American Elephants

If You Missed the Debate, Here Are the Important Parts in Just 2 Minutes by The Elephant's Child


(h/t: Free Beacon)

The Benghazi Hearings by The Elephant's Child

151023112135-hillary-clinton-benghazi-hand-large-169Democrats are crowing today, apparently because Hillary escaped the inquisition from the “vast right-wing conspiracy” without any major gaffes or self-indictment. She’s off the hook, we’re back in the game? But Hillary’s testimony requires a little more thought than the lap-dog media is accustomed to giving to much of anything. It is perhaps too soon to be crowing.

Smoking gun? The presence of a server in her home, the attempts to hide it, to prevent anyone seeing any email at all, speak volumes. In the absence of recorded or filmed conversations, emails are the most solid evidence we can have. Why was she not conducting business on State Department security approved computers and devices? Federal law requires official communications to be preserved. The object is a clean and transparent government responsive to the citizens they serve. At one point Barack Obama promised the most transparent administration in history—but that was then and this is now.

We do have a problem with the federal bureaucracy. Individuals of varied degrees of competency and experience are appointed by the President and approved by Congress to head one of the departments of the administration, which means they are walking into an organization that is humming along in some fashion, and take over. Be in charge, direct its operations, and be responsible for its actions.

The State Department has its own peculiarities. We do have Ambassadors in most countries, but apparently the boss is supposed to spend their time visiting lots of countries, particularly the more difficult ones and make progress in some fashion. The culture of the State Department emphasizes diplomacy (which seems to be defined as “keep talking”) above anything else. State has long been accused of being weak on security — going back to when they had the Soviets build their new embassy in Moscow, and the KGB built listening devices right into the walls of every room. So it is indeed possible that when Hillary got her instructions on how the department works, security was not emphasized. But—as we are constantly reminded, she was FLOTUS, and one of the two senators from New York (safe Democrat seat) and in the White House and in the Senate, security is a constant concern. That she was unaware of any need for careful security is beyond belief. And why did she have her own private server in her home anyway?

But here is Hillary’s problem. She was Secretary of State, not just a title to advance one’s career, but the executive officer of a large organization, in charge. The successes or failures of the department are her responsibility, and go to her credit or her dismissal in disgrace.

And there’s the rub. The entire investigation into Benghazi is not, as the lapdog press claims, a political attack on Hillary. Our Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens; his Information Officer Sean Smith; and two brave CIA contractors, former Seals, who were trying to save the Americans under attack were all killed by the attacking jihadists. Ambassador Stevens had written 600 requests for more security. In the hearing, Clinton was asked about an email from Stevens written in early September.

Clinton claimed to believe that Chris Stevens was joking when he asked about security at the Benghazi compound. It was certainly the hearing’s most bizarre moment: “Well, Congresswoman, one of the great attributes that Chris Stevens had was a really good sense of humor and I just see him smiling as he’s typing this because it’s clearly in response to the e-mail down below talking about picking up a few ‘fire sale items from the Brits’,” she told Brooks.

The “fire sale items” were barricades left behind by the British, who were leaving Benghazi because it was unsafe.

Clinton claimed that she never saw Stevens’ requests for more security as such things were passed on to the “security professionals.” Excuse me. As head of the department, it is her job to know about such things and if subordinates did not inform her, they should be promptly fired.

Contrary to her claims of having done “everything’ possible, the gentle manner of Rep. Lynn Westmoreland was disarming. He forced Clinton to admit that she decided not to send the FES (Foreign Emergency Support) team to rescue the Americans in Benghazi.

The night of the attack, September 11, 2012, Hillary knew the compound was under attack, knew that the two CIA contractors were pinned down under attack and calling for backup and help. She brushed that off as something for “the security professionals”and went home and went to bed.

She emailed Chelsea that night and told her that the ambassador was under terrorist attack, but by the next morning, the attack was the spontaneous result of a poorly-made video criticizing Islam. When the bodies were brought home, Hillary told the parents that they would make the video-maker pay for his crime. She had called the prime minister of Egypt on September 12, to tell him that the video was not responsible. Susan Rice went on the rounds of the Sunday shows to blame an ugly video that criticized the Prophet.

To be very clear, the administration lied to the shocked American people, lied to the victim’s parents, but knew from the very first that it was an attack by approximately 100 –150 supporters of Ansar al Sharia — al Qaeda affiliates. The president was campaigning for reelection, claiming that al Qaeda was dead and General Motors was alive. (He’d taken care of the terrorists, and revived the economy)

The story about Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty  is still not clear. The account in Wikipedia does not jibe with what I remember hearing at the time. The backup that they requested was ready to embark, and was told to stand down. The general who prepared to rescue them was subsequently removed, but who did or said what is still a mystery to perhaps be discovered by more Freedom of Information requests. They have been filed constantly ever since 2012.

The reason it has dragged on so long is the refusal of the State Department to provide the emails that have begun to clarify what actually happened and why. Can’t find them. Must be lost. Haven’t found any yet. Then a few trickle out. A great flood of several thousand emails from Ambassador Stevens was delivered just two days before the hearings. That’s how the game is played in our nation’s capitol.

Hillary was forced to make several damning revelations during hours of sworn testimony. Here are nine of them.
The hearing was about politics, Hillary’s politics.. How her politics trumped competence in office.
There were 8 major warnings before the Benghazi terror attacks.
She Knew All Along” from the Wall Street Journal.
— “Still Waiting for the Truth,” The Weekly Standard
Obama administration officials, with the awareness of the Sec. of State, were involved in violating a ban on arming Syrian rebels. The news media is aiding them in covering up the Benghazi to Syria arms transfers.
— “Hillary Owns the War in Libya (And Its Horrible Aftermath)

Don’t forget, Hillary is an old hand at this kind of thing, lots of hearings with tough questions over the years.

Deeply Misunderstanding the Nature of the Enemy by The Elephant's Child

In his speech to the State Department’s Climate and Clean Energy Investment Forum yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry not only exposed the administration’s disastrous misconceptions about the climate — there has been no warming for 18 years and 9 months — but the “extremism,” as the administration insists on calling it, of ISIS and al-Qaeda. President Obama said once something about the Iranian rulers being people just like us, who care about our families and our people. They are not. Kerry said:

The other being the rise of radical extremism, sectarianism, and the failure of states simultaneously surrounding it, and vast populations of young people needing jobs instead of mind-bending theories of false assumptions about Islam and other things. Both are gigantic challenges.

Secretary Kerry is also wrong about the rise of “radical extremism.” It is very clearly Islamic radical fanaticism. Its proponents are not poor young men needing jobs, but for the most part middle class, educated, and their “extremism” is religious in nature. They believe that the current state of the Middle East is a result of Allah turning away from his people because they have not adhered closely enough to his rules. The Sunnis long for a return to the seventh century and the era of the prophet, and they believe they must purify Islamic lands by removing those who do not submit. The Shias long for the return of the Mahdi.

In the days following the death of the Prophet, the Armies of Islam swept across the lands surrounding the Mediterranean conquering everything in their path. Islamic scholars knew mathematics and astronomy, and the people of the West were barbarians. Islam never had a Reformation nor an Enlightenment.

We’re not going to get very far if we insist on believing that they just need jobs and opportunity. Their calls for Death to America and Death to Israel are quite serious. ISIS televised executions of Christians and others who do not submit and adopt Islam are meant to show the world just how serious they are. Obama has said that he believes that the Iranians would never actually use a nuclear weapon — a statement that demonstrates all too clearly the depth of his misunderstandings.

Looking back at the history of crisis and wars, misunderstanding the nature of the enemy has always been a forerunner of disaster.

The Continuing Problems With Obama’s Legacy by The Elephant's Child

—There’s the security agreement that President Obama signed with China’s President Xi Jinping to end the cyber attacks. That one lasted one day. The very next day seven companies were attacked by Deep Panda, a hacker group code name used by security researchers for the Chinese military.

The two leaders agreed that “neither country’s government will conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information, with the intent of providing competitive advantages to companies or commercial sectors,” according to a summit fact sheet.

Additionally, the two sides agreed to cooperate in investigating cyber crime and to hold high-level talks on the issue.

“The very first intrusion conducted by China-affiliated actors after the joint Xi-Obama announcement at the White House took place the very next day—Saturday, Sept. 26th,” said Dmitri Alperovitch, a co-founder founder of CrowdStrike. “We detected and stopped the actors, so no exfiltration of customer data actually took place, but the very fact that these attempts occurred highlights the need to remain vigilant despite the newly minted cyber agreement.”

—The Sixth Circuit has stopped the EPA’s new Clean Water Rule on the grounds that it probably exceeds the agency’s legal authority.

The EPA rule, issued in May, extends federal jurisdiction over tens of millions of acres of private land that had been regulated by the states. In August a federal judge in North Dakota issued a preliminary injunction in 13 of the 31 states that have sued to block the rule, and the Sixth Circuit has now echoed that legal reasoning by enjoining the rule nationwide. …

The rule empowers the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and EPA to micromanage any creek, pond or prairie pothole with a “significant nexus” to a “navigable waterway.” While the EPA’s putative objective was to define limitations on federal authority, the rule in effect gives federal agencies unfettered power. …

The truth is that the water rule like so many Obama Administration diktats offers marginal benefits at a high cost and is intended to subvert state sovereignty and expand federal dominion over private businesses. Thanks to the Sixth Circuit, at least Americans won’t have to suffer under the EPA’s regulatory burden while the case is being heard.

—The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) released a major study on obesity last year. Sample sizes in the studies were small, and results mixed, but it showed that obesity rates for children between two and nineteen years old hovered around 17 percent over the last decade.

The White House saw a bit of hope in one finding. Obesity rates for children between to and five years old fell from 13.0 percent to 8,4 percent from 2003-2004, to 2011-2012. The Daily Caller obtained emails through a FOIA request, and showed that the White House wanted the CDC and HHS to highlight that news, while ignoring the rest in order to emphasize Michelle’s childhood obesity project — “Let’s Move.”

The researchers thought the positive news in the study was not clear enough to emphasize, and needed more investigation. and that “Let’s Move” which began only in 2010 likely had nothing to do with it.

“Well our press release is skewed to highlight the good news per HHS request,” a CDC senior press officer, Karen Hunter, admitted in a Feb. 26, 2014 email to three others at the agency.

“This release will have a first lady quote and they are mainly wanting to focus on the decline among 2 to 5 year olds during the current administration,” she wrote in another email.

The full extent of the White House’s pressure on HHS and CDC to spin the study in favor of “Let’s Move” is not clear. Many of the 713 pages of emails are withheld, citing executive privilege invoked by the White House.

News outlets picked up on the CDC headline “Obesity Rate for Young Children Plummets 43% in a Decade.” Katherine Flegal, a highly respected CDC scientist wrote:

The finding is exaggerated and questionable in a variety of ways, and the HHS press release made far too much of it. I have gotten a number of personal emails from various researchers also saying ‘What is going on here?’

I assume we will eventually find out just how completely the White House has exercised control over the agencies and offices in the federal Bureaucracy. It’s going to be very interesting. Obama has insisted that his is not an ‘Imperial Presidency.’

Obama Doesn’t Want Any Advice, Thank You Very Much! by The Elephant's Child

leadBig-0b16e62c331a5b2030f4f0923a17994bEliot Cohen reports that the president has no interest in hearing strategic recommendations.

Criticize the Administration’s Syria policy without providing alternative recommendations, and the President will dismiss you for mere carping. Argue, say, for a no-fly zone, however, and you will be dismissed for lacking the information and advice that only the President can have. Either way, in his view, you are a dummy, or, as he so artfully said of his previous Secretary of State, a peddler of “mumbo jumbo.”

This pervasive contempt for the views of others is one of the President’s greatest weaknesses and least attractive traits. Inevitably, it percolates throughout his Administration and prevails in particular at the White House. Yet it seems not to deter those on the outside—apolitical experts, some Democrats, and not a few veterans of Republican Administrations—from attempting, in all sincerity, to devise and argue for alternative approaches.Not only are their efforts pointless—if Obama is his own strategist, why should he listen to you, foolish or wicked veterans of the Bush Administration?—they are misguided. One can only judge a policy on its implementation, and although a no-fly zone conceived by a tough-minded Commander in Chief and implemented by Bob Gates might be just the thing, a no-fly zone put into place by the President who brought you vanishing red lines, a botched withdrawal from Iraq, the reset with Russia that wasn’t, repeated groveling apologies for the inevitable accidents of war, and much else, could be a debacle.

Marc Thiessen writing in the Washington Post quoted Tommy Vietor as explaining why his boss has skipped more than half his daily intelligence meetings since taking office – including every day in the week leading up to the attacks on our diplomatic facilities in Egypt and Libya: Obama, they say, doesn’t need briefers because he is just so much smarter than everyone else. As Vietor put it to me in an email, “Unlike your former boss [President Bush], he has it delivered to his residence in the morning and not briefed to him.”

The White House takes pride in the fact that Obama’s PDB is “not briefed to him” – because, they say, he is “among the most sophisticated consumers of intelligence on the planet.” That hubris brings to mind this revealing quote from a September 2008 New York Times profile of Obama:

“I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters,” Mr. Obama told Patrick Gaspard, his political director, at the start of the 2008 campaign, “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m going to think I’m a better political director than my political director.”

Another problem of the Information Age: What you say can come back to haunt you forever, and often YouTube is there to prove that you did, indeed, say it.

A second piece from the American Interest continues from Eliot Cohen’s piece and points out  a similar article in Politico confirming the president’s unwillingness to listen to anyone on the issue of Syria, including those in his administration. Here’s the essential paragraph:

Sources familiar with administration deliberations said that Obama’s West Wing inner circle serves as a brick wall against dissenting views. The president’s most senior advisers — including National Security Adviser Susan Rice and White House chief of staff Denis McDonough — reflect the president’s wariness of escalated U.S. action related to Syria or Russia and, officials fear, fail to push Obama to question his own deeply rooted assumptions. “Susan and Denis channel him,” says a former administration official who has witnessed the dynamic.

The attitude has alienated Russia experts in the Administration:

Obama’s refusal to take firmer action against Moscow has increasingly isolated several of his administration’s Russia specialists, who almost uniformly take a harder line toward Putin than does the president himself. They include Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs; Celeste Wallander, the National Security Council’s senior director for Russia and Eurasia; and Evelyn Farkas, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia. Farkas’ recent announcement that she will exit the Obama administration this fall raised eyebrows among officials aware of her frustration that Obama hasn’t responded more forcefully to Putin’s annexation of Crimea and his support for pro-Russian separatists in the country’s east. (Farkas has told friends that she is not resigning over policy disputes.)

Eliot Cohen’s important article is here.

Obama has decided that we will stay in Afghanistan. Too bad he didn’t give such consideration to the precipitous withdrawal from Iraq.

Suppressing U.S. Intelligence For Political Reasons? by The Elephant's Child

Some of the U.S. intelligence community’s top analysts reportedly have informed the Pentagon’s Inspector General that their reports have been systematically edited to back up President Obama’s assertions and his national security team’s assertions that the war on ISIS is more successful than it actually is, according to news reports from The Hill and other news sources.

This is the first time that so many intelligence analysts have complained to the Pentagon’s top Inspector General Jon Rymer about the politicizing of the intelligence gathering and analysis function.  In July, two analysts filed a complaint after months of internal complaints were allegedly ignored. Some career intelligence officers who complained were bullied and forced to take early retirement.  Other analysts backed up their colleagues complaints and said they can back up their claims of political shenanigans to make Obama, Kerry and others look good.

The most damaging complaint is that “senior officials are editing the analysts’ reports to bring them into line with administration claims. The goal was apparently to make Iran appear less dangerous to Americans while the administration was pursuing its Iran Deal. The House Armed Services Committee is investigating.

Whatever Bad Thing is Happening is Caused by Climate Change! by The Elephant's Child

In the Democrat Debate in Las Vegas, the candidates were asked what is the greatest crisis facing America? A little Middle East, and more of income inequality, but for Bernie Sanders  it was Climate Change. I’m becoming convinced that Progressives, or Socialists in Bernie’s case, get all of their information from Progressive talking points.

Our colleges and universities have insisted that they are teaching our children “critical thinking” which seems to mean the progressive line. This has widely been called “the Information Age” — which refers more to volume than quality. But where is the help in managing the flow?

There was a time when we had 3 major networks, but not only has that expanded, but the sources of information have exploded. Newspapers may be dying, but they are moving online, and with a few keystrokes I can access any newspaper in the world, most in English. There is social media, and Twitter for instantaneous information, far more than anyone has the time to pursue — yet we are told that a significant number of people get their news from late night comedy shows.

It seems to me to be essential to teach our kids how to manage information. How do you determine which websites are honest and reliable? The ‘fact checkers’ have not been either reliable or helpful. When you have a debate among candidates for the presidency of the United States and one of those candidates announces that the greatest crisis facing Americans is climate change, and that we must act because our grandchildren will face an uninhabitable world, what are you supposed to think?

Susan Rice, President Obama’s national security adviser, just announced that the mess in Syria is caused by Climate Change.

The president himself scoffed at Vladimir Putin’s adventures in Syria and said his own efforts on climate change were more important leadership for the world.

Where does this panic about the climate come from? I haven’t noticed anything out of the ordinary actually occurring. California has a drought, as they have had many times in the past. South Carolina just got a lot of rain and floods, but it’s not even a 100 year event. Hurricanes are down in number and severity.

According to the satellite data, we have had no warming in the past 18 years and 8 months. Dangerous climate change exists only in computer programs that attempt to model the climate and predict the future. But we don’t know enough about our present climate to be predicting the future. We are just learning that the surface of the ocean has effects on clouds that we don’t understand, and for that matter we don’t have any understanding of just how clouds affect climate. The ocean is rising by millimeters, not inches or feet, and those with waterfront lots don’t need to worry for a century or two.

Progressives ignore science completely in their fear of genetically modified crops (GMOs). According to the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association and countless other well qualified international bodies there is no peer-reviewed scientific evidence that GMO crops are unfit for human consumption in any way.

Are we doomed to simply get dumber each year as our sources of information increase? To know less and less about how to separate fact and fiction? Scary indeed.


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