American Elephants


Meanwhile, Back at The Russian Yearning For Empire: by The Elephant's Child

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From Bill Gertz at the Free Beacon:

Moscow violated a key strategic nuclear arms accord by developing a ground-launched cruise missile banned under the 1987 agreement, according to the State Department.

“The United States has determined that the Russian federation is in violation of its obligations under the [Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces] Treaty not to possess, produce, or flight-test a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range capability of 500 kilometers to 5,500 kilometers, or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles,” the annual arms compliance report made public Tuesday states.

The INF treaty breach, which had been kept secret by the Obama administration since 2010, is a setback for President Barack Obama’s arm-control-focused national security policies. (emphasis added)

Obama finally got around to acknowledging that Mr. Putin’s Russia  has violated the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty signed by President Reagan and Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev. He sent Vladimir an angry letter. As reported by the New York Times it was written with presidential outrage, and Obama “expressed his desire for a high-level dialogue with Moscow with the aim of preserving the 1987 treaty and discussing steps the Kremlin might take to come back into compliance.”

Uh huh. I’m sure Russia is just itching to get back into compliance. Vladimir Putin also dropped by Cuba to renew the old relationship. Mr Putin wants to rebuild the old Soviet empire. He has said so. He has also said that the collapse of the Soviet empire was the greatest catastrophe in the world. Why do we always assume that when people tell us their aims, they are lying and we know better?

The Castros remain paranoid, and power-hungry as ever. They run a good business  making the island available to criminal states like Iran and North Korea. A spokesman for the Russian Black Sea Fleet announced in August of 2013 that the Russian guided missile warship Moskva, the flagship, would visit Cuba and other ports in Central and South America. In February the Russian Defense Minister announced that Russia had engaged in talks to establish military bases in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. Does Putin really want to do the Cold War all over again?

The Obama administration clings to sanctions as the way to conflict resolution. The fundamental flaw in that way of thinking is that Putin cannot retreat, for retreating poses a real threat to his own power position at hone. After the invasion of Crimea, he has been talking up the return to empire and Russian greatness. Putin believes the West to be weak and irresolute.

The U.S. and the EU made good on their threats of dramatic sanctions on Russia. They targeted the energy, arms and finance sectors. The EU only blocked future arms business with Russia, not past deals. Obama said mildly “the issue is how do we prevent bloodshed in eastern Ukraine?” At Zero Hedge, Tyler Durden quoted the Financial Times:

One person close to Mr Putin said the Yukos ruling was insignificant in light of the bigger geopolitical stand-off over Ukraine.  “There is a war coming in Europe,” he said. “Do you really think this matters?”

At the American Interest, Andrew A. Michta points our that the West is treating the fighting in eastern Ukraine as a specific crisis, rather than what it is:  part of Putin’s larger strategy.

None of the actions taken by the United States and Europe thus far would cost Putin more than he is willing to pay. Worse, the West’s foot-dragging and disunity only confirm Putin in his judgment that he remains in control, while also deepening his disdain for the West. Even if the West were to get its wish and Putin were to agree today to a ceasefire and negotiations, he would retain both de facto control of eastern Ukraine and the option to recommence hostilities at will. He would, in effect, get the West to do part of his work for him.

What Putin wants is fairly clear. What he will actually do about it is not. The adventurism in Cuba and South America is probably intended to distract us with events in our backyard, and the alliances make Russia seem more important? They’re a little short on friendly alliances.



For All The Guys Out There: by The Elephant's Child

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Did You Believe We’re Going In The Wrong Direction? You’re Right. by The Elephant's Child

From the New York Times via Paul Caron, the taxprof:

Median household net worth has fallen 36% since 2003. The typical household is now worth a third less.

Economic inequality in the United States has been receiving a lot of attention. But it’s not merely an issue of the rich getting richer. The typical American household has been getting poorer, too.

The inflation-adjusted net worth for the typical household was $87,992 in 2003. Ten years later, it was only $56,335, or a 36 percent decline, according to a study financed by the Russell Sage Foundation. Those are the figures for a household at the median point in the wealth distribution — the level at which there are an equal number of households whose worth is higher and lower. But during the same period, the net worth of wealthy households increased substantially.

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Funny, President Obama keeps telling us how much the economy has recovered, and all the new jobs.



A Must-See Collection of Historical Photographs. by The Elephant's Child

Here is a fascinating display of historical black and white photographs — colorized for modern eyes. Up until the 1970s color photography was somewhat rare and the color prints did not always age well anyway. Admitting my vast age, I was far more familiar with black and white photos than color, and as far as that goes, the color was not always accurate, so I can’t quite understand the idea that “colorizing” old photos “gives us our only chance at seeing what the world really looked like back then.” But it is a theme I have heard often, so it must be true for those for whom black and white photos are — weird.

The colorizing is beautifully done. You will enjoy these 53 historical photos.



700 Civilians Killed In Just Two Days in Syria, but The News Is All About Gaza. by The Elephant's Child

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The outrage over Israel’s attempt to end Hamas’ rocket attacks on their civilians has brought demonstrations in Europe and even here. Hamas goes to great lengths to see that any news is slanted to favor Hamas, for to them any opportunity to discredit Israel or even cause them discomfort  is a triumph over a hated enemy. In other words, you cannot believe Hamas’ counts of civilian deaths or deaths of children. Victor Davis Hanson sums it up:

Hamas sees the death of its civilians as an advantage; Israel sees the death of its civilians as a disaster. Defensive missiles explode to save civilians in Israel; in Gaza, civilians are placed at risk of death to protect offensive missiles.

Hamas wins by losing lots of its people; Israel loses by losing a few of its own. Hamas digs tunnels in premodern fashion; Israel uses postmodern high technology to detect them. Hamas’s missiles usually prove ineffective; Israel’s bombs and missiles almost always hit their targets. Quiet Israeli officers lead from the front; loud Hamas leaders flee to the rear. Incompetency wins sympathy; expertise, disdain. …

Democracy and free markets bring Westerners liberty, human rights, and prosperity — but many Westerners scorn these things in Israel, siding with those who deny human rights, ruin their economy, and practice a brutal prejudice against women, gays, and non-Muslims. In Gaza, a gay reporter, a female reporter with bare arms, a reporter with a small crucifix around his neck, the rare journalist who, surrounded by screaming Hamas supporters, dares to broadcast the truth from Gaza — all these in private would admit to being in fear while they are in Gaza in a way they are not when in Israel.

More Muslims were killed in two days in Syria than in the entire Hamas/Gaza War. More than 700 people were killed in Syria over last Thursday and Friday in some of the bloodiest days in that conflict to date. Assad is taking advantage of a media environment in which most everything else is ignored to concentrate on Gaza. That’s what civilian casualties look like in a real war. In Gaza, residents are warned when the IDF is going to demolish a tunnel, they get leaflets telling them what parts of Gaza are perfectly safe. The IDF is not only not interested in killing civilians, they try desperately to avoid it, for they are only interested in destroying tunnels and missile bases. Hamas sends civilians to the sites that are going to be attacked to act as human shields, and if they are killed, Israel can be blamed.

According to Twitter and Google, an NBC journalist reported they had personally witnessed an Israeli drone attack and fire on a he main hospital in Gaza. The report was shortly completely scrubbed. Israelis say they have confirmed that the Gazan hospital was hit by rockets fired in Gaza by Hamas, not by Israel or an Israeli drone. I understand that Gaza has only the one major hospital, the one where Hamas  has it’s leadership’s bunker buried underneath the hospital. One hundred rockets fired from Gaza have fallen within Gaza.

Israel was celebrated by the left when it was represented by socialist kibbutzim, with happy workers tilling the fields. When it fought a war against the Arabs of the Middle East and won, they quit being celebrated. I have a hunch, which may be wrong, that the left is deeply influenced by words like “refugee camps,” “poverty,” “blockade,” ” border fence,”  and conversely odd ideas about the Jews controlling governments or industries.  Oddly, this time around, Israel is supported by Egypt and Jordan, and even the Fatah Palestinian faction that runs the West Bank want Hamas to become weaker.

The picture above is of a pleasant Syrian neighborhood.



Sixty-Four Percent of Hispanics Want the Kids Deported. by The Elephant's Child

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Remember how this all started? Breitbart broke the story of something like 50 thousand unaccompanied children escaping the violence at home arrived illegally at our borders. It was a way to pressure the GOP into caving in on amnesty. Stories of Border Patrol agents changing diapers, mothers with toddlers, always emphasis on the “children.”  We must have compassion for the little children. Well, as the news spread, it became clear that the media, as usual, were either lying to us or ill-informed themselves. Take your pick. 47% of the illegals were young men of  age 11-18. A significant number were recruiters for Mara-Salvatrucha, the violent street gang of young men also, coincidentally, age 11-18.

The amnesty idea caved in among the public pretty rapidly. A new poll from Economist/YouGov makes it pretty clear that the plan has backfired badly.  Only 11% of the people want what Obama, the Democrats and the media want, which is amnesty for everyone. 77 percent of Americans want the kids sent back home. A full 43 percent want them deported immediately, regardless of what’s happening in their home countries. Another 35 percent want them sent back unless their home country is unsafe.

Further information from questioning the kids has demonstrated that they are NOT escaping violence at home, but are here because of Obama’s promises of amnesty. They were told in their home countries that if they got here they could get in and be cared for. Many were sent with an address or phone number of relatives in the U.S. Many were sent with smugglers. Neither the Border Patrol nor ICE are checking the people to whom the kids have been delivered, not the citizenship, address, nor their relation. The same people have turned up to accept several different children. They are told to turn up for a deportation hearing, but statistically only 20 percent ever do. The rest disappear in the population.

It turns out that Hispanics aren’t all that different from the rest of Americans. Only 22 percent want to give the children amnesty, and a full 64 percent want the children deported. Of that 64 percent, 28 percent want them deported immediately, 36 percent want them deported unless their home country is considered unsafe. But I thought all the Hispanics were demonstrating, demanding amnesty for all. Mostly, they’re right in line with the rest of the country.

The media apparently decided to ignore the problem in favor of concentrating on Israel and Hamas. But 81 percent of the American people believe the jump in illegal immigration is a very serious problem. 57 percent believe that the increasing numbers of illegals is due to the belief that the American government will grant the children amnesty. Only 29 percent believe it was due to increased violence in Central America.

Obama seems remarkably uninterested in the problem, which is interfering with his fundraising and golf. He seems indignant that Republicans are not going along with his ideas about amnesty and determined to pay them back for not letting him have his way. Stubborn petulance would seem to describe it. He is the President of the United States and he expects deference and cooperation, because — he is the most important man in the free world.  That doesn’t seem to comport with the idea that America should just be one nation among many, does it.



Obama Creates New Job-Training Plan, Then Floods Job Market With Illegals. by The Elephant's Child

President Obama has announced “The First Significant Legislative Reform of Our Job-Training System in a Number of Years: The ‘Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act,” which he signed into law last week. I remain skeptical. Our experience with green jobs, crumbling roads and bridges, or something like 45 or 50 federal job-training programs that were duplicative or useless didn’t work out well.

The president tasked Vice President Biden with a review of our country’s job-training programs to make sure that they have one mission; training our workers with the skills employers need, and matching them to good jobs that need to be filled right now.

About the time that Obama was boasting about all the green jobs his various green energy programs were going to create, I was getting some additional insulation for my attic. Obama had a lot of programs going to train people to better insulate houses. A little perusal of the phone book demonstrated that there were lots of small companies already selling insulation services, and hurting in a down economy because they didn’t have enough work.

It turned out that there weren’t all that many “green jobs”anyway, and when the government tried to list them, the list contained garbage truck drivers, bus drivers, accountants, all sorts of occupations that seemed a real stretch to call “green. Turned out the wind turbines and solar arrays were installed by factory representatives that did a one-time install and that job was over. All that remained was maintenance. And most of the green energy companies went bankrupt in short order anyway.

What has continued to bother me is the clear attitude of the administration that things like job training should be the province of the government. What do a bunch of bureaucrats who have never worked in the private sector know about job training? But there is this certainty that a program or a policy requires a governmental expert to devise the program and be in charge of the program. I have seen no evidence that most of the people in government are experts.

I labor under the conviction that there is very little that is done by the government that is well done or efficient or well designed, or even necessary. The government’s number one job is national defense, and no administration has ever done such a bumbling job of it.  Now they are slashing the military to the size it was before World War II!

We lost a lot of good men who tried to do battle with inadequate and obsolete equipment and waiting for trained replacements, quite specifically because our government was unready and unprepared for war. In 1933 the Army of the United States numbered 137,000 men, 16th in size in the world. The French army was 5 million. In 1940, Hitler invaded France. U.S.  conscription was reinstituted and by Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941, the army had grown to 1,640,000. With our entry into WWII, the army expanded to 8,300,000— not very well trained and poorly equipped, but the Arsenal of Democracy was just tuning up.

“The bill I’m about to sign,” [Obama] said, “will give communities more certainty to invest in job-training programs for the long run.” He added that the bill will help bring those training programs into the 21st century by “building on what we know works based on evidence, and based on tracking what actually delivers” for those who enroll in the programs — more partnerships with employers, tools to measure performance, and flexibilities for states and cities to innovate and run their training programs in ways best suited for their particular demographics and particular industries.

The problem is the conviction that government must do it all, that government is full of wise experts who will direct the ordinary folk:

Before the signing, the Vice President presented the President with the “roadmap” he asked for in the State of the Union — on “how to keep and maintain the highest-skilled workforce in the world.” The report highlights successful job-training programs, details executive actions by the federal government, and aims to help more Americans in getting and moving up in high-demand jobs and careers.

Most colleges and universities do a poor job of preparing students for employment. Most community colleges try to have good occupational programs, and there are lots of vocational schools around. Are they all ineffective? Can the federal government do better? I doubt it.

It’s my experience that a growing economy produces jobs, and when the free market is set free, it starts growing. Business today is hampered by a swamp of regulation. Every time Obama wants to expand, they are swamped with new rules, red tape, new expenses, and new costs for doing business.

Today comes news that Obama is planning “something dramatic,” “very significant” executive action on immigration by summer’s end. US Rep. Luis Gutierrez expects” 3 or 4 maybe even 5 million covered by executive order. Some are expecting granting the ability to apply for work permits. This would be a typical Obama move, with one hand starting a new “jobs program,” with the other — making illegal aliens eligible for jobs. That’s the kind of thing he has been doing for 5 years.

The specter of thousands of unaccompanied children, mainly from Central America, crossing the Texas border has increased a sense of urgency among the American people for reforming the immigration system despite inaction by a “broken Congress,” Dan Pfeiffer, the president’s deputy communications director told the Christian Science Monitor. That gives the president “broad permission” to take action, said Pfeiffer, adding that Obama is consulting with Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson to be sure his planned action will on “solid legal footing” and have maximum impact.

 




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