American Elephants


So Much for the Famous “Reset Button.” by The Elephant's Child
May 13, 2010, 9:39 pm
Filed under: Foreign Policy, Islam, Israel, Middle East | Tags: , , , ,


President Obama has rolled out the red carpet for Afghan President Hamid Karzai.   Mr. Obama has realized that he has offended Mr. Karzai, and is attempting to mend fences.  It was widely publicized that the administration hoped to see Mr. Karzai replaced — not exactly the way to make friends among national leaders.

Obama’s success on the campaign trail, with enthusiastic crowds and an adoring press, may have given him the illusion that he could sway national interests with his charm and mellow baritone voice. But nations have interests, and the particular interests of the American president don’t trump the interests of other countries.  Working together requires putting aside the arrogance and refraining from telling other people what to do. George W. Bush may have been unpopular in the streets, but his relations with national leaders were, for the most part, excellent.

Obama  has told us over and over that talks are the ultimate goal.  If he could just sit down and talk with the Mullahs of Iran, they surely would find areas of agreement.  The Mullahs have no interest in talks, they have never had any interest in talks.  It hasn’t worked.

President Obama’s relations with other national leaders are not good. He has made no friends.  An exception was supposed to be President Dimitry Medvedev of Russia. They got along famously, we were told, the agreement enhanced by Obama’s willingness to give up our missile defense in Eastern Europe.

Now we learn that Medvedev has paid a state visit to Syrian President Assad in Damascus that resulted in Moscow’s full endorsement of the Arab agenda against Israel, plus a direct Kremlin challenge to American Mideast diplomacy.

In a joint communiqué with Assad, Medvedev added his own Middle East plan, including 1.) Putting the blame for Mideast tensions on Israel, 2.) Demanding a complete Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 lines, 3.) Demanding that Israel join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear state, 4.) Endorsing Palestinian demands for a “right of return” — a formula for the demographic destruction of the Jewish state.

Medvedev also offered nuclear plants to Syria. His next stop — Turkey to whom he has also offered a nuclear plant.

Obama has placed all his bets on getting his Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, to mediate indirect peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians.  The administration seems to be laboring under the illusion that the problems of the Middle East would go away, if Israel would just make peace with the Palestinians — whose stated goal is to “drive Israel into the sea.”

So much for the reset button, and so much for Obama’s role as the world historical figure who has brought peace to the troubled Middle East.  The Russian bear has other ideas, and they clearly involve a larger role in the Middle East.



Bureaucracy and Tyranny. a Diagnosis. by The Elephant's Child
May 13, 2010, 7:11 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Democrat Corruption, Economy, Law, Politics | Tags: , ,

“Bureaucracy” is, to many of us — the enemy.  Alex J. Pollock elucidates at the Enterprise Blog at The American Enterprise Institute:

We tend to think of “bureaucracy” as meaning sluggish, complicated, unresponsive paperwork and process. But it has another, more threatening meaning: Rule by the bureaucrats, just as “aristocracy” is rule by the aristocrats—in other words, rule by unelected officers who impose their ideas on you, but cannot be voted out by you or anyone else. Bureaucracy in this sense has an inherent love of power and yearning for authority which cannot be questioned.

Consider the recent activities of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The SEC criticized Goldman Sach’s synthetic CMO deal. Whatever one may think of the merits of the deal, should you be able to disagree with an attack on you by a bureaucracy? Goldman Sachs publicly disagreed. The SEC got the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation. Warren Buffett defended Goldman Sachs. The SEC announced it was investigating inadequate disclosures by Buffett’s company.

Coincidence? Or a message that you will certainly be punished if you dare to disagree with the bureaucrats?

The Founding Fathers well described “swarms of officers sent hither to harass the people.” It is worth pondering how bureaucracy may have inside it a tyranny trying to get out.



Attorney General Erik Holder Refuses to Say That “Radical Islam” Is a Cause of Terrorism. by The Elephant's Child

Attorney General Erik Holder testified today before the House Judiciary Committee — and demonstrated in a few moments of painful video — that he simply cannot bring himself to utter the words “radical Islam.”  He has, in the recent past, cheerfully described the American people as “a nation of cowards on race,” and officials of the Bush administration as “war criminals,” without a single stutter.

There are, according to Mr. Holder, innumerable reasons why Muslims commit terrorist attacks; but those reasons have nothing to do with Islamic doctrine.

This mindset creates some potential problems when it comes to how radical Islamic terrorists are to be treated under American law, how they will be questioned, where and how terrorists will be tried and/or imprisoned.  Not to mention where Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be tried.

To top that off, Attorney General Holder — who has been commenting in several venues on the Arizona Immigration law, discussing how illegal it was — was forced to admit that he had not read the law.  Ouch!



Visas and Immigration: The Story of Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square Bomber. by The Elephant's Child

Here’s the story of the Times Square Bomber — Faisal Shahzad, and how he became an immigrant to the United States and a naturalized citizen.  It reveals some of the risks inherent in U.S. visa and immigration programs.

It is a familiar pattern of  a terrorist easily taking advantage of weak spots in America’s immigration system.  He was admitted long before 9/11, but the openings that  he exploited are still in place today.

  • June 30, 1979 — born in Pakistan
  • December 22, 1998 — issued student visa in Islamabad. Shahzad failed to demonstrate that he had “sufficient academic preparation to pursue the intended course of study” at the University of Bridgeport.  Applying as a transfer student with a transcript from a correspondence course with Southeastern University (now defunct) with a GPA of 2.78. Visa was a mistake, but visa officer gave him 4 year visa when 2 should have been given.  lightweight background check, no criminal history. (today’s watchlists and databases are more comprehensive).
  • Fall 2000 — Graduates from University of Bridgeport, Conn. Shahzad was flagged by border officials for carrying large sums of cash — reportedly $80,000 — and for repeated visits home to Pakistan.  Was awarded a grant from Bridgeport U. for $6,700 to cover tuition.
  • 2001 — begins working for a temporary staffing agency.  A student visa does not include permission to work.
  • 2002 — Issued H-1B visa.  Sponsored by Elizabeth Arden to work in a low level accounting job.
  • 2004 — Obtains mortgage with Huma Anif Mian (U.S. Citizen and future spouse)
  • 2004 — Comes under scrutiny of Joint Terrorism Task Force. Local, multi-agency units that investigate cases related to national security.
  • February 2005 — Citizen wife files green card petition. Neighbors of Shahzad’s bride have told reporters that he visited her in Colorado just once before she left to marry him.
  • January 2006 —Green card approved. USCIS apparently unconcerned about suddenness of marriage or JTTF investigation. (Basic reality —green card application process rigged in alien’s favor. Few applications are refused or challenged).
  • October 2008 — Applies for citizenship. Shahzad wasted no time. Can apply after 3 years of  marriage to U.S. Citizen, compared with 5 years of residency for other legal immigrants.  Average immigrant waits 6 to 10 years before applying.  His US citizenship makes travel abroad easier since US citizens face less scrutiny, and citizens can stay overseas indefinitely without losing status.  Citizenship did not require Shahzad to give up his Pakistani passport which can be useful in concealing long periods of travel without drawing attention on return.
  • April 17, 2009 — Sworn in as a U.S. citizen.
  • June 2, 2009 — Departs for Pakistan.
  • February 3, 2010 — Returns to United States.
  • May 1, 2010 — Attempts to set off a car bomb in Times Square.

An interesting history, to say the least.  I abbreviated slightly this list from the Center for Immigration Studies.  The complete list is available from the Center,  along with seven policy recommendations to enhance the integrity of the system , make it more difficult for illegitimate visitors to gain access, and limit the risk inherent in every visa or immigration program.

This would reinforce the public diplomacy goals of the student visa program — that foreign students put their U.S. education and positive experience in America to good use back home, and strengthen ties between the two nations.  See also David Horowitz’s experience at University of California at San Diego.



Cash for Caulkers Creates a Conflict of Interest! by The Elephant's Child

Remember way back when the War in Iraq began, and the media discovered that the company providing meals and laundry and putting up camps in Iraq was (gasp) Halliburton, and you know Dick Cheney used to be CEO of Halliburton and undue influence, crony capitalism, blah, blah, blah. The media desperately tried to find something untoward., but Mr. Cheney had severed his relations with the company which had a new CEO, and it was all a pack of nonsense.

So in the normal course of politics, each side keeps an eye on the other side for crony capitalism, favoritism, bribes and payoffs. It’s the way it is supposed to be, except the media is supposed to be an objective watchdog, which they have forgotten how to do.

The connections between the Obama administration and the unions seems to involve a number of those sins, and sooner or later, someone will write a book about the relationship. In the meantime, we have an interesting case of for-profit politics:

The Obama administration appointee who would run a proposed subsidy program dubbed “Cash for Caulkers” has intimate ties to a company that has lobbied for the bill and would profit from it.

Al Gore acolyte Cathy Zoi, the Energy Department official in charge of energy efficiency, has testified in favor of the caulkers bill, which the House passed last week. She would administer it if it became law and is married to an executive at a window company that has pushed for this legislation.

We have written before about Ms. Zoi’s troublesome potential to profit substantially from the activities she is supposed to administer.

The Chamber of Commerce — the embodiment of anti-government greed in Obama’s standard rhetoric — is lobbying hard for the bill, and has informed members of Congress that this will be one of the votes tallied on the chamber’s annual scorecard of lawmakers. Also working Congress in support of the measure are the National Association of Manufacturers, Dow Chemical, the Laborers’ International Union of North America, the contracting industry and the window industry.

With all these supporters, Obama and the credulous media will declare it’s a consensus, and so it must be good. But really, the bill just spreads the corporate welfare strategically. It’s corporate welfare because the companies that sell the windows, insulation and services the bill subsidizes can now raise their prices, because consumers’ price tolerance goes up. So the subsidy is split between the companies and the homeowner. Americans without savings or equity with which to afford new windows are out of luck, as are renters. But they still foot the bill.

Well.  Conflict of interest.  Corporate Welfare.  Crony capitalism.  As Timothy Carney says, “when government injects itself more deeply into the economy, opportunities for cronyism come with the territory.”  It is still deeply unseemly.  Ms. Zoi should go, or the program should go, preferably the latter.  What a dishonest scam.




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