American Elephants

A Defense Bill? Why? Putin Will Take Care of ISIS, Won’t He? by The Elephant's Child

obama-angry-8-560x350Still desperately searching for a legacy, Obama has pledged to veto a defense bill unless Congress lifts its spending caps and increases non-defense spending allowing the transfer of terrorists from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Presumably, Mr. Obama intends to return a vacated Guantanamo to Cuba.

I am endlessly fascinated by the extent to which Democrats believe their own propaganda. Democrats were as shocked and frightened as everybody else when the World Trade Center towers were attacked by suicide pilots in captured airliners on 9/11.

Three months into the War on Iraq, President Bush declared the combat phase of the war over, and “the Democratic Party launched a national campaign against America’s commander in chief, claiming that he had lied to the American people to lure them into a war that was “unnecessary,” “immoral,” and “illegal.”¹

Until then, the conflict in Iraq had been supported by both parties and was regarded by both as a strategic necessity in the war begun by Islamic terrorists. Saddam Hussein had launched two aggressive wars in the Middle East, murdered over 300 thousand of his own people, used chemical weapons on Iraqi citizens, and started a nuclear weapons program that was only halted by his defeat in the Gulf War. Over the next ten years, he had defied 16 UN resolutions attempting to enforce the Gulf War truce. In September 2002, the Security Council issued another resolution that gave Saddam until December 7 to comply with the terms or face the consequences. He did not comply. Bush made the only decision possible and launched a preemptive invasion to remove the regime. Two days before the invasion Saddam was given the option of leaving the country and avoiding the war.

Removing Saddam Hussein had been official American policy since October 1998, when Bill Clinton, a Democratic president signed the Iraq Liberation Act. The decision to use force in Iraq was supported by both houses of Congress including a majority of Democrats in the Senate. In June 2003, just 3 months into the war, Democrats made a political decision to turn against the war and launched a five year campaign to delegitimize the war and portray the President and the Republican Party as the villains. The betrayal of the nation and its troops was unprecedented in our nation’s history. The compliant press signed on, with front page coverage of body counts, blowing up minor incidents like the misbehavior of low level guards at Abu Ghraib into a massive war crime. The New York Times and the Washington Post leaked classified documents which destroyed 3 major national security programs designed to protect Americans for terrorist attacks, and launched an anti-war movement.²

Even before the 2008 election, the man who would become the nation’s Attorney General told an audience during the campaign that the Bush administration had permitted abuses in fighting terrorism. He said there would have to be a “reckoning.” ³

In 2006, then Senator Barack Obama led a Democrat effort to defeat a debt ceiling increase. “Raising America’s debt limit,” he said at the time, “is a sign of leadership failure.” If Mr. Obama wants standing now to lecture on the subject, he might acknowledge that he made a grave error then.

Mr. Obama’s goal in his remaining time in office seems to be enlarging the federal government with a massive spending spree. It’s clear that he won’t attempt to rectify the enormous errors he has forced on the American people. And ISIS is shopping for a nuke. Why would we want a defense bill?

¹Take No Prisoners, David Horowitz, 2014
² Ibid
³ Imprimus, Hillsdale College

The Sierra Club Embarrasses Itself! by The Elephant's Child

There was a time when the Sierra Club was a positive environmental club, doing what they could to protect the Sierra Nevada mountains and encourage the millions of people who wanted to use the mountains for recreation and exploration to think environmentally. We had friends who took pack trips with the club, exploring during the day and at nightfall the pack horses would appear with food and a set up camp. Great summer vacation.

The Sierra Club turned radical green some years ago, and now is just another crony-capitalist bunch, throwing their weight behind leftist programs like opposition to coal, opposition to the Keystone pipeline, and ill-informed scare-mongering to raise money to ‘stop’ global warming, and whatever is fashionable on the green agenda at the moment. There are enormous amounts of money involved.

Sierra Club President Aaron Mair in this hearing demonstrates the position perfectly. The science has been decided, there can be no debate since we are right because 97% of all science says we’re right, so just shut up and don’t question our superior wisdom.

The 97% “consensus” study, Cook et al. (2013) has been thoroughly refuted in scholarly peer-reviewed journals, by major news media, public policy organizations and think tanks, highly credentialed scientists and extensively in the climate blogosphere. The shoddy methodology of Cook’s study has been shown to be so fatally flawed that well known climate scientists have publicly spoken out against it.

There is no such thing as “consensus” in Science. That means everybody agrees. Even if 99% of all scientists agree that something is so, a lonely scientist working in his garage can prove them all wrong. Science is what is proved over and over by observation, not what flawed computer models predict.

Until the panic about the coming catastrophe of rising seas and a steadily warming planet appeared in the press, climate science was a rather dusty corner in most universities. When the climate became scary, and advantageous for congress to do something, grants (significantly big ones) became readily available for anyone who could write a good grant proposal demonstrating how their interest in tree rings could contribute to solving the problems of the drastic warming of a small percentage of a degree, if the granter just gave then enough money for an enlarged department, new equipment, and a few new assistants.

Don’t forget, Climate Change is now a $1.5 trillion industry!

Liberals Are Not Open to An Exchange of Ideas. They want You to Shut Up! by The Elephant's Child

obama-angry-pete-souza-640x480Bret Stephens tackled much the same subject today at the Wall Street Journal in a column titled “President’ Mumbo Jumbo’

David Petraeus testified last month to the Senate Armed Services Committee on U.S. policy in the Middle East. Regarding Syria, the former general and CIA director urged a credible threat to destroy Bashar Assad’s air force if it continues to bomb its own people. He also recommended “the establishment of enclaves in Syria protected by coalition air power, where a moderate Sunni force could be supported and where additional forces could be trained, internally displaced persons could find refuge, and the Syrian opposition could organize.”

But Barack Obama does not agree. At his Friday press conference, the president described such views as “mumbo-jumbo,” “half-baked ideas,” “as-if” solutions, a willful effort to “downplay the challenges involved in the situation.” He says the critics have no answers to the questions of “what exactly would you do and how would you fund it and how would you sustain it.”

America’s greatest living general might as well have been testifying to his shower drain for all the difference his views are going to make in this administration.

Over at Reason magazine, late last month, David Harsanyi wrote that “Liberals are Done Debating” — and it’s true. They are  not interested in an exchange of ideas, they want you to shut up. They will call you names like psychopath and sociopathic, bought off by big oil, or big food. Conservatives hate workers, bet against America, want to destroy democracy,  have no empathy for the destitute, favor inequality injustice and the “rape culture”. What they will not do is discuss the issues, The one thing that you cannot possibly have is a legitimate difference of opinion.

What strikes me as particularly interesting is the claims of vast empathy for the downtrodden, keen to decrease inequality, want to punish those responsible for the “rape crisis” (of course it’s real) and the usual — you don’t care about women.

But when it comes to actual empathy for real people, our troops will suffer under extreme rules of engagement, lest they inadvertently injure someone, and someone can be blamed. The Left kept a meticulous body count of deaths in Afghanistan — see what horrors Bush has committed— but Obama’s deadline for America’s exit and restrictive rules of engagement had a body count twice as large, and it was never mentioned in the compliant press.

Our Ambassador and his aide and two brave former Seals died while pleading for security and help, and it was shrugged off with a “At this point what difference does it make?” and to keep up the illusion of the insulting video, the poor video maker was jailed for months so he couldn’t talk to newsmen.

A shooting in Oregon is denigrated as a personal insult to President Obama, and he has himself photographed looking exasperated at a computer screen, and the photo promptly released to the press. See how exasperated I am? And he ordered the press to write about changing the gun laws.

So, naturally, he is going to Oregon to make another pitch for gun control. His most recent one went a little sour when he made a big deal of Australia’s gun confiscation, and Australia promptly had a shooting there. He will go to Oregon and sympathize and argue for support for his upcoming executive order to confiscate all guns, if he can only figure out how to get around the Second Amendment with an executive order.

Clever Economist Tricks And The Urge To Control Everything by The Elephant's Child

The Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing seemed like a good idea at the time. Cheap interest rates would let businesses borrow and grow and hire.The Wall Street Journal says household and nonprofit net worth climbed to $85.7 trillion

Economists had hoped that rising worth in U.S. households could induce — through what are known as wealth effects — enough spending and confidence to bring about a more robust economic recovery. That logic helped underpin the Fed’s decisions to hols interest rates near zero for nearly the past seven years, and to engage in repeated rounds of asset purchases, known as quantitative easing.

But while the value of U.S. assets has shot upward in recent years—stocks have reached new highs and home values have regained much of what was lost in the housing bubble’s collapse—economic growth has been sluggish, and many households have seen little of this wealth flow into their paychecks.

The American Interest says ‘Low Interest Rates Mask the Effects of Job-Killing Policies.’ “While the Fed’s quantitative easing has not led to the consumer price inflation that many feared, it has led to asset price inflation. Job growth, not asset  price inflation, is the best way to promote economic growth.”

To grow the economy, cheap interest rates are not going to work as well as reforms that make business formation and job creation more attractive. Yet Democrats these days have ever-lengthening lists of job-killing policies they want to enact, from tighter environmental regulations to dramatic minimum wage increases (especially in cities where unemployment is high) to tax increases. Paradoxically, that leaves liberals cheerleading for Fed policies that increase inequality and concentrate wealth because only ultra low rates (or truly massive deficits, which can’t be rammed through a GOP Congress) can mask the effect of left-wing microeconomic policies on the economy as a whole.

The Pizza shop owners have been ordered to list all the ingredients in each pizza with the calorie count, because people are too fat. They have also been ordered to comply with the newly raised federal minimum wage, because no one can raise a family on the minimum wage. And just how do they pay for all that?

Hospitals have been ordered to computerize every examining room so they can be centrally programmed to store all the patient’s information so it can be shifted between hospitals and the government to reduce the cost of health care.¹ A tax has been levied on every piece of medical equipment from the examination table to the mammogram machine to the disposable gloves, and the sterile swabs. That is also expected to reduce the cost of health care.

That’s just two tiny examples of the wrongheadedness of Democrats and their economists. Noble intent + stupid idea does not equal an improving economy, and yet here we sit after 7 very long years.

They are so intent on control and more closely directing all economic activity in the interest of greater “fairness” that we have reached a point where the Federal Reserve seems to be terrified at the possibility of what might happen if they raised interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point.

¹ This has largely been done, at great expense. Hospitals and clinics cannot talk to each other nor to the federal government. Each was separately programmed and they cannot communicate. However, just as was warned, medical identities and records are being stolen, and recovering from such a theft can cost as much as $15,000.

How Come We’re Always Surprised by Events? by The Elephant's Child

article-2343392-1A5EE249000005DC-338_634x479Once again the administration is being taken by surprise. Moscow has established a new airbase in Syria to go with its existing naval base. and they are determined to keep Bashar Assad’s regime in power. The U.S. no longer has any influence in Baghdad, and ever since the U.S. forces pulled out in 2011, Iran has become the dominant player in Iraq.

When Russia sent in flights to create a new Russian military base in Syria, our protests were ignored. President Obama’s failure to act on his red line in Syria has consequences. When he could not even act against Assad’s use of chemical weapons on his own people or Iran’s development of a nuclear program, it ‘s pretty clear that he’s not going to do anything.

Humiliated, Obama is now trying to pretend that Putin will “help”take care of ISIS, but he has been attacking the rebels fighting the Assad regime instead. This is a pure power play by the Russian President. Leon Aron, who is the director of Russian Studies at AEI, looks at why:

  • To establish a sustained, open-ended Russian military presence in the Middle East for the first time since President Sadat sent Soviet personnel home in 1972, thus recovering a key Soviet geopolitical asset as postulated by the Putin Doctrine.
  • To establish the Russia-Iran-Syria (and possibly Iraq) de facto alliance as the dominant military and thus political actor in the Middle East.
  • To boost patriotic mobilization in Russia, which increasingly is the Putin regime’s sole claim to legitimacy. With the economy tanking fast, the ruble down 57% from this time last year, inflation at around 15%, and the seemingly stalemated war on Ukraine no longer generating enough heat to keep the patriotic fervor a-boil, Putin needs another “short, victorious war” (as the Minister of Internal Affairs Vyacheslav Plehve hailed the ultimately disastrous Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05).

The question becomes how far will Putin go? Both Aron and Ralph Peters suggest that we should be prepared for an “accidental” shoot down of a U.S. or British or French plane? That Putin delights in humiliating the United States is not a surprise. That the Obama administration seems regularly to be surprised is more worrying.

The Most Powerful Defense of Market Capitalism You Will Ever Read. by The Elephant's Child

(Click to enlarge)

Economist Deirdre McCloskey recently spoke in London, and this brief summary captures the essence of her talk and her work on the power of economic freedom. Next year, her latest book: “Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World”  will arrive, the final book of a trilogy on the wonder-working power of modern capitalism. Here is a seven page summary of her upcoming book, and below is a summary of her summary by James Pethokoukis of AEI.


Perhaps you yourself still believe in nationalism or socialism or proliferating regulation. And perhaps you are in the grip of pessimism about growth or consumerism or the environment or inequality.

Please, for the good of the wretched of the earth, reconsider.

Many humans, in short, are now stunningly better off than their ancestors were in 1800.  … Hear again that last, crucial, astonishing fact, discovered by economic historians over the past few decades. It is: in the two centuries after 1800 the trade-tested goods and services available to the average person in Sweden or Taiwan rose by a factor of 30 or 100. Not 100 percent, understand—a mere doubling—but in its highest estimate a factor of 100, nearly 10,000 percent, and at least a factor of 30, or 2,900 percent. The Great Enrichment of the past two centuries has dwarfed any of the previous and temporary enrichments. Explaining it is the central scientific task of economics and economic history, and it matters for any other sort of social science or recent history.

What explains it? The causes were not (to pick from the apparently inexhaustible list of materialist factors promoted by this or that economist or economic historian) coal, thrift, transport, high male wages, low female and child wages, surplus value, human capital, geography, railways, institutions, infrastructure, nationalism, the quickening of commerce, the late medieval run-up, Renaissance individualism, the First Divergence, the Black Death, American silver, the original accumulation of capital, piracy, empire, eugenic improvement, the mathematization of celestial mechanics, technical education, or a perfection of property rights. Such conditions had been routine in a dozen of the leading organized societies of Eurasia, from ancient Egypt and China down to Tokugawa Japan and the Ottoman Empire, and not unknown in Meso-America and the Andes. Routines cannot account for the strangest secular event in human history, which began with bourgeois dignity in Holland after 1600, gathered up its tools for betterment in England after 1700, and burst on northwestern Europe and then the world after 1800.

The modern world was made by a slow-motion revolution in ethical convictions about virtues and vices, in particular by a much higher level than in earlier times of toleration for trade-tested progress—letting people make mutually advantageous deals, and even admiring them for doing so, and especially admiring them when Steve-Jobs like they imagine betterments. The change, the Bourgeois Revaluation, was the coming of a business-respecting civilization, an acceptance of the Bourgeois Deal: “Let me make money in the first act, and by the third act I will make you all rich.”

Much of the elite, and then also much of the non-elite of northwestern Europe and its offshoots, came to accept or even admire the values of trade and betterment. Or at the least the polity did not attempt to block such values, as it had done energetically in earlier times. Especially it did not do so in the new United States. Then likewise, the elites and then the common people in more of the world followed, including now, startlingly, China and India. They undertook to respect—or at least not to utterly despise and overtax and stupidly regulate—the bourgeoisie.

Why, then, the Bourgeois Revaluation that after made for trade-tested betterment, the Great Enrichment? The answer is the surprising, black-swan luck of northwestern Europe’s reaction to the turmoil of the early modern—the coincidence in northwestern Europe of successful Reading, Reformation, Revolt, and Revolution: “the Four Rs,” if you please. The dice were rolled by Gutenberg, Luther, Willem van Oranje, and Oliver Cromwell. By a lucky chance for England their payoffs were deposited in that formerly inconsequential nation in a pile late in the seventeenth century. None of the Four Rs had deep English or European causes. All could have rolled the other way. They were bizarre and unpredictable. In 1400 or even in 1600 a canny observer would have bet on an industrial revolution and a great enrichment—if she could have imagined such freakish events—in technologically advanced China, or in the vigorous Ottoman Empire. Not in backward, quarrelsome Europe.

A result of Reading, Reformation, Revolt, and Revolution was a fifth R, a crucial Revaluation of the bourgeoisie, first in Holland and then in Britain. The Revaluation was part of an R-caused, egalitarian reappraisal of ordinary people.  … The cause of the bourgeois betterments, that is, was an economic liberation and a sociological dignifying of, say, a barber and wig-maker of Bolton, son of a tailor, messing about with spinning machines, who died in 1792 as Sir Richard Arkwright, possessed of one of the largest bourgeois fortunes in England. The Industrial Revolution and especially the Great Enrichment came from liberating commoners from compelled service to a hereditary elite, such as the noble lord in the castle, or compelled obedience to a state functionary, such as the economic planner in the city hall. And it came from according honor to the formerly despised of Bolton—or of Ōsaka, or of Lake Wobegon—commoners exercising their liberty to relocate a factory or invent airbrakes.

Everything is Connected, But That Doesn’t Mean You Can Make Sense of it by The Elephant's Child

saudi-arabia-oilFor those of us who have forgotten our history, 1973 was the year of the Yom Kippur War. Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on Israeli positions in territories occupied by Israel. In August, Saudi King Faisal and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat met in Riyadh and negotiated an accord whereby the Arabs would use the “oil weapon” as part of the coming military conflict.

October 6, Egypt and Syria attack Israeli-occupied lands in the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. The Soviet Union acted to supply Egypt and Syria with weapons and supplies. (Notice that Russian interest in Syria is not new) October 8, Israel goes on full nuclear alert.

The United States initiates Operation Nickel Grass, a strategic airlift to provide replacement weapons and supplies to Israel. OPEC negotiations with the major oil companies to revise the 1971 Tehran price agreement fail. October 19, Congress appropriates $2.2 billion in emergency aid to Israel. Libya proclaims an embargo on oil exports to the U.S. and Saudi Arabia and other Arab states follow suit the next day. October 26, the Yom Kippur War ends in complete defeat for the Arab forces. Dissension, negotiation. Israel agrees to withdraw from the west side of the Suez Canal. Oil ministers , with the exception of Libya, announce the end of the embargo. The 1973-74 stock market crash ends.

OPEC forced the oil companies to increase payments dramatically. Price of oil quadrupled to nearly $12 U.S. per barrel. The oil exporting countries got very wealthy. Gold faucets and fancy yachts.

The U.S initiated price controls. Out of that developed the 55 mph speed limit, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, The Department of Energy, and the National Energy Act of 1978. Ad campaign “Don’t be Fuelish,” compact cars, front wheel drive and 4-cylinder engines. Greater interest in “renewable energy.” Research in solar power and wind power. More emphasis on Mass transit. End of big cars with tail fins, welcome for the Volkswagen Beetle, rise of Japanese cars.

1978, Protests against Mohammad Reza Pahlavi Shah of Iran, wave of political unrest and violent clashes, Muslim fundamentalists seek a Muslim state, 1979, Shah leaves on vacation, never to return. One million Iranians march in support for exiled Ayatollah Khomeini. Ayatollah returns to Iran after 14 years of exile. Gasoline shortage, world oil glut. OPEC increases full 14.5 % increase in price. Iran takes western hostages. Jimmy Carter tried to rescue hostages, made a mess of it. Ronald Reagan succeeded Carter, hostages were released.

This is all more or less accurate, but perhaps gives a sense of the back and forth of cause and effect that got us where we are today, but not much sense of what to expect. The middle east still has vast oil wealth, but we are no longer dependent on their oil nor natural gas, but instead need approval to export our own plentiful supplies of oil and gas.

In the first years of the seventh century, when the Prophet Mohammad began his mission in Arabia, the whole of the Mediterranean was part of Christendom. A few decades after the death of the Prophet, his Arab followers burst out of the Arabian peninsula and attacked Persia and Byzantium. The Persian empire was conquered, then Syria, Palestine, Egypt and North Africa — and then Spain, and Sicily. It’s been going on ever since. The aim of the fanatics is to return to the pure Islam of the days of the Prophet. The aim of the West seems to be a colony on Mars.


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