American Elephants

ISIS Advances, But the Kurds Have Run Out of Ammunition! by The Elephant's Child


Ob Sunday, ISIS, or the Islamic State as they prefer to be designated, drove Kurdish forces out of three towns in Northern Iraq and laid siege to Iraq’s largest dam. ISIS destroyed the Iraqi army in Mosul. Their success against the Kurdish peshmerga militia is an ominous turn. Kurdistan has been an area of peace and prosperity when compared to the rest of Iraq.

The U.S protected the Kurds from Saddam Hussein for a decade with a no-fly zone. After Saddam fell in 2003, the U.S. was invited to set up a permanent military base in their territory. The U.S. intended to supply the Kurds with military equipment in 2010, but Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki objected. He was a Shiite, and unable to consider Iraq as a whole country unsegregated into sects.

After Obama withdrew all U.S. forces in 2011, the U.S. has provided more than $1 billion in military aid and sold them more than $10 billion in hardware to Baghdad, but little reached the Kurds. Maliki also denied the Kurds their share of oil revenues, so the Kurds have sought to export their own oil, which the U.S. has tried to block.

The Kurds sent a delegation to Washington last month to seek military help. The peshmerga are a courageous and professional force, but under equipped. The administration claimed that American aid would be a green light to Kurdish independence and the potential breakup of Iraq. Another example of the brilliant foreign policy of the administration. Kurdistan has a 650 mile border which Iraqi Kurds must try to defend since the Iraqi army collapsed in the north.

ISIS has taken over Sinjar, blown up a Shiite shrine and ordered the residents to convert or die. Another town, Wana, has also fallen. The Kurdish forces reportedly retreated from Sinjar because they ran out of ammunition. They need help.

The whole problem is clearly exacerbated by Obama’s pride in “ending the war in Iraq.” How can he celebrate that great success if he goes back in? That seems to be the level of strategic thinking.

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki, valley-girl, added “gravely” to her usual expression of “concerned.” (I am really offended by that woman.)  She stated that the United States is “gravely concerned” by the displacement of civilians and the loss of life. Team Obama should be gravely concerned by the growing wealth and equipment of these murderous terrorists. They should have been stopped before they equipped themselves with U.S. military equipment, most of the money in Iraq, and every oil field they and capture. If they capture the Mosul Dam, they will control the power supply and water for Iraq, and all bets are off.

This is not a bunch to pay much attention to the niceties. They are ranging through Iraq, murdering, beheading, crucifying. Women are told to turn themselves in for gynecological examinations and female circumcision. They are destroying centuries old shrines and holy places at random.

Maliki has apparently sent his air force to aid the Kurds. As Powerline said:

There is a huge disconnect in Obama’s Iraq policy. The administration’s rhetoric, and its behavior towards the Kurds, is all about avoiding partition of Iraq. But Obama has never been willing to do the hard work required to keep Iraq together.

By pulling completely out of Iraq, Obama lost the ability to influence policy there. Immediately upon our departure, Maliki began violating the constitution and alienating Kurds and Sunnis to the point that partition (once proposed by then Senator Joe Biden) became attractive, if not essential, to these groups.

Then, ISIS began its military drive. Obama’s response? None, until ISIS had already partitioned Iraq, with a large chunk of it now a terrorist state and that chunk becoming larger by the week.

Obama: “We’ve Managed the Economy Pretty Well!” by The Elephant's Child

On his return trip from Kansas City, President Obama granted an interview with The Economist. They said:

The Economist: We see a lot of business people and they do complain about regulation.

Mr Obama: They always complain about regulation. That’s their job. Let’s look at the track record. Let’s look at the facts. Since I have come into office, there’s almost no economic metric by which you couldn’t say that the US economy is better and that corporate bottom lines are better. None.

So if, in fact, our policies have produced a record stock market, record corporate profits, 52 months of consecutive job growth, 10m new jobs, the deficit being cut by more than half, an energy sector that’s booming, a clean-energy sector that’s booming, a reduction of carbon pollution greater than the Europeans or any other country, a housing market that has bounced back, and an unemployment rate that is now lower than it was pre-Lehman—I think you’d have to say that we’ve managed the economy pretty well and business has done okay.

There are always going to be areas where business does not want to be regulated because regulations are inconvenient.

The Economist: But don’t you wish, when you look at things like Dodd-Frank or you look at health-care reform—both of which we supported in principle—that they could have been much simpler?

Mr Obama: Of course. This goes back to the old adage of Churchill—democracy is the worst form of government except for all the alternatives. (Laughter.) It’s messy.

And so could we have designed a far more elegant health-care law? Of course. Would I have greatly preferred a blank canvas in which to design financial regulations post-2008 and consolidated agencies and simplified oversight? Absolutely. But the truth of the matter is, is that we saved the financial system. It continues to be extraordinarily profitable. And essentially, what we did was to provide an additional cushion so that if and when people make bad decisions with large sums of money—which they inevitably do—the risks to the system are reduced.

And on health care, as messy as the whole process has been, here’s what I know—that we have millions of people [insured] who didn’t have insurance before, and health-care inflation is the lowest it’s been in 50 years, for four consecutive years, corresponding to when we passed the law.

So my belief is that if, in fact, we can see a reduction in some of the political temperature around Obamacare or around Dodd-Frank, then it’s an iterative process. We can go back at it and further refine it, learn lessons from things that aren’t working as well, make it simpler, make it better. That does require, though, an attitude on the part of Congress, as well as on the part of the business community, that says you don’t just get 100% of what you want.

Do read the whole thing. Does Obama believe what he says? Is this just something he says for public consumption? Obama, according to The Economist “was buoyed by the recent economic numbers and looking towards his legacy…” Funny, everybody else considered the numbers as a disappointing  failure to meet expectations. And Obama’s track record as disastrous.  So he heralds his role in saving the U.S. economy.

A new study by the Russel Sage Foundation finds that middle-class Americans are poorer today than they were in 1984.  92,001,000 people are no longer in the workforce, an increase of 11,472,000 since he took office.

The Obama administration has added $7 trillion to the National Debt, well, actually — $7,060,259,674,497.51 to be precise— but when the number gets that big I have trouble with all the commas.

In 2012, Obama was heavily criticized for delaying (and hiding) major regulation until after the presidential election. Now it seems he may again be delaying another $34 billion of new regulations until after the election. There are mostly regulatory costs imposed by the EPA. Why am I not surprised?

The most extensive is the EPA’s ground-level ozone standard. That one does not currently have a price tag, but when the rule was vetoed by the White House in 2011, it’s cost was put at $90 billion. Then you have the Department of Energy’s new conservation standards for incandescent lamps, projected to cost$863 million per  year and raise consumer prices by 40 to 70 percent. Most of these regulations are also major job killers, but the EPA says they don’t have to pay any attention to that.  That does not include the Clean Energy Plan regulations which is expected to cost thousands of jobs and raise the cost of electricity sharply.

Gosh. Back in 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama called President George W. Bush “unpatriotic” and his policies “irresponsible” for adding $4 trillion to the national debt with the costs of 9/11 and two wars. But that was then and this is now.

Obama Will Not Rest — In a While… by The Elephant's Child

He does tend to repeat what he believes to be a good line.

A Few Words of Praise for Congress by The Elephant's Child

Operation Enduring Freedom

Before you get hung up on the “do-nothing Congress” theme, it’s time for a moment of praise. Before they left for their summer break, the Senate unanimously passed an extension to the U. S. visa program for at-risk Afghan translators who worked with American troops in Afghanistan. Many of them are living under the threat of retribution from the Taliban. The measure to issue another 1.000 visas was also passed by the House of Representatives unanimously.

The program had been criticized by advocates for the military translators, for its bureaucracy, opaqueness and slow pace. Recent reforms have improved the program to the point where for the first time the U.S. State Department ran out of the number of visas that Congress had authorized.

State has been distributing an average of 400 visas a month after reforms, which include the appointment of a coordinator between the State Department and agencies that conduct security and background vetting of visa candidates. It is the right thing to do, and a matter of national honor.

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