American Elephants

Guns and Gun Violence, In Gun Controlled Chicago. by The Elephant's Child


Democrats learn from each other, and from approved leftist publications, and from Democrat talking points and late night comedians, I think. They do not seem to learn from evidence.

“As of November 23, there had been 2,703 shootings which resulted in 440 deaths year-to-date in heavily gun-controlled Chicago,” according to AWR Hawkins, writing in Breitbart.  That is an increase, he said, of approximately 400 shootings over the same time last year.

The Chicago Tribune reported these numbers as part of their broader coverage of the 11 people shot, five killed, over the course of last weekend alone. Half of those wounded were shot on November 22 “between about 12:25 p.m. and 8:40 p.m.” Three of those killed were shot on that same day, between those same hours as well.

It is especially notable that gun control laws have little to do with actual gun violence. Lefties always believe that it’s the guns, not the gangs. It’s the guns, not the drug dealing. And the violence is, of course, to be blamed on bad policing. Because there is gun violence and bad policing, the assumption is that people who are in prison for “non-violent crimes” should be released, because it isn’t fair. I am inclined to believe that selling drugs is a violent crime. At least it does violence to someone else’s life.

Chicago established a “violence tax” at suburban Cook County gun stores in April 2013. The tax is levied on each gun and bullet sold within the county. In 2014, the first full year after the tax, gun deaths increased by 19 over the toll in 2013. As if November 23rd, the Tribune shows 440 deaths with over a month left to go, so  Chicago has already topped 2014, and who knows what December will bring.

Evidence be damned. The Seattle City Council adopted a similar tax on August 10. Gun violence is raging in Seattle, but to the Democrat run  city council the problem is the guns, or the bullets, not who is holding or shooting the weapon. Seattle has suburbs all around the city, and they haven’t, and probably won’t, initiate such a tax. Seattle is similar to Berkeley, with a similarly useless city council.

You can look all around the world, and gun control laws simply do not work. See Australia, Britain, Canada for example.

America has lots of hunters. There are, as of 2011, 10.6 million deer hunters, 1.4 million duck hunters, 3.1 million turkey hunters, and 1.7 million squirrel hunters. Then we have elk, quail, grouse, goose, bear, pronghorn, bighorn sheep and wild pig and other species that are available to hunt in some locations. Where I grew up, a lot of families depended on the fall hunting trip for deer or elk to fill the freezer to get through the winter. Hunters are responsible gun owners and users for the most part, and many of them have several guns.

Criminals are not, but they don’t buy their weapons at gun stores, nor do they pay a tax on each bullet. The police take a very risky job because they believe in keeping the public safe. The “Black Lives Matter” crowd is doing a lot of uncalled for damage to neighborhood policing.

That is not a gun at the top.  It is simply a picture of a hunting rifle.

Getting the Incentives Right Makes All The Difference by The Elephant's Child

police_by_steve_lyon_500x280Are you familiar with the term “Civil Asset Forfeiture”? Between 1989 and 2010, U.S. attorneys seized an estimated $12.6 billion in asset forfeiture cases. The growth rate in sums seized averaged at a positive 19.4% annually.  In the year 2010 alone that number increased by 53.8%from the previous year and was six times greater than the total seized in 1989. In 2014 the amount seized for the year was roughly $4.5 billion.

According to the FBI the total amount of goods stolen by criminals in 2014 burglary offenses represented an estimated $3.9 billion. In other words, the police are now taking more assets than the crooks. Call it policing for profit. What’s going on? How does it work?

We give local police and prosecutors the authority to seize cash, cars, homes and other property from private citizens — without a court convicting those citizens of any crime. Without even charging them of a crime.  Then the authorities get to sell the goods and keep the profits for themselves. The incentives built into the system have led some localities to turn forfeiture into a shakedown operation.

On the one hand, we depend on the police to keep our neighborhoods safe; on the other we have Black Lives Matter activists charging police with racism and unnecessary attacks on innocents because of their race. Again, incentives at work. Police recruitment is down across the country. Potential recruits see no point in signing on for an occupation where they will be accused of racism, physically attacked, when they are risking their lives to protect the people. Even when cleared of all charges by careful investigation, they are assumed to be murderers. Who needs that?

Valerie Jarrett has just announced that President Obama will be working to reform the criminal justice system, releasing about 6,000 inmates convicted of drug related offenses, and she said, reforms that reduce prison populations will make America safer.

The idea seems to be that the black community suffers from an absence of fathers, and there are too many fathers in prison for non-violent offenses like selling drugs, so if we get the fathers out of prison, it will help the black community. Or something like that. “Banning the box” on federal employment applications will make a criminal background less apt to result in being rejected, and more men will be employed.

“If you keep people from going to prison in the first place, and they don’t get caught up in that system and they are getting employed and they have ways of taking care of their family, that brings crime down, and so I think we have all of the stakeholders firmly engaged in this process as a way of keeping our neighborhoods safer and allowing people to lead productive lives.”

“Jarrett predicted “really big things” would happen during Obama’s final year in office.” Somehow that statement does not fill me with confidence or anticipation.


Obama Is a Little Confused About Just Who The Enemy Is by The Elephant's Child

Obama ArroganttPresident Obama is accustomed to admiring treatment from most of the media most of the time. He was asked repeatedly at a press conference in Turkey on Monday why he continues to insist that he never underestimated ISIS, and his strategy, he believes, is working.  Oddly enough, in the wake of terrorist attacks, and the Parisian roundup of the remaining terrorists who were responsible for ISIS attack on Paris, Obama has reserved his most intense anger for the Republicans. He says we’re playing into the hands of ISIS with our “anti-refugee hysteria.”

We are not well served when, in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic,” Mr. Obama said at a summit in Manila, the Philippines. “We don’t make good decisions if its based on hysteria or an exaggeration of risks.”

Mr. Obama said some of the same people who have suggested stopping refugees from coming into the country also have suggested that they are tough enough to just stare down Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Apparently they are scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America,” Mr. Obama said. “At first they were too scared of the press being too tough on them in the debates. Now they are scared of three-year-old orphans. That doesn’t seem so tough to me.”

“Three-year-old orphans,” Mr. President? We just watched a massive attack by ISIS, the organization you claim is controlled, on civilians in Paris. I would suggest that Americans are not terrified by refugees, but just want them thoroughly vetted, and afraid you are incapable.

Europe is now dealing with the European Union policy on open borders. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in the name of wikkommenskkultur ( a culture of welcoming) suspended restrictions on refugees seeking asylum. Unchanged,  Germany would have a million refugees by year’s end. Last week the interior ministry re-imposed the very restrictions Ms. Merkel had lifted. Germans are calling for her resignation.

Mr. Obama misunderstands. Americans are far more afraid of the administration’s lack of resolve, arrogance, and failure to understand the nature of the threat. The dreadful Iran Deal gives Iran the time and funding to complete their development of nuclear weapons, the desultory effort to contain ISIS in Iraq has such restraint on targeting that nothing is accomplished in fear that we might possibly hit a civilian or anything else that might elicit disapproval.

Veteran journalist Sharyl Attkisson said that her sources have told her that President Barack Obama does not want and will not read intelligence reports on groups “he does not consider terrorists,” despite being on a U.S. list of designated terrorists.

“I have talked to people who have worked in the Obama administration who firmly believe he has made up his mind. I would say closed his mind, they say, to their intelligence that they’ve tried to bring him about various groups that he does not consider terrorists, even if they are on the U.S. list of designated terrorists. He has his own ideas, and there are those who’ve known him a long time who say this dates back to law school. He does not necessarily—you may think it’s a good trait you may think it’s a bad trait—he does not necessarily listen to the people with whom he disagrees. He seems to dig in. I would suppose because he thinks he’s right. He is facing formidable opposition on this particular point.”

In his latest harangue against Republicans and other American opposed to his insistence on continuing to import thousands of Muslim refugees from Syria and other parts of the Middle East and Africa, Obama said:

When I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which a person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted … that’s shameful…. That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.

We have noted that Obama has often tried to insert the idea of empathy or compassion into Constitutional law and federal law.
The law is about justice, and supposedly is blind to tests of compassion. Andy McCarthy wrote today: (Do read the whole thing)

Under federal law, the executive branch is expressly required to take religion into account in determining who is granted asylum. Under the provision governing asylum
(section 1158 of Title 8, U.S. Code), an alien applying for admission must establish that … religion [among other things] … was or will be at least one central reason for persecuting the applicant. …

The law requires a “religious test.” And the reason for that is obvious. Asylum law is not a reflection of the incumbent president’s personal (and rather eccentric) sense of compassion. Asylum is a discretionary national act of compassion that is directed, by law not whim, to address persecution.

There is no right to emigrate to the United States. And the fact that one comes from a country or territory ravaged by war does not, by itself, make one an asylum candidate. …

Other lawyers have noted today that the president doesn’t get to decide who is a refugee and who is not. John Hinderaker wrote:

There are strong practical as well as legal reasons for distinguishing between Islamic applicants for asylum and similar applications by Christians or others. We know that ISIS is trying to infiltrate terrorists into groups of migrants leaving Syria; there is some evidence that they have succeeded. As McCarthy says, no one has a right to emigrate to the U.S. The government’s first duty is to protect the American people, not to extend favors to foreigners. Moreover, Obama’s “compassion” argument falls flat. A recent Center for Immigration Studies report found that, for the cost of resettling one refugee in the United States, we could instead care for 12 refugees overseas. That is a much more cost-effective approach, and one that will not impose needless dislocation either on us, or on the refugees.

It would be interesting to know just who Obama considers “real terrorists,” and which advisers he actually listens to — but everybody says that he has only a very narrow group of people that he associates with. His selection of advisors seems to be confined to those who will do exactly as they are told and don’t even think of disagreeing. The rest have resigned, or left for other ventures.  He doesn’t even seem to be particularly impressed with the attack on Paris. After all the more important big climate meeting is coming up, and there’s a world to be saved from the horrors of carbon dioxide.

The EPA Is Not Now, And Never Has Been, In Any Situation — Transparent! by The Elephant's Child

AR-150829613.jpg&maxw=725&maxh=575I have wondered about the progress of the spill from the Gold King Mine as it proceeds down the Colorado River System through Lake Powell and the Grand Canyon. As the spill approached Lake Powell, news about the spill precipitously dropped from the news. Not an accident. Environmental Protection Agency officials have required their contractors to sign non-disclosure agreements, or secrecy pledges.

“The statement of work includes a standard requirement that the contractor shall not publish or otherwise release, distribute, or disclose any work product generated under the contract without obtaining EPA’s express advance written approval,” an EPA spokeswoman told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “This does not require either an NDA or confidentiality agreement be signed by individual employees.”

Non-disclosure agreements are often used to protect important government secrets, they are not supposed to obstruct official accountability at critical times. The EPA was clearly at fault here for a massive spill of 3 million gallons of highly toxic mine waste, not only rife with materials such as cadmium, lead and arsenic. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the cadmium turned the river a bright mustard yellow, so it couldn’t exactly be kept secret. The picture above is of the narrow-gauge railroad that runs from Durango to Silverton, and is very popular with tourists. I have ridden it, and it’s a beautiful trip, but not with a yellow river.

The initial reporting was plentiful as it flowed through small Colorado towns and as it reached the Navajo Reservation where the river flows right through the center of the reservation near Shiprock and Teec Nos Pos. This is water essential to the reservation, for tribal animals and water, and for irrigation, and just for drinking water. There were some sloppy attempts to truck water in to the reservation, with dirty tanks, and the tribal leaders said they would sue. This is public business, and lawsuits will be paid with taxpayer  money.

The EPA has said that there are 28 separate contracts with Environmental Restoration and it would take until the 22nd of December to review them all to determine just which contract would pertain to the Animas and Colorado Rivers. Uh huh. Even looking through Google’s array of pictures, they don’t seem to include Lake Powell nor the Grand Canyon National Park. Interesting.

The EPA is forestalling transparency in a spill that affects the regional supply of drinking water across the American Southwest. Timely? Nah.

But it is a bit of a pattern for agencies of the Obama administration. The IRS? Don’t ask. The VA? Congress is working on transparency, but it seems that it is difficult to impossible to fire government officials. This was going to be the most transparent administration in history. That’s turning out well.


(click to enlarge)

Obama Kills the Keystone Pipeline Again, to Preserve America’s “Global Leadership” on Climate Change. by The Elephant's Child

Obama announced on Friday that “the State Department would not permit the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, saying that the project’s completion would rob  the U.S . of the moral authority to pressure other countries toward action on climate change.”

“If we’re going to prevent large parts of this earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky,”

Oh please! What a load of what we used to call, politely, road apples. Of course Obama would blame it on the State Department, which had previously approved the Keystone twice, once under Hillary and once under Kerry. Even the State of Nebraska has approved it.

Imagine, we have denied oil market access to our ally Canada, along with access to our refineries, but granted it to Iran.

The Canadian oil will go to market. It is going to market now, by rail. I heard there was a derailment today, but no spill this time. It is safer, considerably safer, by pipeline. It’s not as if we didn’t have all sorts of pipelines already, quite safely. Moving oil through a pipeline does not release CO2 to the atmosphere, and if it did, it would be a good thing. CO2 is not a pollutant. It is plant food, and makes plants grow. More food to feed a hungry world.

The oil refineries in the Gulf have tripled their processing supplies of Canadian crude since 2010 to more than 300,000 barrels a day. The urgent need for the pipeline is down because of the decline in oil prices from $100 a barrel to $45, which puts a damper on future growth.

Canadian and US Crude Oil Pipeline Proposals(click to enlarge)

The Seaway Crude Pipeline System (SCPS), commonly called the Seaway Pipeline transports crude oil between Cushing, Oklahoma and Freeport, Texas  to the Texas City, Texas Terminal and Distribution System on the Gulf Coast.

For many years the Seaway shipped oil north to Cushing, but in June 2012, the flow was reversed to ship oil south out of Cushing instead. President Obama flew to Cushing a while back, for a photo-op in front of a bunch of big oil pipes.

And America’s ‘Global Leadership’ is becoming more and more of a joke. ” And frankly,” Obama said, “approving this project would have undercut that global leadership.” More likely Tom Steyer’s money.

House speaker Paul Ryan described Obama’s decision as “sickening” in a brief statement. “By rejecting this pipeline, the president is rejecting tens of thousands of good-paying jobs. He is rejecting our largest trading partner and energy supplier,” Ryan said. “He is rejecting the will of the American people and a bipartisan majority of the Congress. If the president wants to spend the rest of his time in office catering to special interests, that’s his choice to make. But it’s just wrong.”

Terry O’Sullivan, general president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America said “The president nay be celebrated by environmental extremists, but with this act, President Obama has also solidified a legacy as a pompous, pandering job killer.” Ouch!

Heather MacDonald Testifies That it is Crime, Not Incarceration, That is Ending Opportunity by The Elephant's Child

Here is the brilliant Heather MacDonald testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. She is truly an expert on the subject of crime and punishment. Her testimony is only about six minutes long, but fact-filled, and deeply informed. She is a Manhattan Institute Research Fellow and City Journal Contributing Editor. I hope the Senators pay attention.

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.


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