deliver whatever else you need.

I’m leaving out six columns of excitement for the future, but this is what the Left has been talking about for years. Stuff all the people into high rise cities, and turn the rest of the country into wilderness parkland, saving the environment you know. It would seem that there is to be not much freedom in the future. They always ignore the real people out there. People who work have errands. We even have a new and apparently thriving doggy day care center where you can drop your dogs off for the day, but have to be picked up on the way home. One kid at daycare, another in elementary school, need groceries, have to get to the hardware store sometime soon, books to return to the library, pick up the dry cleaning. That sort of thing.

How does a small fleet of city-owned AV cars deal with a city full of people who want to go somewhere on the weekend? Do you have to reserve a car months ahead? If you like to hike or fish? If population growth is a problem, why are they not talking about building up some of the small cities or dying towns that could use more business and jobs and growth? Cities don’t want to get smaller or even stay the same. Growth is hardwired in. Every legislator wants to be in charge of more and become more important. We don’t do a very good job of planning for the future, and we aren’t much good at learning from history. Look at all the millennials out there trying to erase the parts of history they don’t like. Some high school just banned (once again) Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird.

So what happens when Amazon delivers everything and we have an EMP attack frying the grid, electric vehicles don’t run, and America starves to death in a massive famine? I think I read some science fiction novels along those lines a while back. This is all idle speculation of course, very idle. Do you worry about stuff like this?



Why Is Infrastructure Always “Crumbling?” by The Elephant's Child

President Donald Trump announced a $1 trillion infrastructure plan at the State of the Union speech on  January 30. But he had earlier revealed a price tag of $1.7 trillion at a meeting with about a hundred mayors of major American cities. The mayors were excited. Mr. Trump said he wanted all of the projects funded by his plan to be “on time and under budget.”

My question was “what is infrastructure?” Are we talking about the power grid? Concern about EMP attacks? The interstate highways? Airports? The president was complaining about our airports back during the campaign. What infrastructure is the responsibility of the federal government and what is the responsibility of the states or those cities? When thinking about “infrastructure” do people think beyond their own familiar potholes?

Why does it always come with the modifier “crumbling”? We have all sorts of big projects going on all over the country to improve transportation, or other things one would probably identify as “infrastructure”— California has a big high speed rail to nowhere that just keeps costing more and more and going nowhere, that nobody seems to want except Jerry Brown.

We have Light Rail here that nobody wants and seems to be a massive boondoggle. It is building across a floating bridge, and nobody seems to know if that will work. They have added what we call “Lexus Lanes” to the freeways where you have to pay a hefty sum to use them and that has screwed up traffic in the rest of the lanes. Our traffic is nothing to write home about. (Better they should have given trucks and buses their own lane.) In DC I think I read that freeway tolls are over $40  for a single trip. No wonder they are back to talking about flying cars.

Obama was going to accomplish great things with his infrastructure project, but he ran into the “shovel ready” problem, and he simply did not know or understand the problems with permitting and environmental regulations, how long they took and how involved they were. The  Transcontinental Railroad took railroad companies six years to lay 1,907 miles of track, tunneling through mountains at one foot a day, building bridges, all mostly by hand.

California’s bullet train is still slowly building and the new deadline is 2025 for high speed rail from San Francisco to San Diego. The old deadline was 2018, but the first leg will only run from  Madera to Shafter, a small town north of Bakersfield. This was the most “shovel ready”stretch when the Obama administration was passing out stimulus funds. The original plan was for 800 miles of high-speed rail up and running by 2020. It will be only very slightly faster than an airline flight if its ever finished. The project’s lead just announced another $2.9 billion increase in costs for the first 119-mile stretch, mostly for land acquisition. Voters approved the project back when it was estimated to cost $40 billion, and a one-way ticket from San Francisco to LA  was expected to be $55. The most recent estimate is $64 Billion and they are talking about routing it through Silicon Valley for obvious reasons.

Elon Musk is still messing around with his hyperloop project, with some success with his models. His greatest expertise seems to be his ability to get governments to subsidize his ideas. Across the country, many cities are engaged in big transportation projects, and I don’t have an impression of many successes.

I went to Google to see what I could find about Obama’s stimulus,  the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). In general, Democrats thought it was a great success, but were a little thin on explanations of what it accomplished. Since I’m a right-leaning crank, I consulted the Hoover Institution and John B. Taylor and John F. Cogan explained that “more than $1 trillion in federal-deficit spending did little or nothing to help the economy, because it was used to pay down debts and reduce borrowing.”

At Fox News, John R. Lott said that “the states hardest hit received the least money. States with higher bankruptcy, foreclosure and unemployment rates got less money. And lower-income states also received less. It looks like Democrats ended up helping their supporters, including unions and many very wealthy supporters.”

It’s easy to get politicians all enthusiastic about big projects that can crown their term with achievement. Think about Eisenhower’s transcontinental highways, or Hoover Dam. It’s very tempting. Obama’s high speed rail fantasy has led to Jerry Brown’s train to nowhere and apparently to the deadly derailment we just had down by Tacoma. It involved a new stretch of track that bypassed an existing rail line. The train was doing 80 mph when it hit a curve engineered for speeds of 30 mph.

“My high-speed rail proposal will lead to innovations that change the way we travel in America,” Obama boldly proclaimed at the time.

Washington state, however, eagerly took the stimulus money and promised to use it to speed up service between Portland and Seattle on Amtrak’s Cascade line.

One of the big projects — which consumed $187 million — went to build a 14.5 mile high-speed bypass between the cities of DuPont and Tacoma.

The stimulus was advertised as financing “shovel ready” projects, but work on the bypass did not begin until 2013, 5 years after the end of the recession.

President Trump is probably better prepared than most presidents to deal with big construction projects. He understands the hazards and the hubris, and knows what is involved. I’m willing to be convinced.




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