American Elephants

Elena Kagan Confirmed to the Supreme Court. by The Elephant's Child

The Senate has confirmed the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court by a 63—37 vote.   Liberal news sources are all excited because there are now three women on the Court.  I don’t get it.  What does their sex have to do with anything?  I want superbly qualified justices. I don’t care about their gender, their ethnicity, their antecedents.  I want to be confident that they have a deep familiarity with the Constitution and with the duties of a justice, and judicial restraint. With Kagan, those qualities are in doubt.

Elena Kagan has also received more no votes than any nominee in history.   “There is now a significant political price to pay for nominating people who fail to respect the Constitution or who do not have a record of judicial restraint,” noted Gary Marx in NRO’s Bench Memos Blog.

“Ultimately,” he said, “the Kagan debate was about the size and role of the national government, and the role of judges within that government.  That’s exactly what it should be about, and Kagan walks away clearly branded as a rubber stamp for the Obama administration’s agenda.”

Remember the Marsh Arabs of Iraq and Their Aquatic World. by The Elephant's Child

Do you remember the strange aquatic world  of the Marsh Arabs in Southern Iraq, said by Biblical scholars to be the site of the Garden of Eden, or the cradle of civilization?  The Mesopotamians settled in the fertile region where the Tigris river and the Euphrates meet in the fifth century B.C., and within a few generations it had become the site of an advanced Sumerian civilization.

Only 20 years ago, the amazing world of the Madan — the Marsh Arabs — thrived in the wetlands, far larger than the Everglades, in the southern end of Iraq.  For thousands of years the marshes had been the homeland of the Madan and their water buffalo and cows.  They lived in floating huts made of woven reeds, where they harvested reeds, hunted birds and caught fish.  But they backed a Shiite uprising against the Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein.

Saddam murdered thousands of the Marsh Arabs, killed their livestock , poisoned their water sources and burned their huts to the ground.  And then he excavated canals and built dikes to divert the water from the marshes.  Within a few years, the marshland was less than ten percent of its original size.  An area that was once teeming with wildlife — wild boar, hyenas, foxes, otters and even lions — had been turned into barren salt flats, poisoned and filled with land mines.  The remaining Marsh Arabs fled to Iran to live in refugee camps or went north to work as day laborers.  More than 500,000 people had been displaced.

Der Spiegel tells the story of Azzam Alwash, an American citizen and citizen of Iraq, a hydraulic engineer and the director of Nature Iraq, the country’s first and only environmental organization.  His goal is to save and restore the marshes. Only three months after the American invasion, Alwash returned to his native Iraq.  His father, who had worked in Iraq’s Water Ministry until the 1980s, had often taken him along when traveling in the marshes for his work or hunting geese.  Often his mother and two sisters came along on the boat trips.

Now about a third of the original river marshes are covered with water once again.  Teams are tearing out dams, channeling water from the canals back into parched areas, sowing native plants.  The marshes influence the climate.  The region became hotter after the marshland was destroyed.  Alwash and his collaborators are developing a plan for the country’s first national park, a protected area of about 386 square miles where the water supply will be regulated with a large number of floodgates.

The United States has canceled its financial support for the project.  There is still conflict and violence in the region. Turkey is building dams, and gradually reducing the flow of the rivers. The article is informative and thorough, and the pictures of the village of the Marsh Arabs as they lived in 1974 are amazing.  You cannot help but hope that their dreams of restoration come true.

This Is What an Imperial Presidency Looks Like! by The Elephant's Child

— There is a remarkable amount of funny business going on in Washington D.C.  The most “transparent” government in history, so vastly different from the constantly excoriated previous administration (responsible for everything), is operating in a thick cloud of obfuscation.

Senior officials at the U.S. Department of Transportation have blocked, at least temporarily, the release of auto-safety regulators’ findings that could favor Toyota in accusations of unintended acceleration, according to George Person, a recently retired agency official.

Person, who retired on July 3 after 27 years at the agency said in an interview that the decision to not go public with the information was made over the objections of some officials  at NHTSA.  “The information was compiled.  The report was finished and submitted”, Mr. Person said.  “When I asked why it hadn’t been published, I was told that the secretary’s office didn’t want to release it.”

Earlier this year, Toyota recalled more than 8.5 million vehicles globally for defects possibly related to sudden acceleration, and paid a $16.4 million fine for failing to report safety issues promptly.

Since March, the agency has studied 40 Toyota vehicles were unintended acceleration was given as the cause of an accident.  Mr. Person said NHTSA determined that 23 of the vehicles had accelerated suddenly.  In all 23, the vehicles’ electronic data recorders showed the car’s throttle was wide open and the brake was not depressed at the moment of impact.

Mr Person said “It’s driver error.  It’s pedal misapplication and that’s what the data shows. It has become very political.  There is a lot of anger towards Toyota. Transportation officials are hoping against hope that they find something that points back to a flaw in Toyota vehicles.”

Democrats in Congress are in an enormous hurry to pass a new regulatory bill. The problem must be a lack of regulation. The Tort lawyers must be itching to get their hands on vast numbers of lawsuits.

— The administration put dozens of privately owned automobile dealers out of business when it took over GM and Chrysler. These are private businesses who buy their vehicles from the car companies.  Even the TARP Inspector General has said that this was improper and illegal.  But never-mind.

— According to an internal U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services memo going around Capitol Hill, the agency is considering ways in which it could enact “meaningful immigration reform absent legislative action.”

“This memorandum offers administrative relief options to …reduce the threat of removal for certain individuals present in the United States without authorization,” it reads.

Perhaps the most offensive suggestion is to “Increase the Use of Deferred Action.”  “Deferred action” the memo says “is an exercise of prosecutorial discretion not to pursue removal from the U.S. of a particular individual for a specific period of time.”  The memo claims there are no limits to USCIS’s ability to use deferred action, but warns that using this power indiscriminately would be “controversial, not to mention expensive.”

USCIS has released a statement saying that, um, just a draft, pre-decisional, just thinking on paper, never-mind.  “To be clear, DHS will not grant deferred action or humanitarian parole to the nation’s entire illegal immigrant population.”  [Well that’s a relief]

— This is the same executive branch that has done a recess appointment of Donald Berwick — a doctor so controversial that he could not face a Congressional hearing— to be in charge of all Medicare and Medicaid with not only unlimited powers, but free from any challenge to his authority.

There is more, of course, the New Black Panther voter intimidation case, the moratorium on drilling in the Gulf, the prosecution of Arizona for enforcing federal law.  It is an imperious White House, ignoring the law as it stands, and doing as it pleases.

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