American Elephants


The Mounting List of Obama Administration Scandals: by The Elephant's Child

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— The new head of the Veterans Administration, Robert McDonald, told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast that “When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? Or what’s important?”

“What’s important is what’s your satisfaction with the experience?”

American Legion National Commander Dale Barnett excoriated McDonald: “The American Legion agrees that the VA secretary’s analogy between Disneyland and VA wait times was an unfortunate comparison because people don’t die while waiting to go on Space Mountain.”

“We also disagree with the substance of his comment because wait times are very important to not just the satisfaction quotient, but in some cases the veterans health,” he said in a statement.

Well, clumsy, at best. Then there was the new study that established that between 1012 and 2015, less than 10 percent of new hires were actually physicians. Lots of lawyers and public affairs officials though.

The Wall Street Journal reported that there were 4,201 errors which mistakenly declared living veterans dead — terminating their benefits. A simple paper mistake for the VA, a nightmare for the vet who has to straighten out the mess.

— Congress is currently attempting to impeach IRS Director Koskinen. It seems the IRS is still trying to keep conservative organizations from gaining the tax-free status to which they are entitled. And as well, they were just never able to find the emails and other documentation that was requested under FOIA requests. A lower court had accepted the IRS statement that targeting had stopped, but it seems that no one has been held to account and the targeting continues today.

Kim Strassel notes that the “IRS team claimed that the fault for some of the scandal rests with the conservative groups for not pushing back hard enough.” They smugly claimed the conservative groups had blown their chance for nonprofit approval when they turned down the “fast track” status if they just agreed to give up their political speech rights. (A Treasury Dept idea.)

A new lawsuit asks a federal court to force the IRS to obey the law.

The IRS also improperly paid out $15.6 billion through the Earned Income Tax Credit Program. The OMB notes that this is a “high risk” program for improper payments, but the IRS says they are “taking steps” to reduce error.

— Federal Bureaucrats announced earlier this year they plan to change the way Medicare Part B pays for drugs. The goal is to save money by getting doctors to alter their treatment choices to the cheapest drugs available. More than 300 cancer clinics have closed over the past decade as Medicare has shrunk payments for cancer care. This would seem to be a venture in bad medicine, which is a usual result in socialized medicine. Those who see “single payer” as a desirable outcome should have some real second thoughts.

The Obama administration frames this experiment as a way to stick it to drug companies and save taxpayers money. They believe that doctors are not prescribing the “right” drugs—meaning the least expensive ones, even if they are the least appropriate. They suggest that doctors are motivated by money, and not their patients’ best interests.

Surely you have noticed how often the administration sneers at “Big Pharma.” The object is not to save lives, but to place the blame for getting rid of cancer-ridden patients before they cost too much money.

— Obama is planning to release another 22 or 23 long time Guantanamo detainees to about half a dozen countries. These are the “worst of the worst” and can be expected to return to the battlefield fairly promptly. Obama is motivated by the opinion of the European  Left who always opposed the Iraq War and assume that Gitmo is an American torture chamber, rather than the model prison it actually is. Not all of the foreign destination countries are ready to be identified, Obama wants to empty Guantanamo by this summer.

— Last year, Congress went to considerable trouble in crafting and passing a consensus bull to replace the outdated and unworkable No Child Left Behind. One of the goals was to reduce federal interference in education which remains a state and local issue. Obama is ignoring the law that he signed, and attempting to rewrite the implementation rules that claim powers specifically denied by the statutory language.

The law specifically states that the federal government may not use it to “mandate equalized spending per pupil for a state, local educational educational agency or school.” But that’s what the Education Department is attempting to do. Sen. Lamar Alexander, Chairman, confronted Education Department John King in a hearing telling him”The plain fact of the matter is that the law specifically says you cannot do it.”

This remains a nation of laws, no matter how much Obama tries to arrogate power to himself by simply claiming them. He says his agenda “can’t wait” for Congress to act.

— ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has spent at least $18.5 million to fly “unaccompanied children” caught crossing the border illegally, to locations inside the U.S. The numbers shed light on the extent of a program that concerns lawmakers and the federal courts that the federal government is effectively aiding smugglers. The administration has gone to great lengths to ensure the safety of minors, and claims their actions are appropriate. They are transporting minors to facilities run by HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement. ICE said about 10,000 children have been transported by charter flights.

— Obama’s Big Transgender Restroom Diversion is pure Saul Alinsky, the communist who has directed the Left in how to manipulate the American people. “Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new.” If there is a problem (no GDP growth) for which you have no answer, change the discussion and hit them with something new.

Members of the transgender population, about 0.3% of this nation, have managed to relieve themselves for generations in existing restrooms. Imagine the cost of revamping millions of public restrooms, and for such a tiny slice of the population. Now this has become a national cause, a provocation drummed up to divert attention from far more pressing issues.

— I posted “President Obama’s Legacy in 9 Simple Charts from the Federal Reserve“at the end of September last year. Not much has changed.



A Federal Judge Issues”Stinging” Order for Department of Justice Lawyers to Study Ethics in Five Years of Classes. by The Elephant's Child

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We have immigration laws, but President Obama does not like them. He issued  Executive Actions on November 20, 2014, and February 16, 2015, and DHS began implementing part of the President’s plan—issuing 108,999 three-year work permits to DACA applicants. He was addressing the approximately 4.4 million illegal aliens living in the U.S. without documentation. An alien living in the U.S. without documentation can apply to be eligible for “deferred action which will allow him to remain in the U.S. for three years. Based on that DHS will defer for 3 years the individual being removed from the country. Decisions would be made on a case by case basis. (DACA was Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DAPA was Deferred Action of Parents of Americans, or anchor babies) Conservatives call it “executive amnesty.”

In December 2014, Texas and 25 other states filed a lawsuit in the Southern District Court of Texas to block these power-grabs.

The main grounds for their suit were the costs of issuing driver’s licenses and other associated costs of giving the undocumented immigrants legal status. Other issues being considered included exceeding executive power, failure to adhere to rulemaking procedures, and standing — the right of the states to challenge federal immigration policies.
On February 23, 2015 Judge Andrew Hannan issued a temporary injunction blocking both programs from going into effect. Current requirements would remain unchanged and DAPA would not be implemented.
The DOJ has since admitted that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) violated Judge Hanen’s injunction. Specifically, it filed an Advisory on March 3 informing Judge Hanen that, despite having assured him in open court and in written pleadings to the contrary, between when the President announced his Executive Action on November 20, 2014, and February 16, 2015, A Federal Judge when the injunction was issued, the DHS had begun implementing part of the President’s plan – issuing 108,000 three-year work permits to DACA applicants.
Judge Andrew Hannan blasted DOJ officials for misleading the court in a truly stinging opinion. He said the Obama administration launched it’s executive amnesty program behind the court’s back, lied about it, and granted lawful residence to more than 100,000 illegal immigrants.
Judge Hannan ordered the Department of Justice to provide lists of each affected illegal alien in each of the states , requiring each DOJ attorney to take additional legal ethics courses for a period of five years, and ordered Attorney General Loretta Lynch to produce a comprehensive plan for ensuring that similar misconduct would not happen in the future. The court did not have the power to disbar the individual lawyers who lied to the court, but it did revoke their permission to appear in the case. That is a powerful rebuke, and a shameful thing to have on your resume.
But for the Left it’s a matter of social justice, and Liberals are morally superior, and the ends justify the means.


Hard Work, Opportunity, Perseverance or Just Luck? by The Elephant's Child

A year and a half ago, California voters passed Proposition 47, also known as the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act.” How could anybody vote against that? Silly, why do you think they give propositions names like that?  What it effectively did was to decriminalize a bunch of crimes, including shoplifting.

What do you suppose would happen if you decriminalize shoplifting? For normal people it’s fairly obvious, but for Democrats it is puzzling. They believe that crime is the fault of society, bad parents, lack of a good education, poverty, drugs, or lack of opportunity, not the fault of the victim who stole something that did not belong to him.

So what happened to shoplifting in the absence of punishment? It more than doubled. It has made the struggle of small businessmen to survive far, far more difficult. Anything valued at less than $950 keeps the crime a misdemeanor, which means the criminals won’t be pursued and there will be no punishment. Some shoplifters carried calculators to total up the stuff they had grabbed to avoid re aching the $950 barrier. The ballot measure also lowered the penalties for forgery, fraud, petty theft and drug possession. You might get a ticket. It’s a slap on the wrist the first time, the second time and the 20th time.

Proposition 47 was backed by George Soros money. Newt Gingrich wrote an editorial in support of it.

It is time to stop wasting taxpayer dollars on locking up low-level offenders. Proposition 47 on the November ballot will do this by changing six nonviolent, petty offenses from felony punishments (which now can carry prison time) to misdemeanor punishments and local accountability.

The left’s interesting relationship with crime continues. President Obama told graduates at the historically black Howard University that they are living in an era of unprecedented opportunity, but he was speaking to the inequities blacks face. He excused crime at one point as a result of an “unfair and unjust system” and said that success is all just”luck.” He went on to claim that crime was a result ot the system, not the actions of criminals.

That’s a pet peeve of mine — people who have been successful and don’t realize they’ve been lucky. That God may have blessed them; it wuddn’t nothin’ you did. So don’t have an attitude.”

This line invokes his “you didn’t build that” gaffe from 2012 when Obama insisted that people with a successful business “didn’t build that” on their own and that government was really the catalyst for success.

The President’s commencement message is essentially that if you are black in the U.S. and you are successful, it was just luck and most blacks are held down by an “unfair and unjust” system that won’t allow them to succeed

What an odd point of view and what  a troubling speech to graduates. If you are not responsible for your own success or failure—but it’s all just luck, then you don’t have to take responsibility for much of anything, and nobody can blame you for anything.  Explains a lot.

Does that point of view effect the whole Democrat Party? California’s Prop. 47 goes right along with their Sanctuary City policies, and the decline of San Francisco into a remarkably dirty city. I can remember when if ladies wanted to go to “the city” to shop or attend an event, they wore hats and gloves. But that was a long time ago, and San Francisco was a different place.



Does Anyone Remember Who Spoke at their Graduation Ceremony? by The Elephant's Child

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As long as we’re looking for the lighter side of the current Political Campaign, President Obama just gave the commencement speech at Rutgers University. It must be exciting for new graduates to have the President of the United States speak at their ceremony.

After a couple of obligatory congratulations to the graduates and the name dropping of their favorite watering holes and greasy spoons, the President used his speech to tear into Donald Trump’s trade agenda, his Muslim ban, and his planned great big wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. He didn’t mention Mr. Trump by name, but it was rather obvious.

‘The world is more interconnected than ever before. And it’s becoming more connected every day. Building walls won’t change that,’ Obama said.

‘To help ourselves, we’ve got to help others, not pull up the drawbridge and try to keep the world out,’ Obama said.

He added:

‘It’s part of human nature, especially in times of change and uncertainty to want to look back at a long forgotten imaginary past when everything worked and the economy worked,’ Obama said.

And America did pretty much whatever it wanted around the world. Guess what, it ain’t so? The good old days weren’t all that good.’

As Mr. Obama was deploring Mr. Trump’s wall, the Secret Service is proposing to replace the White House Fence to double its height, from the current about six feet to nearly 14 feet and provide other measures to deter would-be intruders. “They want to build a fence that is tougher, taller, and stronger.” A great big fence.  The old proverb is “good fences make good neighbors,”used by Robert Frost, but not exactly what either the Secret Service nor President Obama has in mind. But then, perhaps I’m just easily amused.

I vaguely remember who gave the graduation speech at my college commencement, but cannot remember his name or what he said. What I do remember most clearly of that day, was getting bombed by a seagull who deposited an indiscretion on my cap and gown. Maybe the Rutgers grads won’t remember a thing either.



Private Property Rights Seem Unimportant Until They’re Yours, and They’re Gone. by The Elephant's Child

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Andy and Katie Johnson own a small 8-acre ranch near Bridger, Wyoming, on which they run 10 head of cattle and 4 horses. A creek runs through the property. Mr. Johnson wanted to build a stock pond to water his animals. He got approval from the local government and from the State of Wyoming, and they invested most of their savings in building the stock pond. Birds, fish and other wildlife came.

So did the EPA, who went after the family for violating the Clean Water Act. EPA Director Gina McCarthy used the Johnson family to test the power of the EPA in advance of the passage of their harsh new rules. The rule wasn’t even passed when Ms. McCarthy took out her pen and her phone.

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EPA regulators showed up at the Johnson property in 2014, and announced that the Johnsons were facing a “very serious matter.” The EPA claimed the Johnsons violated the Clean Water Act by building a dam on a creek without a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. The EPA claims the pond discharges into other waterways. Mr. Johnson was ordered to restore the property to its pre-pond state, according to EPA rules for restoration, and pay a fine of $37,500 a day until it was completely restored, and face criminal charges as well.

The EPA’s new rule is a power grab, clean and simple. When Congress created the Clean Water Act, they neglected to define “water.” Big mistake. The Supreme Court defined “the waters of the United States” as “navigable waters” which the EPA promptly redefined as anything that flowed into the navigable waters, and believed they were justified in tracing the “navigable waters” right back to your downspout. Imagine! I’ve used a picture of a trickle in a roadside ditch to point out what they are after. Ms McCarthy wants to be a Commissar of the EPA’s own Empire.

The Johnsons refused to cave in, and enlisted the help of Wyoming Senators Barasso and Enzi, and Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, and the Libertarian Pacific Legal Foundation. The Clean Water Act specifically excludes stock ponds. No matter.The fines had reached $16 million when Mr. Johnson’s counter lawsuit against the EPA reached the courts.

More than two years later, Johnson won. In a settlement reached with the EPA, he gets to keep his pond, he won’t need to get a federal permit, the EPA fines have been removed, and all Johnson agreed to do was plant some willow trees and limit access to a portion of his pond for a while.

Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Jonathan Wood called the settlement “a win for the Johnson family, and a win for the environment.”

The federal government stormed onto private property, threatened  a family with massive fines (could $37,500 a day be any more absurd?) and walked away only after being countersued. While the Johnsons were being harassed, the EPA was finalizing their new rule to cover anything from prairie puddles to power plants.

A lawsuit filed by several states came to a halt when a federal judge in North Dakota blocked the EPA from enforcing the rule, which the judge said was “arbitrary and capricious.” The judge ruled that the injunction be applied to all 50 states, but the EPA decided that they would go ahead and enforce the rule in the states that hadn’t sued, until an appeals court stepped in and blocked that runaround.

The EPA has been slapped down by the courts repeatedly for overreaching , but they are zealots — intent on power. “The environment” has become a magical word to which  every business is careful to genuflect. That’s power. Packages and papers come with a notation to ‘please recycle’. Laws protecting the people from polluted air or polluted water are in place.

The EPA is reduced to scanning archives for old studies, not necessarily valid, that will give them a legal leg to stand on. Words are parsed for other possible meanings. Your freedom and property rights depend on a lawyer asking the right questions to get you off whatever hook the EPA decides to impale you with. The agency has long outlived its usefulness and needs to be disbanded permanently.

This is how you suddenly wake up one morning to find yourself resident in a tyranny — with no rights at all. Democrats are quite up front about their contempt for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The Constitution provides only Impeachment as a remedy for “high crimes and misdemeanors” — not for overreaching with executive orders and pardon powers and the regulations handed down by agencies established by the executive. We’d all better pay real attention. Government is not a spectator sport.



Mark Steyn is in Australia Trying to Explain Free Speech to the Aussies. by The Elephant's Child

Mark Steyn was in Australia this week, trying to explain free speech to the Aussies. It’s an interesting panel discussion because it clearly explains the problem that always arises in any discussion of free speech. Everybody is absolutely for free speech, except no one should be allowed to make cruel, unpleasant, wrong, nasty, morally objectionable remarks or other things that might offend.

Shouldn’t there be standards? And there’s the rub.  People are still expected to have manners, be thoughtful, not advocate those things which society says are beyond the pale, and you can object, condemn them for what they said, smack them down or refuse to associate with them, but you cannot make a law against speech that you don’t like. Government has no role in abridging the right of free speech. None.

You can walk away, turn your back, or argue vociferously. If you punch them in the nose, you may get in trouble with the law for battery. But you may not silence them by force of law. Why? The minute you try to protect against one kind of offensive speech, there is no end to the speech your opponents will find unacceptable. It’s a very hard argument for even the Aussies and many Americans to grasp in full.



Crime and Punishment and the Illusions of the Left by The Elephant's Child

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An official from the U.S. Department of Justice has said the agency will no longer call people “felons” or “convicts” after they are released from prison — because it is too hard for them emotionally.

This fits right in with the Obama administration plan to release large numbers of “non-violent”  felons to remedy “mass incarceration.” To a liberal, crime is never the fault of the perpetrator. It is the fault of society, the criminal’s parents, his lack of a good education, poverty, drugs, or lack of opportunity. Federal prisons are filled with “first-time, non-violent drug offenders” they claim, who were caught up by the criminal justice system and imprisoned, unfairly, for years. This conviction is behind the current drive for criminal justice reform.

Mass incarceration of such prisoners tears apart families, and most of these unfairly imprisoned and nearly innocent are African American, which means that the system is deeply racist. Trouble is that all of these popular buzz words are bunk. There is no mass incarceration. Each prisoner is there because he was arrested for committing a felony, was convicted by a judge and jury or pleaded guilty, may have appealed the sentence or chose not to to appellate courts and received all the rights of due process that are provided by the U.S.Constitution.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that almost all drug offenders in federal prison are serving sentences for drug trafficking, which does not mean selling small amounts of marijuana or heroin.

The Butterfield Fallacy is also at work here. Because crime has decreased, it is believed there is no need for so many people to be in prison. Wrong assumption. Crime is down in a simple cause and effect matter. Because so many criminals are in prison, there is less crime. The vast majority of prisoners are in state prisons, not federal prisons. Recidivism rates for chronic drug traffickers are over 75 percent, in other words three quarters of those released will be arrested again for committing serious crimes. And for every arrest, such criminals commit, on average, twelve other unsolved crimes.

Malcolm B. Benson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 1995, and spent 19 years behind bars. He was released early for good behavior in January 2015. It took him only nine months to kill a 59 year-old Army veteran who was waiting at a bus stop on his way to work, when Benson shot him during a botched robbery. Recidivism is common.  According to Breitbart —

Over the past several years, the U.S. Sentencing Commission has ordered the release of thousands of serious criminals from federal prison, and in 2014 reduced the guidelines for all drug traffickers, regardless of the type of drug, criminal history, history of violence, gang or cartel ties making over 46,000 convicted drug traffickers eligible for early release. It is estimated that the bills now pending in Congress could make another 12,000 eligible for early release.

Jason L. Riley, writing in the Wall Street Journal. asked plaintively:

Why the fate of criminals should matter more than the fate of crime victims is a question that went largely unasked, let alone answered, during last week’s bipartisan celebration of President Obama’s decision to release dozens of individuals from prison and push for looser sentencing guidelines.

If the president is to be believed, it is not the prevalence of thugs that turns black ghettos into living nightmares for residents. Rather, the police, prosecutors and judges who pursue lawbreakers are the bigger cause for concern.

“A growing body of research shows that people of color are more likely to be stopped, frisked, questioned, charged, detained,” said Mr. Obama in his recent address to the NAACP. “What is that doing to our communities? What’s that doing to those children? Our nation is being robbed of men and women who could be workers and taxpayers, could be more actively involved in their children’s lives, could be role models, could be community leaders.”

This is apparently a big part of President Obama’s effort to establish a legacy. He is attempting to empty the detention center at Guantanamo Bay as well, and no new detainees have been held there. He just released the detainee responsible for the attack on the USS Cole, and the deaths of 17 servicemen. Congress has acted to make it illegal to bring detainees to the United States, but none seem to be tried by Military Commissions, as was the original intent, and most of those released have returned to the battle against Americans.

ADDENDUM:The White House “announced that they have commuted the sentences of 58 federal convicts, part of a broader push to revamp the criminal justice system and ease punishments for nonviolent drug offenders.”
Those whose prison terms were cut short include 18 who were sentenced to life terms.. Most will be released on September 2, though others will be released over the next 2 years.This group includes defendants who were convicted of selling cocaine, crack and methamphetamine, and makes a total of 306 whose sentences Obama has commuted.




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