American Elephants

House Defeats President Obama’s Request to Raise the Debt Ceiling, 318-97. by The Elephant's Child

President Obama and the Democrats in Congress have demanded a “clean vote” on raising the national debt ceiling, that is, without any cuts to spending or reforms to the budget process.  The House Republicans today took them up on it. It was, of course, a bit of stagecraft, for everyone recognized that the bill was doomed to fail.

In America, unlike other countries, federal law requires Congress to authorize the government to borrow any money that is needed to pay for the programs that Congress has passed. In recent years, as the national debt has grown, the Treasury has periodically bumped up against this debt limit.

On May 16, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner formally told Congress that the government would have reached its $14,294 trillion debt limit that day, but for “extraordinary measures” to buy time for lawmakers to increase the limit on borrowing.

The American people want cuts to spending programs. They fear the consequences of more debt, and want some serious action on the part of Congress.  The Obama budget for fiscal 2012 was unanimously rejected last week in the Senate, a humiliating 0-97. According to a new Gallup poll, Americans oppose raising the debt ceiling 47% to 19%.

Liberals, of course, do not want to cut anything, except maybe Defense, and want a “Debt-Failsafe Trigger” which would empower unelected bureaucrats to increase taxes as a means to balance the budget.  This is a real danger.

However, Mission Accomplished! The vote today went as expected, and was a way of clearing the air to show that any attempt to separate an increase in the debt ceiling from spending reduction cannot win Congressional approval. The House defeated Obama’s request to raise the debt ceiling— 318-97.  Nearly half of Democrats voted with the Republicans to defeat the measure— 82 explicitly voted against it including Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and DNC chief Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, which shows how nervous the White House is at being on the wrong side of this issue.  10 members did not vote.

President Obama is having a bad spell. His budget has been unanimously dumped. His Mideast foreign policy was a flop. He went on a high-visibility tour of Europe that wasn’t well received, and Joplin Missouri was flattened, but he neglected to return. He laid a wreath on Memorial Day, but neglected the customary visit to returned vets in Bethesda and Walter Reed, in order to play golf.  He has only himself to blame.


A No-Confidence Vote For Obama Appointees. by The Elephant's Child

A new survey shows strained relationships between senior career federal managers and executives and the political appointees with whom they work.  The study was conducted in April by Government Executive’s  research division, the Government Business Council.  It involved surveying 148 Senior Executive Service members and GS-15s about their attitudes toward current challenges and Obama administration initiatives.

Career federal executives and managers are skeptical about the ability of current political appointees to improve agency performance.  Their role, said one respondent has increased, but the effectiveness, skill and knowledge have dramatically decreased.

Obama officials don’t have either functional or agency-specific knowledge. Nearly 60 percent of respondents gave Obama appointees a grade of C or lower for their functional expertise. They don’t believe that appointees understand human resources and procurement rules, and they presume that the institution is there as “an obstruction” and attempt to “break the organizations.”

Appointees have “unbelievably poor communication with career employees,” one respondent said.  Almost 40 percent of managers gave appointees Ds or Fs on collaboration and communication with their staffs.  Some “have a divide-and-conquer strategy, and there are way too many industry fingers allowed in decision-making,” a respondent noted.  At another agency, a manager said the result has been “politicization of normal agency functions.”

At the CIA, there is an “undercurrent of dissent and dislike” for the president, former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra told Human Events last week over the White House’s contradictory messages on the War on Terror.  At the FBI, supervisors have had it with rules of the game that favor cronies.  They are unhappy over the president’s decision to extend the term of FBI Director Robert Mueller.

At Immigration and Customs Enforcement, agents wrote a scathing letter in 2010, titled “Vote of No Confidence in ICE Director John Morton and ODPP Director Phyllis Coven” for failing to allow agents to do their jobs, because of the Latino vote.

It seems that short-term political objectives are taking precedence over the work of government.  That was our impression, and events are proving it to be true. These are problems that cannot be solved with White House imperialism. Ordering it so will not fix things. That takes leadership.

Living the Dream in Ontario, Canada. Sigh! by The Elephant's Child

This treehouse was built in Ontario, Canada, featuring  little over seven-hundred square feet of platform spread over eight levels.  There are two cabins, a 50-foot rope bridge, a 120-foot zip-line, an elevator, a full bar and a barbecue. It was built over several summers, totalling about a month. The song in the video is the Flower Duet.

I once had a treehouse when I was small.  Well, more of a tree platform, about four feet square. It sat about seven feet up in a cottonwood by the river.  Our trees were largely either Ponderosa pines or Douglas fir, and that cottonwood was the only non-evergreen of any size.  I found it very scary because it was so high.  Wimp, yes, but I was little, probably 6 or 7.

(Borrowed shamelessly from The Borderline Sociopathic Blog for Boys)

There’s a New Law. The Federal Government Must Write In “Nicespeak.”. by The Elephant's Child

Last fall, President Obama signed the Plain Writing Act (H.R.946) which will take effect in October, when all federal agencies must start writing plainly in all new or substantially revised documents produced for the public. By July, each agency must have a senior official who will oversee plain writing within that agency, a section of its website devoted to the effort, and a training program underway.

This will be hard. Federal employees have long assumed that the use of large words demonstrates the importance of their work. Many have been trained by members of prestigious faculties who write in gibberish themselves as proof that they really do possess advanced degrees.

One of the most famous examples of federal-speak is a Pentagon 26-page recipe for brownies that went on about “regulation promulgated thereunder,” “flow rates of thermoplastics by extrusion plastometer” and a commandment that ingredients “shall be examined organoleptically. (look at, smell, taste or touch).

Cass Sunstein, Obama’s information and regulation administrator, gave some guidance to federal agencies in April on how the law should be implemented: “It is important to emphasize that agencies should communicate with the public in a way that is clear, simple, meaningful and jargon free.” Bad writing, he says keeps people from applying for benefits they should get, makes federal rules hard to follow and wastes money because of all the time spent explaining things to a confused public.

The Federal Plain Language Guidelines, which outline the changes promised by the Act, contain some questionable instructions:

  • “Government” will be changed to “we”, and “citizens” will be replaced by “you” making all instructions seem more good-natured and friendly.
  • “Stuffy” language, such as “pursuant,” “herein,” “in accordance with,” “commencing,” “practicable,” and the most offensive target: “shall,” will be purged.  Apparently we shouldn’t be bothered with three-syllable words.
  • The active voice should always be used, except when “the law” is the actor.  In that case, use of the passive voice will keep citizens from misdirecting their frustration toward the government.
  • [This merits a direct quote]: “We have ONE rule for dealing with definitions: use them rarely.” Will avoiding definitions really make matters more clear to average Americans?
  • As evidenced by the above quote, another tip is to use CAPS LOCK, italics, and bolded font constantly to emphasize your point. Did it work?

There are dozens of pages about using only simple, short words, very basic sentence structure, and clear headings. 117 pages of such guidelines appears fairly condescending to the American people. Friendly language is not going to make unconstitutional procedures acceptable, nor will it convince skeptical citizens that federal agencies are being honest. Aside from talking down the public, the Plain Writing Act creates a new level of bureaucracy. We could call it “Nicespeak.”

As Syme said, describing the definitive Eleventh Edition of the Newspeak Dictionary:

We’re getting the language into its final shape—the shape it’s going to have when nobody speaks anything else. When we’ve finished with it, people like you will  have to learn it all over again. You think, I dare say, that our chief job is inventing new words. But not a bit of it! We’re destroying words—scores of them, hundreds of them, every day. We’re cutting the language down to the bone.  The Eleventh Edition won’t contain a single word that will become obsolete before the year 2050.

…Take ‘good’ for instance.  If you have a word like ‘good,’ what need is there for a word like ‘bad?’ ‘Ungood’ will do just as well—better, because it’s an exact opposite, which the other is not. Or again, if you want a stronger version of ‘good.’ what sense is there in having a whole string of vague useless words like ‘excellent’ and ‘splendid’ and all the rest of them? ‘Plusgood” covers the meaning, or ‘double-plusgood’if you want something stronger still. Of course we use those forms already, but in the final version of Newspeak there’ll be nothing else.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by The Elephant's Child
May 30, 2011, 6:27 am
Filed under: Freedom, Heartwarming, History, Military | Tags: , ,


1. How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the Tomb of the Unknowns and why?
21 steps. It alludes to the twenty-one gun salute, which is the highest honor given any military or foreign dignitary.

2. How long does he hesitate after his about face to begin his return walk and why?
21 seconds for the same reason as answer number one.

3. Why are his gloves wet?
His gloves are moistened to prevent his losing his grip on the rifle.

4. Does he carry his rifle on the same shoulder all the time and if not, why not?
He carries the rifle on the shoulder away from the tomb.  After his march across the path, he executes an about face and moves the rifle to the outside shoulder.

5.  How often are the guards changed?
Guards are changed every thirty minutes, twenty-four hours a day, and 365 days a year.

6. What are the physical traits of the guard limited to?
A person who applies for guard duty at the tomb must be between 5′ 10″ and 6′ 2″ tall and his waist size cannot exceed 30″.

Other requirements of the Guard: they must commit 2 years of life to guard the tomb, live in a barracks under the tomb, and cannot drink any alcohol on or off duty for the rest of their lives. They cannot swear in public for the rest of their lives and cannot disgrace the uniform (by fighting) or the tomb in any way.  After two years, the guard is given a wreath pin that is worn on their lapel signifying they served as guard of the tomb.  There are only 400 presently worn.

The guard must obey these rules for the rest of their lives or give up the wreath pin.

The shoes are specially made with very thick soles to keep the heat and cold from their feet.  There are metal heel plates that extend to the top of the shoe in order to make the loud click as they come to a halt.  There are no wrinkles, folds or lint on the uniform.  Guards dress for duty in front of a full-length mirror.

During the first six months of duty a guard may not talk to anyone, nor watch TV. Off duty time is spent studying the 175 notable people laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.  A guard must memorize who they are and where they are interred.  Among the notables are: President Taft, Joe E. Lewis (the boxer) and Medal of Honor winner Audie Murphy, (the most decorated soldier of WWII) of Hollywood fame.  Every guard spends five hours a day getting his uniforms ready for guard duty.


In 2003 as Hurricane Isabelle was approaching Washington D.C., our U.S. Senate and House took 2 days off in anticipation of the storm.  On the ABC evening news, it was reported that because of the dangers from the hurricane, the military members assigned the duty of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier were given permission to suspend their assignment.   They respectfully declined the offer, “No way, Sir!”  Soaked to the skin, marching in the pelting rain of a tropical storm, they said that guarding the Tomb was not just an assignment; it was the highest honor that can be afforded to a service person.

The tomb has been patrolled continuously, 24/7, since 1930.

One tomb is empty: the Vietnam Tomb.  It was later discovered who was in the tomb.  The family had the remains removed and buried with military honors. Congress decided to leave the tomb empty.  Fox News carried the full live service at the tombs.  The other channels passed it by.  All who have served understand the bond.  Freedom is never free.

R. Harper

This is a re-post from Memorial Day, 2009.

We Remember Them All, From All The Wars. by The Elephant's Child
May 30, 2011, 6:14 am
Filed under: Freedom, History, Military, Politics | Tags: , ,

Filed under: Freedom, History, Military, The Elephant’s Child | Tags: , ,

There is a story my mother told to me, and her grandfather told to her.  When he was small — about my mother’s age at the time — he was sitting at his grandmother’s knee.  She told him the story of the time when she was small, and about his age, in Connecticut.  It was a beautiful spring day,  her father was plowing, and she was walking in the furrow behind him, smelling the sweet earth as the plow turned the soil.

They heard the sound of a horse galloping up the lane, and a man shouting.  Her father dropped the reins of his horse and ran for the house. Catherine gathered up her skirts and ran after him.  She met him at the door, his musket in hand.  He gathered her up and kissed her goodbye and ran for his horse.  He was a Captain of Minute Men.  The British were raiding.  She never saw her father again.  They brought his body  home after the battle.

Men have been dying for freedom and home, their comrades, and friends and family for a very long time.  Today we remember them all, from all the wars, with sorrow and gratitude.

The Democrat’s Big, Enormous, Gigantic Lie Strategy by The Elephant's Child

Democrats believe you are stupid. At least they are sure that most voters are stupid. So they believe that a well-turned phrase, repeated endlessly by every liberal politician and pundit, will implant itself in your brain and no elaborate Republican explanation will be able to overcome it.

Republicans respect the American people, and believe that if things are honestly explained, people will understand what is in their own self-interest. Republicans are very big on individualism and believe that millions of people, each pursuing their own self-interest, will for the most part, work out pretty well.

The case in point is Medicare. Democrats have not quite got their talking points down yet, but watch for it.  It revolves around “Republicans are trying to kill Medicare” and “Paul Ryan is going to throw Granny off the cliff.” Scaremongering has always worked, to some extent, for Democrats.

Medicare, as you know it, has already been totally changed by the Democrats in  ObamaCare. ObamaCare is law.  It just hasn’t taken effect yet. The outrageous distortions about the Ryan Medicare reform plan are coming from the very people who are speeding up Medicare’s path to insolvency.

They had to get ObamaCare passed and make it financially plausible, so they cut Medicare reimbursements to doctors and hospitals by $575 billion, and used that to finance two massive new entitlement programs in ObamaCare.  Last month, the president proposed taking another $480 billion out of Medicare to lower the deficit. Democrats have put a hard cap on Medicare spending. No more open-ended Medicare entitlement.

Medicare—as you know it—is already gone.  Republicans are trying to reform it so that it can be preserved, not only for those age 55 and over, but as protection for everyone.

Democrats have cut payments to providers so deeply that doctors will stop taking Medicare patients or go broke.  Eighty-seven percent of doctors say they will stop seeing or will restrict the number of Medicare patients they see.

Last year. Medicare expenditures reached $523 billion, but income was only $486—leaving a $37 billion deficit in just one year. Every day 10,000 new individuals are becoming eligible for Medicare. Democrats are focused on the fact that the largest medical expenses come in the final years of life. To offer generous health-care for the rest of society, they have to whittle down the cost of old people. All those unnecessary attempts to prolong life when the old people are just going to die soon anyway can be eliminated, or at least cut back.

To make sure that the cost of Medicare is held down to pre-determined guidelines, an unaccountable, 15-member Payment Advisory Board will use price-controls to control costs. There is no recourse if you don’t like their decisions. None.

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