American Elephants

A Constitutional Amendment Inspired by “Occupy” Demands Would Eliminate Due Process for Corporations! by The Elephant's Child

And now we have further proof of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement’s close relationship to the liberal establishment. MoveOn and ACORN have been sponsoring and supporting the encampments, President Obama has said that he supports them and their aims are one of the reasons that he ran for president, SEIU has turned up to support the various camps across the country.

Now a Democrat Congressman from Florida, Theodore Deutch, has offered a constitutional amendment in the House of Representatives that would strip American companies of all protections guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.

The amendment is aimed at curbing the free speech rights afforded third-party groups  by the Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. FEC, which was one of the few intelligible demands of the Occupy groups. It was also pretty clear from their spokesmen that they hadn’t much of a clue about the legal case nor its effects.

In spite of the violence, crime, filth and excrement of the squalorous encampments, the left still dreams that the Occupy “movement” is somehow the precursor of a revolution that will bring about the brave new world where the liberal elite can be permanently in charge.

Representative Deutch made specific reference to the protests in a news release, and stated “the days of corporate control of our democracy must end.”  Branded with the acronym OCCUPIED, the amendment states:

The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons and do not extend to for-profit corporations, limited liability companies, or other private entities established for business purposes or to promote business interests under the laws of any state, the United States, or any foreign state.

The amendment would  not apply just to the First Amendment, but to the entire Constitution. It would therefore remove the protection of the Fourth and Fifth Amendment protections.  So the federal government could wiretap company phones without warrants, seize company records or expropriate company property without due process.  Granted, the EPA is currently pretending that those protections do not exist.

The proposed amendment would apply only to private companies. Labor unions would be exempted from its flagrant infringements on constitutional liberties, as would nonprofit organizations such as Heritage or the Sierra Club. If they could figure out a way to get the conservative think tanks without affecting the Sierra Club and its ilk, I’m sure they would. The amendment would also exempt media companies and their corporate clients.

Before Citizens United law, news outlets enjoyed a monopoly on free speech which was denied to all other corporations.  GE was free to opine on current affairs by way of their media holdings while other corporations were not.

The extent to which liberal true-believers will go to deprive their opponents of their rights to freedom of speech is always amazing. They believe they are entitled to be in charge, and will go to any lengths to make it happen.

I think liberals are making a mistake to claim the Occupy movement as their own, though I am delighted to give them credit for it. I think when hazardous materials  crews had to remove 200 lbs. of excrement from the encampment in Santa Cruz, Los Angeles crews ordered to wear haz-mat uniforms to remove some 30 tons of garbage and debris from City Hall Park, the American public began to see the ‘movement’ for what it was.  If you’re going to have a movement, you need to have people who can speak clearly and have intelligible demands, and who clean up after themselves.  Representative Deutch should be ashamed of himself.

Music Break: Celtic Thunder Heritage — Heartland by The Elephant's Child
November 30, 2011, 5:25 pm
Filed under: Entertainment, Music

Obama Administration Seals Records of Murdered Border Patrol Agent. by The Elephant's Child

Amid Congressional calls for the resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder in connection with the Fast and Furious scandal that allowed firearms to be smuggled into Mexico, the Obama administration abruptly sealed court records containing alarming details about how Mexican drug smugglers murdered a U.S. Border Patrol agent with a gun connected to the failed federal experiment.

Information will now be kept from the public as well as the media.  The rifle used to kill federal agent Brian Terry last December is part of the scandalous Operation Fast and Furious. It was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF), an agency of the Justice Department, that forced gun dealers to sell thousands of weapons to known gun runners so they could eventually be traced to Mexican drug cartels.

Questions abound about this strange operation, and the associated Project Gunrunner.  The “most transparent” administration in history again is attempting to skirt the law.  If they can’t get what they want from Congress, they’ll just do it by executive order, or sealing the records, or some other way. This administration seems to have no respect for the Constitutional separation of powers.

What’s Going On in Iran? by The Elephant's Child

Michael Ledeen has written the most interesting commentary on the spate of explosions in or near an Iranian military installation — or nuclear research facility, or Revolutionary guards base, or missile base — the mullahs can’t make up their minds what to say.

The mullahcracy is so intensely divided that different ‘spokesmen’ from different ministries/ news outlets/ cults/ mafias put out different versions.  There was an explosion, or at least ‘the sound of an explosion,’ it was just the sound of our fierce military training. Then again, yes, there was something, but not to worry, just go home and shut up.  And so it goes in the Islamic Republic of Iran, as our president so loves to call his intended international partners.

I’ve been reporting for many months about the ongoing sabotage of pipelines, refineries, military sites, Revolutionary Guards’ aircraft and trains, and groups of regime thugs. and have received the usual cold shoulder from publications “of record,” which is to say silent sneers.  But the tempo of attacks, most notably the monster blast a week ago that vaporized General Moghaddam and his foreign visitors (at least some of whom had taken the shuttle from Pyongyang to be with him on what they wrongly expected would be a happy day) led the Washington Post’s man in Tehran, Thomas Erdbrink, to note the phenomenon in a useful story entitled “Mysterious Explosions Pose Dilemma for Iranian leaders.”  He gives us a pretty good rundown of the explosions, and, living as he does in Tehran, gives ample space to regime “explanations” such as bad welding, western sanctions, and so forth.  Given the number of foreign journalists who have come to a bad end in Iran, you’d do the same.

Do read the whole thing.  Most of the news we get about Iran is scary and confusing. Dr. Ledeen comes close to making sense of this strange, fanatical, conspiratorial, repressive, corrupt, rebellious society.  I can’t say that he is comforting, but at least he isn’t fantasizing about the president’s non-existent foreign policy, nor assuming that we can just all be friends if we are nicer to them than George W. Bush was. It’s a pretty clear-eyed assessment.

ADDENDUM: Britain has closed its embassy in Iran and evacuated all its staff from that country following the attack on their embassy in Tehran on Tuesday.  Britain has also ordered Iran to close its embassy in London immediately, and its staff has been given 48 hours to leave, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said today in a strongly worded statement to Parliament.

Experts Predict the Collapse of the Solar Industry! by The Elephant's Child

Industry experts are predicting a massive round of bankruptcies for hundreds of American solar firms, as the market for solar panels begins to collapse.  Declining demand, and massive oversupply are leading to dropping prices for solar panels.

The supply side of the equation has been exacerbated by the heavy hand of government that — handing out big subsidies and grants — has attempted to pick winners and losers in a free market system.  Solar energy is not cost effective.  It requires full-time backup for those times when the sun doesn’t shine, like cloudy days and — night.  Sunshine may be free, but electricity made from solar rays is not. Without subsidy, the solar industry simply doesn’t exist.

This paper from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) attempts to show the national levelized costs for different generating technologies. It is a modelling and forecasting exercise, so it may not have much relation to the real world, but it’s interesting as a comparison that attempts to get at what things really cost.

Two high profile companies have gone bankrupt — Solyndra and Evergreen — and more are expected to follow. Of the few hundred solar panel makers worldwide, analysts expect that only around 20 will survive. Many are accusing China of dumping solar panels at bargain prices, but China too is suffering from the lack of demand and declining prices. The technology is the same, but China has a vast supply of cheap labor.

What these analysts do not include is the entire rationale for solar energy. If the case for global warming collapses — and it is collapsing — then the case for subsidizing inefficient and expensive solar energy collapses as well.  Add to that the world’s new-found abundance of shale deposits of oil and natural gas, and vast new fields in Brazil and Israel. The energy picture has changed dramatically.

The coming bankruptcies of solar companies will include many companies backed by taxpayer financing.  Solyndra was just the beginning.

Chris Christie Asks Obama:”What the Hell Are We Paying You For?” by The Elephant's Child

The outspoken Governor of New Jersey speaks out! Assertive. No Pussyfooting around.  Do we admire it so much because we’re too timid to speak out ourselves?

The EPA’s Outrageous Power Grab! Lisa Jackson Must Be Stopped. by The Elephant's Child

The Obama EPA has decreed that “America’s fleet of passenger cars will have to meet an average mileage of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, which will double today’s requirement of about 27 mpg.” The EPA’s director Lisa Jackson is way out of line, and assuming powers not granted to her or her agency.

Lisa Jackson has tossed aside some 35 years of Congressional prerogatives.  In 2007, Congress raised the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard with a bill requiring the U.S. fleet to hit 35 mpg by 2020, which was a 40% increase.  The theory is that the EPA has declared carbon dioxide a “pollutant,.” and because cars emit CO2, Ms. Jackson is depending on the Clean Air Act in her bid to issue commands to Detroit.

The issue of CAFE standards was previously the charge of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  NHTSA was charged by Congress with taking into account vehicle safety and a rule’s effect on the economy and consumer demand. The rule would reduce the mass of a car by 15% tp 25%. decreasing safety. Vehicles that cost $15,000 or less would be regulated out of existence.

The only way Detroit can hit these averages will be by turning at least 25% of its fleet into hybrids, which is undoubtedly the intention.  Hybrid sales peaked two years ago at 3% of the market and are declining.

Humans also emit CO2, every time we exhale. With something like 330,000,000 of us breathing out, that must be a fair amount of CO2.  Ms. Jackson has no authority to overrule Congress. The whole thing is silly — since carbon dioxide is NOT a pollutant, but a colorless, odorless gas that helps plants to grow and resist drought. The Clean Air Act is designed to curb pollutants, not to make up out of whole cloth claims that benign things are damaging to health, in order to increase the power of the EPA.   Other than that, the Wall Street Journal reports that even the EPA’s low estimates show that the rule would cost $157 billion and raise the price of cars by about $3,100 per vehicle.

This is an outstanding example of the general wrongheadedness of the Obama administration. There is no respect for the Constitutional separation of powers, no respect for the rule of law. The normal legislative process is viewed as an inconvenience that is to be avoided or gotten around, so that the administration can achieve their aims without interference. The arrogance of the administration assumes that the administration knows best, rather than the American people.  Congress needs to respond to this power grab, to restore the rule of law, and put the out-of-control EPA in its place.

The rationale behind this move seems to be a firm belief in a nonexistent global warming, caused by our cars’ emissions of CO2. But  any alarming warming exists only in the computer models of climate, not in the real world. The CO2 in the atmosphere arises from the oceans, and the small amounts of warming precede the rise in CO2 by as much as 300 years.  We have had far greater amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere in the past, and are currently at a low point. We need more CO2, not less, to help feed the hungry people of the world.

Iran Again: Attacking Two British Embassy Compounds. by The Elephant's Child

In Iran:  protesters stormed two British diplomatic compounds in Tehran, smashing windows, throwing petrol bombs and burning the British flag in protest against the sanctions imposed by London.

Britain, Canada and the United States have imposed new unilateral sanctions on Iran this week, while the EU, France and Italy have all said  financial measures against Tehran should be strengthened.  London banned all British financial institutions from doing business with their Iranian counterparts — including the Central Bank of Iran.

Iran is the fifth biggest oil exporter in the world.  The embassy storming is a clear sign of greater political infighting within Iran’s ruling hardline elites.  The conservative controlled parliament is trying to force the hand of President Ahmadinejad and expel the British ambassador. The hardliners in Iran will use the crisis to unite people and to blame the crisis for the failures of their own economy.

Iran, of course, claims that it only wants nuclear plants to create electricity. That is why the mysterious explosions at known missile development sites is international news. And why they have sought help from North Korea, Pakistan, and Russia.

Several dozen protesters broke away from the crowd of a few hundred people outside the main British embassy compound in downtown Tehran, climbed over the gates, broke the locks and went inside. They pulled down the British flag and burned it, and raised an Iranian flag in its place. They smashed windows, took a framed picture of Queen Elizabeth, carried off the royal crest as  police stood by, and set a car on fire.

Another group broke into a compound that was once the embassy’s summer quarters, and is now used to house diplomatic staff.  Six embassy employees were held briefly. A German school next to the Qolhak compound was also damaged.

Britain is outraged. Nations are required to protect the embassies of other countries. Iran has clearly indicated that it has no intention of giving up its nuclear efforts. The question is whether sanctions can make a difference. The Iranian government has attempted to keep channels of negotiation open in an effort to limit the worst effects of sanctions, but shown no sign of backing down.

I wish I had more confidence in the understanding and capability of my government.

R.I.P. Lana Peters: Stalin’s Only Daughter Dies at Age 85. by The Elephant's Child
November 29, 2011, 6:52 am
Filed under: Communism, History, Russia, The United States | Tags: , ,

Lana Peters was born Svetlana Alliluyeva Stalina. She was the only daughter of Joseph Stalin. She grew up in the Kremlin, where she was Stalin’s “Little Sparrow.”Her life was spent in the shadow of the man who helped to establish Soviet communism., and killed far more people than Hitler, who gets far more public opprobrium.

Her mother shot herself when Svetlana was 6, after her parents argued at a banquet, although Svetlana didn’t learn that until she was a teenager.

In 1929 Stalin demanded “the eradication of all kulak tendencies and the elimination of the kulaks as a class.” It was in effect a war declared on a nation of smallholding farmers. More than 2 million peasants were deported, 6 million died of hunger, and hundreds of thousands died of deportation.  That was followed by the Great Famine, when more than 6 million people in the Ukraine and the Northern Caucasus died of forced starvation in one of the darkest periods of Soviet Russia.

That was followed by the Great Terror, which in turn was followed by the Great Purge of the Red Army, which left Soviet Russia very short of experienced military officers for their battle against Nazi Germany.  Svetlana described seeing her father die of a stroke in 1953.  As the USSR began reforms under Khrushchev, her life became increasingly difficult and she dropped her father’s name in favor of her mother’s, Alliluyeva.

In 1967 Ms. Alliluyeva defected to the U.S.,with a manuscript of her memoir in hand.Her memoir “Twenty Letters to a Friend” was an international best seller, as was a sequel “Only One Year” which described her defection to the U.S. via India.  She had traveled there to deposit the ashes of her third husband, a prominent Indian communist, in the Ganges.

She became a U.S. citizen, and settled in Princeton N.J. She visited Taliesin West on an invitation from Frank Lloyd Wright’s widow, where she met and married architect William Peters, a Wright protégé. They had a daughter, though they soon split. In 1984, Ms. Peters returned to the USSR, reuniting with her son, a physician. She denounced the West as starkly as she had once denounced her homeland. She stuck that out for two years, and then returned to the US.

She eventually settled in Richland Center, Wisconsin, where she lived in obscurity in a one-room apartment.  She lived always in the shadow of her father’s life. It was not an easy history to bear.

Mysterious Middle Eastern Events: Waiting for the Fog to Clear. by The Elephant's Child

Nearly two weeks ago, a mysterious explosion destroyed an Iranian missile development base. The Israeli Military reported on the effect of that explosion, and on the same day, Iran’s official news agency FARS reported that a loud blast was heard in the Iranian city of Isfahan at 2:40 pm local time. A security official confirmed that the explosion had occurred, but refused to give further details. The head of the security department said “we have no exact information; the incident is being investigated.”

FARS news agency said that the blast was heard distinctly in several parts of the Iranian city. they posted a picture from an April bomb attack in Kashmir, and subsequently took it down. The Iranian regime announced that there was no explosion in Isfahan. Members of the Green democracy movement confirm, that there was indeed an explosion in Isfahan. So there you have the news from Iran.

Israeli military intelligence reported earlier today on the last explosion in Iran, which destroyed a missile technology production site at a military base in Tehran which killed one of Iran’s heads of the missile projects:

The blast in the site where surface-to-surface missiles were developed can delay or bring to a complete halt the production of the missiles at that site,” said head of the Directorate of Military Intelligence Research Section Department Brigadier General Itai Baron at a briefing in the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

“However,” Baron cautioned, “It must be emphasized that Iran has other development sites other than the one that was destroyed.”

So, accident, bad luck, incompetence, Iranian opposition, some outside source?  Who knows? According to one blog, at least 17 gas pipeline explosions have been reported since last year. Nearly a dozen major explosions have damaged refineries since 2010. Michael Ledeen suggests that the opposition is abandoning its commitment to non-violence.  J.E. Dyer says the attacks seem to be poorly designed, if that’s what they are, but the idea of a war against the mullahs seems a possible explanation.

It’s all speculation at this point. The Middle East is aflame from one end to the other. Not exactly the “Arab Spring” of fantasy. Assad is living on borrowed time, Egypt is near revolution and running out of money, the Muslim Brotherhood is winning across the Arab countries. Saudi Arabia is worried about the development of shale oil. Lots of inspiration for thriller authors, lots of confusion for the rest of us.

Obama Gives Up On Jobs, Abandons “White Working Class.”” by The Elephant's Child

In an article in The New York Times, discretely titled “The Future of the Obama Coalition,” preparations by Democrat operatives for the 2012 election make it clear that for the first time the party will explicitly abandon the white working class. Well, I suppose that the white working class, very large numbers of whom aren’t actually working, might have soured a bit on the Obama Coalition.

  • 13.9 million unemployed, that’s an unemployment rate ranging from 9% to 9.2%
  • The long-term unemployed (27+ weeks) number 5.9 million.
  • Those who are working part-time but want full-time employment — 8.9 million.
  • And that doesn’t count those who are just discouraged and not looking.

All pretense of trying to win a majority of the white working class has been abandoned. But just what is “the working class” — that sounds like a communist designation. I would think that it includes anyone who works, but, oh yes, they limited it by race. It’s the white working class.  Blacks and other minorities who have way higher—around 15% — unemployment rates, will be presumed to follow the party line, even if Obama is killing their employment prospects right and left. Apparently he thinks they’re not educated enough to grasp that.

The former are to be jettisoned “in favor of cementing a center-left coalition made up, on the one hand of voters who have gotten ahead on the basis of educational attainment —professors, artists, designers, editors, human resources managers, lawyers, librarians, social workers, teachers and therapists — and a second, substantial constituency of lower-income voters (presumably without educational attainment) who are Obama Gives Up disproportionately African-American and Hispanic.”

“The 2012 approach treats white voters without college degrees as an unattainable cohort.” Poor jerks just aren’t educated enough to appreciate the wonderfulness of the Obama record and all his stunning accomplishments?

The better-off wing…puts at the top of its political agenda a cluster of rights related to self-expression, the environment, demilitarization, and importantly, freedom from repressive norms — governing both sexual behavior and women’s role in society — that are promoted by the conservative movement.

While demographic trends suggest the continued growth of pro-Democratic constituencies and the continued decline of core Republican voters, particularly married white Christians, there is no guarantee that demography is destiny.

I don’t understand this kind of thinking. I was brought up in an America that was not divided up by “class.” I’ve known people well who have no more than a 3rd grade education, and extremely rich people as well, and if I classify them, it’s about character and decency, not some kind of elitism.  I’ve known quite a few PhDs who were a little lacking in the character department.  In 2008, Obama was all about Hope and Change, and claimed that he would bring people together. That didn’t work so well, so he’s trying a different tack.

Bye-Bye, Barney Frank! by The Elephant's Child

Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) announced today that he is stepping down.  A tireless advocate for progressive causes, and a long time bane of the GOP.  He is the ranking member on the powerful  financial services committee, co-author of the unfortunate  financial regulation bill — the Dodd-Frank Bill.  It is his ties to the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that are his most notable mistakes. President Bush called for reform of these two agencies 17 times in 2008 alone.

Fannie and Freddie bought bad loans, guaranteed them, pressured bond-rating agencies, and ignored experience, restraint and regulation. The massive losses of $2 trillion killed the economy.  Barney Frank’s response:

These two entities — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — are not facing any kind of financial crisis. The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.

The administration warned about the growing financial problems at these agencies and offered plans to reduce the risk in 2001, 2002, 2003 ( a banner year-Fannie had to declare a $1.2 billion accounting error), 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, and the problems grew larger. The Democrat controlled Congress fiercely resisted any change.

Barney Frank and Chris Dodd drew up a financial reform  bill that does not address the problems of Fannie and Freddie, nor does it address the enormous problem of “too big to fail.” No meaningful regulatory reforms, no strong consumer protections and doesn’t address the Community Reinvestment Act that began the whole thing.

The departure of Mr. Frank does not solve much of anything. The ranking member of the powerful financial services committee will be Maxine Waters (D-CA), who asked the heads of Goldman Sachs and State Street questions about how these investment banks set the limits on their (nonexistent) consumer credit cards. She asked Ken Lewis, CEO of Bank of America, a question about “offshore loss mitigation caps” a term no one had ever heard of before. But her most notable moment was captured on YouTube:

There you go.  This congresswoman believes that the government has the right to simply seize control of a private industry.  Not promising.

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