American Elephants

Mr. Harmonica, Toots Thielemans: “Bluesette” by The Elephant's Child
October 2, 2011, 9:17 pm
Filed under: Art, Entertainment, Music

Operation Fast and Furious, Project Gunrunner, and Lots and Lots of Questions. by The Elephant's Child

Polls show that the public is largely unaware of the growing scandal of Solargate, or Solyndra, or administration support for nonviable solar energy or if so, what the problem is.

They are probably also unaware of the scandal variously known as “Gun Walker,” “Operation Fast and Furious,” and “Project Gunrunner.”  Why the  confusion of names, I don’t know, but as scandals go, this seems to be a bad one.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) is part of the Justice Department in the Obama administration under Attorney General Eric Holder. The official story was that Project Gunrunner was merely a botched sting operation run by BATF designed to track and stop cross-border arms-trafficking.

Our neighbor to the South, Mexico, has been deep in a long, vicious war to fight seven major drug cartels at once. Mass killings and executions have been the rule, and the border has become an incredibly dangerous place.

The idea behind the operation was to allow gun dealers to sell weapons to cartel middlemen, who would then ship them to criminal gangs in Mexico, so that they could be traced or something. Nearly 2,000 weapons went south based on this taxpayer-financed program. Two of the weapons turned up at the scene of the Arizona murder of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, killed by illegal aliens in December 2010.

The whole thing was so contrary to the stated aims of the bureau that agents raised anguished protests over and over — only to be rebuffed by their superiors — according to testimony presented to the House Oversight Committee chair Darrell Issa (R-CA) who is investigating the scandal.

The White House made a big deal about weapons flowing south to Mexico, and claimed that 90% of all weapons in the hands of the cartels came from U.S. gun dealers. That argument seemed to be false, but Mexico wanted to divert attention to their loose border controls. Obama wanted to reinstate an assault-weapon ban in 2008, but said that he did not have the political capital to do it. Mr. Obama has been an advocate of gun control and has stated that he does not believe that people should be allowed to possess guns.

The acting director of ATF, Kenneth Melson was unwilling to be made a scapegoat in the affair, and testified behind closed doors to two oversight committees, accompanied by his own private attorney. ABC reported that the Justice Department tried to delay his testimony. Apparently there is involvement by other agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Homeland Security. Allowing thousands of weapons, financed by taxpayers, to cross the border and be diverted to criminal cartels while agents were ordered to stand down and not interfere.

The investigation is ongoing. There are extensive email direct connections to the White House just exposed. The Department of Justice is reportedly talking about abolishing the BATF.  ICE Agents Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila were ambushed in Mexico by members of the Zeta cartel, with at least one weapon traceable to Texas.  Administration response has been to hunker down, cover up, stonewall, rely on a compliant media and hope that nothing really comes out.

It is all confusing, and all the different operation names make it even more confusing. Who dreamed up this mess is still unknown, nor what the real intent was.  But it looks bad — very, very bad.

How To Choose a Presidential Candidate — or Not. by The Elephant's Child
October 2, 2011, 7:20 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Health Care, National Security

I don’t like the debates. The candidates are lined up like tin soldiers waiting for the media to shoot them down. The journalists attempt to ask “gotcha questions” that will trip up a candidate in some way to get an answer that will make news. The questions are shallow, and not really designed to help us learn about the candidates. The debates encourage us to focus on shallow, inconsequential, factors rather than what matters.

We all have innate reactions to people based on our own heritage and experience.  I’m not talking about racism here, nor about finding attractive members of the opposite sex attractive.  There are some people to whom each of us will instantly respond, but just  who we respond to is different for each of us.

How much of our response is innate, and how much is carefully thought through? Have we decided which are really our most important issues? There are  some issues that can be changed by an election and some that cannot. Which are most important now and most urgent? What is important to you and what simply doesn’t matter?

So what are the qualities we want in a presidential candidate? What matters? What is really important? What do we need to know before we vote? What is a deal breaker?

  1. Looks: Good Hair? Warm Smile?  Tall? Appears Fit? Youthful? If Not, Does it Matter? (Facial Hair, Short, Bald, Fat, Older?)
  2. Experience: Governor? Senate? House of Representatives? Cabinet? Successful Budget? Leadership shown? Bills Passed? Accomplishments? Private Sector or Business Experience? Honesty? Consistency? Associates?
  3. Life Story: Background? Family? Married/Single? Children? Education? Military Experience? Religion? Native State? Accent? Wealth/Poverty? Life History? Up From Poverty? Memberships? Travel Abroad?
  4. Issues: Unemployment,The Economy,  The National Debt, Spending, The Budget,  Taxes, Obama Care, Regulation, Scandals, Global Warming, Energy Costs, Crony Capitalism, Infrastructure, Entitlements, Slashing Military Budget, Afghanistan, Iraq, Middle East, Terrorism, Dodd-Frank, Sarbanes-Oxley, Libya,  Reducing Size of Government, Eliminating Departments, Space, China, Foreign Policy, The European Union, Russia, Gun Rights, Abortion, Education, College Costs, Home Prices, High Speed Rail, Social Security, Medicare, Free Trade, Green Energy, Oil and Gas Exploration, Immigration, Illegal Immigration, Environmentalism, States Rights, Balanced Budgets, Inflation, Free Market Capitalism,

I suspect this list doesn’t even begin to cover all the issues and potential issues. Tell me what I’ve left out.

Can you select out a short list of what really matters for you? Just writing down this list makes me realize that there are quite a few things I have not carefully thought through. It is very hard to think through a candidate’s attributes objectively and not emotionally.

%d bloggers like this: