American Elephants

Obama’s High-Speed Rail “Not Financially Feasible”…says California by The Elephant's Child

When the California Legislature signed on for the most expensive public-works project in American history,  in a moment of sanity they created an independent review board to ensure that the Los Angeles to San Francisco high-speed rail project would have a solid financial basis.  Yesterday the California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group sent a “scathing letter” to the political leadership in Sacramento urged delay in borrowing billions for the bullet train.  They said the high-speed rail program “is not financially feasible.” Support for the proposed $98.5 billion train as shifted according to recent polls.

Gov. Jerry Brown has said he will ask the Legislature in the coming months to issue the first batch of $9 billion in voter-approved bonds for a high-speed rail network that backers say will create jobs, help the environment and transform the state’s economy.

Once the state exhausts the $9 billion in available bonds and $3.3 billion in federal grants, there is no certainty about how the rest of the project is supposed to be funded.

The panel includes private-sector financial experts, a University of California dean of engineering, a former Caltrans director and a local government representative. Their warnings are likely to weigh heavily on lawmakers as they consider the project in coming months, said Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), a longtime supporter of high-speed rail who has grown increasingly concerned about the project. Simitian has raised the possibility of putting the entire project on hold for a year to reevaluate the current plan.

All sorts of experts on high-speed rail, light rail, mass transportation have weighed in on this project for years. The first very expensive stretch is supposed to run between two small towns in the Central Valley, and if I remember correctly, every independent review of the project has said it wouldn’t work.  Another Green Fantasy — because “we must get  people out of their cars.”

The frightening thing is that governments seem to be impervious to new information. They become enchanted with their big project, and nothing will dissuade them or Governor Brown.

Brown spokesman Gil Duran said in an e-mail that the Peer Review Group’s report “does not appear to add any arguments that are new or compelling enough to suggest a change in course.”

California’s broke, businesses are leaving California in droves, the state-mandated review board tells them it can’t work.  Nevermind.


“Turning the Page On A Decade of War”And Gutting the Military! by The Elephant's Child

Oh Gawd, it’s “peace dividend” time again!  Obama made a rare trip to the Pentagon, flanked by his four service chiefs and his Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and saying that:

The United States of America is the greatest force for freedom and security that the world has ever known. And in no small measure, that’s because we’ve built the best-trained, best-led, best-equipped military in history — and as Commander-in-Chief, I’m going to keep it that way.

Uh huh, and then he proceeded with a lot of how wonderful our military is, and all the historic investments we’ve made in the military, the usual lovely baritone meaningless words, at which point he bragged on his administration:

And thanks to their extraordinary service, we’ve ended our war in Iraq. We’ve decimated al Qaeda’s leadership. We’ve delivered justice to Osama bin Laden, and we’ve put that terrorist network on the path to defeat. We’ve made important progress in Afghanistan, and we’ve begun to transition so Afghans can assume more responsibility for their own security. We joined allies and partners to protect the Libyan people as they ended the regime of Muammar Qaddafi.

And having congratulated himself, he said “Now we’re turning the page on a decade of war:” His words paint a pretty picture of how our splendid military has done a wonderful job and now we need to slash defense, gut the military, eliminate weapons. The White House settled on $450 billion in cuts in the military budget last year with Congress through 2021, on top of $350 billion in weapons programs killed earlier.  Defense spending will fall by 1% next year, and another $500 billion in possible cuts starting next January unless Congress steps in first.

It was left to Defense Secretary Leon Pannetta to deal with “the savings we have been mandated to achieve.” Panetta said in an earlier statement that the ordered cuts would lead to a “hollow” military. The Navy will shrink from today’s 300 vessels to 238 and would lose two carrier battle groups. Strategic bombers will fall from 153 to 101. Air Force fighters would drop by more than half from 3,602 aircraft to 1,512 planes. And apparently our nuclear arsenal will be cut as well.

The military is a huge bureaucracy and of course there are savings that can be made.  This is not about that, but about politics. The budget is out of control, and the president refuses to rein in entitlements, the really big problem. He won’t  rein in either the energy department or the EPA, not cut back on his subsidies for his clean energy fantasy. He still wants to do infrastructure. Every effort to cut back on spending is met with fierce resistance from the White House, but the Left does not like the military, and does not really grasp the need for one.

Obama has apologized to the world for American power and success, and succeeded only  in convincing the world that America is a hollow giant with a weak indecisive leader. The entire Mediterranean is a tinder keg, taken over by the Muslim Brotherhood. Iran is close to developing a nuclear weapon, yet with an increasingly restive population. Syria is aflame and Assad continues slaughtering his people.  China is developing a carrier force, and growing its military apace. Obama is surrendering to the Taliban in Afghanistan, and his pullout of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq may well destroy all our accomplishments there. Iran is threatening to close the Straits of Hormuz, and working hard in South America and Mexico to create trouble.

We have a long history of “Peace Dividends,” always disastrous and leaving more young lives destroyed. A weak country invites aggression.

The President is Playing Politics With The Constitution and the Law. by The Elephant's Child

Unable to allow Republicans to dominate the news with the Iowa Caucuses,  President Obama traveled to Shaker Heights, Ohio to give a speech at the high school, on the economy.  What made the news was not the soaring rhetoric, but the fact that the President of the United States announced his intention to act in total and utter disregard to the U.S.Constitution, which he solemnly swore to preserve, protect and defend. He said:

When Congress refuses to act and as a result hurts our economy and puts people at risk, I have an obligation as President to act without them.

The President’s power over what are called “recess appointments” comes from Article II, section 2, of the Constitution, which grants him the authority “to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.” As John Yoo points out,”the Senate adjourns for short periods of time, and the question becomes when does an “adjournment” become long enough to turn into a “recess?”

In the past Attorneys General and Presidents have thought that an adjournment would have to be longer than at least 10 days to become a “recess.” In the Founders’ day, it took a long time to get from Philadelphia to their home states and back by horseback, and it was pretty clear. The Senate is not officially in adjournment, but is holding “pro forma” meetings, where little or no business is conducted,  to prevent Obama from making exactly such appointments. This is a tactic that Harry Reid used to prevent George W. Bush from making “recess” appointments.

It is the Senate who decides whether or not they are in session,  it is not up to the President. He cannot decide the legitimacy of the actions of the Senate, nor can the Congress have the right to decide whether the President has thought long enough about granting a pardon. Separation of powers is an important and essential characteristic of our Constitution, and not only protects the authority of each branch of government, but acts as a brake on their actions.

Roger Pilon of the Cato Institute says that the president, under Article II, section 2, may make temporary recess appointments — but only when the Senate is in recess. Mr. Pilon said:

All of Obama’s appointments yesterday are illegal under the Constitution. And, in addition, as too little noted by the media, his appointment of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is legally futile. Under the plain language of the Dodd-Frank Act that created the CFPB, Cordray will have no authority whatsoever.

He added: “So what is this? It’s politics — Chicago politics, plain and simple.  If any doubt remained, three years into his presidency, that Obama is a master demagogue, with class warfare as his central tool, this incident should dispel it.

Richard Epstein adds that” within the framework of the current law, …it is for the Senate and not for the President to determine whether the Senate is in session. The usual view in all cases is that the internal rules of each institution govern its operations, and for the President to say that the Senate is not in session when the Senate says that is is, introduces a set of constitutional confrontations that we would be far better off doing without.”

Epstein questions the whole idea of “recess appointments,” though he agrees with John Yoo on the Constitution and the law.  It’s a thoughtful discussion.

The Supreme Court has held that the National Labor Relations Board cannot operate with only two members, so the question of legitimate appointments will not go away. Neither the President’s appointments to the NLRB nor his appointment of Richard Cordray to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will have any authority, so there will be more court cases. Anyone who disagrees with rulings by these people will be free to ignore them or to sue.

Press secretary Jay Carney said today that :

We hope to work with Congress to continue to take action on that to continue to grow the economy and create jobs. Separate from that, and this was the case last year and will be the case this year, we can’t wait for Congress to act.  And when Congress refuses to act, and Republicans choose the path of obstruction rather that cooperation, then the president is not going to sit here, this gridlock in Washington is not an excuse for inaction.

He’s going to take the actions that he can take using his executive authority to help the cause here, to help Americans deal with this challenging economy.  And they can be small, medium or large actions and they don’t have to be just executive authority actions.

If you pay attention to the President’s actions and not his rhetoric, it’s clear that he has no idea how to improve the unemployment situation. Business has pointed out that ObamaCare is the number one reason for business’ reluctance to hire. Obama has essentially shut down the energy sector and thousands of potential jobs because he is pursuing a green fantasy. His agencies cannot stop piling on regulations that make for an uncertain business climate. Our corporate taxes are the highest in the world. It’s no wonder that business looks to conducting their business where they are better treated.

The late Walter Wriston said it very clearly:

Capital will go where it is wanted and stay where it is well treated.  It will flee from manipulation or onerous regulation of its value or use and no government power can restrain it for long.

You might copy that off and send it to your Congressman or Occupy protester.

When Does Requiring Photo ID Discriminate? by The Elephant's Child

Attorney General Eric Holder was going to pursue the state of South Carolina for its discriminatory treatment of minority voters by requiring them to show photo ID in order to vote. South Carolina’s voter ID law requires a voter to present a South Carolina driver’s license or other photo ID — a passport, military ID or a voter registration card with a photo issued by South Carolina election officials.

If a voter shows up to vote without an acceptable ID, he can fill out a provisional ballot that will be counted if he brings an ID to election officials before the results are certified. If a voter has a reasonable impediment that prevents him from getting a free photo ID, then he can simply fill out an affidavit in which he outlines his objection and swears that he is who he says he is. The state made the error of submitting the change in the law to the Department of Justice instead of an impartial court. The Civil Rights Division of the DOJ sees discrimination and racial prejudice around every corner, and their objections are based on politics, not facts.

The rules for applying for Medicaid should be brought to the attention of the DOJ.  Federal law requires that new Medicaid enrollees as well as those completing their annual eligibility review provide proof of citizenship, nationality and identity.  One of three documents can be used to satisfy the federal requirement: a U.S. passport; a Certificate of Naturalization; or a Certificate of U.S. Citizenship.  Applicants lacking one of these documents can satisfy the requirement by showing a birth certificate, adoption decrees along with a photo ID such as a driver’s license, an ID card issued by the federal, state of local government like a passport or military ID.   South Carolinians applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) also have to provide proof of identity and address such as a driver’s license, picture ID, birth certificate or other proof of identity and current address.

So you see, the requirements imposed by the federal government on poor minorities are more restrictive than the requirements imposed by the state of South Carolina which, when applied to the voting process are somehow a violation of federal law.  The Department of Justice, once again, makes this Administration look foolish and incompetent.

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