American Elephants


And On The Day After the Boston Bombing… by The Elephant's Child

Today is the day of the Boston Marathon, and the terror and the victims of last year’s bombing are being solemnly remembered. Oddly enough, the terrorists—Chechnyan radicals allied with al Qaeda—are not mentioned. We seem to have a strange reluctance to say the word terrorism or terrorists in this country.

The massacre at Fort Hood is still classified as “workplace violence,” we have the TSA at the airports to check into a long list of supposedly dangerous things and to abuse old ladies and small children, but they may not “racially profile” nor mention the fact that their job is to search for potential terrorists. Journalists fall all over themselves to avoid the use of the word terrorism, the federal government simply does not acknowledge such events nor the intent of the perpetrators.

What’s the deal? Is terrorism to be considered just an aberration of the warmongers George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, and only mildly unpleasant things occasionally happen during the Obama administration, which never ever overreacts? Relegated to the old-news department.

Did you know that last April 16, the day after the Boston bombing, a group of terrorists attacked the Metcalf transmission substation, just outside of San Jose, in a military action aimed at disabling a part of America’s electrical infrastructure? The operation began at 1:00 a.m., when the attackers cut underground fiber optic cables, disabling communications and security systems. Thirty minutes later using high-powered rifles, they began a 20 minute assault on the substation’s extra-large transformer and the the cooling system that supports it. Police arrived at 1:50, but the shooters disappeared into the night. There has been no trace of them.

The political response to the attack ranged from an immediate dismissal by the FBI of the idea that it was a terrorist act—to recognition by a bipartisan but small group of U.S. Senators and Representatives that defending America’s electrical grid is an urgent priority. Although there are over 100,000 transformers of all sizes throughout the grid, the destruction of less than two dozen key large transformers—which weigh hundreds of tons, are transported on special rail cars, and are mostly produced in Korea—would cause a catastrophic failure that would blackout the United States. Such is the vulnerability of the system.

This was a professional operation by skilled marksmen—two to six gunmen— trained in reconnaissance, stealth and evasion, and with careful planning. The damage forced electricity to be rerouted to maintain the integrity of power transmission to Silicon Valley, and repairs took several months. One would think the politically connected in Silicon Valley might want to do some serious lobbying about protection of the grid.

We have heard about the potential of an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) attack—a nuclear explosion in the high atmosphere, which would create a pulse that destroys electrical wiring and hardware across the affected area. This phenomenon has been well understood since the 1960s. It has recently been discovered that a massive solar storm could cause similar damage, but possibly less extensive. Those who think through the potential devastating consequences of failing to defend our sophisticated electrical grid might well wonder why the government is spending billions on frivolous projects but pays no attention to America’s physical vulnerability.

Do read the whole thing. This is a serious matter. The author, Brian Kennedy is president of the Claremont Institute, and the article is adapted from his speech at Hillsdale College, and reprinted in Imprimis, the monthly free publication from Hillsdale (sign up here).

Brian Kennedy outlines practical steps to be taken, and what we are currently doing to solve our vulnerability. (Not much). The attack on the Metcalf transmission substation was brushed aside by the media by the Boston Marathon bombing, and the extended search for the Tsarnaev brother perpetrators.

We really can’t depend on the media any more to keep Americans informed. But we also need to stop fooling ourselves and stop acceding to administration attempts to downplay anything that might interfere with the Obama administration’s efforts to avoid any negative publicity.



Is President Obama Interested in Doing His Job? by The Elephant's Child

The White House on Monday said there was “overwhelming evidence” that Russia is stirring the unrest in eastern Ukraine, but President Obama hasn’t yet decided if further sanctions are warranted. …[T]he juxtaposition is a perfect summary of the current state of U.S. foreign policy.

Vladimir Putin uses Russian special forces to cow a neighbor and steal territory , while Mr. Obama agonizes about what to do.

That was the Wall Street Journal. The White House dithers about what response they may choose. The U.S. has refused to send Ukraine military aid, but offered MRIs, and military type socks.

The Journal adds “We know Mr. Obama didn’t run for President to engage in great power politics, but it is still part of the job description. Is he still interested in doing his job?

In the Weekly Standard, Ruel Marc Gerecht asks:

Is Barack Obama’s threat of preventive military action against the Iranian regime’s nuclear program credible? Would a one-year, six-month, or even three-month nuclear breakout capacity at the known nuclear sites be acceptable to him? Is he prepared to attack if Tehran denies the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, entry into undeclared facilities that may be hiding nuclear-weapons research or centrifuge production? Is he prepared to strike if the regime denies inspectors access to the personnel and documents that would allow the West to see whether—how much—the regime has been lying about weaponization?

Again in the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol:

The Obama administration has scheduled a deputies committee meeting this week—tentatively set for Tuesday—to resolve a bitter inter-agency dispute over a request from Russia with respect to the Open Skies program. Informed sources believe the White House is likely to side with the State Department, which wants to accommodate Russia, over the objections of the Obama administration’s Defense Department and intelligence agencies.

The Open Skies treaty allows the United States and Russia to fly over each other’s territory with planes loaded with certain agreed-upon sensor packages, in order to ensure compliance with arms control agreements and to provide assurance against preparations for various military surprises. Russia has asked the U.S. to agree to an upgrade in the sensor package their planes can carry…The request would apparently result in a significant increase in Russian spying capabilities; the first response from Pentagon was, according to one government official close to the situation, “You’ve got to be kidding.” But the State Department has been making the case for acceding to the Russians’ demands, and the White House seems to be on State’s side. The White House has also stonewalled requests for information from the congressional intelligence committees.

 



The IRS Scandal: Day 335 — Heating Up! by The Elephant's Child

The IRS scandal is heating up again. Darrell Issa’s committee has released emails that show Democratic staffers from the House’s Government Oversight and Reform Committee communicating with the IRS about True the Vote, an anti-voter fraud organization that the Democrats wanted to suppress. It appears that Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the committee, to whom these staffers reported, may have lied during a committee hearing when he denied that his staffers had put the IRS on the trail of True the Vote.

The emails show the Democrats calling True the Vote to the IRS’s attention and requesting records about that organization. Lois Lerner was anxious to provide for them. The staffers do consistently refer to “publicly available” information, so there is no evidence that the IRS shared confidential taxpayer information with the Democrats.

House Republicans are closing in on Lois Lerner. The Department of Justice under Eric Holder has failed to do anything about the IRS scandal, or any other scandal involving the Obama administration. It is clear that Lois Lerner has broken the law. The House is threatening to hold her in contempt. If Eric Holder refuses to act, they can, if necessary, arrest and imprison her.

There is no evidence that the IRS pursued any progressive group at any time. Documents show that Ms. Lerner actively corresponded with liberal campaign-finance groups Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center which had asked the IRS to investigate if conservative groups including Crossroads GPS were violating their tax-exempt status. After personally meeting with those groups, Ms. Lerner contacted the director of the Exempt Organizations Examinations Unit in Dallas to ask why Crossroads had not been audited. “You should know that we are working on a denial of the application,: Ms. Lerner wrote in an email.

The Ways and Means Committee disclosed that in January 2013, Ms. Lerner asked her staff to examine five conservative groups that the website ProPublica had called “controversial dark money groups,” including Americans for Responsible Leadership, Freedom Path, Rightchange.com, America is Not Stupid, and A Better America. Four of those groups eventually got the full IRS super-scrutiny treatment and three were audited.

It is particularly interesting that the groups that had to undergo extra examination from the IRS were those who wanted to prevent voter fraud, and those who expected to donate to Republican candidates. Democrats have been aggressive in trying to block any attempt to require photo ID to assure voters are who they say they are and entitled to vote. Kinda’ makes you thing that Democrats depend heavily on voter fraud to win elections, doesn’t it?



SWAT Teams From the EPA, NOAA, and the Department of Education? by The Elephant's Child

SWAT team

The proliferation of federal SWAT teams is troubling. In late February four armed federal agents with a drug-sniffing dog descended on the Taos Ski Valley in what was called a “saturation patrol.” The agents were working on tips of possible drug selling and impaired driving in the ski resort’s parking lot and surrounding area. The armed agents were from the U.S. Forest Service.

Did you know that the Department of Education has SWAT teams? They can invade your home at gunpoint and hold you and your family in custody for hours. In 2011, federal “education” agents busted down the front door of Kenneth Wright’s Stockton home at 6 in the morning. Wright’s terrified children— 3, 9, and 11 were forced to sit in a patrol car for two hours, Wright was in custody for six hours.

The Education Department had a broad search warrant and seized paperwork and a personal computer. The agents, 13 from the Education Department and a couple of police officers — told him they were investigating his estranged wife’s use of federal aid for students. She didn’t even live in the house.

Are you obeying all the thousands of regulations in the Federal Register? Are you prepared for early-morning break-ins by the USDA, Railroad Retirement Board, Bureau of Land Management, Tennessee Valley Authority, Office of Personnel Management and the Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior, EPA, Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Park Service, and NOAA— the folks who monitor the atmosphere and forecast the weather have 96 special agents and 28 armed enforcement officers.

An armed EPA raid in Alaska sheds light on 70 federal agencies with armed divisions. The incident that sparked the raid was last August when a team of armed federal and state officials descended on the tiny Alaska gold mining  town of Chicken,  Alaska — looking for possible violations of the Clean Water Act. This is not the first time the EPA has descended on citizens with a SWAT team, but it is clearly excessive. Violating the Clean Water Act indeed.

We’re getting into Fourth and Fifth Amendment territory here.



Empty Buildings Are Costing Us Billions! by The Elephant's Child

emptybuild-1024x681

“The boarded up building in the photo sits a mere 6 blocks from the White House on prime real estate, but it’s been empty for 30 years! What’s the problem? The building is owned/controlled by the Federal government which often doesn’t even know what it owns, lacks the incentive to control costs and whose bureaucratic strictures make selling difficult even when motivation exists.”

A Google search suggests that most articles have picked up on a 77,000 number, as the number of empty or underutilized buildings owned by the federal government—as a proxy for you and me. The “federal government” is simply the representative of us—a fact that is worth remembering.

Other numbers range from 45,000 to 100,000 and 300,000 which really points out that they have no idea how many empty, underutilized, abandoned buildings or properties there are across the whole country. Missile sites are included, as are buildings so abandoned that trees are growing through the roof. Taxpayers own them, and even when they are vacant—they are still expensive.

The Office of Management and Budget estimates that these buildings could be costing taxpayers $1.7 billion a year. Even empty, someone has to mow the lawns, keep the pipes from freezing, maintain security fences, or pay for some basic power, except when it doesn’t. The only known centralized database that the government has is the inventory maintained by the General Services Administration called the Federal Real Property Profile and it’s not reliable.

Doing something with these buildings is complicated—even when an agency knows it has a building it would like to sell, bureaucratic hurdles limit what they can do. No federal agency can sell anything unless it’s uncontaminated, asbestos-free and environmentally safe. Expensive fixes.

Then the agency has to make sure another agency doesn’t want it. Then state and local governments get a crack at it, then nonprofits—and finally a 25-year-old law requires the government to see if it could be used as a homeless shelter. No wonder many agencies just lock the doors and say forget it.

These publicly owned properties are managed by the federal government for the benefit of the people. There are also enormous amounts of public lands. Military bases: Fort Hood, Texas, now sadly in the news, is 340 square miles in size.

There are National Parks and National Monuments, National Forests, and land ‘managed’ by the Bureau of Land Management. Trillions of dollars worth of land.  And I am undoubtedly neglecting other jurisdictions. My brief Google search made it clear that we are not alone. It is a common governmental problem. I did find one article on “how to squat in abandoned property,” (probably British) and of course, reference to the empty cities of China.

I emphasize taxpayer ownership because President Obama, for political reasons, chose to shut down what he thought of as “government land” under his purview, during the “government shutdown.” The Constitution clearly says “We the People.” Bureaucrats, far too often, forget just who is the boss. They may prefer to think of themselves as enlightened public servants. They are the hired help.

This is one reason why Republicans believe in smaller government, but they aren’t much better at property management. It’s bipartisan.

The boarded up building in the photo sits a mere 6 blocks from the White House on prime real estate but it’s been empty for 30 years! What’s the problem? The building is owned/controlled by the Federal government which often doesn’t even know what it owns, lacks the incentive to control costs and whose bureaucratic strictures make selling difficult even when motivation exists. – See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/03/wasted-resources.html#sthash.2Wo3AW3Q.dpuf
The boarded up building in the photo sits a mere 6 blocks from the White House on prime real estate but it’s been empty for 30 years! What’s the problem? The building is owned/controlled by the Federal government which often doesn’t even know what it owns, lacks the incentive to control costs and whose bureaucratic strictures make selling difficult even when motivation exists. – See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/03/wasted-resources.html#sthash.2Wo3AW3Q.dpuf


Your Federal Government At Work: Oh Ha, Ha, Ha! by The Elephant's Child

 

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This is something truly special. Our betters in the nation’s capitol—what I have called “the ruling class”— has taken advantage of the information age to engage in blogging. Who knew? This very remarkable blog is a project of the Department of Agriculture.

Grandkids are a grandparent’s greatest treasure. From time to time during grandchildren’s young lives, grandparents may have the pleasure of being their caregiver. Show them how to be healthy, including how to make healthy food choices—an important way grandparents show how much they love and care about their grandchildren.

As a proud grandmother, I can attest that grandkids learn by example! They mimic everything you do, so be a healthy role model by taking care of yourself and they will learn to value healthy habits. Use ChooseMyPlate.gov to guide your food choices and better understand the nutrition needs of young children in your life. Take your grandchildren shopping at a farmer’s market and the grocery store. Talk about the choices you are making—choosing the juicier oranges or the fresher vegetables. Help them learn cooking skills, which will benefit them throughout their lives. Encourage them to be active throughout the day. …

Spend time walking in the neighborhood, planting a vegetable garden, or shooting a few hoops. Dance, run, and play hopscotch or soccer with them when they’re full of energy—it’s fun and healthy for both of you!

Show your grandchild games, activity sheets and other fun ways to learn about good nutrition at MyPlateKids’Place. For a bedtime story, read The Two Bite Club.

If this does not warm the cockles of your heart, read the whole thing,and if that doesn’t do it for you, do scroll down to the comments, because you will enjoy the comments! If you do not read the comments, you are missing the point of this whole post.

I don’t think I have ever seen a better example of the gap between left and right, or between the government and the people. The comments are a treasure. Click on all the links to see the extent of the sheer wonder of this post. Do go to the link and add your own comment. Or write your congressman and tell them to cut the budget of the Department of Agriculture to the bone.

Grandkids are a grandparent’s greatest treasure.  From time to time during grandchildren’s young lives, grandparents may have the pleasure of being their caregiver.  Show them how to be healthy, including how to make healthy food choices–an important way grandparents show how much they love and care about their grandchildren. – See more at: http://blogs.usda.gov/2014/03/31/grandparents-help-kids-develop-good-eating-habits/#sthash.yp104Y0x.dpuf
Grandkids are a grandparent’s greatest treasure.  From time to time during grandchildren’s young lives, grandparents may have the pleasure of being their caregiver.  Show them how to be healthy, including how to make healthy food choices–an important way grandparents show how much they love and care about their grandchildren. – See more at: http://blogs.usda.gov/2014/03/31/grandparents-help-kids-develop-good-eating-habits/#sthash.yp104Y0x.dpuf


If You Can’t Trust the Government, There is No Liberty. by The Elephant's Child

Victor Davis Hanson had an important column this last week on “Untruthful and Untrustworthy Government,” that digs into what distinguishes democracies from tinhorn dictatorships and totalitarian monstrosities.

It’s not just the scandals: Benghazi, the Associated Press, the NSA scandal which are troubling enough, but the doubt about the honesty of the permanent government itself. Does anyone still believe in a non-partisan and honest IRS? Our system of voluntary tax reporting rests on trust. If we can’t trust the IRS to treat us fairly, to what extent will the compliance from taxpayers cease to be honest.

Is the report from the Department of Labor statistics on employment accurate? Is inflation really as low as we are told? Nobody knows how many Americans have bought and paid for ObamaCare policies. We don’t know how many were previously uninsured. We don’t know whether we still can see our doctor and the local hospital, nor whether our medication is acceptable.

We don’t know how many foreign citizens have entered the U.S. illegally who were arrested and deported to their country of origin. ICE now counts as deportations those foreign nationals whom the Border Patrol immediately stops or turns away at the border. The Department of Homeland Security caught and then released—back into the U.S. population—68,000 aliens who had previously been convicted of a serious crime, when they could have been deported. In San Antonio, 79 percent of criminal aliens were released back into the general population in 2012.  In Washington D.C. 5,558 criminal aliens were released—64 percent of the 8,688 who were apprehended.

When everything is politicized, what the agencies of the government tell the people can’t be counted on. The Bureau of Economic Analysis has factored research and development costs of business into statistics on investment growth. Is the report on Gross Domestic Product growth honest? It is a vital measure of how the economy is doing. Politically it might be useful to make it look a little better that the numbers show. The government reported an unexpectedly high 2.8 GDP growth in the numbers last year.

Is inflation really as low as we are told? They have changed the way they calculate that as well. Inflation and unemployment numbers are lower, economic growth is higher. Problems disappear behind a screen of Freedom of Information Act requests that drag on for years instead of the prompt response the law demands.

If all is political, we are indeed in deep trouble.



Democrats Care About “People Like Me.” by The Elephant's Child

obama photo -op

When people express their political preferences, at least according to the polls, they identify the Democratic Party as the one that “cares about people like me,” or “cares about little people,” or “ordinary people.”

Republicans are apt to react to that with jaw-dropping astonishment. Isn’t it obvious that they couldn’t care less, that all the caring speech is just a pose? Well, no it isn’t, and that is a problem for Republicans. It’s pure politics.

President Obama had an op-ed in the Las Vegas Sun this weekend that really demonstrates the problem. And it may well be an essay that represents his sincere thinking. Democrats are not inclined to investigate the economics of a policy, nor consider carefully the unintended consequences. Politicians like to describe their ideas in prose that will make what they want to do as appealing as possible, so you can’t tell what Obama really believes by reading what he says.

“Honest work should be rewarded with honest wages” — whatever that means—if anything, sounds good, but just what is an “honest wage?” He continues: “That certainly means that no one who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.” And that is true. No one who works full-time at the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour qualifies as being “in poverty.” The poverty level for an individual in 2014 is $11,670.

It is meant to be a “starter” wage for a person with no real skills, and that’s why it’s not worth much. The low-skilled need training. The majority get a raise within six months, as they become trained workers who know what they are doing. The federal minimum wage differs from the prevailing minimum wage in some locations, and states too have “minimum wages.”   The minimum wage where I live is $9.25 an hour. Seattle is debating raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The president’s proposal would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2016 in three annual steps. Republicans argue that this will kill jobs, because if government boosts the cost of labor, employers will buy less of it, and it will do little to reduce poverty. The CBO estimates that the higher minimum wage would reduce jobs by about 500,000. Wage increases would raise the incomes of families in poverty by about $300 annually.

Robert Samuelson says: “An administration serious about job creation has to sacrifice other priorities to achieve it.” The CBO has estimated that the health insurance subsidies in ObamaCare will discourage people from working resulting in a loss of an estimated 2.5 million full-time workers by 2014. There are choices. For the most part the White House has voted against job creation, a fact that it tries to hide. The proposed increase is much larger than most of the increases that have been studied, and the minimum would be indexed to inflation, rising automatically with prices. Also new.

The minimum wage has a great advantage as a political idea. If employers are forced to pay a  “living wage” then no one will live in poverty. Low-information voters and reporters will go for that. Easy.

ObamaCare has been eliminating full-time jobs right and left, and transforming them into part-time jobs. A mandated minimum wage set at a level above what unskilled labor is worth, eliminates jobs. Teenage unemployment is now at 20.7 percent, black teenage unemployment is a horrendous 38 percent. The average family income of minimum wage earners is $48,000 a year. Raising the minimum wage accelerates the trend to automation and robotics.

If you can. go back and read the president’s op-ed and see how appealing it is, and how dishonest. That’s a major problem for Conservatives.

The picture above is Obama’s photo-op comforting Donna Vanzant, whose North Point Marina sustained widespread damage in Hurricane Sandy. Obama promised her “immediate” assistance, help from FEMA, and the photo went viral in the days before the election. Donna Vanzant suffered around $500,000 in damages. After his visit, and promise of help on national television, Donna Vanzant sent an email to President Obama. Many days later, she got a response—a form letter that thanked her for supporting the troops—the only response she ever received.  The exit polls after the election showed the vote for Obama’s second term depended mostly on his compassionate response to Hurricane Sandy.



A Brief Trip Down Memory Lane: by The Elephant's Child

The foreign policy favored by liberalism and pursued by the Clinton administration reflects a coherent vision of the world—coherent, consistent, and dangerously at odds with the realities of the international system. This misguided foreign policy…rests on three shaky pillars:

  1. Internationalism (i.e. the belief in the moral, legal, and strategic primacy of international institutions over mere “national interests”).
  2. Legalism (i.e. the belief that safety and security ar achieved through treaties—international agreements on such matters as chemical weapons, nuclear nonproliferation an anti-ballistic missiles).
  3. humanitarianism (i.e. the belief that the primary world role of the United States is—to quote Secretary of State Madeline Albright—to “terminate the abominable injustices and conditions that still plague civilization”).

In reality…the “international community” is nothing more than a fiction. [It is] a state of nature with no enforcer and  no universally recognized norms. Anarchy is kept in check, today, as always, not by some hollow bureaucracy on the East River, but by the will and power of the Great Powers, and today, in particular, of the one great super-power. The administration’s penchant for treaties—a hopelessly utopian project—and the third pillar stems from an abiding liberal antipathy to any notion of national interest—thus it is only “disinterested intervention’ that is pristine enough to justify the use of force.

Charles Krauthammer: “A World Imagined” The New Republic, March 15, 1999

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

 



Sometimes You Have to Do Hard Things. No Pain, No Gain. by The Elephant's Child

Walter Russell Mead is a professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College and editor at large of the American Interest, a man of the Left, but modestly so. In Friday’s Wall Street Journal, he gently chides the president for his ambitious foreign policy goals, but unusual parsimony in engaging with them. The president, he says, isn’t satisfied with he world as it is, and wants a world fundamentally different from the one we live in.

He wants a world in which poverty is on the wane, international law is respected, and the U.S., if it must lead, can do so on the cheap, and from behind.

To get to this world, Mr. Obama wants nuclear proliferation stopped, new arms-control agreements ratified, and the eventual abolition of nuclear weapons. He wants a tough global climate treaty that will keep carbon emissions at levels low enough to prevent further global warming. He wants the Arab-Israeli dispute settled and a new relationship with Iran. He wants terrorism to be contained and Afghanistan to be stable when the Americans leave. He wants to reassert U.S. power in the Pacific, and to see China accept the territorial status quo. He wants democracy advanced, human rights protected, poverty reduced, women empowered, and lesbians and gays treated better world-wide.

Professor Mead suggested that this paradox arises from Obama’s channeling the voters who want to eliminate the budget deficit without cutting the programs they favor, and a more peaceful world without so much effort on our part.

We also hear this week about American University students who couldn’t manage to name one senator, and were clueless about how many senators there are.

Makes you yearn for a poll-test. You don’t get to vote unless you know a few basic facts. But that is the job of candidates and political parties, to inform voters before they go to the polls. Yes I know that’s absurd as well. Civilization is messy at best. We are multitudes who have trouble getting along with members of our own family. let alone the guy across the street, and creating a more felicitous state of the world. Some of us are very smart, which doesn’t necessarily mean we know much about many subjects.

Our schools are failing our kids, not because we don’t want good schools, but because the goals of others trump educational excellence. Our colleges attract students from all over the world, yet our graduates can’t name a single senator, can’t locate Florida, and are unqualified to work in today’s world.

The free market recognizes the failures of individuals and companies, but relies on the wisdom of the multitudes, who, of course, can be easily swayed by glamour or charisma, bad information, and conspiracy theories.

Americans, however, have a sort of genius for muddling through. We make dreadful mistakes, and then turn around and try to fix them. Americans all, in one generation or another, gave up everything known in their home country packed up their belongings and set out for an unknown new world. There’s a kind of fearlessness there, that seems to be an inherited characteristic, a genius for risk-taking and adapting that has served our country well for almost 500 years.  Mr. Mead says:

Mr. Obama came into office telling voters what they badly wanted to hear, which was that on foreign policy, they could have it all. No risks to be run, no adversarial great powers to oppose, and no boots on the ground. Now he must tell them that he, and they, were wrong, and he must choose. Does he give up on some of his dreams for improving the world, or does he begin to urge the country to pay a higher price and run greater risks to make the world better and safer?

The truth is that he—and we—will have to do some of both. As a country we are going to be working harder than we wanted in a world that is more frustrating than we hoped.



Walter Russell Mead on Public Pensions and Municipal Bankruptcies by The Elephant's Child

As long as we’re talking about Puerto Rico, I should include a link to this informative article about a conversation with Walter Russell Mead on public pensions, a problem coming close in Puerto Rico, all over California, in Detroit.

People say: ‘A defined benefit pension from my employer, there’s no risk.’ A big risk is that your employer will go broke.

Adam Shapiro: Well, in the case of public pensions, we’re seeing that happen. And yet, there’s a resistance to reform the process by which we fund these pensions, by which we set the actuarial standards for these pensions, and to have an honest discussion with taxpayers about these pensions, why?

Walter Mead: It is interesting, normally you think of liberals and Democrats as being people who really want to regulate, and particularly they want to regulate the financial markets, in order, as they say, to protect the “little guy.” Well here’s a case in which cities and states are not held to the same standards for their pension funds that any private employer is held to. If in fact, employers did what routinely a lot of cities and states do, they would go to jail.

Shapiro: So why is there no public outcry over this?

Mead: There’s some public outcry. But, unfortunately there’s a kind of a conspiracy between government officials, politicians, and union leaders often. The deal is this: Union leader wants to show the union members, hey belonging to the union is a good thing, I get you benefits. You get more with me than you’d get on your own. So I go into the negotiations with management of the city or the state government and I come back so you’ll say, “wow he’s a great union leader, I don’t begrudge him a penny of his salary because this union is working for me.” Well here’s the problem: If you’re asking for a big raise for members this year, the politicians have to pay it this year. And that means they have to tax the voters, voters don’t like to be taxed to pay for your raise, or they got to cut spending on something else to get the money, well voters don’t like it when politicians cut spending on their favorite programs.

It’s a very interesting conversation, and a video. Walter Russell Mead is a most interesting man of the left.  Do Read or watch the whole thing, or both. There’s a lot more to the video, you may be surprised.

 



Navy’s Retention Rates Are Hurt by Focus on Social Issues. by The Elephant's Child

Commander Guy Snodgrass, a Navy F-18 fighter pilot and former Top Gun instructor, wrote at the Naval Institute website that the relentless focus of the senior leadership on social issues — things like women in combat, sexual assault prevention — has demoralized junior and mid-grade officers alike. He said the Navy “has a looming officer retention problem” and added that special operations forces, such as Navy SEALs had their “worst year in history” for retention.

He lists long wartime deployments as a leading retention negative.

He also tackles a touchier issue, what some sailors have referred to as “political correctness,” such as the banning of uniform patches that might offend someone. [...]

“Put simply, there is no dollar amount that can be spent, or amount of training that can be conducted, that will completely eradicate complex issues such as suicide, sexual assault, or commanding officer reliefs for cause—yet we continue to expend immense resources in this pursuit,” he says. “Sailors are bombarded with annual online training, general military training, and safety stand-downs—all in an effort to combat problems that will never be defeated.”

Snodgrass partially attributed the growth of the military’s social conditioning programs and political correctness to pressure from Congress.

I have read elsewhere that contrary to all the flap about women in combat, and the questions about adjusting standards so women could qualify, that few women are actually interested in serving in combat. The president’s interest in downsizing the military both in personnel and equipment, as indicated by his FY 2015 budget request, surely plays a part in retention problems.




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