American Elephants


Americans Deserve Better Than This! by The Elephant's Child

Jim Geraghty has a simple closing message: Americans Deserve Better Than This.

“The American people deserve to be treated better than the way their government treats them.”The

People who like their doctors and health insurance deserve to keep them. Our veterans deserve care in a timely manner. The American people deserve the truth about illegal immigrants released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They deserve straight answers from the Centers for Disease Control, and when a promise is made, it should be kept. Americans deserve a secure border, and when there is overwhelming support for restricting flights from countries with severe Ebola outbreaks, the option deserves careful consideration, not arrogant dismissal.

Americans of all political stripes deserve to be treated equally in the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service, with no special targeting based upon political views. Our ambassadors and those serving our country overseas deserve protection when they ask for it. If American taxpayer money is going to be used to save a car company, the people deserve to know whether that company is making unsafe cars.

They deserve to send and receive e-mails, texts, and calls without the National Security Agency peering over their metaphorical shoulder without a warrant. They deserve a director of national intelligence who does not lie in testimony to Congress. For the amount of money we spend on gathering intelligence, we deserve better performance — or for an administration to act upon that intelligence more promptly. In a dangerous world, we deserve leaders who don’t fool themselves into thinking jihadists on the rise are just “the JV team.” They deserve a Secret Service that takes its job seriously and corrects its mistakes.

Republicans are not perfect, to be sure. They are ordinary people like us. You may have noticed that the big tent contains a lot of argument and disagreement, usually about who is a true Republican or a true Conservative, and who isn’t, which is silly. We are meant to argue and disagree because that is how we gradually find our way to better governance and better laws.

Democrats, on the other hand, speak with one voice, or at least one talking point, which has been analyzed for voter appeal in all sorts of focus groups and subjected to the best of skillful wordsmiths who pick just the right words to influence most widely. They are willing to excuse most problems of government, or announce some bold-sounding reform that proves to be a self-serving catastrophe like ObamaCare.

Republicans tried to tell the nation that you really can’t criticize health care for costing too much, impose 20,000 pages of rules and regulations for the medical establishment and the insurance industry, add all sorts of untested ideas that you’re just sure will save money, top it all off with a vast Federal bureaucracy that has to be paid for, and expect it to cost less and be more efficient. We haven’t even begun to see the depths to which this appalling law will reach, and the cost of it in both money and human health and well-being. Americans deserve better from their government.

There’s ISIS, which is being dismissed as a generational problem— and thus not worth our serious efforts, an attempt to make a “deal” with Iran, an apparent plan to flood the nation with millions of illegal immigrants in hopes of a permanent Democrat majority, which tells the world that we are not serious about our immigration laws, and the border is open to all, including ISIS.

The refusal to place any kind of travel restrictions on those coming from Ebola central beggars common sense. There’s the insistence on refusing to call terrorists — terrorists. And that does not begin to even touch the enormous numbers of well-known scandals. The American people do deserve better than this.

If Republicans capture the Senate, then there is a real possibility of defunding some of the policies that should never have been enacted.



Here’s Some Good News For a Change! by The Elephant's Child

The price of crude oil is tumbling downward towards $80 per barrel. The Brent crude price of $82.60 is the cheapest since 2010.”On October 1, Saudi Arabia’s  national oil company announced that it had abandoned a policy of price protection and would start to focus on protecting its market share. Combined with falling global demand and rising supplies elsewhere, oil prices have fallen accordingly.

Natural gas supplies are plentiful and warm weather so far means weak demand, which means lower costs for natural gas.

For our fracking, the break-even price is around $50-$70 bbl. Supply is bulging. Gasoline prices will come down, transportation prices will come down, which means that costs at the grocery store will ease.

States like Iran, Venezuela, and Iraq can only balance their budgets at oil prices ranging from $110 to $135 per barrel. This is good. If oil prices stay below $90 per barrel for any length of time, there will be real financial squeezes, and even regime change in Iran, Bahrain, Ecuador, Venezuela, Algeria, Nigeria, Iraq or Libya and would give Vladimir Putin some real trouble. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch.

It’s not clear what Saudi Arabia is up to, but they are definitely not approving of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, nor of ISIS’ ambitions either. They may be just protecting their market share, as we are close to surpassing them in production.

If we start exporting natural gas to Europe, that would relax the strangle hold Russia holds over their energy supplies.

It’s good news, just when we need some.



Nobody’s in Charge, Nobody Knows Anything, Incompetence Reigns. by The Elephant's Child

The world is in flames, and those in charge don’t seem up to the job of taking charge. The CDC can’t get their information straight, and can’t seem to talk straight. Panic is allayed with calm, correct information, and knowledge of the facts. The Wall Street Journal addressed the question by saying “the fire-brigade approach clearly isn’t working. A sustained, coherent policy is vital to preventing pandemics.”

The spokesman who attempts to soothe the population with platitudes only makes matters worse. Straight talk, good information. When President Obama declared Ebola a National Security issue, he didn’t calm people’s fears, he inflamed them.

Americans are debating the wisdom of sending several thousand troops rather than asking whether U.S. assistance is organized as efficiently and effectively as it should be? Rather than an effort to deliver effective risk information, we were told that it was unlikely anyone with Ebola would ever enter the country and chances of an epidemic were extremely low.

ISIS is approaching Baghdad, taking precautions to avoid attack with our airstrikes, just as we were told that they would, melting into the population, ending their long parades of armored vehicles. There is some evidence they are using chemical weapons. The Kurds fight on, but desperately need the weapons we have not bothered to give them. Secretary of State John Kerry remarked that:

Kobani is just one community, and it’s a tragedy what is happening there…but we have said from day one it is going to take a period of time to bring the coalition thoroughly to the table, to rebuild some of the morale and capacity of the Iraqi army, and to begin to focus where we ought to be focusing first, which is in Iraq.

Enterovirus D68 is raging, and we are calmed with claims that it goes away in the winter, so don’t worry. Every mother knows that kids bring everything home from school, so people worry.

But never fear. “The Pentagon released a report Monday asserting decisively that climate change poses an immediate threat to national security with  increased risks from terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty and food shortages. It also predicted rising demand for military disaster response as extreme weather creates more global humanitarian crises.”

The loss of glaciers will strain water supplies in several areas of our hemisphere,” Mr. Hagel said. “Destruction and devastation from hurricanes can sow the seeds for instability. Droughts and crop failures can leave millions of people without any lifeline, and trigger waves of mass migration….

While foreign policy experts have for years warned that climate change could present a future risk to national security, the Pentagon’s characterization of climate change as a threat demanding immediate action represents a significant shift for the military.

Never one to be outdone in the absurdity category, Secretary of State John Kerry  declared “Life as you know it on Earth ends if climate change skeptics are wrong.”

“But even if climate alarmists are wrong, nothing bad can come of enacting their taxes, restrictions and regulations,” Kerry said in a speech at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. Another Democrat who never took a course in economics:

The worst that could happen to us is we create a whole lot of new jobs, we kick our economies into gear, we have healthier people, healthier children because we have cleaner air, we live up to our environmental responsibility, we become truly energy independent, and our security is stronger and greater and sustainable as a result. That’s the worst that happens to us.

Eighteen years of a complete lack of warming, and nobody seems to notice that the more immediate danger is a very cold winter and the EPA trying to shut down all of our coal-fired power plants with nothing — nothing — to replace that electricity. Numbers of hurricanes are way down, Numbers of  tornadoes are way down. But those are weather, not climate.

We are in the best of hands. When everybody is completely incompetent, what can possibly go wrong?



So We Are Fighting A Politically Correct War? by The Elephant's Child

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This last week,  Bill Gertz reported that “The Obama administration is failing to wage ideological war against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS or ISIS) terrorists over fears that attacking its religious philosophy will violate the constitutional divide between church and state, according to an in-depth inquiry by the Washington Free Beacon.”

“While the government has tried to counter terrorist propaganda, it cannot directly address the warped religious interpretations of groups like ISIL because of the constitutional separation of church and state,” said Quintan Wiktorowicz, a former White House counterterrorism strategist for the Obama administration.

“U.S. officials are prohibited from engaging in debates about Islam, and as a result will need to rely on partners in the Muslim world for this part of the ideological struggle,” he said in an email interview.

In his speech to the UN on September 24, President Obama asked the world body to come up with a plan over the next year designed to counter ISIS and al Qaeda’s ideology. He said ending religious wars through an ideological campaign in the Middle East will be “generational” and led by those who live in the region. No external power, he said, can change “hears and minds,” and as a result the U.S. would support others in the unspecified program of “counter extremist ideology.”

Because officials cannot engage in debates about Islam, it makes it a little difficult to clearly define the religious doctrine you’re talking about. And there seems to be a problem there. Statements by the president and administration spokesmen indicate that they don’t understand ISIS ideology, which would be a needed first step.

Most senior administration officials hold “post modern” or “secular” views, and as a result have almost no ability to understand the religious views of violent terrorists. If you don’t take religion seriously yourself, it is impossible to understand the philosophy of a suicide bomber or someone who cuts off peoples’ heads in the name of jihad.

Senior State Department officials have expressed the idea that ideology does not play a role in Islamist terror which comes from endemic causes like poverty and economic privation or social injustice.

The latest issue of the ISIS English-language magazine Dabiq reveals a bit of their logic. “The Islamic State has long maintained an initiative that sees it waging jihad alongside a dawah [proselytizing campaign] that actively tends to the needs of its people.” The magazine added that the group “fights to defend the Muslims, liberate their lands, and bring an end to tawaghit [the evil corrupt system]. It also sought to legitimize its mass executions, beheadings, and other atrocities as religiously justified responses to all opponents who refuse to submit to its ideology.

President Obama claimed in his September 20 anti ISIS strategy speech that the group is “not Islamic” because it kills Muslims and innocents, something he said no religion condones. A claim disputed by most experts on Islam.

The Obama administration, under pressure from domestic Muslim advocacy organizations, has adopted a politically correct approach toward Islam and terrorism that has removed talk of Islam from current policies and programs — instead they are carrying out policies under the less-specific and DHS-approved title of “countering violent extremism.” If you can’t even call something by its name, you’re not going to have much luck defeating it in the field.

The word Islam has mostly been eliminated from policies and programs, and discussing Islam has been placed out-of-bounds — which means that Islamist ideology cannot be addressed in a significant way. This leads to claims that the U.S. and the West are at war with Islam, which leaves our officialdom tongue-tied. How they have managed to conflate cutting off the heads of American journalists and aid workers with First Amendment constitutional religious issues shown nothing so much as the triumph of either fuzzy thought or no thought at all.

The terrorists, says James Glassman, former undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, have constructed a phony ideology and are trying to take over a whole region. The president must address that. “It is very late in the game, and he needs to devote resources, not just words, to the war of ideas.”

The administration’s point man for propaganda is Rick Stengel, a former Time magazine reporter who is now undersecretary for public diplomacy said in a recent speech “I wold say that there is no battle of ideas with ISIL. ISIL if bereft of ideas, they’re bankrupt of ideas. It’s not an organization that is animated by ideas. It’s a criminal, savage, barbaric organization.” But, oddly, recruits are flowing to ISIS, moved to join in jihad because they are inspired by their ideas.

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Armed vehicles are mostly Toyota pickups with guns mounted in the back. Not so much on ISIS bases or fighters. I don’t know if Obama is approving each strike,  as he said he might do. But we cannot say “war of ideas” and we cannot do anything to “prohibit the free exercise of religion.” Talk about fuzzy thinking!



Too Much Politics, Too Little Strategy and Determination. by The Elephant's Child

obama-1Iraqi officials have issued a desperate plea for America to bring U.S. ground troops back to Iraq. Islamic State fighters have advanced as far as Abu Ghraib, a town that is  within eight miles of the Iraqi capital. A senior governor claimed there are up to 10,000 fighters from the movement now poised to assault the capital. The warning came from the president of the provisional council of Anbar Province, the vast desert province west of Baghdad that has largely fallen to the jihadists.

If Anbar is fully controlled by ISIS, it gives their ground forces a springboard to mount an all-out assault on Baghdad, the nation’s capital. A team of 1,500 U.S. troops are in Baghdad acting as mentors to the Iraqi army.

International attention has been focused on the Syrian border town of Kobane, where Kurdish fighters are battling to keep the ISIS fighters at bay, but Anbar is barely holding their own. A senior U.S. defence official said it’s fragile there.”They are being resupplied and the are holding their own, but it’s tough and challenging.”

Obama made bringing American troops home from the Middle East a cornerstone of his administration’s policy. Some suggest he just wants to hold ISIS back with airstrikes until after the election, at which point he’ll just let ISIS have it. With no troops on the ground to identify targets, the airstrikes are having limited effect. They are also much less than we are capable of.

Obama came to the White House with a flawed view of the world, sure that conflict was simply a matter of Republican warmongers and Republican intransigence. Problems could be solved with constructive talks. A “why can’t we all get along” view, which suffers from a failure to recognize human nature and real intent. He’s tried  all sorts of outreach and talks and offers, and promises of peace and understanding — and the world has decided that he is a weak doormat, and they had best charge ahead and take what they can while the taking is good.



If I Just Ignore the Headlines, Maybe It Will All Go Away! by The Elephant's Child

Headlines today:

This last was accompanied by a sub-head that said “Obama is backing indirect talks with Moscow aimed at cutting U.S. non-strategic nukes in Europe”. Is there a major disconnect here?

We are waging a casual sort of low-intensity war, one far below our capabilities, and seem uninterested in stopping ISIS’s advance. But we are supposed to assume that the president is thinking hard about the war against jihadists. The White House is drafting options that would allow President Obama to close the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, overriding a congressional ban on bringing detainees to the U.S., senior administration officials said.

It is simply impossible to discern the mindset that is guiding this president. What can he possibly be thinking? This is the president who traded five Taliban military commanders for a U.S. military deserter, and released them to the very people who support and pay for the activities of the Taliban— and apparently thought we would be delighted that we got our guy back. And promoted him to sergeant.

It is not just that he doesn’t seem to understand, or even be interested in, world affairs but he’s just disconnected. He’s operating in some other world in which the next speech, the next talks, will change the world to comply with the one in his head — because he has a gift, and he can sway multitudes with the sound of his voice. If he just ignores it, it will all go away? If he just pretends hard enough, he will awaken to find it’s all right? He thought all he had to do was make speeches? Nobody told him about the hard decisions? But who’s going to pay the price?



The President is Seriously Not Involved. A Case of “Whatever.” by The Elephant's Child

Several articles today have questioned the commitment of this administration to the war on ISIS. Jimmy Carter said that Obama has been too slow to act against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and gives his current strategy only “a possibility of success,” provided it involves some ground troops. And there have been many discussions of former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’ new book in which he suggests that the fight against terrorism will be a 30-year war.

Rich Lowry called it  “A War for Show.” He said:

When you are too passive for Jimmy Carter, it’s time for some soul-searching in the Situation Room. The late-1970s are calling and want their foreign policy back.

The war against ISIL so far is desultory and occasional, a campaign of underwhelming force. ISIL has still been on the verge of taking the Syrian town of Khobani abutting the Turkish border and on the offensive in Iraq. The erstwhile JV team is defying all the military might that the world’s lone superpower is willing to muster.

I thought I should check into how that war is going from an official source, so I went to the Department of Defense website. >100 U.S. Marines are in Liberia to handle refueling and supply support for the international response to contain an Ebola outbreak in the country. >Hagel is going to a meeting in South America. >Kendall is encouraged about Defense trade progress with India. And then > Airstrikes target ISIL in Syria and Iraq. And >Troops Support Breast Cancer Awareness.

If you prowl around a little, you can find where all the attack, fighters, bombers and remotely piloted aircraft conducted nine airstrikes. They got two airstrikes on ISIL training facilities, two ISIL vehicles, struck two small units and damaged a tank. There’s far more information there on everything under the purview of the Department of Defense. The War on Ebola ranks higher than the War on ISIS for whatever reason. That will not change until ISIS hits us hard here at home, and Homeland Security is quite certain that no ISIS fighters have crossed the border, though others have counted significant numbers.

The President clearly does not want to be involved in Iraq in any way. His number one concern, as always, is Democratic Party politics — which trumps anything else. He has no experience with anything military other than his grandfather serving in Patton’s army, which he mentions now and then. When even Jimmy Carter is criticizing you, you have some soul-searching to do. But Jimmy Carter was a submariner if I remember correctly.

There are some photo essays with pictures of airplanes, or military activities, but the overall impression is that there’s nothing particularly serious going on. Political correctness, gender awareness, or breast cancer awareness are as important as military lives at risk, and destroying one of the trucks we left for the Iraqi army is about as big a deal as anything else.  Not serious.




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