American Elephants

Honda “Paper” by The Elephant's Child
October 4, 2015, 7:05 am
Filed under: Art, Entertainment, Free Markets, Freedom, Heartwarming, Humor, Japan | Tags: , ,

Advertising that makes you pay attention! Very, very , very clever.

(h/t: vanderleun)

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.

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.

$500 Million. 5 Fighters. Obama Says It’s Not His Fault! by The Elephant's Child

damaged-buildings-syrian-civil-war1  When you draw a ‘red line,’ or ‘a line in the sand’ publicly in international terms, it is a very serious threat.  When you back down your reputation is permanently damaged. That is usually a lesson that one learns on the playground.

In a 2012 press conference in Stockholm, Obama said:

I have, at this point, not ordered military engagement in the situation. But the point that you made about chemical and biological weapons is critical. That’s an issue that doesn’t just concern Syria; it concerns our close allies in the region, including Israel. It concerns us. We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people.

We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.

Assad unleashed a sarin gas attack on Syrians in Ghouta just outside of Damascus. Obama avoided any action in Syria in order to help with the Iran negotiations. The image above is a neighborhood in Syria.

The answer was supposed to be investing $500 million in training some of the Syrian rebels to fight Assad’s army, but it actually yielded just four or five fighters.

So now President Obama and his foreign policy team are confused.Why is Vladimir Putin pouring troops and weapons into Syria? Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov that it really isn’t helpful, and is making things worse. Russia has deployed a small number of tactical jets in Syria for the first time. Moscow is clearly preparing to help Assad cling to power. American pilots regularly fly surveillance flights and airstrike missions, the direct involvement of Russian forces could mean trouble.

Russia has been an ally of Syria since Sadat kicked the Soviets out of Egypt in 1972. Look at a map. Putin has re-claimed the Crimea and is simply asserting their influence in the Middle East. Putin’s ambition is always to avenge and reverse Russia’s humiliating loss of superpower status over 25 years ago.

Obama’s efforts to train an opposition army to fight the ISIS has been an abysmal failure. And an expensive failure. But the White House is not to blame. The finger, the White House says, should be pointed not at Mr. Obama, but at those who pressed him to attempt training Syrian rebels in the first place. The New York Times says:

In effect, Mr. Obama is arguing that he reluctantly went along with those who said it was the way to combat the Islamic State, but that he never wanted to do it and has now has been vindicated in his original judgment.

Mr. Trump simply says “Syria’s a mess, Why are we fighting ISIS in Syria? Let them fight each other and pick up the remnants.” A comment much in line with his simplistic answers to everything else.

Ryan C. Crocker who was ambassador to Afghanistan under Mr. Obama and ambassador to Iraq under George W. Bush said the president was right to think that a train-and-arm program would not work, but he either should have continued to resist or taken ownership rather than blame others.

How un-presidential that sounds — ‘We didn’t want to do it, we thought it was unsound but you made us do it,’ ” said Mr. Crocker. “It’s just indicative of their whole approach to Syria, which is not to have a policy. This is the worst thing they could say.”

Now refugees are flooding Europe. We don’t know who are refugees, who are migrants, and who are members of ISIS. What we are learning is that EU estimates are that four out of five migrants are not from Syria but from Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq and even states farther removed. Mr. Obama’s response seems to be welcoming a hundred thousand or so refugees every year into the indefinite future.

“I’m Mad as Hell And I’m Not Going To Take This Anymore! by The Elephant's Child
September 21, 2015, 12:54 am
Filed under: Bureaucracy, Crime, Democrat Corruption, Iran, Politics, Regulation

im-as-mad-as-hell-howard-bealeDan Henninger’s column in the Wall Street Journal last Thursday was about Wednesday’s debate but he made use of Howard Beale’s now famous line in “Network” when he started shouting on his broadcast one evening, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Beale’s last-straw rant is a compendium of political crises and petty annoyances that added up to a society running off the rails. Driven mad, Beale yells: “I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first, you’ve got to get mad!”

Henninger adds “That was 1976. This is 2015. It’s back. What happened?”

The political crises are not the same, but the frustration is. I wrote last month about the VA being caught shredding mail from veterans related to vets’ disability claims. That scandal has been going on for ages, and no one has been fired. It is apparently impossible to fire government employees who game the system or commit infractions of one kind or another. If they do something really bad, they get placed on an extended leave at full pay.

The cyber crimes are piling up. The IRS had 334,000 taxpayer identities stolen. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) had 22 million identities stolen of everybody who had ever worked for the government, and any references they gave at the time they were hired.
Medical identities, 2.3 million of your medical records have been stolen.The IRS and OPM cases have been blamed on Chinese hackers. President Obama took care of that by refusing to stay at the Waldorf Astoria (Chinese owned) while in New York for a UN something or other. That’ll fix that! Is anybody actually doing something about preventing these incursions? Got me. The medical identity theft can be very expensive for the victim, something like $15,000 to fix. You didn’t think ObamaCare would do anything for you, did you?

Last week, Investors reported that for President Obama there is “no greater threat” than global warming. All his efforts to reduce CO2 will amount to a 0.3 possible drop of CO2 by the year 2100. In the meantime, the real threat comes from solar storms or worse, an electromagnetic pulse attack (EMP) from an enemy like Iran. They are reported to have directions for how to conduct an EMP attack in their military manuals. The US has 99 nuclear stations and 31 research facilities which could face simultaneous meltdown of these facilities in as little as 30 minutes. Defending against an EMP attack would cost something like $2 billion, less than we send to Pakistan each year. Is Washington doing anything? Who knows? But apparently not.

That doesn’t even touch the Planned Parenthood mess, or Obama’s disastrous Iran Deal, or his planned admission of 100,000 refugees a year.  Howard Beale may just have had it right. But he didn’t offer any solutions.

Is Barack Obama the Most Poisonously Partisan President in American History? by The Elephant's Child


Poisonously partisan. That is probably the shortest and clearest description of the eight years of the Obama administration. Every department, agency and bureau has been politicized. Barack Obama is fiercely competitive, but he apparently never learned that to make things work — you need cooperation.

It’s far harder and more intellectually challenging to work together with people with whom you generally disagree for the good of the nation — a nation with over 300 million different opinions and desires. Obama has his own peculiar vision, and he is going to impose it on us all. Don’t even think of trying to stop him.

Surely you have noticed that the Obama administration is increasingly intolerant of those who disagree with them on any subject. The remarkable letter from 20 scientists to request that those who disagree with them about the science of climate change should be prosecuted is only one of the most recent examples.

Another is the exclusion of Hillsdale College, a 1,500 student liberal arts college in Michigan, ranked as the 67th best liberal arts college in the country, from the Obama extolled new “College Scorecard”, because it “Isn’t a real two-to four year college.” A lot of their graduates would be astonished at that one. The problem is that Hillsdale (founded in 1844) does not accept any federal funding (including federal student loans) in order to be free of federal regulatory control. Do not look for lot of gender studies courses, nor much emphasis on “triggering” and hate speech. They don’t embarrass themselves by banning speakers with unconventional ideas, but instead print up excerpts for their free speech digest which goes (free) to some 3 million subscribers. (I am one)

Leftist professors are systematically indoctrinating their students into believing that 9/11 was all our fault. A freshman-level English class taught at several major universities across the country called “the Literature of 9/11” focuses entirely on the writings from the perspective if the Islamic terrorists rather than the 3,000 Americans killed in the attack. Terrorists are portrayed as “freedom fighters” driven by oppressive U.S. foreign policies.

How’s this for partisanship? There are 8.8 million legal US immigrants eligible for citizenship. Obama wants to get them all through the citizenship process before the 2016 election. He will allow credit card payments instead of cash for the fees, and he is waiving qualifications, such as the requirement that new citizens agree to be called upon for military service if they are needed. He wants them registered to vote before the election.

The war on religion is serious and intense. Many Leftists have expressed a desire to get rid of the first amendment. They oppose freedom of speech — because those on the right disagree. Those on the right also are far better informed about the real importance of the Bill of Rights and what it means. The Left hates freedom of religion and the people who oppose abortion because of their religious views. Catholics like Nancy Pelosi pander a bit by insisting it’s all about women’s health. Opposition to gay marriage is considered a hate crime.

On the eve of Pope Francis’s arrival in the United States, the Vatican has taken offense at the Obama administration’s decision to invite to the pope’s welcoming ceremony transgender activists, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop and an activist nun who leads a group criticized by the Vatican for its silence on abortion and euthanasia. This is purposeful, and unbelievably ill-mannered. Obama’s latest pettiness seeks to embarrass his guest in order to make a domestic political point about “tolerance” and “diversity.” As Rick Moran said: “The Catholic Church is not a democracy. The pope can’t “change his mind” about gay marriage like so many Democrats do.”

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has advocated for women in combat, the Marine Corps intends to prohibit women in several front line combat roles. It has to do with some simple things like 68 pound packs and sharpshooting ability. Obama’s female nominee for  Under Secretary of the Navy, wants women in combat. She says “this is not just using the military for social engineering.” Of course it is. There’s a bit of difference between piloting an airplane as she did,  and carrying a 68 lb. pack, carrying a fellow soldier out of the line of fire. Men and women are different,  and remain so in spite of social engineering.

The Obama administration’s efforts to unconstitutionally bypass Congress with executive orders, arbitrary suspension of laws or simple non-enforcement, and exempting party loyalists from legal accountability is a disgrace. Obama is often called a professor of Constitutional Law, but he was only a part-time instructor of civil rights law. He does not take the Constitution seriously, which means that he doesn’t understand just what the United States Constitution, the world’s oldest and most revered, really means to the freedom of man. No cities on shining hills for Obama.

Do the folks objecting so vociferously to “birthright babies” ever stop to think about just why those mothers are so determined to get their children American citizenship?

The More Things Change, The More they Stay the Same by The Elephant's Child
September 19, 2015, 6:54 am
Filed under: Africa, Europe, History, Islam, Middle East | Tags: , ,


plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

In the early years of the seventh century, when the Prophet Muhammad began his mission in Arabia, the whole of the Mediterranean world was still part of Christendom. On the European, Asian and African shores alike, almost all the inhabitants were Christians of various denomination. Of the other religions of the Greco-Roman world, only two, Judaism and Manichaeism, had survived and were professed by minorities in these lands. In the eastern Mediterranean, the East Roman Empire, known to scholarship as the Byzantine Empire, continued to flourish and with Constantinople as its capital ruled over Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and part of North Africa as well as Asia Minor and southeastern Europe. In the western Mediterranean, the Roman state had fallen, but the barbarian peoples, and the kingdoms they raised on the ruins of Rome, had adopted the Christian religion and tried with intermittent success to maintain at least the forms of the Roman state and the Christian church. Nor was the realm of Christendom limited to the Mediterranean lands. Beyond the eastern border of Byzantium, Mesopotamia, the metropolitan and western-most province of the Persian Empire, was by the early seventh century predominately Christian and thus part of the Christian though not the Roman world. Even in Arabia, beyond the imperial frontiers of both Rome and Persia. Christian and Jewish minorities lived among the pagan majority.

Within a few decades of the death of Muhammad in 632, his Arab followers had burst out of the Arabia Peninsula, attacked Byzantium and Persia, the two great empires that had divided the Middle East between them, and wrested vast territories from both. The Empire of Persia was conquered and absorbed in its entirety. From the Roman world the Arabs took Syria  Palestine, Egypt, and the rest of North Africa which, in turn, became their springboard for the invasion of Africa which, in turn, became their springboard for the invasion of Spain and the Mediterranean islands, notably Sicily. Defeating both the Byzantine and the barbarian armies, they were able to incorporate these countries in the new Islamic Empire and to threaten Christendom from both ends. In the east, Arab armies from Syria and Iraq pressing against Anatolia, then a Greek and Christian land and the heartland of the Byzantine Empire, while other Arab and  Berber armies in the west swept from conquered Spain across the Pyrenees and threatened to engulf all of Western Europe. For a while, Muslim armies occupied Sicily, parts of southern Italy, and seemed to menace even Rome itself.

The opening paragraphs from The Muslim Discovery of Europe by Bernard Lewis, New York, 1982  Highly recommended.


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