American Elephants


Clear Language Matters. Make Fine Distinctions, Insist on Free Speech and Clear Speech. by The Elephant's Child

The situation in Syria was not only an affront to international law, but a probe of sorts to test the new president of the United States. President Trump’s response was prompt and direct, but careful. It was not, as the Democrats try to claim, the start of a war, or a sign of the belligerence of an out-of-control administration. It was a very specific and limited missile strike against the specific airbase that had launched the Sarin Gas attack on Syrian rebels by their own administration. Because it was directed  so specifically, it announced that poison gas attacks were simply not acceptable, and this strike was a clear warning that we are a powerful nation and we are capable of much more. There will be no more statements of “red lines” that are not observed.

America means business. It was not, as has been claimed, an attack on Assad. The Russians and Syrians were warned, so there would be little or no loss of life. These distinctions are important. The free world approved.

Democrats are not good at distinctions. They are more comfortable with generalities. Hillary was interviewed by the New York Times Nicholas Kristof at the “Women in the World” summit. Kristof asked Hillary:

I have to ask fundamentally, a man who bragged about sexual assault won the election and won 53 percent of the white women’s vote. What does that say about the challenges that one faces in women’s empowerment, that in effect misogyny won with a lot of women voters?

In the first place, Trump did not brag about sexual assault. He spoke of women and celebrity and said that when you are a celebrity, some women will let you do anything you want to them.  He did not say that he had done anything.

Hillary immediately blamed everything on identity politics: misogynyshe lost because she is a woman. The country is just not ready for  the first woman president. Fine distinctions: Hillary ran for the presidency because she wanted to be the first woman president, not because there were things she wanted to do to improve the country or help Americans. That’s why her brief career in the Senate was marked only by a bill to name a post office, and her career as Secretary of State resulted only in Benghazi and a record amount of air travel miles. There were no accomplishments. The change was her gender. She promised to continue all the accomplishments of the Obama administration but to do it as a woman.

Nikki Haley, a woman, has made a real difference in her brief time as Ambassador to the United Nations. People are already suggesting that she can be the first woman president. She has demonstrated over and over competence, authority, determination, and things have shifted because of it.

In this strange new universe, a real-estate developer and reality-TV celebrity with no political experience whatsoever, obviously won the election because he is a man. Identity politics is the controlling theme. You can be decide your identity and your gender by your feelings of the moment, which, making fine distinctions — is clearly nuts.

The Left, in their drive for ever more control, believe that when they achieve full control,  they will fix human nature, so we are all more complacent and cooperative. Unfortunately human nature is immutable, unchanging and quite definitely unfixable.

Insist on fine distinctions. Don’t let them get away with sloppy thinking. Insist on free speech. Hold college and university authorities to task for allowing bad behavior to destroy the educational process. Speak out.

Surely you have noticed that what the Left advocates are abstractions. Social justice —there is no such thing. We have laws and courts, and they don’t do social justice. Equality —you can have equality under the law, but you can’t make people equal, some are smarter, some are more beautiful, some are stronger, some are older. Diversity—to the Left refers only to skin color, certainly not to diversity of ideas. Our values —one of Obama’s favorites, “that’s not who we are as Americans.”



How to Think About Vladimir Putin, President of Russia. by The Elephant's Child

In Imprimus, the free monthly publication of Hillsdale College, always interesting, Christopher Caldwell, senior editor at The Weekly Standard, takes on “How to Think About Vladimir Putin.” He stresses that he is not telling anyone what to think about the Russian President, but only how to think about him. In a period when the Democrats are just sure that Putin intervened in the election to defeat Hillary Clinton with the cooperation of Donald Trump, this is what fuels the fury. If Hitler were conveniently still alive they would be sure he was trying to defeat Hillary too. But I found this piece fascinating, and a corrective I needed.

Vladimir Vladimirovich is not the president of a feminist NGO. He is not a transgender-rights activist. He is not an ombudsman appointed by the United Nations to make and deliver slide shows about green energy. He is the elected leader of Russia—a rugged, relatively poor, militarily powerful country that in recent years has been frequently humiliated, robbed, and misled. His job has been to protect his country’s prerogatives and its sovereignty in an international system that seeks to erode sovereignty in general and views Russia’s sovereignty in particular as a threat.

By American standards, Putin’s respect for the democratic process has been fitful at best. He has cracked down on peaceful demonstrations. Political opponents have been arrested and jailed throughout his rule. Some have even been murdered—Anna Politkovskaya, the crusading Chechnya correspondent shot in her apartment building in Moscow in 2006; Alexander Litvinenko, the spy poisoned with polonium-210 in London months later; the activist Boris Nemtsov, shot on a bridge in Moscow in early 2015. While the evidence connecting Putin’s own circle to the killings is circumstantial, it merits scrutiny. …

When Putin took power in the winter of 1999-2000, his country was defenseless. It was bankrupt. It was being carved up by its new kleptocratic elites, in collusion with its old imperial rivals, the Americans. Putin changed that. In the first decade of this century, he did what Kemal Atatürk had done in Turkey in the 1920s. Out of a crumbling empire, he rescued a nation-state, and gave it coherence and purpose. He disciplined his country’s plutocrats. He restored its military strength. And he refused, with ever blunter rhetoric, to accept for Russia a subservient role in an American-run world system drawn up by foreign politicians and business leaders. His voters credit him with having saved his country.

Here’s the whole article, do read the whole thing, you’ll be glad you did. And you might consider subscribing to Imprimus. It’s free and informative.



The Russia Flap, The Russia Flap. The Russia Flap by The Elephant's Child

One of the people to whom I always pay attention is Victor Davis Hanson. His views of the world today are formed and influenced by his deep knowledge of history, the patterns of thought that descend from the Greek Classics down to today’s world, and are well-seasoned by plain old common sense that comes from a background in farming and coping with the vicissitudes of weather and regulation.

His article “The Russian Farce” from National Review is a masterpiece in today’s strange world where every public or private word that can be nit-picked — will be, ominous meanings will be attached and debated, and the Democrats really need to take a couple of aspirin and lie down for a while and maybe they’ll feel better. Hysteria is not becoming.

In the same manner, Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev was often portrayed in the media as the urbane, suave, and reasonable conciliator, while President Ronald Reagan was depicted as the uncouth disrupter of what could have been improved Russian–American relations.

Senator Ted Kennedy reportedly reached out to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov in 1984 to gain his help in denying Reagan his reelection.

In sum, the American Left always felt that Russia was unduly demonized by the American Right and was a natural friend, if not potential ally, of the United States. That tradition no doubt influenced the decision of the incoming Obama administration to immediately reach out to Vladimir Putin’s Russia, despite its recent aggressions in Georgia and steady crackdown on internal dissent, and despite Russia’s estrangement from the prior Bush administration.

Do read the whole thing. It disposes of the silly Russia flap quite thoroughly, should embarrass a whole bunch of reporters, and points out the drive to deny reality.



Sunday Humor by The Elephant's Child



Just an Ordinary Wednesday, Like All Wednesdays by The Elephant's Child

Wednesday, an ordinary middle of the week day. Not Spring yet, though there are a few lonely daffodils peeking out here and there. A terrorist attack in London at the Houses of Parliament, Three killed, many injured, terrorist killed. ISIS celebrates. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Nunes reports that Trumps’ personal communications may have been collected by intelligence agencies, details widely disseminated. Hackers claim to have breached 300 million APPLE accounts, Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan warned the European Union that if the diplomatic spat continues, Europeans won’t be able to walk their own streets safely anywhere in the world. The Turks threaten to send 15,000 migrants a month to Europe. Other than some horrendous rapes of underage children, it was just an ordinary almost Spring Wednesday. Sheesch!



The Federal Government Is Not Your Friend, And They Have Interests of Their Own by The Elephant's Child

Most Americans believe that the federal government does a poor job and wastes most of the taxpayers’ hard earned money. Waste, fraud and abuse are rampant. We hear stories of employees spending their days watching porn. Agencies spend millions on beautifying their offices, and rush to spend every last cent of their budget so they can pretend they need more for the next year. There are some things that can only be done by a federal government, but most things are far better done by the private sector.

There are specific reasons why this is so. For a business to exist, it must turn a profit. If there is no reward for operating a business, it will cease to exist. Businesses do not operate to provide jobs or to do good works. They operate to make a profit. It is astonishing how many people do not understand this. Competition forces business to be efficient, to offer good products that people want, to deliver on time, make products that last, or offer services that do what they are supposed to do. Leftists are always sure that competition is bad, and what is needed are lots of rules and regulations, which only serve to make a mess of the situation.

Government regulators seldom have a good understanding of how a business works, and the regulations they devise do more harm than good. For example: Regulators, concerned about fat people, decide that all restaurants must display the caloric content of all the ingredients in their food. For pizza places the number of ingredients is enormous, the signage, often on a large lighted panel over the counter doesn’t have much room, customers are aware that some pizzas are high calorie and fattening. They don’t care—they want pizza. The cost to restaurants with low profit margins is enormous in changing all their signage. The result of the regulation is unmeasurable, and probably didn’t change anyone’s dinner preferences.

The free market does an excellent job in controlling business, without interference from bureaucratic busybodies. Very few members of Congress have much experience in running a business, and few of Washington bureaucrats do either. The marketplace offers all sorts of information and lessons, often information that you cannot obtain elsewhere. Incentives matter. The incentives that drive government workers and their managers are not the same as those faced by the businesses to be regulated, and are often counter to the public interest in any case.

Here’s an excellent article that surveys the government bureaucracy and how we should or should not respond. And a valuable lesson in why government does such a poor job of the tasks that are assigned to them. It’s a guide worth keeping with lots of resources. But then you don’t know until the government gets you on their “to do” list just what you’re in for, and where to go for help.



We Have Separate Conversations Going On Here, And We Don’t Seem to Speak the Same Language by The Elephant's Child

Early today I watched a video of the first press briefing for the State Department under new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, for the Trump administration. It was over an hour long, conducted by Mark Toner who has been in the job for a number of years, is very competent, and knows most of the journalists present. I’ve seen excerpts of these things before, but this was the first time I have watched the whole thing.

I found it somewhat astonishing, for the liberal journalists trouble in grasping the distinctions among immigrants, illegal immigrants, refugees and the countries involved. They were really having a hard time understanding why some refugees should be turned away at the border, for example—why would we not allow refugees from Iran who didn’t like the government there. Certainly not all Iranians liked the government, why wouldn’t we accept those people? They clearly just didn’t grasp that we cannot tell or vet those who come from a nation that wants to destroy us, nor can we tell who is a jihadi and who is not.

I’ve been mulling over these language distinctions for some time. for it seems that Journalists just don’t grasp that when the Ayatollah Khomeini leads his people in chants of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”— that is exactly what he really means, and what his government is working for. That there isn’t really any way to tell the good people from the jihadis, and the next terrorist attack may hit their D.C. neighborhood. They are involved with the news, but they don’t grasp the nature of the world.

Rex Tillerson has said that we have been paying the UN for years to monitor and control North Korea’s experimentation with nuclear weapons and it has not worked at all, so perhaps it is time to try something different. I would add that when Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un had his older step-brother executed in another country, and just recently executed five of his supporters who offended him with anti-aircraft cannons, that something different is probably what is needed. I just don’t get the feeling that these journalists get it, and they are still out wandering around in issues of diversity and social justice. But perhaps I am unjust.

A very large issue is the one of religion. Two federal District Judges, one from Seattle and one from Hawaii, have issued stays on President Trump’s Executive Orders, which issued a 90 day ban on immigration from seven countries selected by the Obama administration because immigrants or refugees from those countries cannot be vetted adequately. Why would we have any special concern for Christian refugees?

The First Amendment to the Constitution says Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof… That seem so straightforward and clear. Congress cannot make any laws that establish a state religion. ( No Church of England here) Yet that First Amendment has caused an amazing amount of trouble as people try to overthink and over dissect the words. If a Christian cross is displayed on federal land is that “establishing a religion?” Do the Little Sisters of the Poor have to support abortion for their workers in spite of the fact that their religion prohibits abortion?

So the question becomes—what happens if the religion in question wants to destroy the United States of America because our existence conflicts with their religion. Do al-Qaeda and ISIS represent the Islamic religion, or are they something separate? Do they get to try to destroy us because they don’t believe in our Constitution or religions, and we have to refrain from fighting them because of freedom of religion? When you spell out the questions that arise, it clarifies things, but a full discussion becomes ever more necessary. And the questions that arise are litigated and re-litigated.

The Federal District Judge in Seattle and the Federal District Judge in Hawaii are dragging in casual remarks from the difficult election campaign as if that had anything to do with the President’s Executive Order. They can’t do that. The only thing they have to consider are the exact words of the Executive Order. They cannot drag in extraneous things. Federal Judges get a lifetime appointment and cannot be removed by Congress, though they can be impeached for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” So this will all have to go to the Supreme Court.

Our Founders were a lot closer to the European Wars of Religion 1524-1646, following the Protestant Reformation. That ended with the Peace of Westphalia, which recognized three separate Christian traditions in the Holy Roman empire: Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism and Calvinism.That was followed by the British Civil Wars or The Wars of the Three Kingdoms: England, Scotland and Ireland. The Reformation of the Church of England, begot Presbyterianism, Congregationalism, and the breakdown of state-controlled religious conformity bred an explosion of radical denominations: Ranters, Baptists, Diggers, Levelers and Quakers. The New England colonies were settled by Puritans, Pennsylvania by Quakers, the Carolinas by Presbyterians, and Virginia by the Church of England, and they changed as they were established in America. All fascinating, but necessary to understand at least a little, when we get into simple questions about freedom of religion.

To circle back to where I started, I got no feeling that the reporters at the State Department briefing had any understanding of the real nature of the religious questions involved. Religion is those backwoods people clinging to their Bibles and guns, or something like that. It undoubtedly plays a major part in our current problems with the mainstream media. Our conversations are not about real things, but about social justice, race, diversity, pronouns, race, safe spaces and snowflakes. We’ve got some very real problems out there and they remain essentially unrecognized.

 




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