American Elephants


A Conservative Guide to Liberal Thought:

The common conservative response to a liberal pronouncement is “You’ve got to be kidding!” Can they possibly believe what they are saying? The real divisions between liberals and conservatives are deep and wide, but Andrew Klavan takes a shot at explaining what it is that liberals believe, and how liberals think. It may be helpful, but —It’s not pretty!



A Somali Wild Ass Filly, Born at Zoo Basel in Switzerland

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This charming young foal is a Somali Wild Ass named Lakisha. She was born at Zoo Basel in Switzerland. Zoo Basel is a world leader in the conservation of this Critically Endangered Species. She is the forty-first Somali Ass to be born and raised at this zoo since 1972.  Here she is with Mom, and as you can see, she’s full of energy!

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The Somali Wild Ass is a subspecies of the African Wild Ass. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, there are fewer than 1,000 African Wild Asses remaining in the wild. They are hunted for food and medicinal purposes, and compete with livestock for forage and sources of water. The Somali subspecies occurs in small populations in Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia.

 



A Thirteen-Year-Old Girl Hunting With Her Golden Eagle

Here is a remarkable look at a thirteen-year-old Mongolian girl hunting with a golden eagle, from the BBC.  Beautiful photography, beautiful young Mongolian girl, and a glimpse of her school, and the beauty of Mongolia. Enjoy.



Anti-Semitism Arises in Donetsk, Ukraine.

Pro-Russian militants have taken over government buildings in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. Jews emerging from a synagogue there were handed leaflets that ordered the city’s Jews to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee — “or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated,” according to Ynet News, Israels largest news website.

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The leaflet was written in Russian and had Russia’s two-headed eagle on it, and distributed by masked men outside the Donetsk synagogue after Passover prayers. the region is home to about 17,000 Jews. It was signed by Denis Pushilin, as chairman of Donetsk’s temporary government. Pushilin has reportedly denied responsibility for them. The leaflets are not any official order, but they weren’t just scrawled on a sign either.

Ugly. The White House should respond in the harshest terms. The president said “there will be consequences,” and went on to claim another million for ObamaCare.



When Democrat Policies Fail, They Switch to Race-Baiting.

It’s not just the EEOC. Obama’s new credit watchdog agency The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), is criminalizing debt collections by arguing they have a “disparate impact” on black Americans.

CFPB chief Robert Cordray says he’s coming up with new rules to crack down on creditors and third-party debt collectors who “hound” black borrowers more frequently tan white ones.  “We will not tolerate companies harassing consumers in the debt collection market,” Cordray warned. He promised black church leaders that he would seek “economic justice” for blacks who have fallen into debt and come under the thumb of bill collectors and other “financial predators..”

The agency solicited more than 30,000 complaints that allegedly prove that creditors are abusing debtors. But they just took borrowers’ word that they don’t own what they owe. A recent federal study shows more than 96% of such complaints are “frivolous.”

The Federal Trade Commission’s 2013 study found that only 3.2% of consumer debt is legitimately disputed. In the meantime, the agency is helping deadbeats to get out of paying their debts by posting samples of letter they can send to creditors to tell them to bug off.

Redistributing wealth by letting debtors and deadbeats off the hook for their debts is not helpful for the economy, for blacks, or for the national polity.

The biracial Barack Obama presented himself in 2008 as the presidential candidate who would show us the way to national unity. No more red America and no blue America. He was going to fix it. Seemed like a good idea at the time, but like everything else, he didn’t mean it. Now Democratic control of the Senate is threatened, and it’s time to revert to the tried and true tactic of race-baiting.  Only politicians act as if the whole world is centered on race, class and sex. Class envy and racial demagoguery.

When Democrat policies fall, Democrats fall back on race as the issue. They have such a miserable history with race, but it does get annoying when they try to claim that Republicans —Republicans! are segregationists. Excuse me. Despite Democratic myth-making, Lincoln was a Republican. The slave holders in the South were Democrats, the KKK was a Democratic organization. The Dixiecrats were Democrats. Bull Connor was a Democrat. The Republicans were abolitionists. The Republican Party was founded as a party of abolition, and has remained so.



How the Bureaucracy Proves Racial Bias

One of the big stories about the Obama administration is how often federal courts are overturning executive overreach. But last week’s slapdown of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals was something special.

The EEOC had sued Kaplan, the for-profit education company, for  using the same kind of background check that the EEOC itself uses. The EEOC has made a practice of suing private companies because it claims that credit and criminal background checks discriminate against minorities. In 2012 the agency issued “guidance” to get companies to take special care before using checks for criminal records, but stopped short for checking credit records.

The EEOC sued Kaplan for using credit checks, which the EEOC said had no business necessity and resulted in a “disparate impact” on blacks. A federal judge rejected the case, but the EEOC was so convinced of their virtue that it appealed. Mistake.

Judge Kethledge eviscerated the EEOC, writing that Kaplan had good reason to conduct credit checks on “applicants for positions that provide access to students’ financial-loan information because employees had “stolen payments” and “engaged in self-dealing.” As far as disparate racial impact was concerned, the Judge noted that the credit-check process is racially blind, the company does not report the applicant’s race with her other information.

The EEOC’s methodology left something to be desired. Raters were to look at drivers’ license pictures of applicants and if 4 out of 5 raters agreed on the race of the person, the applicant was classified by that race — and that was how you determined discrimination. As Judge Kethledge put it in closing”

We need not belabor the issue further. The EEOC brought this case on the basis of a homemade methodology, crafted by a witness with no particular expertise to craft it, administered by persons with no particular expertise to administer it, tested by no one, and accepted only by the witness himself.

And thus the bureaucracy grinds on, altering and illuminating the affairs of man. Isn’t it somewhat racist to assume that blacks would have more trouble with credit and criminal background checks, and thus checking such records is racist?



Attempting to Regulate Our Way Out of Recession

Capitol Building

President Obama has liked to emphasize the depth and general awfulness of what he calls “the Great Recession”— a term that pleases him because it associates his recession with Franklin Roosevelt’s Great Depression. Roosevelt cheerfully tried to tackle the Great Depression with constant experimentation. Obama has confronted his recession with regulation without end, in the unfortunate delusion that more control would fix things.

Washington set a new record in 2013 by issuing final rules taking up 26,417 pages in the Federal Register. The rules came from various agencies, but Obama remains at the helm and leadership matters. By sheer numbers, President Obama stands at the pinnacle for numbers of rules. The federal Register contained 3,659 “final” rules (which mean you have to obey them), and 2,594 proposed rules on their way to join the others.

Neither politicians nor the media regard this effort to control as anything out of the ordinary, nor important. Yet if you wonder why the recovery has been so far below average —there it is. The bulk of this year’s regulation comes from ObamaCare—a 2,700 page law that has metastasized into a 7 foot tall stack of documents, and Dodd-Frank. Things don’t get done because nobody has the authority to make them happen.

I wrote about the pressing need to protect and update our electrical grid, vital and essential to all life in America, but there is no active plan to rebuild the grid, because the government cannot make the decisions needed to approve it. The average length of environmental review for highway projects, according to a study by the Regional Plan Association, is over eight years. Eight years!

The results and costs of the legal system are not just monetary, everything is too complicated. There are rules in the workplace, rights in the classroom, and government is bogged down in bureaucracy. Responsible people do not feel free to make sensible decisions. We are pushed around by lawsuits, and unable to move for fear of punishment for barely understood regulation.

The point of regulation is to try to make things run smoothly, make sure things work in a crowded society, but rules have consequences, and not always those intended. We now have a court system where even referendums voted on by the public have been taken over by the court system in which judges now feel free to decide these matters. The objections to “judicial activism” are richly deserved, and now even judges are mistrusted.

Consider the case of a fictional Pasquale’s Pizza chain. The typical restaurant has their pizza menu on a large lighted sign behind the counter where you place your order. The federal government has decided that nutritional values for each ingredient must be listed on the menu. Impossible on the customary lighted sign. What to do? How much will it cost? The profit margin is already slim. Pizza chains have dozens of ingredients, and changing featured recipes to entice customers. ObamaCare requires a restaurant to provide health insurance for full-time workers. The cost of policies has gone up sharply. Cut back all employees to 30 hours? Female employees and male employees must work the same number of hours for the same wage.

The requirement for ethanol in gasoline has raised the cost of pizza ingredients. It has also raised the cost of transporting supplies. Requiring a portion of power to come from wind and solar has raised the cost of electricity. Fuel-efficiency regulations have raised the cost of trucking. And all that is before regulations and taxes at the local, state and national levels.

You end up with schools that make fools of themselves over zero-tolerance regulations that do nothing to prevent violence, school lunches that kids won’t eat. You have armed federal agents raiding the Gibson Guitar Company and confiscating their guitars and their materials ostensibly because the wood used for guitar frets violated and environmental law. The wood was legally imported, meeting all the standards of the country of origin, but the costs to Gibson were huge. You not only cannot fight city hall, but you must surrender even though you are in the right, just to avoid further financial damage. There is case after case of people subjected to an armed SWAT raid, accused of violating a regulation they’ve never heard of, and ruined financially.

What business is going to take a big risk, invest a lot of money in a new venture, expanding, hiring new workers in such a climate? There is risk in everything we do. Trying to legislate risk out of our lives just leaves us with rules that keep people hunkered down, trying to avoid bureaucratic attention. In this climate, politicians cannot even get the big things done, let alone attempting to undo the web of regulation that is crippling society.



Disarming Our Warriors

We are defanging our military. What’s more, is that we are taking away their basic human rights to defend themselves, their Second Amendment rights to bear arms in their own self-defense, while asking them to volunteer to defend us. Moreover, we are choosing time and time again to deny them the mental health and veterans’ benefits, while giving more money to entitlements for other communities. Meanwhile, shootings on bases have occurred now multiple times, and 22 people in our armed services commit suicide daily. This is unacceptable–hear why in this Afterburner with Bill Whittle.



Other Than That, ObamaCare is Doing Fine…

When the Democrats started digging old plans out of dusty drawers, they decided, since they controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, to go for government sponsored health care; they were absolutely sure that the American people were going to love it. Big mistake.

The cost of American health care had been climbing significantly, and Democrats were sure that they could significantly cut the costs of medicine by making the medical profession more efficient and insisting that they learn from the best practices of industry stars. Another mistake.

Democrats believed that the uninsured were a huge problem because people with no insurance were flooding emergency rooms and driving up costs. Turned out that most of those who used emergency rooms had insurance, they just couldn’t make appointments with their doctor for immediate help. Turned out that a large percentage of the uninsured did not have insurance because they could not afford it, but because they didn’t want to pay for insurance. They were healthy and unconcerned. Oops!

Democrats believed that if they added some nice benefits that people had never had before on their insurance like therapeutic massage, birth control and pediatric dentistry, the government insurance would be even more popular. They would just spread the costs of the new benefits across the board so the expense would not be noticed. They didn’t have an insurance actuary figure out the costs of including those benefits on a policy for 55 and 60 year-old folks who had no need for birth control or pediatric dentistry.

The CBO has issued a report that appears to show that ObamaCare will cost less and cover more people than expected. But their projections seldom turn out. There are just too many variables. The latest report says that ObamaCare will cost $104 billion less over the next 10 years than it thought just two months ago. The numbers rest on the CBO belief that premiums will be flat next year, but the industry has already warned of double-digit rate increases— a sharp rise that will drive costs up far beyond the CBO’s estimates.

Out of the blue, the Census Bureau has changed how it counts health insurance, just at the moment when ObamaCare is roiling the insurance markets. The effect will muddy comparisons between pre-ObamaCare and post-ObamaCare numbers. A lot of things we would like to know, like how many people gained or lost insurance under ObamaCare? Did government crowd out individual insurance? It will apparently take several years before we have answers to those questions.

The one thing that is increasing dramatically is unhappiness among physicians. Nine out of ten doctors discourage others from entering the profession. 300 doctors commit suicide every year. Depression among doctors is not new, but the level of unhappiness is on the rise. Being a doctor has become a miserable and humiliating undertaking, and many doctors feel that America has declared war on physicians and doctors and patients are the losers.

Many doctors just want out. More are running for Congress. Medical students opt for high-paying specialties so they can retire as soon as  possible. MBA plans for physicians are flourishing,  they promise doctors a way into management. The website called the Drop-Out-Club hooks doctors up with jobs at hedge funds and venture capital firms.

Some, including President Obama, seem to believe that doctors are paid way too much and if the government needs to save costs, they can just pay doctors less. This is the mindset that reduced Medicaid to such a point that those who go without health care may do better than Medicaid patients. Same goes for Medicare and the other government controlled health care systems.

More doctors refuse to accept health insurance. Some have gone into concierge medicine, where for an annual fee, the doctor is at your service for the year. The federal government is hoping to go after that escape from ObamaCare, and they are still intending to end Medicare Advantage plans.

Just processing insurance forms costs $58 for each patient encounter, according to Dr. Stephen Schimpff, an internist and CEO of the University of Maryland Medical Center.  Physicians have had to increase the number of patients they see. The end result is that the average face-to-face clinic visit lasts about 12 minutes, in which the doctor probably spends most of the time interacting with his computer.

Under ObamaCare the incentives are all wrong. The government adds ill-considered benefits to insurance policies in the hope of getting people signed up. This makes the insurance too costly for most people. The push from the government will be a constant effort to cut costs. Hospitals will push for doctors to see more patients in less time, so they can be adequately reimbursed. Doctors will be encouraged to pay less attention to the Hippocratic Oath and more effort to try to get adequately paid, or to get out of the profession—which will encourage the best and brightest to aim for other careers. Watch for a push for increased immigration of physicians from third world countries. Other than that…

 



And On The Day After the Boston Bombing…

Today is the day of the Boston Marathon, and the terror and the victims of last year’s bombing are being solemnly remembered. Oddly enough, the terrorists—Chechnyan radicals allied with al Qaeda—are not mentioned. We seem to have a strange reluctance to say the word terrorism or terrorists in this country.

The massacre at Fort Hood is still classified as “workplace violence,” we have the TSA at the airports to check into a long list of supposedly dangerous things and to abuse old ladies and small children, but they may not “racially profile” nor mention the fact that their job is to search for potential terrorists. Journalists fall all over themselves to avoid the use of the word terrorism, the federal government simply does not acknowledge such events nor the intent of the perpetrators.

What’s the deal? Is terrorism to be considered just an aberration of the warmongers George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, and only mildly unpleasant things occasionally happen during the Obama administration, which never ever overreacts? Relegated to the old-news department.

Did you know that last April 16, the day after the Boston bombing, a group of terrorists attacked the Metcalf transmission substation, just outside of San Jose, in a military action aimed at disabling a part of America’s electrical infrastructure? The operation began at 1:00 a.m., when the attackers cut underground fiber optic cables, disabling communications and security systems. Thirty minutes later using high-powered rifles, they began a 20 minute assault on the substation’s extra-large transformer and the the cooling system that supports it. Police arrived at 1:50, but the shooters disappeared into the night. There has been no trace of them.

The political response to the attack ranged from an immediate dismissal by the FBI of the idea that it was a terrorist act—to recognition by a bipartisan but small group of U.S. Senators and Representatives that defending America’s electrical grid is an urgent priority. Although there are over 100,000 transformers of all sizes throughout the grid, the destruction of less than two dozen key large transformers—which weigh hundreds of tons, are transported on special rail cars, and are mostly produced in Korea—would cause a catastrophic failure that would blackout the United States. Such is the vulnerability of the system.

This was a professional operation by skilled marksmen—two to six gunmen— trained in reconnaissance, stealth and evasion, and with careful planning. The damage forced electricity to be rerouted to maintain the integrity of power transmission to Silicon Valley, and repairs took several months. One would think the politically connected in Silicon Valley might want to do some serious lobbying about protection of the grid.

We have heard about the potential of an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) attack—a nuclear explosion in the high atmosphere, which would create a pulse that destroys electrical wiring and hardware across the affected area. This phenomenon has been well understood since the 1960s. It has recently been discovered that a massive solar storm could cause similar damage, but possibly less extensive. Those who think through the potential devastating consequences of failing to defend our sophisticated electrical grid might well wonder why the government is spending billions on frivolous projects but pays no attention to America’s physical vulnerability.

Do read the whole thing. This is a serious matter. The author, Brian Kennedy is president of the Claremont Institute, and the article is adapted from his speech at Hillsdale College, and reprinted in Imprimis, the monthly free publication from Hillsdale (sign up here).

Brian Kennedy outlines practical steps to be taken, and what we are currently doing to solve our vulnerability. (Not much). The attack on the Metcalf transmission substation was brushed aside by the media by the Boston Marathon bombing, and the extended search for the Tsarnaev brother perpetrators.

We really can’t depend on the media any more to keep Americans informed. But we also need to stop fooling ourselves and stop acceding to administration attempts to downplay anything that might interfere with the Obama administration’s efforts to avoid any negative publicity.



Is President Obama Interested in Doing His Job?

The White House on Monday said there was “overwhelming evidence” that Russia is stirring the unrest in eastern Ukraine, but President Obama hasn’t yet decided if further sanctions are warranted. …[T]he juxtaposition is a perfect summary of the current state of U.S. foreign policy.

Vladimir Putin uses Russian special forces to cow a neighbor and steal territory , while Mr. Obama agonizes about what to do.

That was the Wall Street Journal. The White House dithers about what response they may choose. The U.S. has refused to send Ukraine military aid, but offered MRIs, and military type socks.

The Journal adds “We know Mr. Obama didn’t run for President to engage in great power politics, but it is still part of the job description. Is he still interested in doing his job?

In the Weekly Standard, Ruel Marc Gerecht asks:

Is Barack Obama’s threat of preventive military action against the Iranian regime’s nuclear program credible? Would a one-year, six-month, or even three-month nuclear breakout capacity at the known nuclear sites be acceptable to him? Is he prepared to attack if Tehran denies the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, entry into undeclared facilities that may be hiding nuclear-weapons research or centrifuge production? Is he prepared to strike if the regime denies inspectors access to the personnel and documents that would allow the West to see whether—how much—the regime has been lying about weaponization?

Again in the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol:

The Obama administration has scheduled a deputies committee meeting this week—tentatively set for Tuesday—to resolve a bitter inter-agency dispute over a request from Russia with respect to the Open Skies program. Informed sources believe the White House is likely to side with the State Department, which wants to accommodate Russia, over the objections of the Obama administration’s Defense Department and intelligence agencies.

The Open Skies treaty allows the United States and Russia to fly over each other’s territory with planes loaded with certain agreed-upon sensor packages, in order to ensure compliance with arms control agreements and to provide assurance against preparations for various military surprises. Russia has asked the U.S. to agree to an upgrade in the sensor package their planes can carry…The request would apparently result in a significant increase in Russian spying capabilities; the first response from Pentagon was, according to one government official close to the situation, “You’ve got to be kidding.” But the State Department has been making the case for acceding to the Russians’ demands, and the White House seems to be on State’s side. The White House has also stonewalled requests for information from the congressional intelligence committees.

 



Photoshoppers at Work: Humor 1, Government 0.

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We heard on the radio that President Obama had a telephone conversation with President Putin.  I thought this was funny!




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