American Elephants


Obama’s Unconstitutional Abuse of Power: by The Elephant's Child

President Obama has increasingly shown contempt for the constitutional limits on executive power, for Obama is a full-fledged relativist. A thoroughly modern man who is distinguished by the absence of “rigid” opinion and moral values. The Constitution which he took an oath to preserve and protect, should be updated to conform to more modern times. After all we are just one nation among many, no better, no worse, and certainly not exceptional.

Back on January 4, 2012,  Mr Obama bypassed the Senate’s constitutional advise and consent power by naming three new members to the National Labor Relations Board, and appointing Richard Cordray to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Many Presidents have made recess appointments and we have supported that executive authority.  So what difference, at this point, does it make?

The problem was that when Obama consciously made those “recess” appointments when the Senate wasn’t in recess but was conducting pro-forma sessions precisely so that Mr. Obama could not make a recess appointment. No president had ever tried that one before.

In Noel Canning v. NLRB, a Washington state Pepsi bottler challenged a NLRB board decision on the grounds that the recess appointments were invalid and the NLRB lacked the three-member quorum required to conduct business. A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit agreed, and briskly slapped down the White House about the separation of powers.

The opinion was 46 pages, and the three-judge panel said that “not only logic and language, but also constitutional history” reject the President’s attempt to go around the law. The Federalist Papers refer to recess appointments expiring at the end of the following session of Congress. It is a constitutional relic of a time when Congress would break for several months at a time, and lawmakers could not hop on a plane to get back to the capitol.  It was meant as a stopgap for times when the Senate was unable to provide advice and consent, not as an exception to the rule.

The court cleared the air by noting that the Constitution refers not to “a recess” but to “the recess,” and an adjournment. The administration was trying to turn a power to make emergency appointments during a formal recess of Congress into a free-wheeling power to make appointments during any adjournment.

The ruling will invalidate everything done by the two agencies. Many agencies have bypassed  normal congressional approval, without making their action into a good case for the Supreme Court.  Lots of people have been harmed by determinations and orders from the NLRB and the CFPB, and they will head to court. The Administration will appeal to the Supreme Court. There will be arguments that the D.C. Circuit did not have jurisdiction, but the court persuasively found that it did. Going to be interesting. Tim Carney made noises about judicial overreach, and huffed and puffed, but that’s what Obama pays him for.



At Least 10,000 New Crocodiles in the Limpopo River. by The Elephant's Child

An African Safari

South Africa has called out the police to join the hunt for as many as 10,000 crocodiles that have escaped from a crocodile farm during floods and been washed into one of Southern Africa’s biggest rivers. Do not go swimming in the Limpopo River.

Heavy rains and flooding have claimed at least 20 lives in Mozambique and South Africa and led to evacuations. The flood gates at the Rakwena Crocodile farm close to the Botswana and Zimbabwe borders ere opened on Sunday because it was feared that rising flood waters would crush the reptiles, releasing some 15,000 crocodiles. Most are less than 78 inches long.

Crocodile farmers, locals and police have trapped thousands of the reptiles, using plastic bands to tie their legs behind their backs and piling them into pick-up trucks. They have more success at night, because it is easier to see them. Huh.

I have never lived where crocodiles are common, nor alligators, nor do I want to. Someone once sent us a baby crocodile as a  joke. Not funny. Fortunately, a worker at the Humane Society had a husband who was a Herpetologist who was delighted to have the chance to raise one. Took me a long time to get over being angry about that.



Whatever! by The Elephant's Child

Hillary Clinton testifies
…………………………………………………….photo by Kevin Lamarque/ Reuters

“What difference, at this point, does it make”

That’s the plaintive cry of the modern relativist. What’s a relativist? As Roger Kimball says in the preface to his admirable new book The Fortunes of Permanence, “It wasn’t that long ago that a responsible educated person in the West was someone who entertained firm moral and political principles. When those principles were challenged, he would typically rise to defend them. The more serious the challenge, the more concerted the defense.”

Kimball quotes  Canadian writer William Gairdner from his The Book of Absolutes, a study of relativism. A modern relativist

is more likely to think of him or herself as proudly distinguished by the absence of “rigid” opinions and moral values, to be someone “tolerant” and “open.” Such a person will generally profess some variation of relativism, or “you do your thing and I’ll do mine,” as a personal philosophy. Many in this frame of mind privately consider themselves exemplars of an enlightened modern attitude that civilization has worked hard to attain, and if pushed, they would admit to feeling just a little superior to all those sorry souls of prior generations forced to bend under moral and religious constraints.

An enlightened modern attitude? Moral indifference? “Whatever” has become a defining term. Or call it simply multiculturalism.  Equality of groupiness.  What is important about you is the culture to which you were born and what group you belong to. If you are black, the color of your skin is the defining element about you. If you are Hispanic, it is apparently that you speak the Spanish language, but it is more defining if your skin is brown, and you are here illegally. Lo que sea!

In an interview just before departing from her office as Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis spoke of how proud she was of the multiculturalism of her department. They had Latinas and Latinos, Blacks, Women,  LGBT people, disabled people, Asians,  all the necessary boxes on the multicultural assortment paper had been checked off. I don’t think she mentioned white men. Pigeonholes.

Any agency that hires on the basis of checked off boxes instead of skills, knowledge, expertise, and ability to play well with others will not contribute to good government. But then good government is no longer the objective. But what does it matter?

There have been natural disasters in our country, and we have an obligation to care for the victims. so we have set up an agency to do that, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). So we know that problem is taken care of. What? They don’t get there in time,? Their regulations prevent real help? They have trailers for emergency housing, but they are assigned elsewhere? Whatever. We can only follow the rules. There are no failures.

Difficult situations are “fixed” by creating an agency, or a regulation. Whether it actually works or not is a matter of moral indifference. Old dusty documents like the Constitution are too confining, too rigid. We need a living document that adapts to modern times as the times change. For relativists there are no absolutes. No firm, unchanging political principles. A right to keep and bear arms? Well, not now, when little children have been brutally murdered. Too rigid. We must get rid of most weapons, particularly the scary-looking ones. Wasn’t the Second Amendment just about Militias?

It was supposed to be a form of liberation — freedom from rigid rules. God is dead, everything is permissible, there are no absolute values. There is no absolute truth. America is not exceptional, Western culture or the intellectual heritage of the West, is more often to be at fault, and other traditions may be more interesting. All cultures are equally valuable, and calling some Muslims “terrorists” because their culture is different is just — judgmental.

Noticing the imperfection of our society, we may be tempted into thinking that the problem is the limiting structures we have inherited. Relativism promises liberation from “oppressive” moral constraints. So we adopt new enablers: “pluralism,” “diversity,” “tolerance”, “openness” which end as official warnings to accept all behaviors of others without judgment. Above all we must not be judgmental. There is no truth, no right and wrong, no eternal truth. After all, what difference, at this point, does it make?

Ironically, the very success of economic and political freedom reduced its appeal to later thinkers.The narrowly limited government of the late nineteenth century possessed little concentrated power that endangered the ordinary man. The other side of the coin was that it possessed little power that would enable good people to do good. And in an imperfect world there were still many evils.  Indeed, the very progress of society made the residual evils seem all the more objectionable. As always, people took the favorable developments for granted. They forgot the danger to freedom from a strong government. Instead, they were attracted by the good that a stronger government could achieve — if only government power were in the “right” hands.
…………………………..Milton and Rose Friedman: Free to Choose



Movies, Violence, Hypocrisy and Real Life. by The Elephant's Child

In all the conversation about “assault weapons” most of the commentary has concerned the cosmetic appearance of guns, and the number of bullets in a magazine. Some small number of the comments have concerned violent video games but there have been no serious studies that show a connection to disturbed people committing mass shootings.

On the other hand, let’s admit that movies are violent, unnecessarily so.  Hollywood’s minor celebrities, always anxious to get their faces and names before the public rushed to make a commercial to advance the president’s efforts to ban gun violence and guns. Though he claims to appreciate the Second Amendment, Obama is on record saying that he does not believe that people should be allowed to own guns.

The Hollywood celebrity bunch made a forgettable commercial for Obama’s original campaign for the presidency, so this one was much in the same style — a little gag inducing. Conservatives re-did the commercial, inserting clips from each particular celebrity’s very own movie, celebrating the very kind of gun violence they were so pompously opposing. It’s fun to see hypocrisy exposed. Demand a plan. Heh.

The president, you will notice, said not a word about violence in movies. Hollywood people are major campaign supporters and celebrities flock to the White House. When the CDC studies the causes of gun violence, movies will probably not be included.

Commenters write about seeing World War II movies, which only demonstrates how superficial the thinking. Hollywood is in business to make money. When a movie is popular, they pay attention to what was different about the movie. It is not an accident that so many popular movies have been remade several times. (Think Superman or Robin Hood) Special effects have taken over. What was once a simple car crash, is now a major spectacle with dozens of flaming cars flung high over freeway overpasses. A real-life Volt bursting into flame isn’t really shocking any more.

There was a time when most gun violence was in cowboy movies, where the hero pointed his six-shooter in the general direction of the bad guy, sound-effects provided the necessary sounds, and the bad guy fell down dead. Gangster movies were about the 20s and bank robberies and prohibition and car chases. The gangsters were recognizable because they had tommy-guns, wore black and black hats and drove big black cars that had a back seat or trunk large enough to hold a body. But the story was about bravery and cowardice, honesty and dishonor.

Special effects have taken over, and each movie must top the last. Heads explode in pink mist, wounds rip bodies apart, limbs are amputated. Whole groups of people are torn to pieces. What make-up cannot create, technical wizards will create with their computers. The sad thing is that Hollywood has lost the art of storytelling. Movies are just not so appealing any more. More violence, more gore, more blood, more sex, more squalor, more evil, more vulgarity, more bad language.

Movies once concerned the human condition, not in its excesses, but in its ordinary foibles. People are very human and struggle to understand their own human failings. Good storytelling makes you laugh or cry as you recognize bits of yourself and your friends and realize that perhaps you’re normal after all. That’s what storytelling has always been about, from how to have courage, how to be a hero when you are frightened, how to cope with the death of a loved one, how to be a good person, how to survive.

Think of some of the great movies: High Noon, Gone With the Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, To Kill a Mockingbird, It’s a Wonderful Life, E.T., The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Singing In The Rain, Lawrence of Arabia, It Happened One Night. Shakespeare told stories, Homer told stories, Aesop told stories — all about being human.

People use movies as examples in conversation and thought. They justify ideas, not by history, but with movie scenes. Movie dialogue has become an integral part of conversation and speech. I notice because it is not natural to me, and I have been surprised by its prevalence. Often notions of history come from the movies rather than from historians’ evidence from the past.  The behavior of celebrities in real life is influential and imitated. So to assume that violence in movies has no effect on violence in society is absurd. Will that connection be investigated? Not by Obama’s Executive Orders.



The Court Slaps Down the EPA Once Again. by The Elephant's Child

Once again, the courts have slapped down the EPA for exceeding its authority. The EPA in 2012 forced refineries to purchase more than $8 million in credits for 8.65 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel. However none of the biofuel is currently available. The court added that the cellulosic biofuels program was punishing refiners for the failure of fuel producers to make enough biofuel to meet the EPA mandate.

You have to use it anyway, even if it doesn’t exist, and if you don’t we will fine you because nobody made any. That one should never have emerged from the bowels of the EPA, let alone be made public. At least the court can follow simple logic, even if the agency cannot.

Here, by contrast, EPA applies the pressure to one industry (the refiners), yet it is another (the producers of cellulosic biofuel) that enjoys the requisite expertise, plant, capital and ultimate opportunity for profit,” reads the decision. “Apart from their role as captive consumers, the refiners are in no position to ensure, or even contribute to, growth in the cellulosic biofuel industry.”

“‘Do a good job, cellulosic fuel producers. If you fail, we’ll fine your customers,’” the decision says.

Unfortunately the court’s ruling did not strike down EPA mandates for refiners to use other renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel added into gasoline.

Two steps forward, and one step back. The EPA’s renewable fuels program is unworkable and must be scrapped. Corn ethanol is affecting the food supply and food prices unnecessarily, and damaging engines as well. Good luck with your gas-powered engines that are in something other than the most recent cars.

CO2 is not causing global warming, and the globe isn’t warming. Hasn’t been for over 16 years. There has been no  warming in the 21st century and the climate is predicted to continue cooling for at least another five years.



Feinstein Tries To Ban 150 Types of Guns; Public Rushes to Buy Them! by The Elephant's Child

DianneFeinsteinGuns

(click to enlarge)

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has introduced a bill to ban more than 150 types of weapons; they are calling it the “Assault Weapons Ban of 2013,”so of course members of the public are rushing to gun dealers to purchase weapons. Investors suggests a better name for the bill would be “Second Amendment Violation of the Century.”

Included in the exhaustive list are all types of AR-15s. It was, as everyone knows, an AR-15 that was used in the Newtown, CT and Aurora, CO shootings.  The AR-15 is a scary-looking semi-automatic hunting rifle that is no different than a more conventional rifle except that it has some military-looking cosmetic styling.

The number of homicides caused by rifles is falling. Only 323 Americans were killed by rifles in 2011. The number of homicides caused by knives, blunt instruments and the human body itself is Nine Times as many. AR-15s have been used to save lives several times since the Sandy Hook shooting. There is nothing in Feinstein’s bill that would have prevented the tragedy of Sandy Hook or Aurora. .(click to enlarge)

Feinstein-Weapons-Ban-e1359047805173

Some have suggested that Sen. Feinstein is simply trying to improve her’ legacy.’ She tried an Assault Weapons ban once before, and it was a colossal failure, changing nothing, nothing at all. It isn’t the guns fault, nor is it the bullets fault. Limiting magazines suggests that one would just need carry more magazines, for it only takes seconds to change one. She is, of course, attempting to play on public emotion, and all who are infected with the “do-something disease.” Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech gunman used two sidearms, a .22 caliber Walther P22 and a 9mm Glock to kill 32 of his fellow classmates. Neither of these weapons are on Feinstein’s list.

Real Assault weapons are already illegal.

The popularity of the AR-15 has exploded in recent decades. The AR-15 has become mainstream among shooters. Millions of Americans are using ARs for hunting, target shooting, competition, and home defense. It is light and easy to use. And most Americans have no plans for mass shootings, now or ever.

Obama proclaimed “If it saves the life of just one child” — the worst kind of pompous pandering. Obama’s campaign organization, now “Organizing for Action” a 501(c) 4 lobbying group, fired off emails immediately following the inaugural speech demanding calls made to Congress to ban guns, which produced no interest at all.

Michael Ramirez explained accurately the instruments used in violent assaults. Pay attention to the numbers. It is a different picture than the gun-grabbers would have you believe.

ADDENDUM: Do take the time to watch this video from the Australians, recounting their Government’s gun ban. Their results:Armed Robberies up 69%. Assaults with Guns up 28%. Gun Murders up 19%. Home Invasions up 21%. People cannot defend themselves or their homes, the police cannot protect them.



The Founding Fathers Understood Bureaucracy Better Than Today’s Liberals. by The Elephant's Child

The story of the Taylor family, just below, is an excellent example of Statism, Progressivism or just bureaucracy in general.  Centralized government, by its very nature is one-size-fits-all government. All goes well until your case is a little different, until the one-size doesn’t fit you. Centralized government runs by regulation, and making regulations for over 315,000,000 people just isn’t going to fit a significant number of people.

The Taylor family’s only hope to avoid FEMA regulations is by getting Congress to pass some kind of exception to the regulations. How would you like your future dependent on getting Congress to pass a law just for you. It happens, but for some Congress cannot rescue you.

The Founding Fathers understood this. Their regulations came from the British government 3,500 miles away, with the fastest communication by sailing packet. And the British government was not shy about regulating. Americans got fed up with bureaucratic regulation that had no real understanding of the realities in the colonies. So the colonies revolted against the crown. The American people’s distaste for bureaucracy is real and longstanding.

In 1651, long before the Revolution, England began passing a series of Navigation Acts to regulate the trade of its American colonies. John Steele Gordon explained:

These acts restricted the colonies to using ships built, owned, and manned by British subjects. The Dutch, far more efficient merchant mariners than the English in the mid-seventeenth century, were able to profitably ship the tobacco of the Chesapeake to Europe for as much as a third less than English ships could. But as the English merchant marine grew and as New England became a major shipping center in its own right, shipping costs declined even without Dutch competition.

The Navigation Acts also required that certain commodities exported by the American colonies could be shipped only to England. Many of these commodities —tobacco, rice, sugar, indigo, furs, copper, and naval stores, tar, pitch and turpentine —were reexported to continental Europe. This assured both that these commodities passed through English customs and were taxed, and that English merchants handled the trade with Europe. Other colonial exports, such as flour from the middle colonies and pig iron, could be exported by the colonies directly to whatever markets could be found.

Third, the Navigation Acts required that European goods imported to America had to pass first through England, and of course, English customs, except for certain products of southern Europe that England didn’t produce in the first place, such as wine from Spain, Madeira, and the Azores. The main purpose of this legislation was to protect the American market for British manufactures. But as Britain quickly became the most efficient producer of these goods in Europe, British manufacturers almost always offered better prices anyway.

Those who are placed in a position of power can seldom resist the temptation to tell everyone else what to do. And that is a pleasant power. What fun to be able to arrange  things to suit yourself. The colonies remained dependent on the mother country to provide those goods and services which they could not provide for themselves. All well and good, but British law effectively forbade the establishment of banks in the colonies, and forbade the export of British coinage from Britain to protect its own money supply. Money speeds up transactions in a barter economy, and its lack is beyond inconvenient.

With the prohibition on export of British coins, the colonies had to find some other source. In 1652, Massachusetts began making its own coins, the pine tree shilling. People had to bring in their own silver and have it assayed before being made into coins. That was illegal, but successful, and the Massachusetts economy prospered, so the British didn’t interfere. The rest of the colonies turned to the Spanish dollar, which accounted for about half the coinage in the colonies. It was chopped into eighths or ‘bits’ from whence came the designation of our quarter as ‘two bits’, but since nothing much costs a quarter any more, the term may be completely unfamiliar to our younger citizens.

That’s just a small sample of the bureaucratic complications of being a colony of a mother country intent upon maintaining America as a colony. America got fed up with regulations coming from 3,500 miles away, and communication that took as long as three months.

Those progressives that are so sure the Constitution is outdated, not up-to-date enough for modern people like themselves may assume that the Declaration and the Constitution, dusty old documents, were dashed off by old white men with no understanding the needs of truly modern men, and a modern age. But the Founders understood centralized government and bureaucracy probably better than we do. They understood human nature, and did their best to set up a government with checks and balances that would prevent or at least slow down its excesses. Pity that the Progressives have so little understanding of history and so little respect for its lessons.




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