American Elephants


Keeping the Government’s Hands Off Your Pocketbook! by The Elephant's Child

History Professor Burton Folsom of Hillsdale College explains carefully why government investments usually fail. Professor Folsom has demolished The Myth of the Robber Barons, Explained in New Deal or Raw Deal how FDR’s economic legacy has damaged America, and now with Uncle Sam Can’t Count: A History of Failed Government Investments from Beaver Pelts to Green Energy and in this short video for Prager University, he explains why Big New Ideas are better left to private entrepreneurs.

It’s a matter of incentives. When entrepreneurs invest their own hard earned money, they are careful and thrifty, I have not yet seen a bill for Obama’s investments in Big Ideas like Solyndra, Ivanpah, Solar City, and all the rest, and there’s the high-speed railroad to nowhere supposedly abuilding in California.

There are some lessons here to pay close attention to. Some presidents want to build monuments to themselves, and members of Congress are subject to the same temptations.



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.



Climate Change & National Security, An Insider’s View by The Elephant's Child

On April 13, Robert H. Scales, U.S. Army Major General (ret.) testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environmental and Public Works regarding the Obama administration’s linking of climate change and national security. This excerpt comes from the Wall Street Journal’s “Notable & Quotable” column.

The common spark for all wars is jealousy and greed amplified by centuries-long animosities and political ambitions. The catalyst for war is the ignorance of leaders that leads them to misjudge. Humans start wars believing they will be profitable, short, glorious and bloodless. These truths never change. None are affected in the least by air temperature.

But the myth of climate change as an inducement to war continues to curry favor among Washington elites. One source for connecting war to temperature comes from the political closeness between environmentalists and the antiwar movement. Their logic goes like this: “Global warming is bad. Wars are bad. Therefore they must be connected.” Remember, prior to the 1991 Gulf War, environmentalists warned of a decade of global cooling that would come from burning Kuwaiti oil fields. . . .

General Scales added that in elevating climate change to the role of a real security threat, the military has become an agent for propagandizing the dangers of climate change to the American people. This might have been just political correctness—but this silliness has a real impact on our actual security.

The military follows orders, but in its attempt to follow the president’s intent, alternative sources of energy might be adopted before the technologies are proven. Our men and women in uniform might be fighting a war with underpowered or poorly performing weapons.

Our men and women in uniform are smart and perceptive. They can spot phoniness in a heartbeat. Think of a soldier in Afghanistan or Iraq returning from a dangerous and exhausting mission being obliged to listen to a senior defense official lecture them on the revelation that fighting climate change is their most important mission.

These men and women see the realities of battle all around them. The military threat of rising temperatures is not one of them.



The European Union is Coming Undone Over Political Correctness. Could We Just Use Common Sense Instead? by The Elephant's Child

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The news almost daily has headlines regarding the influx of refugees or migrants into Europe. They are generally referred to as Syrian refugees or Syrian migrants, but they come from a wide range of countries including many from Africa, and Asia as opposed to what we usually think of as the Middle East. We have seen pictures of massive marches of immigrants in Europe and read the tales of the problems Europe is having with their refugees, and specifically with Islamic terrorism. Paris and Brussels are only the start.

Did you know that the Obama administration has issued around 680,000 green cards to migrants from Muslim nations during the last 5 year period? If there is no change in current policy, the U.S. will admit another 680,000 over the next five years, or possibly more. During the same five years, we issued green cards to only 270,000 migrants from the European Union.

According to DHS files the largest numbers of migrants came from Iraq and Pakistan with 83,000 each, and 75,000 from Bangladesh, 45,000 from Egypt, 31,000 from Somalia, 24,000 from Uzbekistan, Turkey and Morocco had 22,000 migrants each, Jordan and Albania 20,000 each and Lebanon and Yemen each had 16,000. Indonesia (15,000), Syria (14,000), Sudan (13,000), Afghanistan (11.000). and Sierra Leone  (10,000). There were only a few thousand each from Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Kosovo and Libya.

The administration, aside from being unable to say the words ‘Islamic terrorism,’ seems to believe that terrorism doesn’t really exist— even when the Ayatollah Khomeini leads his followers in chants of ‘Death to America‘ and ‘Death to Israel‘ — that’s just P.R. to please the locals. The programs launched by the administration to reach out and protect Muslims are extensive, and the administration has agreed to a terrorist front’s demands to purge FBI’s anti-terrorism material that was thought to be ‘offensive’ to Muslims.

A closely watched case, United States v. Texas, is going to be argued before the Supreme Court on April 18, Monday. The court surprised watchers when it asked that the parties in that case address a question they did not raise in their briefs: whether President Obama’s “Deferred Action for Parents of Americans” (DAPA) order violates the “Take Care Clause” of the Constitution. (“he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed,”) That clause had never before been addressed by the Court. An interesting development for the president who has said “I have a phone and a pen,” and has not been troubled by taking the laws into his own hands.

DAPA is a set of executive branch directives giving some four million illegal aliens who have given birth to children in the United States what the orders call “legal presence” — even though they are here in violation of the law. This “legal presence” entitles DAPA beneficiaries to work permits, a picture ID, driver’s licenses, social security, Earned Income Tax credits, Medicaid, ObamaCare, and other social welfare benefits. Until the 2014 election, President Obama repeatedly and emphatically stated that he did not have authority to issue such an order without congressional action. Then he did it.

Absolute monarchs rule absolutely. What they say goes. It was a long battle in English history, and King John (1119-1216) did things his way until confronted with armed insurrection at Runnymede (1215) when he agreed to the Great Charter which established the principle that even kings are not a law unto themselves, and must act through settled law.

The framers of the U.S. Constitution took care to carefully consider what prerogative powers were suitable for an American president. Much of the Constitution is devoted to replacing prerogative powers with settled law. Henry VIII believed his royal proclamations should have the force of law —Parliament repealed the Act of Proclamations.

As our Constitution was being written, the Committee on Detail changed the words of the draft Constitution which vested a “single person” with the power to carry into execution the national laws” to read “he shall take care that the laws of the United States be duly and faithfully executed.” That changed the execution of the law from a power to a duty rather than a power, indicated by the word “shall.” A reversal would portend ever-increasing  exercise of executive powers. The question is not whether the president’s rule would make good policy, but whether the Constitution allows the president to rule statutory violations. It does not.

The State Department wants to increase the rate of bringing Syrian refugees to the United States to an average of 1,500 a month in order to meet President Obama’s target of settling 10,000 refugees in the country by September.  Why by September? That’s Obama’s target —perhaps he expects to get 10,000 of them voting by November. Who knows? We have Trump’s Yuge wall, 40 feet tall, that he claims he will make Mexico pay for, which is absurd. The 18 to 24 month time for processing admission of  refugees has reportedly been slashed  to 3 months to meet the president’s goal of 10,000 refugees this fiscal year.

Although the Muslim immigrants clearly include some ISIS members seeking entrance to the U.S, (they are certainly plentiful among European migrants), the slashing of processing time is worrying. It would seem that immediate admissions should focus on providing a safe haven for the remnants of historic Christian communities throughout the Middle East that are now targeted for extinction. Churches have been burned, priests arrested, Christians have been tortured, raped and crucified. They have nowhere to go. Present policy does not take into account their precarious situation. The State Department accepts refugees from lists prepared by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees which oversees the large refugee camps— but Christians do not dare enter those camps, where they are attacked and targeted by Islamists.

Playing politics with Immigration is a particularly unseemly thing to do. Instead of efforts to carefully vet Muslim immigrants, we run into accusations of “Islamophobia,” designed to stop any dissension. Religious freedom, promised by our Bill of Rights, does not aim to free those who are intending terrorist attacks. There are many tenets of the Muslim faith that are directly antithetical to the U.S. Constitution. We should be able to clearly explain those to all Muslim immigrants. We do not tolerate honor killings, we do not regard women as second-class citizens, we don’t accept wife-beating, and rape is a crime. These are serious prison offences. That is not Islamophobia — it’s just clearly setting the ground rules. There should be a clear discussion of rules that are in the Koran that are not acceptable under our Constitution. If they cannot agree to American law, perhaps they would prefer to go elsewhere.

One of the most despicable acts of President Obama has been to delete some of the requirements under the law for becoming an American citizen. That’s why Europe is in such great turmoil at present. They have no programs for assimilation, or for becoming a citizen of a particular country. European nations have always been tribal, with  differing languages, customs and rules. After centuries of constant and deadly wars they thought to end them by opening borders and sharing finances and laws. It hasn’t worked. An unelected and unrepresentative bureaucracy merely substitutes for the absolute monarchs that once ruled Europe, and the people are not quite at the armed insurrection stage, but it’s not all peaches and cream either. Political correctness dictates acceptance of poor refugees, common sense dictates something else.

Emma Lazarus’s “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore—” is all very compassionate, but hardly an acceptable guide to immigration.



And Now For Some Really Good News: Eating chocolate regularly ‘improves brain function’ according to new study! by The Elephant's Child

Chocolate Shavings Background

Chocolate researchers used data from a Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study (MSLS) in which 968 people between the ages of 23 and 96 were studied and measured for their dietary intake and their cardiovascular risk factors, as well as their cognitive function.

The Journal Appetite reported that although the impact of chocolate on cognitive function is not well understood, few other natural products have been claimed to have as many medicinal benefits as chocolate. It has been used from early times to reduce fever, treat childhood diarrhea, promote strength before sexual conquests, decrease ‘female complaints’, increase breast milk, encourage sleep and clean teeth. Who knew?

More recent interest has been directed to cardiovascular benefits and cognitive function. Chocolate intake was positively associated with cognitive performance, and the association between more frequent weekly chocolate consumption and cognitive performance remained significant. Significant association, not proven dietary fact, but who wants to risk the possibility of a sharper mind?

Did you know that the candy bars that once sold for 5¢ are now going for $1.79? But some stores still have gold foil-wrapped Lindt chocolate Easter bunnies on sale, if you hurry. Lindt chocolate is especially good.



The Feminist War on Gender Is Creating Massive Problems. by The Elephant's Child

I vaguely remember reading a book long ago by a newly enlightened feminist on her conversion to feminist activism. She had grown up in a family where her father was most definitely the head of the household, the man in the family, who got the Sunday paper first, was served first at the dinner table, and looking back she was troubled by the injustice of it all. Well, poor baby.

N.O.W., the National Organization for Women, was born back in the Sixties, 1966 to be exact, when everyone was protesting about something or other, mostly about their fear of being drafted. Their focus has consistently been on gender equality, and that’s where we lose interest.  Women appreciate the wider range of occupations open to them, but recognize that there are many jobs for which they are just not well-suited. Most women appreciate the difference between the sexes and wouldn’t want it any other way.

N.O.W., AAUW and the National Committee on Pay Equity marshal their forces every April to promote the annual feminist holiday known as Equal Pay Day. Hillary tried to make a big deal of it in a speech yesterday, adding the race card.  It is a verifiable falsehood, says economist Mark Perry at AEI:

based on the false assumption that women are paid 23% less for doing exactly the same work in the exact same occupations and careers, working side-by-side with men on the same job for the same organization, working the same number of hours per week, traveling the same amount of time for work obligations, with the same exact work experience and education, with exactly the same level of productivity.

Equal Pay has been the law since 1966, but the feminists soldier on, trying to open all military combat roles to women. The Marines justifiably object. Former Attorney General Eric Holder invented rights for the transgendered — to protect cross-dressing and transsexualism under federal civil rights laws.

But the feminist drive to eliminate gender is really getting into the weeds with combat roles, and gender dysphoria. They are doing great damage to the gullible. The American College of Pediatricians felt it necessary to come out with a statement that “Gender Ideology Harms Children.” Parents are under pressure to “help their children to transition,” as a grateful woman who had parents with patience wrote in January in the Wall Street Journal: “The Transgender Battle Line: Childhood.” A former transgender wrote yesterday in The Federalist about his alarm at the attempt to redefine gender norms.

So of course the White House had to jump into the controversy with a big promotion on “Breaking Down Gender Stereotypes in Media and Toys so that Our Children Can Explore, Learn, and Dream Without Limit“— urging toymakers, children’s magazines, and organizations like Girl Scouts and Netflix to “raise awareness about gender stereotypes,” once again increasing the focus on something better left alone.

“We’re hosting the conference because we know that the TV, movies, and videos that kids watch, and the toys with which they play, can have a real impact on the skills they develop and their aspirations,” White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said in a post on the White House blog. “This impact goes beyond child development. This affects the quality of our workforce, and has the potential to affect our economy for decades to come.”

There are all kinds of dysphorias, from anorexia, which has killed some of its victims, to bodily dysphorias which has led its sufferers to cut off limbs, or in the case of one man to change his face to that of a cat with surgery, tattoos and piercings. It is a psychological problem and treatment is at best uncertain. Many, after some time, recover. For those who have had surgery to complete their transformation it is much more difficult if they lose the urge to be the opposite sex. North Carolina has passed a law requiring people to use the bathroom according to the sex they were born with.

Faux outrage, as everybody wants to demonstrate how opposed to ‘discrimination’ they are. Women have had to put up with male predators  invading their bathrooms, and see only danger in liberal insistence on changing tradition and good sense.

This is all an outgrowth of the feminist war on gender. There are two genders, male and female. Live with it.



It’s Not “The Establishment,” It’s The Left’s Grab For Power! by The Elephant's Child

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Are you tired of the circus that the presidential campaign has become? The latest insult from Mr. Trump is food for a thousand articles about the polls and who is up and who is not. Mr. Trump is doing an amazing job of keeping the attention of the media on his every word. Comments on posts are partisan and angry, but the anger is remarkably unfocused. Everyone is furious with “the establishment” but no one seems to know just who “the establishment” is. Presumably it’s the people they elected last time around.

The “establishment” is apparently the people who know their way around Washington, and understand how it works. And they deserve your fury because? There has been a major shift over the past seven-and-a-half years as the two major parties jockey for power. President Obama had a Democrat Congress to work with, and was able to pass all sorts of noxious laws without a single Republican vote. Lots of promises, mostly hooey, and lots of regulations that Republicans would not have put into place. But Democrats were in charge. See the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in the sidebar.

The major change has been the arrogation of power to the executive branch. Lawmaking is the task of the Congress, but this president has claimed much of that power for himself, and distributed much administrative power to the various executive agencies. From the Coyote Blog, Mr Meyer said: “This is eye opening:

In one recent year alone, Congress passed 138 laws—while federal agencies finalized 2,926 rules. Federal judges conduct about 95,000 trials a year, but federal agencies conduct nearly 1 million. Put all that together and you have a situation in which one branch of government, the executive, is arrogating to itself the powers of the other two.

he adds: This probably understates the case.  Most of the laws were probably brief fixes or extensions or for national _____ day declarations.  The administrative rules can be thousands of pages long and create nightmarish compliance issues.  Already, most of our businesses compliance efforts (which seem to be rising exponentially in time and cost) are due to administrative rules changes rather than new laws per se.

This is called “Administrative Law. Suddenly, executive agencies are writing the regulations, administering them, enforcing them and conducting trials and issuing fines or penalties to those who do not go along cheerfully. Some agencies even have their own SWAT teams.

America has witnessed a massive shift in government authority, says George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley—one that “has occurred without a national debate and certainly not a national vote.” That shift has led to the de facto creation of a “fourth branch of government containing legislative, executive and judicial components but relatively little direct public influence.”

Turley made those remarks in recent testimony before a House Judiciary subcommittee. His talk waded deeply into the weeds of legal history and precedent, but the upshot was this: By failing to rein in regulatory agencies when they overstep their bounds, the Supreme Court and Congress have allowed those agencies not merely to administer law, but to create it—and run roughshod over the public in the process. …

All of this has happened thanks largely to a 1984 Supreme Court case called Chevron. The Reagan administration chose to relax some air-quality regulations, and the Natural Resources Defense Council challenged the decision in court. The Supreme Court sided with the Environmental Protection Agency. It did so for commendable reasons: to avoid turning the courts themselves into policy-making bodies. Rather than decide whether the EPA was right or wrong, the high court deferred to the agency. This is judicial modesty.

Daniel Greenfield said “This is how we move toward a totalitarian state. Incrementally. Step by step. Regulation by regulation implemented by a collectivist bureaucracy for all the “right leftist reasons”. You can’t object. That would be bigoted. Or mean that you have “something to hide”.

That last link notes that the EEOC has released a proposed rule requiring employers to submit employee W-2 earnings and hours worked. All employers with at least 100 employees would be required to comply. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) would jointly have access to the pay data for enforcement  purposes.  Whoa!

The Republican House voted in February “on legislation to make it more difficult for banking regulators to demand that banks shut down certain business accounts.” The legislation is designed “to target the Obama administration’s ‘Operation Choke Point’ a Justice Department effort to require businesses to stop banks from working with certain businesses. These businesses include lawful firearms dealers, payday lenders, escort services and other companies.”…”While the Justice Department cut off financial services to certain industries, it encouraged banks to provide services to others like illegal marijuana sales.”

We are all too familiar with the overreach of the EPA under administrator Gina McCarthy the agency is embarked on a grab for power. Philip Hamburger had a new book “Is Administrative Law Unlawful?” in 2014. Powerline chatted with him about the book, which they said is the most important book they had read in a long time.

I think this is perhaps what people are getting at when they are so angry with “the establishment” — that undefined bunch of “insiders.”That’s where the anger should be directed. Administrative Law is unlawful, unconstitutional and illegitimate. This is the power once claimed by English kings, and exactly what our Constitution was carefully designed to prevent.




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