American Elephants


A Conservative Guide to Liberal Thought: by The Elephant's Child

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!



Anti-Semitism Arises in Donetsk, Ukraine. by The Elephant's Child

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. by The Elephant's Child

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.



Disarming Our Warriors by The Elephant's Child

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.



The Administration Will Not Surrender U.S. Protection of the Open Internet—for Now. by The Elephant's Child

The Obama administration has backed off from its plan to abandon U.S. protection of the open internet in 2015, only a month after announcing its plan to do so. Objections from Bill Clinton, a warning letter from 35 Republican senators, and critical congressional hearings and the administration now says the change won’t happen for years, if ever.

The proposed change is an agreement under which the U.S. retains ultimate control over the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, known as Icann. Assistant Commerce Secretary Lawrence Strickling told Congress last week they can extend the contract for up four years.

A House panel voted along party lines on Thursday to delay the administration’s plan to surrender oversight over certain internet management functions. Republicans worry that the proposal to transfer power to an international nonprofit group could open the door to an Internet takeover by authoritarian regimes.The bill would block the transfer of Internet powers for up to a year while the Government Accountability Office investigates the administration’s plan. The bill now goes to the full Energy and Commerce Committee for consideration.

Subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) argued that the United States should carefully study the proposal before moving forward.”We know what China has done to silence dissent and Vladimir Putin wants to use the powers of the [International Telecommunications Union] to control the internet.”

Democrats accused Republicans of being paranoid. Ranking Democrat Anita Eshoo said “It is not a conspiracy or a digital black helicopter.”

The policy in question is the protection of the Internet’s domain name system (DNS) and the vital Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (ANA)— functions that are the lifeblood of the free flow of information online—linking easy-to-remember domain names to numerical Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. Bill Clinton issued a directive to Commerce in 1997, to maintain “a market-driven policy architecture that will allow the new digital economy to flourish while at the same time protecting citizens’ rights and freedoms.” Icann has worked under the auspices of the federal government since 1998 to perform the oversight role.

Obama wants to forsake these essential protections in the name of global accommodation, potentially allowing countries or even bodies like the United Nations to impose their own definition of internet “freedom.” Obama’s decision would be consistent with his views on net neutrality, recent efforts of the FCC to place monitors in U.S. newsrooms and the Justice Department’s surveillance of professional journalists.

There is significant evidence that international groups are big on the “international” or “we are the world” idea, and not so much concerned about freedom and equal access. Many authoritarian countries already try to control and censor the internet. Not everyone believes in freedom of information—and we have considerable evidence in our own country of the current struggle to control speech that is unpopular or provocative or simply disagrees. The recent flap about NSA surveillance has made many international activists concerned, although Internet freedom would seem to offer Internet surveillance free to all comers.

When Icann’s contract with the federal government expires in 2015, it simply means that one government contractor is no longer responsible for the administration task. It does not mean the federal government has agreed to cede the oversight role. Only a vote of the U.S. Congress could do that.



The Shame of Brandeis University by The Elephant's Child

Brandeis University invited Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born activist to speak at their upcoming graduation ceremonies and receive an honorary degree. Well deserved. She has focused on the brutal treatment of women and girls rampant in Islamic societies like the one in which she was raised. Her efforts to call attention to them as a legislator in the Netherlands led to fear for her life and her eventual flight to the United States.

Since they thought her brave advocacy deserved the recognition of an honorary degree, it was somewhat startling that the controversial aspect of her views was new and surprising information that led to Brandeis President Fred Lawrence to claim that he had to withdraw the degree because of information he had only lately discovered. Ayaan Hirsi Ali was not surprised that she came under attack from the Council on Islamic Relations.  Such attacks are not new.

One might think that she had given $1,000 some six years ago to the campaign to recognize marriage as a contract between a man and a woman, as it has been for several thousand years. At Rutgers University, faculty and students objected to Condoleezza Rice’s selection as graduation speaker, based on her association with the Iraq War, but so far Rutgers seems to have more character than Brandeis.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali said:

 I assumed that Brandeis intended to honor me for my work as a defender of the rights of women against abuses that are often religious in origin. For over a decade, I have spoken out against such practices as female genital mutilation, so-called “honor killings,” and applications of Sharia Law that justify such forms of domestic abuse as wife-beating or child-beating. Part of my work has been to question the role of Islam in legitimizing such abhorrent practices. So I was not surprised when my usual critics, notably the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), protested against my being honored in this way.

Our academic institutions are in bad shape. They are bastions of political correctness, conformed speech, and Leftist theology. Free speech is neither understood nor observed. You must conform. Dissent is not allowed. In such an atmosphere, it’s no wonder that graduates are having trouble finding jobs. Critical thinking, though much celebrated, doesn’t often happen. Is one to believe that Brandeis University favors genital mutilation and prepubescent little girls married off to old men, and honor killings?

Here’s Ayaan Hirsi Ali giving an earlier speech, in 2013 in Australia. We fear our activists because they might prove to be controversial. Someone might object. But then we might still be burning dissenters at the stake.

 



The Environmental Themes of Aronofsky’s “Noah” by The Elephant's Child

I have not seen Noah, nor do I intend to. Saw the trailers, and Noah as an environmentalist and vegetarian with really bad dialogue left me thinking there were better ways to spend my time.

This summary of, um, “creative interpretation or heretical imagination” — or Noah’s top five environmental intrusions into the biblical textual account convinced me that, much as I like Russell Crowe, I would pass on this one.

The environmental notions of the movie show the extent of the culture wars.

  1. Man’s primary sin is that of destroying the environment.
  2. God prefers animals to humans.
  3. Man is an unwelcome intrusion on the environment.
  4. Taking dominion over the earth means ravaging it.
  5. Man’s task is to reduce his environmental footprint.

The explanations of each theme are here. The author says:

Aronofsky himself sees the movie as an environmentalist sermon of sorts, with anthropogenic global warming as our latest evil to combat. “The water is rising, and we already saw it once,” he commented to CNN on the supposed climate effects predicted by the United Nations. “We are living the second chance that was given to Noah.”

Sounds like a religion to me. The culture wars are getting exceedingly strange.



The Age of Global Warming Is Over: Sanity Returns. by The Elephant's Child

Mankind cannot predict the future. We attempt it constantly. Prediction has become a profession of sorts, with strategists, planners, futurists—and governmental agencies. We’re not always successful with our plans for tomorrow, which should teach us something about prediction, but hope springs eternal.

The IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, is a prime example. Weather forecasters can predict the future pretty well for the rest of the week, but the IPCC attempts to do a “gigantic weather forecast for a century or more.”And they know that because they have computer programs the tell them so. The total absurdity of such predictions is clearly expressed by Christopher Booker in The  Telegraph:

When future generations come to look back on the alarm over global warming that seized the world towards the end of the 20th century, much will puzzle them as to how such a scare could have arisen. They will wonder why there was such a panic over a 0.4 per cent rise in global temperatures between 1975 and 1998, when similar rises between 1860 and 1880 and 1910 and 1940 had given no cause for concern. They will see these modest rises as just part of a general warming that began at the start of the 19th century, as the world emerged from the Little Ice Age, when the Earth had grown cooler for 400 years.

That’s four-tenths of one percent! And the panic over that 0.4 percent of warming has become a religion, with ardent true believers who want to send “denialists” to prison. That 0.4 percent has drawn forth massive government investment in low-flush toilets, banning lightbulbs, massive wind farms, solar arrays, electric cars, ethanol, biofuels, and pages and pages of regulations. The stage of the panic can be partly measured by the list of things caused by global warming. The amount of money misapplied to preventing global warming, with no visible result, is immeasurable. The totals would be humiliating, and we will probably never know. Wasted. Completely wasted.

Also in The Telegraph, Charles Moore reviews The Age of Global Warming by Rupert Darwall.

The theory of global warming is a gigantic weather forecast for a century or more. However interesting the scientific inquiries involved, therefore, it can have almost no value as a prediction. Yet it is as a prediction that global warming (or, as we are now ordered to call it in the face of a stubbornly parky 21st century, “global weirding”) has captured the political and bureaucratic elites. All the action plans, taxes, green levies, protocols and carbon-emitting flights to massive summit meetings, after all, are not because of what its supporters call “The Science”. Proper science studies what is – which is, in principle, knowable – and is consequently very cautious about the future – which isn’t. No, they are the result of a belief that something big and bad is going to hit us one of these days.

James Delingpole, another Brit, reports on the latest Climate Change Reconsidered report by the NIPCC — the Non-Governmental International Panel on Climate Change, an independent research body funded by the Heartland Institute:

The latest verdict is in on ‘climate change’— and the news is good. The planet is greening, the oceans are blooming, food production is up, animals are thriving and humans are doing better than ever; and all thanks to CO2 and global warming.

Mr. Delingpole summarizes the work of the NIPCC, and the scientific studies which support it. Nice to have a concise summary of where we stand. And the scientists and  ordinary people who disagree with the true believers are not “deniers,” they are skeptics— skeptical that humans are causing a disruption in the climate of the earth, skeptical that computer programs based on a superficial understanding of climate and a lot of sheer guesses can predict the climate 50 to 100 years out, and very skeptical that we should be spending billions to attempt to change the climate.

Do read all three pieces. They’re not long, and they give a good picture of the real world of climate change.

 



There Is No Right To Be Free From Being Offended. by The Elephant's Child

How did we get to this spot in the history of the world when the guiding rule of society seems to be —”You must not offend anyone.” Is it an outgrowth of the self-esteem movement that did so much damage to our national psyche?  Do not disagree with me or you might damage my self-esteem?

In the last few days, a Mozilla executive was expelled from his position at the firm he co-founded by left-wing campaigners who determined to punish him, not for something he said in his role at the company, but for a donation he made to a California ballot initiative that defined marriage in the customary terms in which it had been defined for several thousand years. A donation that was made 6 years ago. The Los Angeles Times helpfully had published a list of all donors to the anti-Proposition 8 ballot issue.

Also in the last few days, one Adam Weinstein, who writes at Gawker, called for literally sending people who have the incorrect views about global warming to prison. “Those malcontents must be punished and stopped,” he wrote. He is not the first to suggest that conservatives should be sent to prison or a concentration camp for their crime of disagreeing with liberal thought.

Charles Murray, an important social scientist of our times, was denounced as a “known white supremacist” by Texas Democrats for holding improper views about education policy.

Condoleezza Rice was invited to speak at this year’s commencement ceremony at Rutgers University where she would receive an honorary doctorate. The faculty criticized the university decision, saying “Condoleezza Rice…played a prominent role in the administration’s effort to mislead the American people about the presence of weapons of mass destruction.” The editorial staff of The Daily Targum said “Do the positive aspects of her personal accomplishments really outweigh the destruction of war she contributed to during her political career? She was a major proponent of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which has been arguably the worst and most destructive decision in the history of U.S. foreign policy.” All of which goes to prove that if you want to major in history, you should select some other university.

Then there’s Lois Lerner who is facing contempt charges relating to her role in using the IRS as a weapon against the Obama administration’s political enemies for their improper thought and advocacy.

Harry Reid, a liberal champion of campaign-finance reform, was caught channeling tens of thousands of dollars to his granddaughter, while carefully omitting her surname (same as his) from official documents, and hiding the transaction. When discovered, he quickly wrote a check to his campaign to cover-up his indiscretion. At the same time,Mr. Reid has been viciously attacking the Koch Brothers, who are prominent philanthropists, especially in seeking a cure for cancer, for implausible crimes because the Libertarian brothers donate to conservative causes.

I don’t know what part the self-esteem movement, in which most of our current adults were raised, plays into this liberal failure to recognize that good and honest people may have opinions that differ from theirs, or if it even does; but it is all right, and they just need to suck it up. Conservatives often marvel at the march in lockstep of Liberals. They regularly espouse the same ideas in exactly the same words, and apparently assume that no one will notice.

I have generously always assumed that the wordsmiths at Think Progress come up with what they hope will be the most fortuitous description of an idea or a policy to sway the minds of potential voters, then run the preferred words by a few focus groups to assure that they’ve got the best verbiage, then send it out to every Democrat politician who might use the words in public.  If that is the case, you must also assume that the Democrats in question don’t bother their pretty little heads with boring things like economics and history, and the long-term effects of past legislation. No scientific studies for this bunch, they will be told the proper language. Consider the words “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” that’s some major wordsmithery!

As evidence, I offer the media’s longstanding effort to capitalize on Republican disagreement—all that crowing about how Republicans are at war among themselves. We don’t all think the same, we do study history, we do pay attention to how legislation actually plays out, and we even read scientific studies. We are ordinary human beings and we have our own opinions, and aren’t afraid to disagree. Disagreement is —normal.  We’ll present our evidence, and try to compromise eventually, but we never, never march in lockstep.

Jonathan Rauch said it nicely in his Kindly Inquisitors, using ‘liberal’ in the classical sense: “Liberal science is built on two pillars. One is the right to offend in the pursuit of truth. The other is the responsibility to check and be checked.”

Irving Kristol wrote: “In every society the overwhelming majority of people live lives of considerable frustration and if society is to endure, it needs to rely on a goodly measure of stoical resignation.”

Feel free to offend. Stand up for what you believe. Refuse to be cowed by those who claim to be offended. We don’t do “thoughtcrime” in the United States of America, do we?



Empty Buildings Are Costing Us Billions! by The Elephant's Child

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“The boarded up building in the photo sits a mere 6 blocks from the White House on prime real estate, but it’s been empty for 30 years! What’s the problem? The building is owned/controlled by the Federal government which often doesn’t even know what it owns, lacks the incentive to control costs and whose bureaucratic strictures make selling difficult even when motivation exists.”

A Google search suggests that most articles have picked up on a 77,000 number, as the number of empty or underutilized buildings owned by the federal government—as a proxy for you and me. The “federal government” is simply the representative of us—a fact that is worth remembering.

Other numbers range from 45,000 to 100,000 and 300,000 which really points out that they have no idea how many empty, underutilized, abandoned buildings or properties there are across the whole country. Missile sites are included, as are buildings so abandoned that trees are growing through the roof. Taxpayers own them, and even when they are vacant—they are still expensive.

The Office of Management and Budget estimates that these buildings could be costing taxpayers $1.7 billion a year. Even empty, someone has to mow the lawns, keep the pipes from freezing, maintain security fences, or pay for some basic power, except when it doesn’t. The only known centralized database that the government has is the inventory maintained by the General Services Administration called the Federal Real Property Profile and it’s not reliable.

Doing something with these buildings is complicated—even when an agency knows it has a building it would like to sell, bureaucratic hurdles limit what they can do. No federal agency can sell anything unless it’s uncontaminated, asbestos-free and environmentally safe. Expensive fixes.

Then the agency has to make sure another agency doesn’t want it. Then state and local governments get a crack at it, then nonprofits—and finally a 25-year-old law requires the government to see if it could be used as a homeless shelter. No wonder many agencies just lock the doors and say forget it.

These publicly owned properties are managed by the federal government for the benefit of the people. There are also enormous amounts of public lands. Military bases: Fort Hood, Texas, now sadly in the news, is 340 square miles in size.

There are National Parks and National Monuments, National Forests, and land ‘managed’ by the Bureau of Land Management. Trillions of dollars worth of land.  And I am undoubtedly neglecting other jurisdictions. My brief Google search made it clear that we are not alone. It is a common governmental problem. I did find one article on “how to squat in abandoned property,” (probably British) and of course, reference to the empty cities of China.

I emphasize taxpayer ownership because President Obama, for political reasons, chose to shut down what he thought of as “government land” under his purview, during the “government shutdown.” The Constitution clearly says “We the People.” Bureaucrats, far too often, forget just who is the boss. They may prefer to think of themselves as enlightened public servants. They are the hired help.

This is one reason why Republicans believe in smaller government, but they aren’t much better at property management. It’s bipartisan.

The boarded up building in the photo sits a mere 6 blocks from the White House on prime real estate but it’s been empty for 30 years! What’s the problem? The building is owned/controlled by the Federal government which often doesn’t even know what it owns, lacks the incentive to control costs and whose bureaucratic strictures make selling difficult even when motivation exists. – See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/03/wasted-resources.html#sthash.2Wo3AW3Q.dpuf
The boarded up building in the photo sits a mere 6 blocks from the White House on prime real estate but it’s been empty for 30 years! What’s the problem? The building is owned/controlled by the Federal government which often doesn’t even know what it owns, lacks the incentive to control costs and whose bureaucratic strictures make selling difficult even when motivation exists. – See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/03/wasted-resources.html#sthash.2Wo3AW3Q.dpuf


Understanding Ukraine: The Problems Today and Some Historical Context by The Elephant's Child
April 3, 2014, 6:32 am
Filed under: Europe, Freedom, History, Politics, Russia | Tags: , ,


Democrats Care About “People Like Me.” by The Elephant's Child

obama photo -op

When people express their political preferences, at least according to the polls, they identify the Democratic Party as the one that “cares about people like me,” or “cares about little people,” or “ordinary people.”

Republicans are apt to react to that with jaw-dropping astonishment. Isn’t it obvious that they couldn’t care less, that all the caring speech is just a pose? Well, no it isn’t, and that is a problem for Republicans. It’s pure politics.

President Obama had an op-ed in the Las Vegas Sun this weekend that really demonstrates the problem. And it may well be an essay that represents his sincere thinking. Democrats are not inclined to investigate the economics of a policy, nor consider carefully the unintended consequences. Politicians like to describe their ideas in prose that will make what they want to do as appealing as possible, so you can’t tell what Obama really believes by reading what he says.

“Honest work should be rewarded with honest wages” — whatever that means—if anything, sounds good, but just what is an “honest wage?” He continues: “That certainly means that no one who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.” And that is true. No one who works full-time at the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour qualifies as being “in poverty.” The poverty level for an individual in 2014 is $11,670.

It is meant to be a “starter” wage for a person with no real skills, and that’s why it’s not worth much. The low-skilled need training. The majority get a raise within six months, as they become trained workers who know what they are doing. The federal minimum wage differs from the prevailing minimum wage in some locations, and states too have “minimum wages.”   The minimum wage where I live is $9.25 an hour. Seattle is debating raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The president’s proposal would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2016 in three annual steps. Republicans argue that this will kill jobs, because if government boosts the cost of labor, employers will buy less of it, and it will do little to reduce poverty. The CBO estimates that the higher minimum wage would reduce jobs by about 500,000. Wage increases would raise the incomes of families in poverty by about $300 annually.

Robert Samuelson says: “An administration serious about job creation has to sacrifice other priorities to achieve it.” The CBO has estimated that the health insurance subsidies in ObamaCare will discourage people from working resulting in a loss of an estimated 2.5 million full-time workers by 2014. There are choices. For the most part the White House has voted against job creation, a fact that it tries to hide. The proposed increase is much larger than most of the increases that have been studied, and the minimum would be indexed to inflation, rising automatically with prices. Also new.

The minimum wage has a great advantage as a political idea. If employers are forced to pay a  “living wage” then no one will live in poverty. Low-information voters and reporters will go for that. Easy.

ObamaCare has been eliminating full-time jobs right and left, and transforming them into part-time jobs. A mandated minimum wage set at a level above what unskilled labor is worth, eliminates jobs. Teenage unemployment is now at 20.7 percent, black teenage unemployment is a horrendous 38 percent. The average family income of minimum wage earners is $48,000 a year. Raising the minimum wage accelerates the trend to automation and robotics.

If you can. go back and read the president’s op-ed and see how appealing it is, and how dishonest. That’s a major problem for Conservatives.

The picture above is Obama’s photo-op comforting Donna Vanzant, whose North Point Marina sustained widespread damage in Hurricane Sandy. Obama promised her “immediate” assistance, help from FEMA, and the photo went viral in the days before the election. Donna Vanzant suffered around $500,000 in damages. After his visit, and promise of help on national television, Donna Vanzant sent an email to President Obama. Many days later, she got a response—a form letter that thanked her for supporting the troops—the only response she ever received.  The exit polls after the election showed the vote for Obama’s second term depended mostly on his compassionate response to Hurricane Sandy.




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