American Elephants

Trying to Make Sense in a Disordered World by The Elephant's Child

francejetPresident Francois Hollande pledged to wage “pitiless war”against ISIS in the wake of the multi-pronged military-style assault on civilians in Paris. This is not the last major attack on a western capital we will see. Within a few short days, ISIS has apparently brought down a civilian Russian airliner killing 224 people,and suicide bombings that killed at least 41 people in Beirut and 19 in Baghdad, and attacked the people of Paris. France still has a warrior tradition, and a military.

French fighter jets dropped 20 bombs on a command and control center, jihadi recruitment center, munitions depot and ISIS training camp in the Syrian city of Raqqa, ISIS headquarters.

At Commentary, Jonathan Tobin captured the moment:

In the last 36 hours, the world reeled from the horror and shock of the terror attacks that took the lives of at least 129 persons and wounded hundreds more. In response a lot of Americans responded to it in the way they instinctively react to everything these days. They changed their profile picture on Facebook.

Mark Steyn headlined his piece on Europe “The Barbarians are Inside, And There Are No Gates.” That was on Friday. He said on the radio apropos the latest campus ‘safe space’ nonsense: “This is what we”re going to be talking about when the mullahs nuke us.” And added:

When the Allahu Akbar boys opened fire, Paris was talking about the climate-change conference due to start later this month, when the world’s leaders will fly in to “solve” a “problem” that doesn’t exist rather than to address the one that does. But don’t worry: we already have a hashtag (#PrayForParis) and doubtless there’ll be another candlelight vigil of weepy tilty-headed wankers. Because as long as we all advertise how sad and sorrowful we are, who needs to do anything?

Weasel Zippers reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigations has nearly 1,000 active probes connected to the Islamic State terrorist group inside the United States, law enforcement officials claimed in a letter to President Obama. The letter was from a group of elected sheriffs in Colorado blasting the president’s plan to transfer known terrorists held at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to a mainland facility. There would seem to be something to the idea that we really don’t need more terrorists in the country.

Herb Meyer wrote last month that:

For seven years now, President Obama has been conducting what may well be one of history’s greatest political experiments. His revolutionary theory — which this Copernicus-from-Chicago articulates with such supreme confidence that he’s persuaded American voters to elect him twice to the presidency — is that the world would be a safer, less violent place if the United States played a smaller role on the global stage. At the core of this theory lies his hypothesis that American military power is more the problem than the solution; that our over-reliance on guns rather than brains had de-stabilized key parts of the world, such as the Mideast, that would otherwise have been more peaceful and prosperous.

We have an endless flow of statistics and polls, gossip, policies, campaign speeches and public relations which results in a bad case of information overload. How do we sort out the important from what is trivial? College students are demonstrating and screaming about racial slurs that may never have happened, and are outraged that the news media has turned its attention from Yale and the University of Missouri to Paris.

In Turkey, President Obama walked in late to a solemn moment of silence by heads of state there for a G7 conference. In reference to the Syrian refugee crisis, he remarked:  “Society has not passed this exam with good grades.”

Oh well, of course, “Society.” I really don’t think that Barack O’Blameless has any idea just what he has precipitated with his ideology. There are ideological experiments and there is the real world, where real human beings have a hard time getting along, but try to recognize reality when it strikes, right in front of us, and try to react with measured firmness.  If, as Smoky Bear says, you drown your campfire, turn it over and drown it again — maybe you won’t have the whole forest in flames.


153 or More Dead in Paris Terrorist Attacks. Numbers May Grow. by The Elephant's Child

RefugeesFor a Friday the 13th, this was a particularly bad day. In Paris, seven attacks, 140  153 dead, hostages, and the numbers may be higher. Clearly pure terrorist or ISIS attacks — Kalashnikovs, just killing as many people at random as they could. France has closed its border, a little too late, and is cracking down. President Obama said appropriate words about our oldest ally, but without understanding.

The invasion of Europe began at the end of August, when Angela Merkel spoke welcoming Syrian refugees to Germany. What Europe got was not a modest number escaping Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons and the terror of ISIS, but refugees/migrants from all over, Russia, Somalia, Ghana, ISIS, traffickers seized on the opportunity to make money, and boats of all sorts transported hundreds of people across the Mediterranean, many drowning in the process. Refugees broke out of a camp near Serbia and started walking toward Germany and Sweden.

The initial impetus seemed to be misplaced guilt — Germans atoning for World War II.  Others guilty for their comfortable lives, who knows, but they welcomed the ‘refugees’ with food and bottled water, clothing. The refugees turned out to be mostly young men who claim to have left their families behind until they get settled and can send for them.

Hungary put up a razor-wire fence to keep the migrants out, Austria sneered at Hungary, then soon opted for razor wire fences themselves. They may be migrating to Europe, but they don’t seem to be refugees fleeing in terror, grateful for any help — but demanding, expecting generous welfare, food that meets their taste, suitable entertainment, and nice housing. They leave incredible messes behind them, the camps are cesspools of rape, even small children are being raped.

In some quarters the U.S. is being blamed because of the War in Iraq, others recognize that ISIS arose when Obama pulled our troops out. The European Union is being petitioned to boycott goods produced in Israel. This makes sense just how?

One bright spot, Jihadi John, the British ISIS adherent who specialized in chopping off heads, was killed in an American drone strike.

As President Obama said when he pulled the American troops out of Iraq; “We are leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq.” Now, a year before his term ends, he has sent in 50 special forces as advisors. The Ayatollah Khomeinei has said that he has no intention of signing a deal with the Americans, and events seem to indicate that he meant it.

Obama appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” this morning, to downplay the threat of ISIS.  Nice timing, Mr. President. He said:

I don’t think they’re gaining strength,” Obama responded. “What is true is that from the start, our goal has been first to contain and we have contained them. They have not gained ground in Iraq, and in Syria they’ll come in, they’ll leave, but you don’t see this systemic march by ISIL across the terrain.”

“What we have not yet been able to do is to completely decapitate their command and control structures,” he admitted. “We’ve made some progress in trying to reduce the flow of foreign fighters and part our goal has to be to recruit more effective Sunni partners in Iraq to really go on offense rather than simply engage in defense.”

There have been accusations that the administration is not allowing accurate reports of ISIS advances, Oh well, never mind. Climate Change is a much greater threat, and the White House is preparing for the climate talks. John Kerry argues that the U.N. Global Warming Treaty will be legally binding, but won’t need such mundane things as Senate approval, so here we go again.

Here is a video summarizing the migrant invasion of Europe, which has gone viral. It is clearly an Anti-Immigrant video, 20 minutes long, and so intended, so you need to view it with a critical eye.  I can’t embed it here, it is available from Breitbart. We can expect this here. Obama wants to welcome 70,000 ‘Syrian Refugees,” and some religious organizations are plumping for 100,000. Scary.

Why is College So Expensive? Is It Worth It? by The Elephant's Child

b083ddd2-e58a-4a80-a72a-6af0700c5f16So why is College so expensive anyway? Parents who have a child about to enter the American university system are stunned by how much tuition has gone up — way more than normal inflation would amount to.

There are a number of big items at play here. During World War II, the young men went to war, not to college. That meant that colleges and universities limped along with women and 4F men. Even a lot of younger professors were called up. When the war ended in 1945, the G.I.Bill flooded the university system with returned G.I.s and often their new wives. Colleges had to provide housing for married students, and their new babies — the beginnings of the Baby Boom.

Beginning in 1946, and increasing exponentially through the boom’s high water mark in 1957 was a generation that found everything crowded from maternity wards to law school. From 1958 till 1964, the boom gradually ebbed. When the boomers were ready for college, colleges expanded to be ready for them. New dorms, new classrooms new buildings, expanded campuses, and even new colleges. When the baby boom ended and we got back to “normal” — colleges were facing a dearth of students to fill their expanded campuses. Colleges added amenities to attract students, and more amenities.

The federal government stepped in to guarantee student loans, which got the universities off the hook. There had always been scholarships for outstanding students, but student loans meant that universities could charge more because the government guaranteed the loans. There was no push-back from the government on the cost of college, kids could borrow what the colleges charged. Employers demanded college degrees

During the war years, professors salaries were held down, and many had summer jobs to make ends meet. When the baby boom arrived, professors wanted more pay and more free time for research, writing and counseling students. Large lecture classes were turned over to adjuncts who were paid far, far less. Professors with doctorates pointed out that CEO salaries were skyrocketing and they were better educated and deserved better. Inflation.

Inflation meant that everything cost more, and not just college. Food, houses, all kinds of goods. What it meant was is that in most case, both parents had to go to work, and families were smaller. What it meant for American universities was retrenchment. Employers were demanding college degrees, partly because primary education was poorly training students. That was a big benefit for colleges because more kids headed for college with big student loans. Big student loans meant that colleges could charge more. The federal government was subsidizing increased tuition. The politicians insisted that every child should go to college. Not true, some kids are not suited for college, and there are fine professions that do not require college degrees.

The end of the baby boom, and the smaller generation produced by the baby boomers because of inflation and working mothers wasn’t enough to fill up the university system. Some colleges closed, others went for more amenities. Climbing walls, bigger libraries, bigger swimming pools, tennis courts and student unions. More landscaping, sculpture. Professor salaries topped the $200,000 mark, and football coaches earned more, way more, that university presidents.

But they have reached a point of no return. To please students, classes have become silly. Gender studies in all its variations, ethnic studies, social justice, political correctness, speech codes, and on and on until we have today’s little “snowflakes,” who are so confused that they assume a right to be coddled, to never face disagreement or offense, but only sheltered kindness. Which means they protest against speakers who have different ideas than their own.

But Marco Rubio was right. Welders make a lot more than philosophy majors. There are high-paying jobs that do not require a college degree. Parents are home-schooling their kids, or forming charter schools that are part of the public school system but more effective. Teachers unions are fighting back, determined to remain in charge and applying all the political pressure of all the dues collected from teachers to get their way. Parents hate, with reason, Common Core, and the whole idea of a federally-directed curriculum. Federal bureaucrats do not know what is best. Times are always a-changing. Just what comes next will be a battle.

Here I should recommend a couple of books: Great Expectations by Landon Y. Jones, a popular study of the baby boom generation (1980). Essential reading for boomers, their kids, and the following generation who are stuck with paying for Medicare for the retiring boomers. Great fun. The other is really a trilogy, a marvelously funny academic satire by David Lodge, a former British professor.  The books are Changing Places, Small World, and Nice Work, now conveniently offered in one volume. It may be satire, but you learn a lot about academe.

I wonder how many full professors teach a full 15 hour schedule?

The Million Student March by The Elephant's Child

This is just priceless! Neil Cavuto had as his guest Keely Mullen, the national organizer for the optimistically titled  “Million Student March” — to discuss her movement’s plans for making public colleges tuition free.

MULLEN: The Million Student March is a movement for a more equitable and fair system of education as opposed to the really corporate model that we have right now. So the three core demands of the national day of action are free public college, a cancellation of student debt and a $15 an hour minimum wage for people who work on campus.

CAVUTO: How’s that going to be paid?

MULLEN: Ummm, great question. I’m not sure if you’re talking about on a national level or at particular schools, but I can touch on both —

CAVUTO: Well, you want all that stuff. Someone has to pick up the tab. Who would that be?

MULLEN: Ummm, the one-percent of people in society that are hoarding the wealth and kind of causing the catastrophe students are facing… 


It’s Over. It Didn’t Work. by The Elephant's Child

ARFBYK_2942681bYou have probably noticed that Democrats generally believe that most things are better done by the government than by the private sector. The federal government is not just a bureaucracy, but a bureaucracy of bureaucracies, thousands of agencies, departments. offices, all with their own cultures, rules, traditions, and all striving to grow in importance, size, and share of the federal budget. Service, not so much.

Whereas, the private sector strives to make a profit, clearly a dirty word. They haven’t been elected or appointed. They make too much money, they fire people —sometimes in massive numbers. The federal government tries to make them more responsible and keep corporations from doing bad things. Obviously the important things should all be done by a wise government who can help the common folk out there, who need all the help they can get.

So when the cost of health care seemed to be climbing, and there were people who didn’t have health insurance, of course the Democrats planned to take it over by showing just how good a health insurance plan could be and all the good things that they would include — as quickly as possible while they controlled Congress. Promises, big promises — more affordable, if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor, all sorts of good things — and it just doesn’t work.

The co-ops that were going to save so much in costs are going belly-up at a tremendous rate, more every few days. A New York State audit finds that ObamaCare exchanges have enrolled hundreds of dead people and paid out benefits. Some of the dead people were enrolled after they died. A cover-up is in the works. ObamaCare premiums are projected to soar by 20.3 percent on average in 2016 instead of the 7.5 percent claimed by federal officials.

Supporters credit ObamaCare with helping nine million uninsured Americans find coverage in 2014, but a new paper from the Heritage Foundation suggests that the increase came from adding nearly nine million people to the Medicaid rolls. The wealthy can have health insurance, but at a higher price, but they can afford it. Many middle-class Americans are paying higher premiums that they can barely afford. Millions of other Americans  have found themselves forced out of affordable plans with their new premiums rising rapidly.

Regardless of whether there is a President Cruz or a President Rubio in January 2017, regardless of the existence or size of a Republican majority in Congress, the so-called Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has failed. The grand vision of an efficient pseudo-market in health insurance under enlightened federal management — the heart of Obamacare — is not coming to pass. Obamacare, meaning the operating model that undergirded the law that Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed with great fanfare — is dead, and it will not be revived. What remains is fitful chaos.

That’s Kevin Williamson at National Review.  His careful explanation for why it doesn’t work is very worth reading. Obama’s ‘promises’ of course have proved as improbable as all of his others. You can’t keep your doctor, It’s going to cost way more, not $2,500 less, and ObamaCare is adding a bundle to the deficit.

The architects of Obamacare are deeply distrustful of the role of for-profit companies in the health-care business because, in their nearly pristine ignorance, they falsely believe profits to be net deductions from the sum of the public good rather than measures of the creation of real social value.

Add in a complete lack of understanding of the role of incentives, some major innumeracy,  unbridled confidence in cost-saving gimmicks that were mostly wishful thinking. Republicans are a lot better at this sort of stuff, and they do mostly understand incentives. But they may want to rewrite it, in an attempt to repair the unrepairable.

What I am most concerned about is getting the federal government out of the health care business. They are totally incompetent at it and should never be allowed to have any responsibility for it. The Indian Health Service is a disgrace. The Veterans Administration is embroiled in scandal. Medicaid is a mess, and Medicare is rapidly going broke, along with Social Security. Even more, it is a political debacle as well.

Since it was first enacted, conservative think-tanks have been studying what works and what doesn’t. There are dozens of them, and top scholars have been working on better answers. Let’s get them all on the table. Ask the medical profession for their best ideas. Consult with the Health Insurance Companies instead of regarding them as the enemy to be punished and controlled.

The biggest mistake was to assume that you could take the health care system, layer on a vast bureaucracy of many agencies on top, each striving to increase their budgets, wrap it all up in a package of glitter with fancy logos and music and Life of Julia,  pajama boy, and unneeded gifts and expect it to be more efficient and cost less.

Republican Candidates – 10, CNBC – 0 by The Elephant's Child

A most interesting debate last night. The mainstream partisan media disgraced itself. Feisty Republicans would have none of it, and told them they were a disgrace. ‘Gotcha’ questions are unprofessional but expected. Stupid questions that indicate that the panel of moderators did not understand the real issues are a little more depressing.

Listeners  would have been surprised to learn that the debate was supposed to be about the economy. The economy is a shambles, largely due to Democrat mismanagement, and there are a lot people hurting, The American people want to know who can fix it.

Democrats do not want the Republicans to talk about how they are going to jump-start the economy, because their own candidates are talking about free college tuition and other pie-in-the-sky offers to buy votes, but it is not going to happen. You can’t take enough money away from the rich to make it unnecessary for the vast majority of people to provide for themselves, with their work, their thrift and their savings.

Ted Cruz efficiently scolded the media and racked up the biggest applause ever in any debate. Ted, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina and Chris Christie were all winners.

Ben Carson is as always, soft-spoken and brilliant. Mike Huckabee speaks well, had a great analogy comparing the blimp on the loose over Pennsylvania to an escaped gas bag of a Democratic party.

I thought Donald Trump was a big loser, but apparently his inability to come up with any significant policy discussion as opposed to just saying ‘I can do that’ and talking about his great big wall continues to attract supporters. I am unimpressed with his wealth, and as several economic types have mentioned, he would have been far richer if he had just put his father’s $100 million in a mutual fund.

John Kasich seemed angry, apparently at having to share a stage with people who didn’t have his accomplishments on offer.  Rand Paul did not advance his cause, nor hurt it either. Jeb Bush did badly. Whoever advised him to attack Marco Rubio on the basis of Rubio’s missing some votes in Congress made a major mistake. Jeb Bush is a good man, and was a good governor of Florida. He would probably be a good president. But he is a really lousy campaigner.

So what do I want in a president? Someone who can communicate well with the American people. The president works for us. I expect a good understanding of world affairs — not a knowledge of every president of every nation — but sufficient knowledge to understand the major threats, and to know who would be the strongest advisers to help devise good policy. Obama has made some really dreadful appointments.

I want someone who respects Congress and wants to work with them to get the economy growing once again. And I want someone who is an avid learner. It’s a big office, and none of the aspirants know anywhere near as much as you need to face the problems we face in reality. You need some excellent choices of advisors and cabinet members. And I really don’t want anyone who believes that the Constitutions is an old tired document that needs updating and revising. Nor anyone who believes that the clear history of the absolute failure of socialism everywhere it has been tried is because the right people haven’t done it yet, or that this time it will be different. Other than that, I haven’t made my mind up yet.

ADDENDUM: Smarting from criticism,CNBC put out a statement defending the moderators performance: “People who want to be president of the United States should be able to answer tough questions.”

That was the problem. They didn’t ask “tough questions” they asked dumb questions. The troublesome thing is that they don’t seem to know the difference. That’s what happens when you live in a world of approved talking points and approved sound bites — you don’t even recognize reality when you encounter it.

The Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America by The Elephant's Child

“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”


July 4, 2012, Phoenix, Arizona
About 250 new Americans take the oath of citizenship

In July, 2015, President Barack Obama stripped out the requirement for individuals becoming naturalized citizens to defend the United States through military service. On September 16. 2015 President Obama said in a video aimed at convincing migrants to pursue American citizenship that they didn’t need to assimilate.

“It’s not about changing who you are, it’s about adding a new chapter to your journey… and to our journey as a nation of immigrants,” Obama narrates in his two-minute video urging almost 9 million resident migrants to sign up for citizenship so they can vote in 2016.

There’s another new turn of phrase designed to hide or soften what he is doing. “Nine million resident migrants” — think about that for a moment. We wouldn’t want you to get all serious about an oath, or make you uncomfortable. There’s one graduate of Harvard Law School who apparently never really learned anything about the Constitution at all.

Human beings are tribal. It’s an instinct that comes down to us from the first humans, and it’s never completely gone away. Most of the nations of Europe are tribal. That’s why the Czech Republic separated from Slovakia. I don’t think you can become a German unless you have German ancestry, but I’m not sure about that. The countries of Europe each have their own languages and customs. The Middle East is divided between Sunni and Shia, with a large number of other tribes thrown in. And it seems to be human nature for the tribes to fight each other, over things serious or not so much.

We join big organizations, tea parties, bridge clubs, Rotary, Job’s Daughters, join a golf club, work for the Salvation Army or Food for the Poor, or just the Thursday night poker club. We form neighborhood clubs, research our ancestry, or join a gym. We are tribal by nature. We are drawn to people who share our interests or heritage, enthusiasm for quilting, or political leanings.

Americans came from all over, but what has bound them together was the formal oath of citizenship renouncing all other allegiance. You raise your hand and your solemnly swear, and you become an American —just as much as the immigrant whose ancestors came on the Mayflower or with the Winthrop fleet.

What Mr. Obama doesn’t get is that Americans are a tribe, we have a proud identity. Many Europeans say that you can identify an American in Europe by the way they walk—heads up, more confident. Does any other country celebrate their founding day with the hoopla and fireworks that we do?

The full-throated “USA, USA, USA” may be annoying, but it’s heartfelt. Howard Zinn may corrupt the young with his soviet-propagandized attempt at revising our history. The Reverend Jeremiah Wright may bellow “God Damn America “to the future president and his family, but there’s a reason why Stalin’s daughter, Khrushchev’s son, and one of Castro’s daughters all became American citizens. Russian oligarch’s moor their yachts in New York harbor just in time to get their newborn child American citizenship, and wealthy Chinese just happen to be visiting the country when the baby is due.  Mexican women wade the Rio Grande to bear their children in the United States. Why do you suppose they do that?

A small bunch of English religious refugees seeking liberty undertook a dangerous Atlantic crossing to an unknown land. Joined by other discontented Europeans, before long they were pushing back against English taxes, English regulations and English regiments. After sending the British back home, and writing a constitution, Americans pushed on across the Appalachians, facing angry Indians, bears and starvation. First in bateaus, then on horseback and in covered wagons, they crossed the Rockies and conquered a continent, fought a bloody civil war to free the slaves.  World Wars, John Wayne, the Super Bowl, Star Wars, the Marshall Plan, GI Joe, Baseball, Dunkin’ Donuts, the Grand Canyon, — so many things go into the making of an American, including complaining about the government. But here, it’s your right to complain. In Stalin’s Russia — off to the Gulag. In today’s Syria, we don”t even want to think about that.

Don’t be messing with the Oath Of Allegiance, Mr. President. We know that you are out to “fundamentally transform the United States of America,” but if we had realized what you really meant by that, you’d be back in your house in Chicago and someone else entirely would be our president. You go too far.


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