American Elephants

The Tangled Web of “So-Called Scandals” by The Elephant's Child

In theory, Democrats should be as disturbed by the IRS scandal as Republicans. Yes, most of the IRS politicized tax enforcement was directed at the Tea Party, anything with names like “patriot” or “liberty” or “freedom,” “Constitution,” nefarious names that clearly indicate right-wing extremism, for quite obviously if Republicans regain a majority, there’s tit for tat, or turnabout’s fair play or plain old “payback,” not that they would, but they might. Democrats are more concerned with the immediacy of the attacks on the Obama administration, which cannot, by definition, do anything wrong.

We have the “so-called scandals” which just deny the whole thing, but that’s not likely to work, so they have switched to the concept that the real IRS scandal is the use by conservatives of 501(c) tax status as a shield for political advocacy. The 501 (c) designation is supposed to be, they say, for “social welfare,” not anything “partisan.”

Professor Richard Epstein points out that the criteria for Section 501 (c)(4) organizations are open-ended. Few complex organizations are operated exclusively for any single purpose, and many applicants have different ideas of what counts as “social welfare.”So you have loose standards and thousands of applications.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administrations reported on May 14 that the Exempt Office of the IRS actions were not politically biased, but were attributable to the confusion of lower staff members who for three years, had never quite understood their job assignments. This is what we politely called, in my childhood, “road apples.” The delays and nitpicking questions were specifically designed to hold off approval until after the November 2012 elections.

Epstein says that the larger disease of which IRS misbehavior is only a symptom, is something that has taken root in many of the major administrative agencies in the United States — permit power.

Private individuals are not allowed to engage in certain activities or to claim certain benefits without the approval of some major government agency. The standards for approval are nebulous at best, which makes it hard for any outside reviewer to overturn the agency’s decision on a particular application.

That power also gives the agency discretion to drag out its review, since few individuals or groups are foolhardy enough to jump the gun and set up shop without obtaining the necessary approvals first. It takes literally a few minutes for a skilled government administrator to demand information that costs millions of dollars to collect and that can tie up a project for years. That delay becomes even longer for projects that need approval from multiple agencies at the federal or state level, or both.

Professor Epstein offers the mission statement of the FDA as an example” “The FDA is responsible for protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation’s food supply, cosmetics and products that emit radiation.” Absolutes are unattainable, and there is a whole universe of gray area there. How safe is safe enough, how deadly are side effects, how many trials are needed. The mission statement allows the agency to slow down, for years, any approval or disapproval.

501(c)(3) organizations are barred from partisan campaign activities. Media Matters for America, a left-wing agitprop organization uses that cover for its daily attacks on conservatives. The Center for American Progress, which was supposed to be the left-wing think tank to match the Heritage Foundation has both 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) designations and has never had so much as a non-partisan thought pretty much demolishes the “social welfare” argument. Under the 501(c)(4) designation, organized labor had spent, as reported by the Journal in July 2012 $4.4 billion on politics and lobbying since 2005, mostly funded by union dues. Democrats always include a carve-out for unions in their proposals to require disclosure of political spending, and demonstrates why they are so furious about the Supreme Court Citizens United decision.

Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.

IRS Commissioner Shulman Visited the White House 157 Times, But Nobody Noticed. by The Elephant's Child

Former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman visited the White House at least 157 times during the Obama administration. That’s more visits than any member of the president’s cabinet. Shulman’s predecessor Mark Everson visited the White House once during four years of service in the George W. Bush administration. But Mr. Shulman testified in March that the IRS was not targeting conservative groups.

He was asked what some of the reasons might be that he was at the White House. He answered “Um, the Easter Egg Roll with my kids, our budget, helping the Department of Education streamline application processes for financial aid. ”

Attorney General Eric Holder, the president’s friend and loyal lieutenant logged 62 visits. But they didn’t discuss targeting conservative organizations, no Tea Party groups, no targeting groups favoring Israel ( at least five groups have been audited by the IRS) but they didn’t talk about that either. Nobody knows just who he visited or why he was there, but it surely didn’t have anything to do with this seemingly vast array of conservative groups who were selected out for delay, audits, prying questions about their finances, members, friends of members, meetings, agendas, reading material, delay, names and addresses, and more delay. It’s just a puzzlement.

The World Needs Genetically Modified Food! by The Elephant's Child


For most people last weekend was the observance of Memorial Day, a time to remember the fallen. For the easily aroused, it was a time to march in a global protest against Monsanto and genetically modified seeds. Well, the global warming thingy is in freefall as a protest message, since most people are noticing that it is significantly cooling (where is summer anyway?), with late snow to emphasize the fact. Are the protesters always just the same people? The pictures look like it. Is there a certain type who just loves to march and wave signs?

Organizers said  “March Against Monsanto” demonstrations were being held in some 300 cities in more than 44 countries that weekend.  It was described as a social media-generated call to action against genetically modified foods and the multinational corporations that produce them. Goodness, you alter a gene to include vitamin A in rice, creating “golden rice,”which will save millions from blindness, and the perennially suspicious go bonkers.

Genetically modified seeds help farmers to grow more on less land, and to conserve resources such as water and energy. Some supporters just want any foods grown from GMO seeds to be so labeled, others want to prohibit the process. Proposition 37, a ballot measure that would have made California the first state to require labels on fresh produce and processed foods whose DNA had been modified by scientists, was defeated at the polls.

Unsurprisingly, much of the misinformation on GMO crops comes from promoters of Organic Food. “Organic” is merely a marketing campaign. Multiple studies have shown no benefits of any kind from organic food, other than the higher prices it brings to marketers, and Whole Foods.

Demographers expect world population to keep growing until about 2050, and then start declining. The industrialized nations , for the most part, have declining birth rates, and as prosperity increases, that seems to be the natural tendency. Until 2050, we need to produce more food to feed the world. If the world continues to cool, we might desperately need GMO foods that are more adapted to cold. Varieties of  grains adapted to particular soils or climates can dramatically increase production. Reducing the cost of weed control, or reducing susceptibility to a virus, can be a very big deal. Reducing pesticide use makes food healthier. Adding beta carotene to golden rice could prevent millions of cases of blindness. Do people not recognize that countries like Egypt cannot feed their own population?

Growers and marketers are sensitive to the protests of activist groups. They have seen foolish scares do tremendous damage to their businesses. Remember the cranberry scare, Alar, and activists attempting to destroy crops? Here’s some information on genetically modified food:

The World Needs Genetically Modified Food” WSJ, April 14, 2013

The  Top 5 Lies About Biotech Crops” Reason, Feb. 22, 2013

Organic industry’s credibility eroded by misinformation about GE foods”  American Enterprise Institute, May 20, 2013

Economist John Taylor on the Ethics of Wealth by The Elephant's Child

Professor John Taylor, who teaches at Stanford and is a fellow at the Hoover Institution, has served as an economic policy adviser to a number of presidents. He’s a big-picture guy and definitely someone to listen to. He finds our current economy disturbing. He is also an economic freedom guy. “Democracy” he often reminds others, “is not a spectator sport.”

Stanford economist John Taylor spoke March 14 as part of the Center for Ethics in Society’s “Ethics of Wealth” series. In this lecture John B. Taylor puts forth the view that government actions and interventions are themselves a major cause of domestic economic problems. Drawing on the history of economic policy during the past 50 years and empirical evidence on the impact of specific policy actions, Taylor shows that cutting back on those government interventions that suppress competition, blunt incentives, and encourage regulatory capture can be expected to increase real income growth, reduce unemployment, and alleviate poverty.

This is a fairly long lecture, and worth every minute, so plan to take the time. You’ll be glad you did.

Useful Quotations for Today’s World: by The Elephant's Child

From Australian Climate Scientist Ian Plimer:

“The mind is like a parachute. It only works when it’s open.”

Attorney General Holder is Ordered to Investigate—Eric Holder by The Elephant's Child


The House Judiciary Committee is investigating whether Attorney General Eric Holder lied under earth during his May 15 testimony on the Justice Department’s (DOJ) surveillance of reporters.

During a back and forth with Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) about whether the DOJ could prosecute reporters under the Espionage Act of 1917 — “In regard to potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material—this is not something I’ve every been involved in, heard of,or would think would be wise policy” Holder said in his testimony.

NBC News reported the following week that Holder personally approved a search warrant that named Fox News chief Washington correspondent James Rosen a co-conspirator in a national security leaks case.

John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee said that Holder was “forthright” with the panel and there was “no need to turn a policy disagreement into allegations of misconduct.”

Rep James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI) said Holder should resign. He said the attorney general had misled the panel during the “Fast and Furious” gun-walking operation, and again in claiming no knowledge of the AP probe.

President Obama has said he is “troubled” and argued that”journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs.” He ordered Holder to review his department’s guidelines for DOJs surveillance of reporters. In other words, he asked Holder to investigate Holder.

In the meantime, “Fast and Furious” is heating up again. This is the operation that allowed large quantities of guns to be “walked” across the border, and which Mexican Drug cartels used to kill hundreds of Mexican citizens and one American Border Agent.

The DOJ Inspector General released a report blasting a government leak intended to smear a key ATF whistleblower. The leaked memorandum was aimed at discrediting Special Agent John Dodson and contradicting his damaging testimony before Congress, about the federal program that put thousands of high-powered weapons in the hands of Mexican criminals. Disgraced former U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, one of the officials in the administration’s lawless gun-trafficking scheme., was furious when whistleblowers had gone to Congress and the media, but he was particularly angry because Dodson had written a memo outlining the plot to allow guns to “walk” across the border— and into the hands of the drug cartel.

Burke, who left the department in 2011, refused to be  interviewed for the investigation, and claimed that he had no intention of retaliating, but was concerned that congressional investigators were acting as “willing stooges” for defenders of the right to keep and bear arms. Incredibly the violence of Fast and Furious — U.S. law enforcement officers killed and hundreds of Mexican citizens massacred — was used to push for more gun control in the United States, according to official documents.

Evidence continues to come out that Fast and Furious was much bigger than the press or the administration have admitted. Mexican drug lords have claimed that the U.S. government was shipping weapons to their cartels and allowing them to bring drugs across the border in exchange for information. The CIA’s involvement is largely concealed, and all the other major scandals means that justice for the victims of Fast and Furious may never be served.

“Don’t Know,” “Not Me,” “Not to The Best of My Memory” by The Elephant's Child

Did Barack Obama personally order the IRS to attack Republican groups, deny them
501 (c)(4) status, get their names and the names of everyone even slightly associated with them —The committees want to know how far the rot reaches. Is this only recent? And who ordered what done?

Kim Strassel of the Wall Street Journal points out that the IRS scandal started at the top. The president is fully in denial mode, noting that the IRS is an “independent” agency, but it isn’t necessary for President Obama to pick up the phone. In full view for five years, Obama has publicly suggested that conservative political groups were engaged in nefarious deeds. He has publicly called out by name political opponents he would like to see pressured into invisibility.

On Aug. 21, 2008, the Conservative American Issues Project ran an ad highlighting the ties between candidate Obama and Bill Ayers, formerly of the Weather Underground. The Obama campaign and supporters were furious, and they pressured TV stations to pull the ad — a common-enough tactic in such ad spats.

What came next was not common. Bob Bauer, general counsel for the campaign (and later general counsel for the White House), on the same day wrote to the criminal division of the Justice Department, demanding an investigation into AIP, “its officers and directors,” and its “anonymous donors.” Mr. Bauer claimed that the nonprofit, as a 501(c)(4), was committing a “knowing and willful violation” of election law, and wanted “action to enforce against criminal violations.”…

In early August 2008, the New York Times trumpeted the creation of a left-wing group a(a 501(c)(4) called Accountable America. …the group—as the story explained —would start by sending “warning ” letters to 10,000 GOP donors, “hoping to create a chilling effect that will dry up contributions.” The letters would alert “right-wing groups to a variety of potential dangers, including legal trouble, public exposure and watchdog groups digging through their lives.”

Sen. Max Baucus, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee on Sept. 26, 2010, wrote to the IRS commissioner Dough Shulman asking him to survey major 501(c)(4) organizations to ensure that political campaign activity was not the organizations primary activity, and investigate their major donors.

Two years later, on Feb. 16, 2012, seven Democratic Senators (Bennet, Franken, Merkley, Schumer, Shaheen, Udall and Whitehouse wrote to Shulman to ask if the IRS is investigating whether political groups were improperly posing as “social welfare organizations” to receive the 501(c)(4) status, and asked the IRS to “impose a strict cap on the amount of political spending by tax-exempt, nonprofit groups,” and prevent them from “abusing the tax code.”

“And 2010 was the year Democrats went full-bore pressuring the IRS to investigate nonprofit politicking which resulted in the IRS targeting Tea Party and other nonprofit applicants who were ideological opponents. Letters from 10 high-profile Democrats…pressured the IRS to investigate nonprofit politicking, even threatening legislation to change IRS standards if the IRS didn’t act.”

“The IRS is behaving “passively,” complained Carl Levin to Shulman in July 2012, adding “How long after a complaint to the IRS does a compliance review begin?” Sen. Levin also asked Shulman to look into a dozen groups, including Americans for Prosperity, 60 Plus Association, Patriot Majority USA and Club for Growth.”

Former commissioner Doug Shulman testified last Wednesday that back in March 2012, there was “absolutely” no special targeting of conservative groups going on. “At no time, to the best of my memory, was I ever given the impression that these [IRS employees] were only [looking closely] at conservative groups.

So there you go. Nobody knows anything, Everybody denies everything. Your Government at work.

ADDENDUM: I should perhaps mention that Democrats profess to be extremely concerned that anything groups like the Tea Party do, should be concerned with “social welfare activities” and not anything political, especially not political fundraising. The amusing part is that the Center for American Progress has both 501 (c)(3) and 501 (c)(4) organizations devoted to fundraising from social welfare organizations like the Democracy Alliance. And the Center for American Progress is certainly not political, are they? Nah.

Useful Quotations for The Current World by The Elephant's Child

Henry Morgenthau Jr. was Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Treasury, and the architect of The New Deal:

“We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. …We have never made good on our promises. I say after eight years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started…and an enormous debt to boot.”

The Nannies Are Coming! The Nannies Are Coming! by The Elephant's Child

It is slowly beginning to dawn on people that our government has grown too large, to0 unresponsive, too intrusive. As ObamaCare begins to roll out, people are beginning to be frightened at its cost and its mandates.

It was a while back when the government decided that you could not have a good shower. Shower heads came with restrictors to be sure that they had a low flow of water. Then they came for the toilets. Low flush. And the lightbulbs! Damn twisty things are obnoxious and the LED bulbs give a peculiar white light. And the planet is short of water? We know about the lightbulbs. The corporations that made lightbulbs could make a lot more profit with bulbs made in China, and the greens wanted everyone to use less energy, because…?

Mayor Bloomberg in New York feels called upon to dictate to New Yorkers what they may eat or drink. And once it was announced that Americans were just too fat, it was open season on anyone with observable excess poundage.

Now two of the less bright members of the House of Representatives have introduced a bill that will require the Department of Health and Human Services to prescribe exercise guidelines for all Americans. Representatives Ron Kind (D-WI) and Aaron Shock (R-IL) have introduced the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Act H.R. 2179, in an effort to help promote healthy exercise habits especially among schoolchildren.

“Public health and physical fitness are pressing concerns for our country, and in order to get the best results it’s important to instill healthy habits and routines early in life,” Kind said last week. “Promoting good health, especially to kids, is something we can do to help keep America healthy and competitive on the global stage.”

What possible worm in the brain can have persuaded these congressmen that the exercise habits of Americans are any of their business? Do they find that among the enumerated powers in the Constitution by twisting some words? Not in their job description. It is a limited government, and they have limited powers, and they work for us, not the other way around.

Thomas Sowell Talks About Intellectuals and Race by The Elephant's Child

On the Hoover Institution’s Uncommon Knowledge, Thomas Sowell talks about his newest book on Intellectuals and Race. Dr. Sowell  has been uncluttering language and thought for many years. I keep copying down things he has said casually, because they are so well said, I want to remember them. He occupies a goodly percentage of my personal book of quotations. Bartletts doesn’t answer anymore. Too dusty.

The Permanent Campaign Goes to Annapolis by The Elephant's Child

President Obama spoke to the graduates at the Naval Academy at Annapolis last week . He told them that they were the most diverse class in Navy history, and he told them that:

Every day, men and women of talent and skill work in the financial institutions that fund new businesses, and put new families — put families in new homes and help students go to college.  But we’ve also seen how the misdeeds of some — wild risk-taking or putting profits before people — sparked a financial crisis and deepened the recession that cost millions of Americans their jobs.

Every day, elected officials like those on this stage, but also all across the nation, devote themselves to improving our communities and our country.  But all too often we’ve seen a politics where compromise is rejected as a dirty word, and policies are driven by special interests rather than the national interest.  And that breeds a cynicism that threatens our democracy.

So the financial crisis wasn’t caused by a housing crisis, and loans made to people who could not afford to pay them back, not community organizers demanding that banks forgo the prudent rules of banking and make such loans, but by wild risk-taking and putting profits before people.

I’m glad to know that because I was worried that the government is once again pushing banks to make loans to people who can’t afford to pay them back, and I hear ads on the radio every day for people who want to teach you how to flip houses for major profit. Been there, done that, and it was so much fun you want to do it again?

“A politics where compromise is rejected as a dirty word, and policies are driven by special interests” — like paying back your union contributors and subsidizing cronies special interest in energy loans.

Seems a little crass to turn a congratulatory speech to graduates into a campaign speech, but I guess he can’t help it. The graduates won’t remember the speech anyway. Do you remember the speech at your graduation? I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who did.

Will There Be a Revolution in Europe? by The Elephant's Child

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble warned today that failure to win the battle against youth unemployment could tear Europe apart, while abandoning the continent’s welfare model in favor or tougher U.S. standards would cause “revolution.”

A generation of young Europeans fear that they will not find jobs, with youth unemployment in the EU standing at nearly one in every four, more than twice the rate of adult unemployment. Yet, he said, if US welfare standards were introduced in Europe “we would have revolution, not tomorrow, but on the very same day.” Schaeuble told a conference in Paris.  U.S. “tougher” standards would create revolution. Tougher?

However dismal the job prospects are for European youth, they are worse for disaffected immigrant Muslim youth, and that’s a very bad sign. So they can’t afford the welfare, and they can’t afford to be tougher about it, so….

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