American Elephants


The Eternal Battle Between Left and Right. by The Elephant's Child

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Trying to succinctly describe the differences between the American Left and the American Right is a long-running and fascinating  game for both parties. Liberals, as I often note, have told us specifically that they do not have principles—meaning they are not stuck with some old-fashioned, worn-out principles as a guide to how to behave. That is not intended as a compliment. They react, they say, to events, responding on a case by case basis. Much more noble.

Republicans do have principles which they believe are time-tested and proven to be effective and useful in human life. Things like equality of opportunity, free markets and free people, and small government. Those principles serve as a guide to actions, and research into how things work are a better guide to satisfactory policies.

Liberals react to things emotionally. For example, a UPI piece from Pew Research on the “Global Attitudes Project”poll says:

A new poll offers details on the way citizens of the world think about climate change, and U.S. participants are looking particularly ignorant to the risks of global warming. Only one in four Americans said climate change was a “major threat,” making the U.S. the least concerned nation. (emphasis added)

If we disagree with the “consensus” we must be ignorant. But nobody checks to see if there actually is a “consensus” among scientists. Emotional response.  No, there actually is no consensus.  And “consensus” isn’t science.

Here’s another from Investors, today: “For the Left, ‘Children’ Are the Battering Ram to Force Amnesty.”

Immigration: The White House and open-borders lobby have stepped up pressure for amnesty by painting the migrant tsunami as a flood of toddlers. But a Pew study, citing Border Patrol data, shows that more than half the entrants are teenage males.  (emphasis added)

Here’s another example from Investors, by Robert Samuelson: Although a man of the Left, he suggests “To Keep corporations Here, Why Not Cut Their Taxes?”

Corporate America’s latest public-relations disaster comes under the banner “tax inversion,” where a U.S. company shifts its legal headquarters to a country with a lower tax rate.

He goes on to show how Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and President Obama have charged the corporations as lacking in “economic patriotism.” Emotional response. Make a law against them. Keep them from doing so. Far better would be to reduce the corporate tax to something close to the normal corporate tax among industrialized nations. We do have the highest corporate tax in the world. Their first and only response is to prevent corporations from what is a valid business decision.

ObamaCare was a program built on emotion. Liberals thought that we should offer everyone free health care like European states did. Everyone would be so grateful to Liberals for that gift that they would forever vote Liberals into power. They looked at Britain’s way of controlling expense by limiting the costs of old folks in their final years, and loved it. No old geezer should be able to have a hugely expensive operation when they might have only months to live anyway. But they never looked into the way the program really worked in Britain, or Canada, or France or Germany. Their bright ideas don’t work. What were expected to be money savers aren’t. Tom Sowell stated the whole problem simply and clearly:

It is amazing that people who think we cannot afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, and medication somehow think that we can afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, medication and a government bureaucracy to administer it.

They imposed ideas they thought would save money, or be especially popular, or would give them more control, but they didn’t check how those ideas work in the real world, they just rushed it through on pure emotion and are astounded at the complaints from doctors, patients, insurance companies, hospitals and suppliers. And it’s all falling apart.

Wind and solar energy are emotional responses to perceived evils of fossil fuels. Wind and solar energy are presumed to be free because they are “natural.” But a turbine only turns at the right speed to produce energy when the wind is at the right speed. But the wind is intermittent, and requires 24/7 backup from a conventional power source, which makes the energy produced expensive, and slight. And it kills way too many birds. Eagles may become endangered  if the kill rate continues. If subsidies are removed, wind is not worthwhile.

Solar is about the same problem. You only get energy with 24/7 backup, because clouds cause problems. Solar energy is too diffuse, unavailable at night, and in some locations simply fries birds in flight. If subsidies are removed, it’s not worthwhile. These things were known before the big investments in wind and solar, but emotional attachment to “free energy” trumped common sense.

Over and over you will find Liberals responding to or devising policy based on their feelings about the subject. They don’t do their homework, and they don’t think through the unintended consequences. They don’t seem to understand incentives.

Republicans don’t always get their policies right, and unintended consequences come back and bite them. Human beings are complicated and not only don’t agree on everything, but often don’t agree on much. There are lots of differing opinions in the big tent we hope to have, and creating successful policies to help Americans and their allies and enemies to do things that turn out well is not easy, and results are not always a success. But if we work with an open mind and an inclusive attitude, and an appreciation for human folly, we might not do too badly if we do our homework.



An EPA Power Grab for Your Property Rights! by The Elephant's Child

The headline read “EPA pulls back from plan to garnish paychecks.” That particular plan was announced quietly an a Friday right before the 4th of July, the way agencies do when they want no one to notice. But I spotted it and wrote about it on the 8th. This administration has so many agencies and departments overstepping the bounds that it’s hard to pick a worst, but the EPA is right at the top of the list, for sheer crookedness.

The Washington Times reported last Wednesday that:

The Environmental Protection Agency bowed to fierce criticism Wednesday and announced that it had hit the brakes on a fast-tracked plan to collect fines by garnishing paychecks of accused polluters.

I was so pleased that I got up and did a little dance around my computer. But then I read the following paragraph:

The agency, which has come under withering attacks from Republican lawmakers for attempting a “power grab,” said it still intended to pursue the new authority to garnish wages without a court order. But now it will follow a more typical and longer review process.           

Opponents of the wage-garnish rule applauded EPA’s decision. But the EPA vowed to press on with its plan to snatch fines directly out of Americans’ paychecks.   (emphasis added)

Senator David Vitter (R-LA) ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee who had battled the proposed rule said, “It’s about time this abuse-prone agency listened to Congress and backtrack on a rule that was clearly an egregious power grab to garnish private citizen’s wages.” Doesn’t sound like they are listening.

This rule (published as close to secrecy as a federal agency can manage) was issued on July 2 in a notice in the Federal Register as a “direct final rule” that would automatically take effect on September 2 unless the EPA received adverse public comment by August 1.

The only improvement seems to be that since they received  comments, they have extended the comment period until September 2. They claim they are required to participate in Treasury’s debt-collection program — the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 (one of Bill Clinton’s) to garnish wages.

What or who gives them the authority to levy fines of, in the case of Wyoming welder Andy Johnson for building a pond on his property, $75,000 a day. That’s up from the fine they imposed on the Sacketts for their supposed “wetland” on a standard residential lot overlooking Priest Lake in Idaho, which was $37,500 a day and they said the Sacketts could contest their action legally. The Supreme Court slapped down the EPA for that one, and made sure the Sacketts got their day in court.

It apparently was revealed in a remark by an EPA official back in 2012. He said:

I was in a meeting once and I gave an analogy to my staff…the Romans used to conquer little villages in the Mediterranean.  They’d go into a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw and they would crucify them. And then you know that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.

Ans so you make examples of people who are in this case not compliant with the law. Find people who are not compliant with the law, and you hit them as hard as you can and you make examples out of them, and there is a deterrent effect there.

And companies that are smart see that they don’t want to play that game and they decide at that point that it’s time to clean up.

And, that won’t happen unless you have somebody out there making examples of people. So you go out, you look at an industry, you find people violating the law, you go aggressively after them. And we do have some pretty effective enforcement tools. Compliance can get very high, very, very quickly.

That’s apparently what those enormous fines are supposed to be about— making the accused so terrified that they will comply immediately and sow terror in the heart of anyone else messing with air, water, soil or plants and animals in any way, though they’ve gone after people for picking up arrowheads as well.

The public lands do not, in my opinion, belong to — the government — but to the people, and we allow the government to manage it for us. Property rights are one of the most fundamental bastions of liberty. When a federal agency tramples all over American citizens’ property rights, it’s time to sit up and take notice.



Somebody call PETA! by The Elephant's Child

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This picture was posted on Facebook, and many viewers were outraged that at a time when there is so much going on in the world, some idiot hunter was slaughtering, um, peaceful rare animals. If you recognize the face of the man, Steven Spielberg, and the animal, Triceratops, all becomes fairly clear. The director posed with a prop from Jurassic Park. The Daily Caller summed up the rage of some of the commenters:

“That’s Steven Spielberg, director of Jurassic Park!” one user wrote.

“I don’t care who he is he should not have shot that animal,” another responded.

“Steven Spielberg, I’m disappointed in you. I’m not watching any of your movies again ANIMAL KILLER,” commented another.

“Disgraceful. No wonder dinosaurs became extinct. Sickos like this kill every last one of them as soon as they are discovered. He should be in prison,” another followed up.



The Left Controls the Words We Use, Or Tries To. by The Elephant's Child

The administration has determined that in the current immigration crisis we should not use the word “illegal”, so demeaning, you know. We must be more compassionate.

Words, however, have meaning that is not determined by the Democratic party, but by the dictionary. In this case — Merriam Webster:

illegal, il•le•gal, adjective:  not allowed by law.
……………………………….not according to or authorized by law. …………………………………………
That’s pretty straightforward, and descriptive. The meaning is plain, solid fact. Do you see anything demeaning there?

alien, noun:  a person who was born in a different country and is not
……………….a citizen of the county in which he now lives.

……………….a foreign born resident who has not been naturalized ……………….and is still a subject or citizen of a foreign country.

The administration has said that we must not use these terms, although there are no others that accurately describe the situation.  We’re supposed to go for “unaccompanied children” though “minors” more accurately describes the situation, and the majority of the illegal alien “children” are between the ages of eleven and 18, and many are members of Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13, a violent street gang already infesting many of our cities, whose members are mostly between age 11 and 21.

This is one of the great problems in our nation’s political battles. The Left spends a lot of time on words, slogans, bumper-stickers, and phrases. They believe if they can get the words right, they can control the narrative. Different words evoke differing emotions, and the right choice can compel people to do what you want.

The Right is so concerned with how a policy or program works and what it means and how it will play out. We worry about cost and incentives, the economics and probable effect—and seldom notice that they are manipulating us with clever use of words. Our minds are just off in a different direction, and we aren’t very good at slogans anyway. Propaganda works!



Redistribution Doesn’t Work, And American’s Know It. by The Elephant's Child

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Here’s a great Fourth of July weekend message for Americans:

The White House has all but abandoned a message
of income inequality it had focused on last year.
It turns out Americans are not moved by the topic
and prefer a message based on opportunity.

This is a very big deal indeed. Barack Obama has called income inequality a “fundamental threat to the American Dream, our way of life and what we stand for around the globe.” This is a burning issue for liberals. They depend on class envy, hatred for the rich, compassion for the poor, and the never-ending leftist effort to make everybody equal — except for the wise experts who will run everything, of course. And ordinary Americans just don’t care. They would rather have more jobs and more opportunity.

In 2013, income inequality was the top narrative for the White House, but they abruptly switched away from it. Democratis strategists and their pollsters concluded that they should focus less on the wealth gap and more on emphasizing that all Americans shoud have economic “opportunity” to get ahead or a “fair shot”. Oh yes, we remember Mr. Obama’s constant refrain about “an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” Another iteration of equality.

Last year White House political research showed that income inequality was a wonky term that did not always resonate with voters, but Obama insisted on speaking about it anyway.

That focus culminated in a December speech in a low-income neighborhood in Southeast Washington, where he referenced inequality 26 times and discussed academic findings on the gap between the wealthy and the poor.

“He wasn’t particularly interested in knowing whether that was a good economic message,” said one person familiar with the process, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss private conversations. “He wanted to sound alarm and put voice behind that.”

But as 2014 loomed, White House strategists concluded that inequality was not registering with voters on its own.

It’s the phrase, you see. “Income inequality ” doesn’t have a ‘personal immediacy’ and there are other things that are much more immediate and tangible and more real to people. It’s a matter of getting the right phrase. What they want, of course, are more taxes on wealthier Americans in order to give more benefits to poorer Americans. It’s just a matter of figuring out what phrases will be most compelling. It is a matter of feelings — what will resonate with voters emotionally. They will test a variety of words and phrases to see what resonates.

What they will not do is investigate to what extent inequality matters. “Claims about the supposed harm done by rising income inequality are rarely substantiated, and a comprehensive read of the evidence as to inequality’s consequences offers little cause for alarm.”

Income inequality is a thing of graphs, charts and statistics. Politicans look at the statistics and are sure that it represents dire circumstances for the poor and nasty greed of the wealthy. They create remedies based on statistics that represent an average across the country,and try to legislate a correction. Fifty years ago Lyndon Johnson began a $20 trillion War on Poverty. Fifty years later, the overall percentage of impoverished people in the U.S. has declined only 2 percent. When the War on Poverty began, about 6 percent of children were born outside of marrige. Today it is 42 percent and a catastrophe. The incentives of welfare encourage recipients to stay on welfare forever, and that creates a pathology of crime, drugs, incarceration.

Income inequality has not gone away as a goal of the Left. It is merely seeking a new disguise. Just another shift in the permanent effort of the Left to make everybody equal — except for the ruling class of wise experts who will direct and control everything. A growing economy offers opportunity for all.



America Still Free, Still Beautiful! by The Elephant's Child

And a Very Happy Fourth of July! by The Elephant's Child

For Obama, Progress Is When He Makes The Rules by The Elephant's Child

President Obama convened his cabinet for a rare meeting on Tuesday, to ask for their help in devising a new round of executive orders to do what he wants. “We’re gong to have to be creative about how we can make real progress,” he said.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said last week he was planning to file a lawsuit against Mr. Obama’s use of executive actions to bypass Congress and legislate from the White House. “The Constitution makes it clear that the president’s job is to faithfully execute the laws. In m view, the president has not faithfully executed the Law,” Speaker Boehner told reporters.

Mr. Obama’s reaction is to blame Republicans for not doing what he wants, and say he will just move ahead on his own.”We’re always going to prefer working on a bipartisan basis to get things done,” Mr. Obama said in one of his more absurd statements. He has made no effort to work with Republicans, and simply expects them to do his bidding. If they don’t, he calls them names.

The Supreme Court has ruled against the administration 20 times, unanimously. Senator Ted Cruz explains. When the president’s own appointees unanimously reject the administrations call for broader federal power, it’s pretty clear that the administration’s view of federal power knows no bounds.

Administrative power has an old and dark history. As early as the Middle Ages, English kings were expected to rule through acts of Parliament and the acts of the law courts. Kings liked the legitimacy of this regular mode of governance, but couldn’t always get what they wanted from Parliament. They justified it as the prerogatives of a king, or absolute power. Constitutional law developed to preclude any such illegal power. Americans knew the English experience with absolute power and feared any recurrence of it in America. Our Constitution precludes extralegal power by placing legislative powers in Congress and judicial power in the courts.  The Constitution emphasizes that “All legislative Powers herein granted” are vested in Congress. It’s a recurring problem.

With immigration legislation dead for the year in Congress, the president said he would use his executive authority to boost border security and would consider additional steps to change the nation’s immigration policies. He faces pressure from immigration activists to grant work permits to millions of undocumented immigrants. He will probably attempt to make adjustments to deportation policy that will shield some illegal immigrants from deportation.

Mr. Boehner blamed the president for the House’s inaction. “In our conversation last week, I told the president what I have been telling him for months: the American people and their elected officials don’t rust him to enforce the law as written. Until that changes, it is going to be difficult to make progress on this issue.”



The House Will Sue The President For Failing To Observe The Separation of Powers. by The Elephant's Child

Budget Talks Deteriorate Amid Republican Identity Shift On Tax Increases
House Speaker John Boehner told his colleagues on Wednesday that the House of Representatives will sue the executive branch of the government to defend the Constitution’s separation of powers. The Speaker, said the Wall Street Journal, is showing more care that the laws be faithfully executed as the Constitution demands than is President Obama.

The Congress, Mr. Boehner said in his memo to the House, is suffering institutional injury  under Mr. Obama’s “aggressive unilateralism” which is a pretty fair description of his governing philosophy. When the president suspends or rewrites laws across health care, drug policy, immigration laws, and so much else— elected legislators are stripped of their constitutional role.

The basic reason behind this step is Mr. Obama’s flagrant contempt for regular political order. For example, he has unilaterally revised, delayed or reinterpreted the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on his own thirty-eight times.

Everyone would prefer that the Congress and the President would settle their disputes through the customary political debates and arguments. House members represent the people of their district by population, and are closest to the public for they must face reelection every two years. A senator represents a whole state. The president represents all the people of the country. It was designed by the Founders to slow things down, so that poorly considered laws were not enacted in haste, in the hopes that would result in better law.

In the current climate, potential laws are not getting through Congress. The lapdog media would blame it all on the Republicans, but the blame lies directly in the hands of the Majority Leader of the Senate—who refuses to allow laws passed by the House to even be voted on. That’s not the way it’s supposed to work.

The Founders did not consider the possibility that a future president might pay no attention to his oath of office, or just take the law into his own hands. They assumed that a president’s honor and character would mean that even when he disagreed, he would abide by the rules.

“The major reason to involve the judiciary in this case is Mr. Obama’s flagrant contempt for the regular political order,” said the Wall Street Journal.

This president does not feel restrained by the Constitution that he swore to uphold. When Congress will not pass the laws that he wants, as he has said, “I’ve got a phone and a pen.” He will just take action on his own by “executive order.”All presidents have used executive orders from time to time, but none have ever used executive orders to rewrite laws duly passed and signed into law.

Far from a partisan caper, this implicates the foundation of the U.S. political architecture. The courts generally presume that individual Members of Congress lack the “standing” to make a legal challenge, but Mr. Obama is stealing inherent Article I powers that no party other than Congress can vindicate. Mr. Boehner said he will seek a House vote authorizing the lawsuit and put it under the direction of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group.

A single Congressman may not have standing, but Congress has the institutional standing to sue the president and are thus asking a constitutional question that has not been joined at the courts. More than a few judges and Supreme Court Justices seem to be concerned that Mr. Obama’s conduct is undermining the rule of law and political accountability. Just this week, the Supreme Court slapped down the EPA for defying the plain language of the law in the name of anti-carbon policy. More rebukes may be coming with cases about recess appointments and the ObamaCare contraception mandate.

Last summer, Mr. Obama proclaimed that “in a normal political environment” he’s ask Congress to fix laws such as ObamaCare, but since the House disagrees with his priorities, he’ll just go ahead and fix them himself without legislative consent. But then again, the president can hardly get through normal comments to the press without proclaiming that he is the President of the United States or The Commander in Chief. President Bush often said that “he was the Decider,” but that was not a proclamation of his importance, but a humble expression of the weight of the decisions that he must make. There’s a significant difference.

Thanks to Mr. Boehner, the courts will get a chance to weigh in on whether Mr. Obama or his successors can exercise imperial powers.

 



Remy: God Bless the USA [VA Scandal Edition] by The Elephant's Child

Remy remakes the Lee Greenwood classic for the administrators of today’s Veterans Administration hospitals.

Iraq and the Release of Taliban Leaders from Guantanamo may have pushed the VA Hospital Scandal off the front pages, but nobody has forgotten or forgiven. Americans care about their veterans.



Blackfive Responds to the Kids at Vox: by The Elephant's Child

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An excerpt from Uncle Jimbo* at Blackfive:

No Zack, they actually had destroyed it. They beat it into a bloody tangled mess of dead tangos stacked so high that they blotted out the sun, They killed so many of the local bad guys and the thousands of jihadist visitors that King Leonidas sent a dispatch saying “Dag! Nice work”. So when you say “the US military and allied Sunni militias famously defeated it” I will accept your words, but not the snotty tone with which you meant them.

You see Zack, the Surge worked. We won the war. The Iraqis actually formed a legitimate democratic government. And then we walked away and said “There you go a Republic, if you can keep it”. We took our toys and left. The Bush administration agreed to take all our troops out because that was the only way to get all the Iraqi factions to join in a government. But neither the Iraqis or us expected that to be the final deal. We and they rightfully expected a follow on negotiation about a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) after their elections and some minor legitimacy for the new government.

We needed to stay because they needed our help to actually make the whole thing work. The groundwork was laid, but the new US President Barack Obama completely torpedoed the negotiations and made sure we couldn’t stay and help. So they were on their own with Iran on one side and Syria on the other, both of whom had been huge enablers of the insurgency in the first place. It is hardly surprising that the Iraqis didn’t dominate at the democracy or the security on their own. And all of us who could identify the clue bag pointed out that our departure would yield this exact outcome. 

……………………………………………….*Retired Special Operations Master Sergeant, Jim Hanson (“Uncle Jimbo”) is now focused on writing about the military, politics, intelligence operations and foreign policy.



Obama Will Think About It Later, After a Fundraiser in Palm Springs and Some Golf Time? by The Elephant's Child

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This is apparently what ISIS currently has in mind. (Click to enlarge) For now. This group was formed in Syria and has moved into northern Iraq. The have been called an al Qaeda affiliate, but al Qaeda has rejected them because of their extreme violence. They are shooting and beheading people indiscriminately.

ISIS seeks to impose its vision of a single radical Islamist state stretching from the Mediterranean coast of Syria through modern Iraq, the region of the Islamic Caliphates established in the seventh and eighth centuries. In Iraq, the Kurds have carved out a homeland in the north of the country with the help of the Turks and against the wishes of the Iraqi government, that exports their own oil, runs its own border operations and has organized its own military. Shiite militias from Lebanon have moved into Syria and operated with the Syrian government. Syrian refugees have fled into Lebanon, and Lebanon now has more school age Syrian children than Lebanese children. Borders are dissolving.

When we went to war in Iraq, the Left was furious. The Left hated Bush. They said so. They hated the way he walked. They hated his squint. They hated the way he talked and made endless fun of his mangled words. They hated the way he took charge in the wake of 9/11.

It comes down to this “A substantial part of the Democratic Party, some of its politicians and many of its loudest supporters do not want America to succeed in Iraq. So vitriolic and all-consuming is their hatred for George W.Bush that they skip right over the worthy goals we have been, with some considerable success, seeking there—a democratic government, with guaranteed liberties for all, a vibrant free economy, respect for women—and call this a war for oil, or for Halliburton.
Successes are discounted, setbacks are trumpeted, the level of American casualties is treated as if it were comparable to those in Vietnam or World War II. Allegations of American misdeeds are repeated over and over, the work of reconstruction and aid of American military personnel and civilians is ignored. In all this they have been aided and abetted by large elements of the press.
……………………Michael Barone, Real Clear Politics, June 12, 2006.

That is the press from whom Obama learned about Iraq. And that was his view of Bush’s war. He came to office despising everything Bush, and blaming Bush for everything unpleasant he had to face, oblivious to the fact that every president faces unexpected problems.

Obama lives in a fantasy world of his own making. He is so accustomed to putting whatever comes up into words favorable to himself that he often cannot distinguish between what he said to make himself look good and the actual truth. I cannot imagine, with the need for urgent action so pressing, the president taking off for a trip to Palm Springs and another fundraiser, and a little golf.

The much despised George W. Bush had a video conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki once a week and worked at teaching the Prime Minister how to set secularism aside and manage a country. Obama had little contact and was clearly uninterested in anything beyond pulling out as rapidly as possible, so the status of forces agreement was not of particular importance to either party.

Barack Obama pulled out of Iraq because he had no understanding of World War I and World War II, and how just walking away from the first made the second inevitable. Defeat must be complete, and sometimes you have to put a country back together enough for them to become functional. He had no understanding of what a broken country Iraq was under the control of Saddam Hussein. Obama says his foreign policy is “Don’t do stupid s––t.” Sometimes doing nothing, or ignoring the urgency of the moment, is the stupidest thing of all.




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