American Elephants

Brussels Busybodies Back Off Banned Bananas. by The Elephant's Child
July 1, 2009, 8:16 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy | Tags: ,

European greengrocers have been released from restrictions on the appearance of fruits and vegetables that have bedeviled them for 20 years.  Busybodies in Brussels have long issued regulations on the shape of a proper carrot, the curve that a banana must have, the lumpiness of a potato.  The reasons for all this intrusion in shoppers’ lives were mysterious, but the bans have been lifted.  Reason reigns.

“J Sainsbury said that consumers could save up to 40 percent.”  Forty percent off the average European’s grocery bill.  Mother Nature wins.  Not every carrot grows long and svelte, but a farmer loses a lot by having to sort out all the ungainly ones.

The relaxation of the ban doesn’t cover everything, but it’s a start.  Shoppers are perfectly able to sort out what they want to buy for themselves, and don’t need the intrusive edicts from the Nannies.  Nannies here need to pay attention before they get big ideas.

Apologizing for America. Again. by The Elephant's Child
April 23, 2009, 2:03 am
Filed under: Foreign Policy, Freedom, History, Pop Culture | Tags: , ,


It is not clear just what President Obama hopes to gain from his overseas efforts to apologize  for America’s supposed misdeeds in the recent and distant past.  Apology has been the centerpiece of his strategy.  Those of us who differ with Obama’s approach have a different set of assumptions and beliefs.  He has spent an amazing portion of his time speaking of the grievances of our allies and adversaries. He explains his approach in this way:

If we are practicing what we preach and if we occasionally confess to having strayed from our values and our ideals, that strengthens our hand; that allows us to speak with greater moral force and clarity around these issues.

Obama seems to believe that anti-Americanism arises entirely from the terrible actions of that cowboy George Bush, and if he just apologizes enough, everyone will like us.  Or at least think that he is an improvement over his predecessor. But Obama needs a better understanding of history.

Anti-Americanism has been around since the earliest days of our country.  Think of what a threat America has been to the countries of Europe. We founded this country in opposition to a continent of Kings and Princes.  We denied the divine right of Kings, and created a democratic republic.  No authority of Princes here.  Even at the time of the War of Independence, our soldiers volunteered, they were not conscripted; and when it was time for Spring planting, they might just pack up and go home to get the crops in.  They were fighting, in part, mercenaries conscripted by one Prince or another and sold to fight for the British.

Our Declaration of Independence was a direct threat to the rule of a nobility.  “All men are created equal” was a reproach to their established order.  Americans had nearly one hundred and fifty years of personal independence before their freedoms were challenged by their British rulers.  George Washington had a time teaching them to be soldiers and obey orders. They were ready to fight, but the obey part came harder. What if that idea of “equality” were to be transported to the old country. What mischief  would that cause.

And it did. The French, inspired by our Revolution, not only threw off their King, but they chopped off his head and those of another 20,000 Frenchmen as well.  Certainly that must have made the nobility of Europe sit up and take notice.

Bernard Bailyn describes in his splendid book The Peopling of British North America what we seldom recognize:

The westward transatlantic movement of people is one of the greatest events in recorded history.  It’s magnitudes and consequences are beyond measure.  From 1500 to the present, it has involved the displacement and resettlement of over fifty million people, and it has affected the foundation of American history and is basic, too, in ways we are only now beginning to understand, to the history of Europe, Africa, and even, to a lesser extent, of Asia.

We think proudly of our immigrants, our forbears.  But for Britain and Europe that was fifty million people rejecting the old country and all that it stood for.  Reproach.

What is it like for other countries when their country is inundated with American goods. Starbucks, McDonalds, Kentucky Fried, jeans and tee shirts.  And in the world capital of fine food, people line up at McDonalds.  Reproach.

What is it like for the citizens of Indonesia when an American battle group arrives with hospitals (plural) and a capability of not only flying rescue missions, but of producing vast quantities of fresh drinking water from sea water.  Competence beyond their reach.  They are grateful, of course, but it is still a reproach to them.

The Pakistani people are deeply proud of their nuclear weapon. It says that they are competent in a world that has so modernized that it has left them behind, out of history.  Someone, and I forget who, said that they couldn’t even make a bicycle chain.  It is not that they are envious or jealous, but that our freedom and independence and invention and competence are a reproach to them.  They focus on our mistakes and failures, for it lessens the reproach for their lack of freedom and invention and competence.  And when we make mistakes, we not only tell the whole world about it, we noisily turn around and try to fix it.  And worst of all, we are happier than they are, and we’re noisy about that too.

Slavery is our great sin. We fought a great war to end it, and we are still struggling to eliminate its traces.  The whole world knows of our guilt.  Yet South America imported nearly 12 slaves and the West Indies 10 slaves for every one slave that went to North America.  Slavery did not end in Brazil until 1888.  But we don’t spend any time reproaching Brazil, we just get on with criticizing— ourselves.

So the “apology tour” is essentially pointless.  It just makes us seem weak to bow down to petty tyrants and dictators, and to invite their insults. And appearing weak is dangerous.

After passively listening to a 50 minute diatribe against the United States by Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, Obama said “I’m grateful that President Ortega did not blame me for things that happened when I was three months old.”  Obama made much of an offer by Raul Castro to talk with the U.S. Government, but Fidel wrote today that Obama not only misunderstood Raul, but he was “conceited, superficial,” and that he had no right to dare suggest that Cuba make even small concessions.

Obama won a campaign with his personal charm and unusual history. Perhaps he believes that he can win over the world the same way.  Apologies don’t seem to be working so well.  So far he has come home empty-handed.

Obama’s Arrogance, Apology and Appeasement Tour. by The Elephant's Child
April 7, 2009, 2:30 am
Filed under: Foreign Policy, History, Military, Progressivism, Terrorism | Tags: , ,

Let’s see.  North Korea shoots off a missile, claiming that it is a peaceful satellite. The rest of the world notes that it is a dangerous test of a long range missile.  Obama says that if the North Koreans launch the missile, there will be serious consequences, which means that we will go back to the U.N., which will do nothing, nothing at all.

In the  meantime, China is increasing their defense spending, building up their military.  Russia has announced plans to build up their military, and have demanded that America refrain from putting missile defense in Eastern Europe.  Iran is ever closer to their first nuclear weapon, and is cooperating with North Korea, attending their missile launch.  North Korea is becoming a prime proliferator, selling nuclear technology to all the most disreputable nations.

[The perfect moment.] Obama denounced “fatalism” over nuclear proliferation and promised to lead a global effort to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons.  He hailed the “courageous Czech Republic and Poland for “agreeing to host a defense against these missiles”.  The Telegraph (UK) headline says: “Barack Obama goes ahead with missile defense shield despite disarmament pledge.”

President Obama requested a 10% cut in defense spending. [Nice timing] Barney Frank asked for a 25% cut.  The Communist Party USA asked for a 50% cut.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced plans to cancel or reduce such major programs as the Airborne Laser, Multiple Kill Vehicle and the installation of additional Ground-Based Interceptor missiles in Alaska, and cut the MDA’s budget for Fiscal Year 2010 by $1.4 billion.  These proposals would amount to almost a 15% cut in the MDA budget and a major reduction in our missile defense portfolio. Or so said a bipartisan group of Senators who oppose cuts in Missile Defense.  Lieutenant General Daniel Maples, the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, recently testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that “the threat posed by  ballistic missile delivery systems is likely to increase while growing more complex over the next decades,” their letter to the President went on to say.  “Adversary nations are increasingly adopting technical and operational countermeasures to defeat missile defenses.” Ballistic missile technology has already proliferated worldwide and is a direct threat to both our allies and our homeland.

Well, some say that North Korea only attempts to scare us so that we will give them more aid.  But they have passed nuclear technology on to Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Syria. Now, you can condemn all this as “provocative,” but only a damn fool doesn’t pay attention.

Obama, was on his apology and appeasement tour. In Strasbourg, the President of the United States said:

In recent years, we’ve allowed our alliance to drift.  I know that there have been honest disagreements over policy, but we also know that there’s something more that has crept into our relationship.  In America there’s a failure to appreciate Europe’s leading role in the world.  Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America’s shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.

But in Europe, there is an anti-Americanism that is at once casual but can also be insidious.  Instead of recognizing the good that America so often does in the world, there have been times where Europeans choose to blame America for much of what’s bad.

Greta Van Susteren asked her guest Ambassador John Bolton:  “Is President Obama right? What do you think about his speech?” John Bolton said:

I was shocked at how poor  his knowledge of history is.  If he thinks tensions between Europe and the United States are of recent vintage, particularly during the Bush administration, he really needs some additional schooling.

If you go back to the time of the Revolution, there have been differences between Europeans and Americans very reminiscent of things we’ve seen in more recent years.  If you read the diaries and letters of the British and American top political and military leaders in World War II, they were at each others’ throats.  Lord Allenbrook, the British commander, didn’t think Dwight Eisenhower was fit to be Supreme Commander or Americans were fit to fight.

This goes back and forth all the time.  The idea that, suddenly, he’s going to change this as a matter of attitude is itself a form of arrogance on his part.

President Obama needs to recognize that he is no longer in campaign mode.  He is now the President of the United States, all of us, not just the ones who gave him campaign funds.  Part of his duty is to preserve the dignity of the office of the Presidency, and a world apology tour just isn’t doing it.  Did he not grasp the graciousness of President Bush who refused to comment in any way on his successors’ term of office?

The Audacity of “Hitting the Ground Running” by The Elephant's Child

A President of the United States has many new lessons to learn as he takes office. Every word that he utters in public is analyzed by governments all over the world for clues to the inner man, and to the American character and intentions.

Observers often wondered why George W. Bush seemed to speak in short bursts, and often mangled words; yet in informal conversation he spoke easily and eloquently. He may have mangled words —’ misunderestimated’ comes quickly to mind — but there were no verbal gaffes.  Mr. Bush was well aware that his words would be closely analyzed, and he spoke with great care, if in short bursts.

Observers particularly watch for signs of weakness.  Suddenly North Korea is testing new longer range missiles, and has broken off talks with South Korea, and is doing some saber rattling.  Kyrgyzstan has begun moves to close a U.S. military air base in the former Soviet republic, which is vital for U.S. led troops fighting in Afghanistan, after securing Russian financial aid  promises of more than $2 billion in credit and aid — equal to about half of Kyrgyzstan’s gross domestic product.

Protesters are marching in Vladivostok and Moscow as the Russian economy implodes.  There are repeated reports of trouble in China.  The financial crisis is not just in this country.

The Obama campaign apparently commenced negotiations with Iran and  Syria long before American voters went to the polls, in violation of Federal Law and simple propriety.  The chief Iranian spokesman, Gholam-Hossein Elham, responded to Obama’s public peace feelers with contempt:  “This request means Western ideology has become passive, that capitalist thought and the system of domination have failed.” Iran is working on long range missiles, as well as what they insist is simple nuclear power. A good percentage of the population of Iran is pro-democracy and pro-American, and opposed to their government.  Iran has just launched its first satellite into space.

Anti-trade provisions in the stimulus bill have antagonized most of our trade partners with “buy American” provisions.  Those provisions were demanded by the Unions who supported Obama so heavily in the past election and by protectionist members of Congress.  Canada and the EU have warned that such a trade policy in the middle of a global economic downturn could ignite a trade war; and that such policies were disastrous in the Great Depression.  Obama is trying to change the wording.

The Times of India has noticed that Obama has already issued 17 exceptions to his no-lobbyists position for White House hires.  The Telegraph in London notes that the “Sheen Already Coming Off Obama’s Presidency.”

Obama has had a very bad first two weeks.  He needs to realize that the campaign is over.  It’s time to stop blaming Bush, and face up like a man to the fact that what happens now is on his plate.  He has duties now, not to his campaign supporters, but directly to the American people.

That’s what that oath he took was all about.

President Obama’s adoring media begin to have questions… by The Elephant's Child

Barack Obama’s “Presidential World Tour” provoked a fair amount of humor and sarcasm on many right-leaning blogs, including this one. The repainted plane, with the U.S. flag on the tail removed to be replaced by the Obama symbol, the seat labeled “the President”, the entourage including three major television anchors, the announcement of his foreign policy towards Iraq and Afghanistan before going there on a “learning” trip were a few of the occasions for questioning presumptuous behavior.

But it was the arrogant request to speak at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin that really raised questions. (Like who does he think he is?). Wolfram Weimer, editor in chief of the German political monthly Cicero said:

It would not occur to any one in France to let Oskar Lafontaine, the co-Chair of the German Left Party, hold a campaign speech at the Arc de Triomphe. No one in England would think of helping one of the Kaczynski brothers stump for Polish votes in front of Buckingham Palace….Why not? Because there is such a thing as a feeling of reverence toward national symbols. And this feeling forbids one from allowing such places to be misused for the politicking of foreign nations. It shows a lack of respect to want to degrade the historical monuments of friendly countries into electoral campaign scenery.

Weimer added that “By virtue of his request he makes brazenly clear that he is not really interested in Germany as such. What interests him is, above all, the décor for a good photo opportunity.”

His Berlin speech, where he presented himself as a “citizen of the world”, without irony, made him sound like a candidate of transnational progressivism — where global rules and norms are more important than sovereign nations — and little things like the American Constitution. The Press, however, ate it up. “He looks so Presidential”, they gushed.

Amir Taheri wrote about Obama’s tour that:

“He looked like a man in a hurry,” a source close to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said last week. “He was not interested in what we had to say.”…Iraqis were most surprised by Obama’s apparent readiness to throw away all the gains made in Iraq simply to prove that he’d been right in opposing the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein. “He gave us the impression that the last thing he wanted was for Iraq to look anything like a success for the United States,” a senior Iraqi official told me. “As far as he is concerned, this is Bush’s war and must end in lack of success, if not actual defeat.”

There were, however, some cracks in the media’s adoration. Katie Couric gave him the toughest questioning of the tour. Reporters had to gently remind his campaign staff that “He isn’t President yet”. The slight bounce in the polls after his appearances in Berlin, Paris and London has pretty much disappeared. He has encouraged portrayal of himself as a messianic figure, welcomed portraits of himself with halos. Though the mock “presidential seal” has disappeared, the media enthusiasm has not. Chris Matthews still has that ‘tingle’.

Dana Milbank from the Washington Post showed today that the press is not always a faithful and dependable doormat:

Fresh from his presidential-style world tour, during which foreign leaders and American generals lined up to show him affection, Obama settled down to some presidential-style business in Washington yesterday. He ordered up a teleconference with the (current president’s) Treasury secretary, granted an audience to the Pakistani prime minister and had his staff arrange for the chairman of the Federal Reserve to give him a briefing. Then he went up to Capitol Hill to be adored by House Democrats in a presidential-style pep rally.

Along the way he traveled in a bubble more insulating than the actual president’s. Traffic was shut down for him as he zoomed about town in a long, presidential-style motorcade, while the public and most of the press were kept in the dark about his activities, which included a fundraiser at the Mayflower where donors paid $10,000 or more to have photos taken with him.

[At the] adoration session with lawmakers in the Cannon Caucus Room…he told the House members, “This is the moment…that the world is waiting for,”adding’ “I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions.”

As he marches toward Inauguration Day (Election Day is but a milestone on that path), Obama’s biggest challenger may not be Republican John McCain but rather his own hubris.


Brave New World indeed… by The Elephant's Child

The left, having discarded the “liberal” label, think of themselves as “progressives”. Yet much of what they have in mind for us is just plain old socialism. Americans, used to our freedoms and our bill of rights, seldom realize just how bad it can get.

It’s wise to keep an eye on Britain’s National Health Service as it slowly falls apart, for the Democrats are anxious to soak us with single-payer health insurance (socialized medicine). Canada is also a prime example of the folly of these government health insurance plans. No, it is not free medical care, it just pretends to be free.

Now comes an article from Britain’s Daily Mail that notes that there are over1,000 laws that will allow the state to invade your home. The Big Brother state, under the Labour government, has introduced nearly half of the 1,043 laws that give the authorities the power to enter a home or business. They give the state the right to:

•Invade your home to see if your potted plants have pests or do not have a ‘plant passport’ (Plant Health England Order 2005).

•Survey your home and garden to see if your hedge is too high (Anti -Social Behavior Act 2003).

•Check that accommodation given to asylum-seekers is not being lived in by non-asylum seekers (Immigration and Asylum Act 1999).

•Raid a house to check if unlicensed gambling is taking place (Gambling Act 2005 Inspection Regulations 2007).

•Seize refrigerators without the correct energy rating (Energy Information Household Refrigerators and Freezers Regulations 2004).

New powers set to be approved by Parliament include inspecting for non-human genetic material, for looted cultural property from Iraq and for “undeclared ” carbon dioxide, as well as enforcing bin tax.

Householders can be fined up to £5,000 if they refuse entry or ‘obstruct’ an official.

Is this our future?

The way things work across the pond… by The Elephant's Child

Sometimes you run across an article that subtly explains how things work. In Europe there have been marches and speeches about the evils of “Frankenfoods” a name bestowed by Greenpeace on genetically engineered seed. Mother Nature has been genetically engineering food for centuries, but when food scientists learn how to make some crops more resistant to their most troublesome pests, it supposedly gets “scary”.

If you have ever been to the museum at Mesa Verde, you can see tiny ears of corn found in the storerooms of the cliff dwellings, only 2″ to 3″ long, and marvel at how Mother Nature turned them into our modern corn.

The population of the earth is expected to rise until 2050 and then begin declining. The industrialized nations of the West mostly have declining birthrates — that is less than the 2.1 babies per mother that makes a stable population. This increasing population is going to require more food. To produce more food on the same amount of farmland, we are going to have to increase yield — unless we want to turn more forest land into farm fields.

Now European farmers have had a chance to grow genetically modified corn crops, and they are getting higher yields and more revenue than conventional growers. “Scientists from the Joint Research Centre, the EU Commission’s scientific body surveyed more than 400 Spanish farmers who grew Bt maize — the only GM crop allowed for cultivation in the EU.” This is the first time scientists have looked into the impact of GM foods in Europe.

There are real economic advantages for farmers since their crops are not destroyed by pests. EU Commission President Jose Barroso wants to remove regulatory obstacles to counter rising food prices. Nicolas Sarkozy, who will take over the presidency tomorrow, calls for more controls. Environmental groups, of course, attack the GM industry for exploiting the global food crisis in order to win EU approval for their products.

This is how things work in the European Union.

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