American Elephants


The Rise of the New Caliphate and Its Inevitable Fall by The Elephant's Child

ISIS-fighters
Here’s your Sunday reading assignment. I know, I  know, you don’t have the time, and why should you pay any attention to my advice about your choices in what you want to read anyway? I read these three pieces and have been pondering them ever since. Real food for thought, and I’d love to start a conversation. But of course it’s entirely up to you. You would find them deeply informative, in contrast to the media take.

— The first is a conversation between Michael Vlahos, a professor of history at the Naval War College, and John Batchelor on the John Batchelor show on Friday, September 26. They remind us that Syria is a product of the West’s attempt to cut up and redefine the remnants of the Ottoman Empire in the wake of the First World War. Clemenceau, Lloyd George, and Wilson attempted to divide up the Ottoman Empire into nation states in imitation of — ourselves. Professor Vlahos’s theme is our lack of understanding of Islam and the Middle East — and the quagmire we are blundering into without understanding. It’s just over 18 minutes, but worth your time.

— The second is an article by Edward N. Luttwak,  from the Hoover Institution’s “Strategika” which intends to use conflicts of the past as lessons for the present: “Caliphate Redivivus? Why a Careful Look at the 7th Century Can Predict How the New Caliphate Will End.” Never fear, the article is hardly long enough to compensate for the long title. It takes us on a speed run through the history of the Muslim Caliphates, to note that when modern Muslims invoke the Caliphate as their ideal of governance for the Ummah, the planetary community of all Muslims and all humans once converted or killed if stubbornly pagan, they refer way back to the rule of Muhammad’s first four “rightly guided” successors who followed one after another after his death in 632. Not least because their reign saw the collapse of the then all-powerful  Roman and Sassanian empires who had long dominated all the lands of the Middle East fertile enough to be worth ruling. Wildly improbable victories, that were soon followed by waves of conquest across northern Africa to the Atlantic and as far east as the eastern edges of Central Asia.

— The third is another piece from the Hoover Institution’s “Strategika” on “The Rise and Inevitable Fall of the ISIS Caliphate” by Peter R. Mansoor. The rise of the modern al Qaeda in the Hindu Kush in the Soviet-Afghan conflict in the 1980’s goal is to 1.) attack the”far enemy” — the United States— to force its withdrawal from the affairs of the Islamic world, 2.) destabilize the “near enemy” — the Arab/Islamic states of the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia 3.) destroy Israel, and 4.) recreate the caliphate that ruled the Islamic during it’s heyday a millennium ago. The first part of the strategy was 9/11.

The near-term response was not what they expected, but the longer-term outcome may be more in their favor as Americans seem to tire of seemingly endless conflict. The U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq along with the more recent uprisings of the Arab spring have seriously weakened a number of the Islamic states. The new jihadist proto-state in Mesopotamia and the Levant is an emerging reality.

Is it really a case of no matter what we do—we’re screwed? Or is it only a case of treading cautiously and encouraging alternatives around the inevitable collapse of the Islamic State?

A ” transparent” White House would help, and a media more interested in reporting the facts would also help — but in the meantime we’re left to our own defenses. Informed is better than the alternatives.



Hindsight. Bwa-ha-ha-ha Ha! by The Elephant's Child

President Obama on Tuesday explained his decision to launch airstrikes in Syria, arguing that he has a responsibility to protect America from terrorist influences in that part of the world.

But there was a time when the president and his allies repeatedly mocked former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential election for the Republican candidate’s numerous warnings on Syria, the Middle East, and general unrest aboard.

In fact, Vice President Joe Biden regularly mocked Romney’s talk of war in the Middle East, and his jeering remarks, in retrospect, seem worthier of regret than chuckles.

Romney “said it was a mistake to end the war in Iraq and bring all of our warriors home,” Biden said on September 2, 2012. “He said it was a mistake to set an end date for our warriors in Afghanistan and bring them home. He implies by the speech that he’s ready to go to war in Syria and Iran.”

Biden also regularly took shots at Romney’s warnings over Russia.

The Republicans candidate “wants to move from cooperation to confrontation with Putin’s Russia. And these guys say the president’s out of touch?” the vice president asked.

Those campaign taunts didn’t hold up so well, did they?



Obama Ended the War in Iraq by The Elephant's Child
September 25, 2014, 1:44 pm
Filed under: Foreign Policy, History, Iraq, Military, National Security, Politics, The United States

Here’s the reason for the dithering and indecision. Obama believes he was elected because he said he would end the War in Iraq. That may be the case, but I don’t believe it had much or anything to do with his election except for that small group of anti-war people for whom it is their only issue.

I believe that people were caught up in the idea of electing the first black president, and even more in the theater and magic that the Obama campaign created around their candidate.

These three videos capture the sequence of events. They are all very short.



Don’t Know Much About Our Country, Unprepared to Vote. by The Elephant's Child

new-citizens1

The disturbing news that only 36 percent of Americans polled can name the three branches of our government surfaced in the wake of national Constitution Day last Wednesday. That’s from a new survey from the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

Only 38 percent of Americans knew the Republican Party controls the U.S. House of Representatives, 17 percent thought the Democrats are still in charge. Just 38 percent know that Democrats run the Senate while 30 percent believe Republicans control the Senate. Only 27 percent knew it takes a 2/3 majority of the House and Senate to override a presidential veto.

Annenberg released the survey in partnership with the Civics Renewal Network, a group of 25 nonpartisan organizations including the Library of Congress, the Newseum and the National Archives that offer free civics education resources.

Another Group, the Civics Education Initiative, is pushing to require more civics education in high schools by requiring students to pass the same citizenship test that immigrants do when they come to the U.S. That group will introduce legislation in seven states that would require passing the citizenship test before you could graduate from high school.

The sample questions in the article in the link have little to do with the Constitution and apparently new citizens are asked up to 10 civics questions from a list of 100. You must correctly answer six questions to pass the civics portion. Oh please, could we possibly make it easier? Get serious. If the Washington Post representation is accurate, it should be a lot harder.

And we should certainly be ensuring that graduating high school seniors actually know something about their country.  Bring back Schoolhouse Rock!



There Was Another March On Sunday, In Moscow! by The Elephant's Child
September 22, 2014, 10:38 pm
Filed under: History, Media Bias, Military, Politics, Russia | Tags: , ,

Anti-war rally in Moscow

A march in Moscow for peace in Ukraine drew tens of thousands to downtown Moscow on Sunday, in a protest against Russia’s involvement in the conflict.

“This march is to show the people that there’s quite a number of people who are against the war and don’t think that most Ukrainians are fascists,” said Mikhail Garder, 28. “The government knows that. The people don’t.”

There was heavy police supervision, but participants, many carrying Ukrainian flags or carried handmade signs calling for an end to the bloodshed, the return of Crimea and the rejection  of Russian President Vladimir Putin — sometimes pictured with a Hitler-style mustache. According to polls, however, Kremlin policy toward Ukraine is overwhelmingly popular.

Ukrainian government troops and pro-Russian separatists are operating under a tenuous, Kremlin-endorsed cease-fire that NATO officials have said is effective “in name only.” Western nations have accused Russia of fomenting the conflict by supporting the rebels and sending Russian tanks and troops over the border.

In Russia, officials have denied the accusations, and the mostly state-run media have portrayed a different picture of what is happening in Ukraine — one in which rebels are fighting to maintain minority rights against the alleged abuses of a purportedly fascist government.

I didn’t know that there was that much dissent, or that it was permitted. Interesting.

“We have put ourselves in such a position that we’re against everybody — against Europe, against ourselves, against the United States, against normal life.”



Overregulation Costs Manufacturers Over $2 Trillion a Year! by The Elephant's Child

American business has been telling the federal government regularly that they are overdoing the regulation, and it is damaging the economy. The federal government yawns and says uh huh. Obama’s attitude seems to be that is what business does — complain about regulation — pay no attention to them — it isn’t important.

Now the National Association of Manufacturers has stated firmly that manufacturers are the backbone of our nation’s economy and employ more than 12 million men and women who make things in this country. To maintain manufacturing momentum and encourage hiring, the United States needs government policies more in tune with the realities of global competition.  Our regulatory system produces unnecessarily costly rules, duplicative mandates, impediments to innovation and barriers to our international competitiveness.

That’s straightforward talk from Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers. So they put their money where their mouth is, and produced a new report that shows the macroeconomic impact of federal regulations.

The burden of regulation falls most heavily on small manufacturers who employ less than 50 employees— at $34,671 per employee, per year. The burden on medium size manufacturers who employ 50 to 99 employees — $18,243 per employee per year, and  for large manufacturers who employ more than 100—the cost per employee is $13,750 per employee per year. The total cost of federal regulations in 2012 was $2.028 trillion (in 2014 dollars). The annual cost burden for an average U.S. firm is $233,182 or 21 percent of the average payroll. Eighty-eight percent of those surveyed said that federal regulations are a top challenge for their firm.

Everybody has talked about “the worst recovery since World War II,” but the White House seems to have no understanding at all of why it is so slow. They have kept pumping money into the economy, giving out more benefits, and that money is supposed to circulate and multiply as it passes from hand to hand. Nancy Pelosi was quite certain that unemployment benefits paved the way to recovery all by themselves.

Democrats don’t much like manufacturing or businesses who expect to earn profits from their activity. They have always regarded profit as a bit of a dirty word, money only earned by greed. Because business is greedy, it needs a firm hand and careful regulation. That’s why they have such a hard time trying to figure out how to create more jobs (infrastructure!) and jump-starting a growing economy.

Well, it matters what kind of business it is. If it is building wind farms and making solar panels, it is good. If it’s making guitars that are hugely popular with rock stars, you had better not be using any endangered wood for the frets. Your stock will be confiscated by the SWAT team that will arrive to shut down your business. (Enter Gibson Guitars in the search function just above Bob Hope’s head in the sidebar).

The business of regulation is handed off by Congress to various agencies, and the agencies’ underlying business is to assure their own continuing employment at high government salaries — so they are careful and thorough in devising regulation and oversight of the regulation, and continued monitoring of each business involved.

That in turn means forms and paperwork and legal requirements, which means that each business has to hire an extra bunch of people to comply with the paperwork requirements. The biggest cost of regulation is the full-time equivalents hired to do the paperwork. And it is serious business. Most of the agencies now have their own SWAT teams to burst into your business and make sure that you are really complying. So it really isn’t funny when the first lady decides that restaurants should show the calorie counts of each ingredient on their establishment’s signage and menus in the interest of reducing obesity.

That’s just the regulation. The tax system for American business has increased the burden to such an extent that we have moved down to 32nd in the ranking of heaviest burden on business and loss of competitiveness.  Obama thinks he is taxing rich CEOs and greedy businesses, but it is the workers who bear the burden of high taxes. We are chasing capitol out of the country to go where it is more welcome and will be better treated. Democrats call this “tax inversion” and are trying to devise laws to keep companies from moving. (Economic Patriotism!) They could just lower the taxes, which would bring in more income)

Economies don’t grow because of nice nonprofit organizations that care about people. They grow because of hardworking businesses who turn a profit and are able to hire and grow and expand.  It’s called Capitalism, which has made America the most prosperous and innovative country in the world. Prosperity is created by free markets and free people, not by the heavy hand of government.



One Nation, Still. by The Elephant's Child
September 18, 2014, 11:14 pm
Filed under: Freedom, Heartwarming, History, Politics, United Kingdom | Tags: ,

uk

The United Kingdom is a country people want to belong to,
and
the world is a better place.

……………………Be Britain still to Britain true,
……………………Amang ourselves united;
……………………For never but by British hands
……………………Maun British wrangs be righted!
……………………No! never but by British hands
……………………Shall British wrangs be righted!

…………………………….From Daniel Hannan




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