American Elephants


I Think The Times And Obama Are Wrong. Can I Possibly Be Right? by The Elephant's Child

Gutted Yellow Building Havana

The New York Times is, as usual, a little off. When ideology trumps journalism, you get these embarrassing slip-ups. The headline is “As Cuba Shifts Toward Capitalism, Inequality Grows More Visible.”

What shift toward capitalism? Raul Castro has stated firmly that Cuba is not moving one centimeter away from Communism.

As Cuba opens the door wider to private enterprise, the gap between the haves and have-nots — and between whites and blacks — that the revolution sought to diminish is growing more evident.

That divide is expected to increase now that the United States is raising the amount of money that Cuban-Americans can send to the island to $8,000 a year, up from $2,000, as part of President Obama’s historic thaw with Cuba.

This was not any kind of agreement with Cuba. Cuba offered nothing, and was pleased that America surrendered to them. If Cuban-Americans send more remittances, they will only enrich the Communist government. Cuban citizens are limited to a maximum income of $20 a month, and anything over that goes to the government.

This was just another of Obama’s big ideas. He was going to liberate Cuba, expand trade, and the tourist business will improve the Cuban economy.

Remittances, estimated at $1 billion to nearly $3 billion a year, are already a big source of the capital behind the new small businesses. The cash infusion has been one of the top drivers of the Cuban economy in recent years, rivaling tourism revenues and mineral, pharmaceutical and sugar exports.

Fidel Castro has been estimated in the past by Forbes to be one of the world’s wealthiest men, and I’m sure that covers his little brother as well. Cuba has been trading the use of their doctors to Venezuela in trade for oil. The reason Cuban’s maximum income is so low is because they are offered free medical care and a ration card for food. If they have to go to the hospital, they need to supply their own sheets and blankets, their own medicine and even iodine, if needed. According to the Times:

The river where Jonas Echevarria fishes cuts through neighborhoods brimming with new fine restaurants, spas and boutiques, springing up in Cuba’s accelerating push toward private enterprise.

Tattered mansions and luxury apartment blocks speak of old wealth and new. A bounty of private restaurants known as paladares serve pork tenderloin, filet mignon and orange duck to tourists, Cuban-Americans visiting relatives and a growing pool of Cuban entrepreneurs with cash to spend.

I’m sure the Cuban government is building tourist facilities in expectation of lots of tourist business, bringing more revenue to the government, but this report from the New York Times has no relation to what I have read elsewhere about Cuba. Previous tourist hotels are run by a Spanish company, who pays the government for their Cuban workers. The government gives the workers their $20 a month, and pockets the rest.

The Times article extolls the Obama effort and assumes that everything in Cuba will improve as a result —in spite of Raul Castro’s firm declaration that nothing whatsoever was changing.  Interesting. Somebody is very wrong. We’ll see.



A Reminder, In Your Words Mr. President: “That’s Not How Democracy Works” by The Elephant's Child

childhood-immigration-flood-620x396

The year is 2011, and election coming up, the president is making lots of speeches and fundraising. On May 10, President Obama spoke at Chamizal National Memorial Park in El Paso Texas. He vowed to “keep up the fight” to pass comprehensive immigration reform through Congress, because the immigration system was broken. (Not broken. The immigration laws simply are not enforced).

He assured the audience that the border fence was essentially complete, (if  “essentially complete” means that 84 miles of the mandated double fencing have been built of the 1,933 miles of our border with Mexico). That pertains to compliance with the Secure Fence Act of 2006.

Then he added:

“Sometimes when I talk to immigration advocates, they wish I could just bypass Congress and change the law myself, but that’s not how a democracy works,” Obama said. “What we really need to do is to keep up the fight to pass genuine, comprehensive reform. That is the ultimate solution to this problem. That’s what I’m committed to doing.”

Back in the halls of Congress, it is Jeff Sessions who once again spoke of constitutional government in defense of American workers in a clarifying speech yesterday on the Senate floor:

A number of things have been happening today with regard to the funding of the Department of Homeland Security. There’s been a lot of spin about that and that somehow the Republicans are blocking the funding of the Department of Homeland Security. This gives new meaning to the word “obfuscation,” I suppose, or “disingenuousness.” The truth is, the House of Representatives has fully funded the Department of Homeland Security. It’s provided the level of funding the President asked for. It’s kept all the accounts at Homeland Security as approved through the congressional process. It simply says, but, Mr. President, we considered your bill, this amnesty bill that will provide work permits, photo IDs, Social Security numbers, Medicare benefits. You can’t do that. We considered that and rejected it. So we’re not going to fund that.

Now, the President has told us and his staff that they have across the river in Crystal City, they’re leasing a new building and this building is going to hire a thousand workers, paid for by the taxpayers of the United States, part of Homeland Security. Are those thousand workers going to be utilized to enforce the laws of the United States? Are they going to process applications for citizenship or visas? No. Those 1,000 people, costing several hundred million dollars, in truth, those people are going to be processing and providing these benefits to people unlawfully in America… (Read on below)

Continue reading



A Winning Strategy or A Seriously Stupid Sellout? by The Elephant's Child

ISIS-tankI want to talk a little about strategy. Do I have some expertise to share? I have sailed the world with the Royal Navy at the turn of the century (the 19th); served in the Revolution with Kenneth Roberts; and the Civil War with James McPherson; Martin Gilbert took me through the First World War and the Second; I witnessed the Rape of Nanking with Iris Chang; and starved in Leningrad with Harrison Salisbury, and Stalingrad with Anthony Beevor; but I have never been in the service and have no expertise at all.

Stephen Coughlin, a leading expert on national security, says that our foreign policy community is absolutely incoherent and has lost the ability to think. Government bureaucrats, he says, have become focused on fighting narratives consistent with a post-modern, politically correct worldview rather than the facts on the ground.

Dr. Sebastian Gorka holds a Chair in Military Theory at the Marine Corps University. He points out that President Obama’s three-day summit on violent extremism empowers ISIS, by emphasizing the real grievances the Muslim world has with the West, the danger of Islamophobia in the U.S. and the need for community outreach.

ISIS’ recruiting message ” is a story of Islam under attack by the West, a perpetual Holy War against the infidel until the House of Islam—Dar al Islaam—covers the world and all live under sharia in a new Caliphate. They are indoctrinating and training 5-year-olds in Islam and weapons.

Strategy 001: You don’t tell the enemy what you are going to do, nor just when you are going to do it. It is better to keep them guessing and surprise them. Why is this so hard to understand?

While successful military strategy in wartime often hinges on surprise, the U.S. military took an unconventional path Thursday in announcing a plan to wage an early spring campaign to try to drive ISIS forces from the key city of Mosul in northern Iraq. The U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM, which oversees the military coalition fight against ISIS in Iraq outlined the size and makeup of a force that the U.S. hopes will be ready for the offensive within five weeks at the earliest, as reported by Defense One and other news organizations.
They told them approximately when the attack would begin, the composition of the coalition’s attack force, what we’re doing to train the forces.
Unless you’re fooling – unless this is an elaborate feint – it’s not normal practice to warn somebody that you’re coming,” Gordon Adams, a military historian and analyst at American University, said. “This is a little bizarre, it seems to me.”
Monday, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) said she was mind-boggled at what the Pentagon has done. One of the officers speaking to the media revealed that one of the Pentagon’s training camps was located in Jordan, and Jordan had made it clear it wanted that information kept private. Jordan is furious. Gabbard has served in the Iraq war in a medical unit where she saw the cost of war.

When  you realize that you don’t know very much about a current threat. the response should be to study up. Put aside the stuff that doesn’t matter, and read and investigate. I don’t have any indication that anybody in the White House is actually doing that. They do have a narrative, and they are sticking to it.

Investors Business Daily offers “Know Thy Enemy: A Crash Course in Radical Islam” by Paul Sperry, in five short parts. It seems useful.



The Propaganda Wars: Unfamiliar Strategy by The Elephant's Child

ISIS is depending on their videos to appeal to young Muslims who may be convinced to join the fight. The violence portrayed in many of them has encouraged hundreds to make their way to Syria to join ISIS. The Islamic State’s best recruiting tool is youth boredom. ISIS is offering excitement, a chance for young Muslims in the West to get back at the prejudice against Muslims that they may feel, and they find the extreme violence portrayed on the video thrilling and exciting. Just as we find movie portrayals of special effects exciting. But the reality is something else.

There are currently 3 young women, teenagers, from Britain currently making their way to Turkey and Syria to become brides of ISIS. There are at lest 8 impressionable schoolgirls that were attracted by websites recruiting brides, who have disappeared. A couple of them are already widows. Hundreds are proposing to ISIS fighters.

Have you ever been a member of the military, and gone through basic training? If so you will enjoy this newest ISIS recruiting video meant to strike fear into the hearts of the West. I can’t embed the video, so you will have to follow the link. The music is annoying, but the camouflage is priceless.

We need some evidence and videos of the setbacks being inflicted on ISIS and al Qaeda to counter their propaganda. But that may be another part of the Obama strategy that isn’t understood.



Pretend, for a Moment, That It Is 1939, Once Again by The Elephant's Child

Victor Davis Hanson imagines “President Franklin Delano Obama Addresses the Threat of 1930s Violent Extremism”

Imagining Obama as the American president in 1939 makes what’s wrong with the Obama approach to national security clear in a way that a straightforward discussion will not.

“The United States has made significant gains in our struggle against violent extremism in Europe. We are watching carefully aggressions in Czechoslovakia, Austria, and in Eastern Europe. My diplomatic team has made it very clear that aggression against neighbors is inappropriate and unacceptable. We live in the 20th century, where the 19th century practice of changing borders by the use of force has no place in the present era.

“Let me be perfectly clear: Mr. Hitler is playing to a domestic audience. He adopts a sort of macho shtick, as a cut-up in the back of the class who appeals to disaffected countrymen. Our task is to demonstrate to Mr. Hitler that his current behavior is not really in his own interest, and brings neither security nor profit to Germany.

“As for acts of violence in Germany itself, we must express our worry to the German government over apparent extremism, but at the same time we must not overreact. As far as these sporadic attacks on random civilians, as, for example, during the recent Kristallnacht violence, we must keep things in perspective, when, for example, some terrorists randomly targeted some folks in a store. My job is sort of like a big-city mayor, to monitor these terrorist acts that are said to be done in the name of the German people. Let us not overreact and begin to listen to radio commentators who whip us up into a frenzy as if we were on the verge of war. We must not overestimate the SS, a sort of jayvee organization that remains a manageable problem.

Do read the whole thing. One of the greatest attributes of ordinary Americans is their sense of humor. If we lose that, we’re in real trouble.



What Did Obama Mean By “Fundamentally Transform”? by The Elephant's Child

Obama lecturing

Most of us are apt to divide the world up into the good guys and the bad guys. Opposites.  Simplistic thinking, of course. No nuance. (when did that word slip into the daily vocabulary?) Winners and losers. Short and tall, rich and poor, hard-working and lazy, handsome and ugly, cruel and kind, smart and stupid. It helps us to understand those things we encounter in the world, we can modify our judgment later.

World War II was clear — Allies and Axis, and the Cold War — Communists and the Free World. Things began to get confused with the War in Vietnam. Protesters couldn’t decide who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. Jane Fonda has never been forgiven for her stupidity, but she was not alone among the far left. It was a confusing time, and when the Draft was ended, surprisingly so were the protests.

Questions today on the internet ask “Is Obama a Christian?” and “Is Obama a Muslim?” But those are the wrong questions. Obama has given every indication of signing up with the bad guys, the Axis, the Communists, and those who oppose our country. His dislike for the Israeli prime minister is obvious; his distaste for the United Kingdom is clear; his support for a deal with Iran; his support for the Muslim Brotherhood; for the deposed president of Egypt; inability to reach a status of forces agreement with Iraq; Benghazi; refusal to help the dissidents in Iran, and in Syria; and the silly outreach to Cuba; and the support for most anti-American governments in South America.

There is a pattern.  A pattern which is behind Rudy Giuliani’s asking if the president loves America. One would think that the media would be somewhat aware of the direction of the entire Obama administration, instead of dissolving in wrath when someone actually notices. (Or is that why the media boiled over —they’re beginning to notice?)

I think he is just doing exactly what he said he would do: attempt to “fundamentally transform the United States of America.” Everybody was so excited with the idea of the first black president, the mellow baritone voice, the moving phraseology “Yes We Can!,” “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for!,” that they didn’t really pay any attention to what he actually said that he wanted to do. I don’t think he is trying to destroy the country, he just wants to “fix” it.

We are paying the price for our inattention. And it’s up to us to find out exactly what he meant by “fundamentally transform.” It matters. It matters a lot.



Lessons For Obama, From 1793: George Washington Wrote: by The Elephant's Child

George Washington’ fifth Annual Message to Congress, was delivered on December 5, 1793, in written form. Speeches in those days had to be shouted, if there was a crowd — no microphones, no teleprompters — so President Washington’s Messages to Congress, even including his famous Farewell Address, were written, not spoken.

There are a number of passages in President Washington’s message that might recommend themselves to the attention of President Obama, as you will see.

President Washington expressed his humble gratitude for “the renewed testimony of public approbation” and for “the instances of affectionate partiality with which I have been honored by my country.” He would rather retire, but He will obey the suffrage which has “commanded me to resume the Executive power,” and he humbly “implores that Being on whose will the fate of nations depends to crown with success our mutual endeavors for the general happiness.”

He needs Congress to decide what should be done in regard to the treaties made with France about prizes, whether to allow them to be sold, or restored, or do we need protection of our territory by vessels commissioned. Congress needs to make rules or laws. It’s complicated and even the courts don’t know what to do.

The United States ought not to indulge a persuasion that contrary to the order of human events, they will forever keep at a distance those painful appeals to arms with which the history of every other nation abounds. There is a rank due to the United States among nations which will be withheld, if not absolutely lost, by the reputation of weakness. If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it, if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war. The documents which will be presented to you will shew the amount and kinds of arms and military stores now in our magazines and arsenals, and yet an addition even to these supplies can not with prudence be neglected, as it would leave nothing to the uncertainly of procuring warlike apparatus in the moment of public danger.”

When we contemplate the war on our frontiers, it may be truly affirmed that every reasonable effort has been made to adjust the causes of dissension with the Indians north of the Ohio. The instructions given to the commissioners evince a moderation and equity proceeding from a sincere love of peace, and a liberality having no restriction but the essential  interests and dignity of the United States. The attempt, however, of an amicable negotiation having been frustrated the troops have marched to act offensively.” As the seasons advance, we many need more troops than the number granted by law, and you need to address that and their compensation.

The Executive also has some anxiety about peace with the Creeks and the Cherokees. We’ve given the Creeks corn and clothing, and prohibited offensive measures against them.  Congress needs to provide for the current emergency. [T]he establishment of commerce with the Indian nations in behalf of the United States is most likely to conciliate their attachment. But it ought to be conducted without fraud, without extortion, with constant and plentiful supplies, with a ready market for the commodities of the Indians and a stated price for what they give in payment and receive in exchange. Individuals will not pursue such a traffic unless they be allured by the hope of profit; but it will be enough for the United States to be reimbursed only. Should this recommendation accord with the opinion of Congress, they will recollect that it can not be accomplished by any means yet in the hands of the Executive.”

To the House of Representatives:

On the first day of June last an installment of 1.000,000 florins became payable on the loans of the United States in Holland. This was adjusted by a prolongation of the period of reimbursement in nature of a new loan at an interest of 5% for the term of ten years, and the expenses of this operation were a commission of 3%.

The first installment of the loan of $2,000,000 from the Bank of the United States has been paid, as was directed by law. For the second it is necessary that provision be made.

No pecuniary consideration is more urgent than the regular redemption and discharge of the public debt. On none can delay be more injurious or an economy of time more valuable.

The productiveness of the public revenues hitherto has continued to equal the anticipations which were formed of it, but it is not expected to prove commensurate with all the objects which have been suggested. Some auxiliary provisions will therefore, it is presumed, be requisite, and it is hoped that these may be made consistently with a due regard to the convenience of our citizens, who can not but be sensible of the true wisdom of encountering a small present addition to their contributions to obviate a future accumulation of burthens.

But here I can not forbear to recommend a repeal of the tax on the transportation of public prints. There is no resource so firm for the Government of the United States as the affections of the people, guided by an enlightened policy; and to this primary good nothing can conduce more than a faithful representation of public proceedings, diffused without restraint throughout the United States.

Gentlemen of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:

The several subjects to which I have now referred open a wide range to your deliberations and involve some of the choicest interests of our common country. Permit me to bring to your remembrance the magnitude of your task. Without an unprejudiced coolness the welfare of the Government may be hazarded; without harmony as far as consists with freedom of sentiment its dignity may be lost. But as the legislative proceedings of the United States will never, I trust, be reproached for the want of temper or of candor, so shall not the public happiness languish from the want of my strenuous and warmest cooperation.

GEORGE WASHINGTON

(Reprinted and slightly revised from 2013)




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