American Elephants


When it’s Over, It’s Really Over. by The Elephant's Child

In the American political system, the President gets to hold office for either 4 years or 8, and when he or she is done, when a new president is elected, the previous president returns to civilian life. They are no longer a leader, no longer an official, just another past president, and once more a private citizen. Obama seems to be having a hard time accepting that, as do some of the people from his administration. No more titles. No more limelight. You had your turn and it is over.

George W. Bush was most gracious. He worked at rehabilitation for members of the military who were wounded during his administration. He paid honor to them with his paintings. He carefully did not interfere with Barack Obama’s turn. Obama knows that, but doesn’t seem to understand that it is an example for him as well.

The Twenty-second Amendment of the United States Constitution limits the number of times one can be elected to the office of President of the United States. Congress proposed the amendment by two-thirds of both the House and Senate on March 21, 1947. Ratification by the requisite 36 of the then-48 states was completed on February 27, 1951.

Mr. Obama is having a hard time being a private citizen. He was following President Trump in his visits to foreign leaders for a while, turning up for a visit right after Trump’s. Tacky.  It must be hard seeing your successor undo many of your presumed accomplishments, and even worse—see the economy respond in such vigorous approval. Is he hoping for a coup?

But that’s how it works. Americans were so thrilled when George Washington’s army defeated the British and sent them packing, that some wanted General Washington to become an emperor or a king, but Washington would have none of it. That was a most important step in the American presidency, and was recognized as such by other nations. The founders worked carefully to make sure that they were defining the presidency correctly to prevent future emperors or kings.

In many ways, the presidency is something of a thankless job. Things you wanted to do didn’t get done or there was deep resistance, or you were outvoted. You don’t get do-overs, and you don’t get to decide how the historians will think of you, no matter how glorious your presidential library turns out to be. You get to keep the honorific titles as a courtesy. Losing candidates also have a hard time accepting reality. Works better if you understand from the beginning the limits of the office. We probably tell our presidents too often that they are the most important man in the world. They are, but only briefly, then it’s over.

Advertisements


Common Sense is Not Anywhere as Common as Assumed by The Elephant's Child

Mitch Daniels, President of Purdue University, had an excellent article in the Washington Post last Wednesday about GMO foods. The campaign against GMO foods he says, is the kind of foolishness that only rich societies can afford to indulge.

Of the several claims of “anti-science” that clutter our national debates these days, none can be more flagrantly clear than the campaign against modern agricultural technology, most specifically the use of molecular techniques to create genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Here, there are no credibly conflicting studies, no arguments about the validity of computer models, no disruption of an ecosystem nor any adverse human health or even digestive problems, after 5 billion acres have been cultivated cumulatively and trillions of meals consumed.

And yet a concerted, deep-pockets campaign, as relentless as it is baseless, has persuaded a high percentage of Americans and Europeans to avoid GMO products, and to pay premium prices for “non-GMO” or “organic” foods that may in some cases be less safe and less nutritious. Thank goodness the toothpaste makers of the past weren’t cowed so easily; the tubes would have said “No fluoride inside!” and we’d all have many more cavities.

The article is an excellent plea for a little common sense. Mitch Daniels points out that suggesting that the poor in developing countries should fear GMO foods is not just wrong, but immoral. The story of the Green Revolution and the work of Norman Borlaug who should be one of the great heroes of the world should be taught in school.  Golden Rice is a variety of rice (Oryza sativa)  produced through genetic engineering (there are the ‘scary’ words) to biosynthesize beta-carotene in the edible parts of rice. It is intended to produce a fortified food to be grown and consumed in areas where there is a shortage of dietary vitamin A, a deficiency which is estimated to kill 670,000 children under the age of 5 each year.

This is a broad problem of political and scientific ignorance. Ilya Somin of the Volokh Conspiracy added his views on the problem.He links to Reason science writer Ron Bailey and William Saletan of Slate. The basic problem of ignorance is heightened by the very words “genetically engineered” which sound, to the ignorant, really scary. Ilya Somin notes that a 2012 National Science  Foundation survey found that about 25% of Americans don’t know that the Earth revolves around the sun rather than visa versa. There’s a lot about basic knowledge in Ilya Somin’s article that certainly suggests that we have a major problem with our schools. Do read that whole thing too.

I would suggest though, that much of the problem exists because of our grocery stores. Food producers are concerned with their marketing, and inclined to cater to any possible fears of the consumer. Hence you have “low sodium” products, “sugar-free,” “low-fat,” and “No GMO products” among others on every can or carton in the store. If everyone is telling you that GMO is a bad thing, pretty soon you’ll start to believe it.

Another article by Ilya Somin explains the problem of mandatory government warnings where the state of Florida required producers of skim milk that does not contain added vitamins to label it as “imitation milk” which it of course is not. The European Union has imposed mandatory labeling of GMO foods, even though there are no dangers involved. Read the comments on Mitch Daniels’ fine essay. You might wonder if perhaps Leftism is just a cult.



Defense Secretary James Mattis: 95% of ISIS Eradicated Under Trump. by The Elephant's Child

Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced this last week that 95% of ISIS bases and hideouts have been eradicated. Good News indeed. Deciding that you actually do intend to defeat them makes a difference. Obama seemed concerned that he might be blamed for something. ISIS fighters have been surrendering saying they haven’t been paid and haven’t been fed, and little things like that seem to matter.

Good for our coalition. Hope they all got a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner, and the gratitude of a nation giving thanks.



Iran Threatens to Attack All U.S. Bases in the Region by The Elephant's Child

According to Adam Kredo at the Washington Free Beacon, a top Iranian Military commander has threatened to launch ballistic missile strikes on all U.S. bases in the region. The Islamic Republic is anxious to show off their advanced missile capabilities, which is capable of striking U.S forces up to 1,300 miles away, which includes all U.S. bases in the region.

Credit for this debacle goes directly to Barack Obama, who hoped that nobody would notice when he shipped piles of cash ($400 million) in foreign denominations in an unmarked cargo plane to the mullahs in Iran to be delivered at midnight.

The question that was debated was whether the payment ( of $400 million) was actually a ransom paid for the release of American hostages Tehran had abducted, which he hotly denied saying that “we don’t pay ransoms,”  He said the reason that we had to give them cash is because we are so strict in maintaining sanctions and we do not have a banking relationship with Iran.

The sanctions which he wanted to preserve, prohibit Americans and financial institutions from engaging in currency transactions that involve Iran’s government. Iran remains on our government’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

There is a consensus in Washington that the U.S. needs to “push back” against the Islamic Republic. Nobody seems to want to clarify just what is meant by “push back.” President Trump’s response with cruise missiles in the early morning hours after the Russians had been warned doesn’t suggest the the Trump administration really wants to escalate. Reuel Marc Gerecht summed up the situation back at the end of July for the Hoover Institution. Not hopeful. It remains a very difficult subject.



How the EU went Wrong and Why they did. by The Elephant's Child

George W. Bush gave a speech last Thursday at “The Spirit of Liberty: At Home, In the World” event in New York City. Politico called it a speech on Trumpism, but they were perhaps a bit hasty with their definition. But then, any opportunity to accuse Trump of designated awfulness, is the goal of the current news media.  I had admired George Bush for his ability to avoid speaking out on politics as a past president, especially in not commenting on Obama who had canceled all his executive orders, which must be galling.   I know it’s hard, but we really don’t want to hear from past presidents or past candidates. Their time is past.

We’re having some trouble with definitions, and throwing way too many “isms” around:  nationalism and nativism, for example. The Left, big on wide open borders, prefers to define nativism something evil, as if favoring your own citizens over illegal immigrants is reprehensible? Look up the definition of nativism. Other troublesome words are bigotry, prejudice, civility and incivility, and immigrant and migrant. ABC recently called illegal aliens (illegal: not according to law, alien: owing allegiance to some other nation) to avoid using such negative language, “undocumented citizens.” No, they’re not.

We are living in a time when the difference between undocumented citizens, immigrants and migrants is increasingly important. Europe, because of their cradle-to-grave social welfare benefits, has a declining birthrate. Because they have a declining birthrate, without enough young people working to pay for the cradle-to-grave social welfare benefits they so generously offered in order to get elected, they thought by inviting more immigrants to work and pay for the benefits, they could still prosper. “Poor” Americans have more living space than ordinary Europeans who are not poor. And more amenities.

The inviting immigrants in was a mistake for Europeans. They were feeling sorry for those in Middle Eastern refugee camps, and the well-meant invitation quickly became a flow of migrants from every hell-hole on the planet, and many ordinary countries that just didn’t have the presumed wealth of Europe.

Charles Hill explained how modernity went astray, based on a system that made room for wide cultural diversity based on a judicial doctrine of “the equality of states.”      (Do read Hill’s whole piece linked just above. It’s not long.)

The EU would become a new form of trans-national entity that would eschew war, abolish sovereign borders, exalt diplomacy, and supersede the Westphalian system by offering the world a compelling model of how to dismantle the state by devolving some of its powers downward according to the concept of “subsidiarity” while pulling other powers up into a pan-European bureaucracy in Brussels which, however defined, would not be a state. The EU assured that it was entirely un-religious and noted the care with which the text of its voluminous constitution – unratified – avoided any reference to Europe’s Christian heritage.

Put simply, the EU made itself the epitome of the Modern Age by relentless secularization. Islamism, emerging from the post-World War I collapse of the Ottoman Empire and Caliphate, made itself the vanguard of jihadist religion’s rise to become the implacable adversary of modernity. If Europe is where the siege is to take place, the drawbridge already is up:

Ambassador Hill adds: “Transatlantic unity has been the keystone of the defense and extension of freedom in wartime for a hundred years and must remain so.”

It is not the EU but NATO that has been the key to transatlantic solidarity. Strengthening NATO as a military alliance with political consequences in support of a reformed EU must be at the core of American policy. NATO’s role “out of area” will be vital along with continued efforts to integrate like-minded partners to the extent possible: Russia, Israel, the Gulf Arab states. The Modern Age itself is at stake.



The Iran Deal: What it Is and What it Isn’t by The Elephant's Child

Confusion reigns over every mention of the “Iran Deal.” And it is back in the news and at a moment in time when confusion over every tiny thing about the Trump administration, not to mention the large things, seems to set off what might be called a panic attack in the Democrats. Any ability to talk about such things calmly and seriously has gone by the wayside. It’s some kind of contagious dementia.

Iran is not a friendly Middle Eastern country. They support most of the worlds terrorism and terrorists, are attempting to become a nuclear power, are making trouble wherever they can in the Middle East and elsewhere, and generally fall in the category of bad guys. Very bad guys.

The Obama administration signed a nuclear deal with Iran. It is not a treaty, but just an informal deal to relieve sanctions on Iran if they stop trying to get nuclear weapons. They are supposed to get inspections to see if they are doing what they claim, but that isn’t happening, and everybody’s worried about what will happen, what the Trump administration will do, what can be done or not done. All is confusion.

Frederick W. Kagan, a scholar at AEI on Foreign and Defense Policy, the Middle East and Terrorism in general, has spelled out the facts of the deal and attempted to alleviate the confusion so we have some understanding among the reports from the media, most of whom don’t seem to understand any more than we do.

Do read the whole thing, or better yet print it out or save it. This is going to be a major bone of contention for some time yet, and the Democrats are off the tracks, partly because it was an Obama effort, partly because they are quite sure that Trump is starting a new war, or is too irrational to do the right thing, or is anxious to start something or who knows what catastrophe the evil Trump will devise.  In other words, we need to know what they are talking about. Knowing what they are talking about is the best defense.



Hungry and Demoralized, ISIS Surrenders in Hawija by The Elephant's Child

Yesterday, off in corners of the internet which was all a-flame with the latest accusers of Harvey Weinstein, there was brief mention of the defeat of of ISIS in the northern Iraqi town of Hawija — one of its last strongholds in Iraq. Around 1,000 militants surrendered among signs that the terrorist group is falling apart and unable to defend its territory.

“They’re giving up,” said Lt. Gen. Paul Funk, who commands the coalition task force fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. “Their leaders are abandoning them.”

The fall of Hawija in northern Iraq, after two weeks of fighting, is the latest in a string of defeats for the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, and suggests the rank-and-file fighters are demoralized as the group struggles to defend what remains of the territory it seized in 2014.

Hawija had been held by about 1,000 militants. As long as they held Hawija they could threaten Kirkuk, a major city east of the town. Coalition airstrikes have been ramping up attacks on the strongholds left in Iraq. Iraqi forces have been built up with help of U.S. arms and equipment, but the decision on when to launch ground operations is made by the Iraqi government.

In July, Iraq announced that Mosul, the country’s second-largest city, was retaken from ISIS after about nine months of intense fighting. Since that decisive battle, the pace of the Islamic State’s decline seems to have quickened.

U.S.-backed forces in Syria have recaptured about three-quarters of Raqqa, the ISIS headquarters, after about four months of fighting in the city.

ISIS reputation for the willingness to fight to the last man and never surrender seems to be gone. Surrendering forces came out with their hands up, saying their leaders have abandoned them. They haven’t been fed and haven’t been paid. Last week the ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi released an audio demanding his fighters to continue the battle, but they don’t seem to be paying attention.

The fall of Harvey Weinstein may be just as important as the fall of Hawija, but was anyone surprised? Hollywood has long been known as a cesspool. His disgusting trail of victims may be long, but ISIS has been trying to terrorize the world into submission. Beheadings and placing victims in iron cages to drown or burn to death didn’t seem to be a way to entice people to accept Islam. But that is in the far away Middle East, and Weinstein and kneeling football millionaires are here and local.

I don’t know that anyone, at this point, expects the media to act responsibly.




%d bloggers like this: