American Elephants

I Think The Times And Obama Are Wrong. Can I Possibly Be Right? by The Elephant's Child

Gutted Yellow Building Havana

The New York Times is, as usual, a little off. When ideology trumps journalism, you get these embarrassing slip-ups. The headline is “As Cuba Shifts Toward Capitalism, Inequality Grows More Visible.”

What shift toward capitalism? Raul Castro has stated firmly that Cuba is not moving one centimeter away from Communism.

As Cuba opens the door wider to private enterprise, the gap between the haves and have-nots — and between whites and blacks — that the revolution sought to diminish is growing more evident.

That divide is expected to increase now that the United States is raising the amount of money that Cuban-Americans can send to the island to $8,000 a year, up from $2,000, as part of President Obama’s historic thaw with Cuba.

This was not any kind of agreement with Cuba. Cuba offered nothing, and was pleased that America surrendered to them. If Cuban-Americans send more remittances, they will only enrich the Communist government. Cuban citizens are limited to a maximum income of $20 a month, and anything over that goes to the government.

This was just another of Obama’s big ideas. He was going to liberate Cuba, expand trade, and the tourist business will improve the Cuban economy.

Remittances, estimated at $1 billion to nearly $3 billion a year, are already a big source of the capital behind the new small businesses. The cash infusion has been one of the top drivers of the Cuban economy in recent years, rivaling tourism revenues and mineral, pharmaceutical and sugar exports.

Fidel Castro has been estimated in the past by Forbes to be one of the world’s wealthiest men, and I’m sure that covers his little brother as well. Cuba has been trading the use of their doctors to Venezuela in trade for oil. The reason Cuban’s maximum income is so low is because they are offered free medical care and a ration card for food. If they have to go to the hospital, they need to supply their own sheets and blankets, their own medicine and even iodine, if needed. According to the Times:

The river where Jonas Echevarria fishes cuts through neighborhoods brimming with new fine restaurants, spas and boutiques, springing up in Cuba’s accelerating push toward private enterprise.

Tattered mansions and luxury apartment blocks speak of old wealth and new. A bounty of private restaurants known as paladares serve pork tenderloin, filet mignon and orange duck to tourists, Cuban-Americans visiting relatives and a growing pool of Cuban entrepreneurs with cash to spend.

I’m sure the Cuban government is building tourist facilities in expectation of lots of tourist business, bringing more revenue to the government, but this report from the New York Times has no relation to what I have read elsewhere about Cuba. Previous tourist hotels are run by a Spanish company, who pays the government for their Cuban workers. The government gives the workers their $20 a month, and pockets the rest.

The Times article extolls the Obama effort and assumes that everything in Cuba will improve as a result —in spite of Raul Castro’s firm declaration that nothing whatsoever was changing.  Interesting. Somebody is very wrong. We’ll see.

“Organic” Is the Latin Word for “There’s One Born Every Minute” by The Elephant's Child

I couldn’t resist this one. I just got my weekly Trader Joe’s flyer in the mail talking about their offering of everything organic and some trendy new pressed juice. Grocery stores have a lot to answer for. They are catering to the Gwyneth Paltrows of the world who fall for every ludicrous foodie fantasy. I get ticked off when their ignorant protests against genetically modified organisms (GMOs) prevent poor Asian children from getting the golden rice that would prevent death and blindness for so many.

Headline and video borrowed from Maggie’s Farm, who borrowed it from someone else. Welcome to the internet.

Zero Tolerance Gone Amok by The Elephant's Child

Another day, another eruption of educational idiocy. Political correctness or zero tolerance. Mindless principals, afraid that they might be criticized by someone, somewhere, for allowing any indication of possible, potential, imaginary violence to take place in their school, do remarkably silly things to protect themselves and damage little kids.

Alden Steward, age 9, had watched “The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies,” and his head was still filled with the movie. He told a classmate that he could make him disappear with a ring forged in Middle Earth’s Mount Doom. He brought his “one ring” to school, put it on a classmate’s head, and said he could make him invisible like Bilbo Baggins.

Kermit Elementary School officials in Texas suspended the 9 year old for making violent threats.

“I assure you my son lacks the magical powers necessary to threaten his friend’s existence,” the father wrote. “If he did, I’m sure he’d bring him right back.”

Gosh, I’m not sure that is even as threatening as the little kid who got suspended for eating his pop-tart into a “gun shape.” (Looked more like the State of Idaho to me.)

I have not kept track of all the suspensions of kids for imaginary crimes against their school friends. There are too many. If you cannot distinguish between child’s imaginary play and violence, you are not suitable to be in a position of authority over children. It indicates that if there were an actual emergency, this person could not cope. School Boards should require a modicum of common sense.

Mark Pokorny. Warner Bros. :Pictures

Mark Pokorny. Warner Bros.Pictures

Our Self-Infatuated President Speaks About Himself by The Elephant's Child

Barack Obama

It has frequently been noticed that President Obama’s speeches most often focus on himself. No matter what the location, no matter what the topic, the words will mostly be about him.

Earlier today, Obama delivered  a short speech in New Delhi, wrapping up his visit. John Hinderaker over at Powerline noted that “the speech was only 33 minutes long, yet…Barack managed to work in references to himself no fewer than 118 times. The folks at Grabien write:”

Today in New Delhi, the president of the United States delivered an address to the people of India. Topics ranged from Obama’s pride in being the first U.S. president to visit India twice, to the historic nature of his attendance at India’s Republic Day Parade, to his grandfather’s occupation as a chef, to his graying hair, to his daughters … to his struggles against political critics back home. If this is starting to sound like the president spoke quite a bit about himself, that’s because he did. Somehow in the span of just 33 minutes, Obama referenced himself 118 times. (For those keeping score at home, that’s 3.5 Obama references per minute.)

We have often noticed that he seems to live in a fantasy world that excludes any opponents or any disagreement. It’s true!

It’s a Farce, But They Want to Express Their Concern About Economic Inequality by The Elephant's Child


The World Hypocrisy Forum of the ultra rich will enter its final day in Davos, Switzerland on Saturday. Volunteers created an array of 193  three foot high snowmen complete with carrot noses and coal eyes, each draped in a scarf representing one of the 193 countries recognized by the United Nations.

When the world’s wealthiest citizens, heads of state, businessmen, and movie stars fly into a Swiss ski resort on their 1,700 private jets to see and be seen for the purpose of creating a better world by expressing concern about the problems of climate change, poverty and economic inequality while taking helicopter rides, a few ski runs and relaxing in the spas, and noshing on $43 hot dogs at the Steigenberger Grandhotel Belvédère — you simply have to laugh. Can they possibly not recognize — but of course they can’t.

Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan CEO. said “Family first, country second , and JP Morgan—it ‘s the best I can do for the world. You don’t want a weak JP Morgan-or else”according to Twitter.

Billionaire Jeff Green who amassed a multibillion dollar fortune betting against subprime mortgage securities, said the U.S. faces a jobs crisis that will cause social unrest and radical politics.

“America’s lifestyle expectations are far too high and need to be adjusted so we have less things and a smaller, better existence,” Greene said in an interview. “We need to reinvent our whole system of life.”

The pretentious, pompous, World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland. Everybody took selfies with the cute snowmen.

Surprising Life Found Underneath Antarctica! by The Elephant's Child

A team of ice-drillers and scientists in Antarctica have bored a hole through 740 meter thick ice of  a back corner of the Ross Ice Shelf — a slab of glacial ice the size of France that hangs off the coastline of Antarctica and floats on the ocean. The remote water they tapped sits beneath the back corner of the shelf, where the shelf meets what would be the shore of Antarctica if there weren’t any ice. The spot where they drilled sits 850 kilometers from the outer edge of the ice shelf — the nearest place where the ocean lies in sunlight that allows tiny plankton to grow and create a food chain. The animals inhabit a wedge of seawater only 10 meters deep sealed between the ice above and a barren, rocky seafloor below. Scientific American reports on the startling discovery.

They lowered a small custom-build robot down the hole they had bored through the ice sheet. They were stunned to find fish and other aquatic animals living in perpetual darkness and cold underneath 740 meters of glacial ice. They had expected to find nothing but possible scant microbial life.

Ross Powell, a 63-year-old glacial geologist from Northern Illinois University co-led the expedition with two other scientists. “I’ve worked in this area for my whole career” he said — studying the underbellies where glaciers flow into oceans. “You get the picture of these areas having very little food, being desolate, not supporting much life.” Yet the ecosystem has managed somehow to survive incredibly far from sunlight, the source of energy that drives most life on earth.

Fish_1_lowrezThis is the first low-resolution image of a translucent fish that they discovered where it seemed no life should exist. The image reveals two black eyes and various organs visible as colored blobs.
Credit: Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling Project   

Inflation: Hiding and Disguising It So You Won’t Notice by The Elephant's Child


Inflation is reckoned to be around 1.3% or nothing significant. Women who do the bulk of grocery shopping would probably disagree. But inflation is disguised in the grocery store in many different ways, some noticeable, and some that are downright sneaky. Packaging that seems to be the same size, same price, if you look closely will contain only 12 oz. instead of the previous 16 oz.  See sugar, granulated, and flour, all-purpose. Some cereal boxes were as tall as usual and as wide across, but thinner.

Baker’s Unsweetened Baking Chocolate was up-front and brazen about the whole thing. Bars were uniformly 8 oz. Suddenly, the new box was headlined “NEW! 4 oz Easy Break Bar. Same great chocolate”with a little illustration showing how easy it was to break the bar apart. Only problem was that you were getting half as much for the same price.They have now removed the “New” line, whether because of objections or only because they thought you’d had enough time to get used to it, I don’t know. I have more respect for companies that don’t try to fool you.

Facial tissues are 1 ply thinner, as are most paper napkins. But did you notice this one? Toilet tissue, probably depending on the brand, has gotten about an inch narrower. You only notice it by paying attention to how the roll fits into the fixture. Sneaky!

Inflation is measured on a specific basket of commodities. I don’t know what items count. Certainly the drop in the price of gas is deflationary. I don’t know when the drop in transportation costs will be reflected in the price of groceries. But the droop will be reflected throughout the economy.

An interesting side note: Larry Kudlow reported this weekend that the drop in the price of gasoline, graphed, was matched exactly by the graphed rise in business at fast food restaurants.


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