American Elephants


The Hidden Ramifications of a Drop in the Price of a Gallon of Gas by The Elephant's Child

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The price of oil has dived, which is a boon for Americans who are filling up their gas tanks, partly as a result of ‘Fracking,’ and partly because the Saudis have opened the spigot on their oil reserves. For drivers, it’s a wonderful drop in the cost of commuting, and a bit more freedom in the family budget. For oil field workers, it has meant layoffs for many.  For investors in oil futures, it’s scary. For many businesses it’s a drop in their costs and a welcome boost in the bottom line.

For the Saudis, it means that Iran loses money on the sale of their oil because their break-even cost is far higher than the current cost of a barrel of oil. The Saudis fear major attacks by ISIS or Iran. The intricacies of Middle East relationships are fascinating but puzzling. Most Middle East countries are composed of tribes with different religions, different histories and different cultures.

Here at home, an article from Bloomberg Business chronicles just how complicated it all is, yet we need to understand. Laredo, Texas is a border town. One hundred and fifteen million people cross into Texas legally from Mexico every year, most of them just on a shopping expedition. By some estimates those shoppers are responsible for one of every two retail dollars spent in Laredo. They buy jeans, smart phones, toys, products that are more costly or not available in Nuevo Laredo. The peso has dropped 26 percent in relation to the dollar.

What’s different this year is that Eagle Ford, one of the big oil fields behind the surge in U.S. oil output in the past half-decade h as slashed production in response to the drop in the price of oil. Many of the storefronts on the downtown’s main commercial drag, and others near the river are boarded up or braced with metal grids over the windows.  Silvia Guerra’s popular turquoise-colored crepe satin priced at $8.50 a yard, cost Mexicans 127 pesos last year and is 152 pesos today.

Crude prices have plummeted 70 percent since June 2014, idling oil rigs. All Texas border cities are feeling the pinch, but Laredo’s merchants say business is off 50 percent or more.  Laredo has four international bridges, and is the country’s biggest inland port.

Sylvia Guerra’s store has racks of dresses and colorful rolls of fabric, but purchases are rare, and her business is dead. She suspects she will be out of business by May. Her husband has lost his job leasing drilling equipment for Weatherford International Plc. Their daughter is an administrator for Baker Hughes Inc. in San Antonio was told her position is at risk after major layoffs at the oil services company. Their son who supervises fracking operations for C&J Energy Services has seen his paycheck shrink so much he’s looking for an additional part-time job.

It’s just interesting to see how a change in the price of a barrel of oil plays out around the world, and around the country. It’s a lot more complicated than we think.

Today’s price of a gallon of regular gas at the pump, and a year ago:

In Washington State today: $2.09.  A year ago, it was $2.82. In California today: $2,45.  A year ago, it was $3,94. In Texas today, gas is $1.60, a year ago it averaged $2.25. In Ohio, the average is $1.87, down from $2,38 a year ago. And in Pennsylvania, the average today is $1.91, while a year ago it was 2.60. Being close to a refinery helps, as does having a handy oil field in your backyard. As you can see, it is a significant drop in the family budget, depending on how many miles you drive in a week.

Of course state officials have noticed that you aren’t paying quite so much for gas and see this as a dandy opportunity to raise gas taxes.



US Special Forces Have Captured an Important ISIS Operative, But Obama Won’t Let Them Take Him to Gitmo by The Elephant's Child

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American Special Forces have captured their first “significant” ISIS operative during a raid in Northern Iraq, and they are likely to capture other ISIS fighters. The problem is that President Obama has foreclosed the ability of the military to send them to Guantanamo.

President Obama is deeply concerned about what he believes to be world opinion. He is quite sure that ISIS and al Qaeda use the existence of Gitmo, which he believes to be a “torture chamber,” as a recruiting tool. However, intelligence operatives who read ISIS and al Qaeda propaganda and communications see no evidence of that whatsoever. Obama is intent on releasing all of the detainees, even though those who remain are clearly the “worst of the worst.”

The recidivism rate is quite high at around 30%, but Obama seems to believe that the danger that he would be blamed is higher for keeping Guantanamo open than for any actions by former detainees down the road when he is out of office. You may have noticed that President Obama is never, never to blame for anything at all.

Congress has made it illegal to bring terrorist detainees to this country, Officials, according to the New York Times, report that the ISIS detainee will eventually be turned over to Iraqi or Kurdish officials. There will be other high value ISIS targets captured. Over time, they often reveal details of the Islamic State’s organization and operations, and that is valuable. I suspect that the president will attempt to turn Guantanamo back to Cuban jurisdiction on his coming trip to Cuba, but I have no evidence whatsoever for that supposition. Obama could not have chosen a worse time to shutter Gitmo.

The President has recognized Cuba and offered trade and tourists, with nothing from the Cubans in exchange, except their insistence that nothing will change on their part, and the brutality and lack of respect for the human rights of their citizens will continue.



The Myth of Iran’s Peaceful Nuclear Program by The Elephant's Child

Last year Iran was selling gasoline for less than 50 cents a gallon. This year a desperate regime hiked prices up to over a dollar. Meanwhile, Iranians pay about a tenth of what Americans do for electricity.

Unlike Japan, Iran does not need nuclear power. It is already sitting on a mountain of gas and oil.

Iran blew between $100 billion to $500 billion on its nuclear program. The Bushehr reactor alone cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $11 billion making it one of the most expensive in the world.

This wasn’t done to cut power bills. Iran didn’t take its economy to the edge for a peaceful nuclear program. It built the Fordow fortified underground nuclear reactor that even Obama admitted was not part of a peaceful nuclear program, it built the underground Natanz enrichment facility whose construction at one point consumed all the cement in the country, because the nuclear program mattered more than anything else as a fulfillment of the Islamic Revolution’s purpose.

Iran did not do all this so that its citizens could pay 0.003 cents less for a kilowatt hour of electricity.

It built its nuclear program on the words of the Ayatollah Khomeini, “Islam makes it incumbent on all adult males, provided they are not disabled or incapacitated, to prepare themselves for the conquest of [other] countries so that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country in the world.”

Iran’s constitution states that its military is an “ideological army” built to fulfill “the ideological mission of jihad in Allah’s way; that is, extending the sovereignty of Allah’s law throughout the world.”

It quotes the Koranic verse urging Muslims to “strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah”.

Article 3 of Iran’s Constitution calls for a foreign policy based on “unsparing support” to terrorists around the world. Article 11, the ISIS clause, demands the political unity of the Islamic world.

Iran is not just a country. It is the Islamic Revolution, the Shiite ISIS, a perpetual revolution to destroy the non-Muslim world and unite the Muslim world. Over half of Iran’s urban population lives below the poverty line and its regime sacrificed 100,000 child soldiers as human shields in the Iran-Iraq War.

Iran did not spend all that money just to build a peaceful civilian nuclear program to benefit its people. And yet the nuclear deal depends on the myth that its nuclear program is peaceful.

Obama insisted, “This deal is not contingent on Iran changing its behavior.” But if Iran isn’t changing its behavior, if it isn’t changing its priorities or its values, then there is no deal.

If Iran hasn’t changed its behavior, then the nuclear deal is just another way for it to get the bomb.

If Iran were really serious about abandoning a drive for nuclear weapons, it would have shut down its nuclear program. Not because America or Europe demanded it, but because it made no economic sense. For a fraction of the money it spent on its nuclear ambitions, it could have overhauled its decaying electrical grid and actually cut costs. But this isn’t about electricity, it’s about nuclear bombs.

The peaceful nuclear program is a hoax. The deal accepts the hoax. It assumes that Iran wants a peaceful nuclear program. It even undertakes to improve and protect Iran’s “peaceful” nuclear technology.

The reasoning behind the nuclear deal is false. It’s so blatantly false that the falseness has been written into the deal. The agreement punts on the military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program and creates a complicated and easily subverted mechanism for inspecting suspicious programs in Iranian military sites.

It builds in so many loopholes and delays, separate agreements and distractions, because it doesn’t really want to know. The inspections were built to help Iran cheat and give Obama plausible deniability.

With or without the agreement, Iran is on the road to a nuclear bomb. Sanctions closed some doors and opened others. The agreement opens some doors and closes others. It’s a tactical difference that moves the crisis from one stalemate to another. Nothing has been resolved. The underlying strategy is Iran’s.

Iran decided that the best way to conduct this stage of its nuclear weapons program was by getting technical assistance and sanctions relief from the West. This agreement doesn’t even pretend to resolve the problem of Iran’s nuclear weapons. Instead its best case scenario assumes that years from now Iran won’t want a nuclear bomb. So that’s why we’ll be helping Iran move along the path to building one.

It’s like teaching a terrorist to use TNT for mining purposes if he promises not to kill anyone.

But this agreement exists because the West refuses to come to terms with what Islam is. Successful negotiations depend on understanding what the other side wants. Celebratory media coverage talks about finding “common ground” with Iran. But what common ground is there with a regime that believes that America is the “Great Satan” and its number one enemy?

What common ground can there be with people who literally believe that you are the devil?

When Iranian leaders chant, “Death to America”, we are told that they are pandering to the hardliners. The possibility that they really believe it can’t be discussed because then the nuclear deal falls apart.

For Europe, the nuclear agreement is about1060x600-4372afb001a73942455765838528a411 ending an unprofitable standoff and doing business with Iran. For Obama, it’s about rewriting history by befriending another enemy of the United States. But for Iran’s Supreme Leader, it’s about pursuing a holy war against the enemies of his flavor of Islam.

The Supreme Leader of Iran already made it clear that the war will continue until America is destroyed. That may be the only common ground he has with Obama. Both America and Iran are governed by fanatics who believe that America is the source of all evil. Both believe that it needs to be destroyed.

Carter made the Islamic Revolution possible. Obama is enabling its nuclear revolution.

Today Tehran and Washington D.C. are united by a deep distrust of America, distaste for the West and a violent hatred of Israel. This deal is the product of that mutually incomprehensible unity. It is not meant to stop Iran from getting a nuclear bomb. It is meant to stop America and Israel from stopping it.

Both Obama and the Supreme Leader of Iran have a compelling vision of the world as it should be and don’t care about the consequences because they are convinced that the absolute good of their ideology makes a bad outcome inconceivable.

“O Allah, for your satisfaction, we sacrificed the offspring of Islam and the revolution,” a despairing Ayatollah Khomeini wrote after the disastrous Iran-Iraq War cost the lives of three-quarters of a million Iranians. The letter quoted the need for “atomic weapons” and evicting America from the Persian Gulf.

Four years earlier, its current Supreme Leader had told officials that Khomeini had reactivated Iran’s nuclear program, vowing that it would prepare “for the emergence of Imam Mehdi.”

The Islamic Revolution’s nuclear program was never peaceful. It was a murderous fanatic’s vision for destroying the enemies of his ideology, rooted in war, restarted in a conflict in which he used children to detonate land mines, and meant for mass murder on a terrible scale.

The nuclear agreement has holes big enough to drive trucks through, but its biggest hole is the refusal of its supporters to acknowledge the history, ideology and agenda of Iran’s murderous tyrants. Like so many previous efforts at appeasement, the agreement assumes that Islam is a religion of peace.

The ideology and history of Iran’s Islamic Revolution tells us that it is an empire of blood.

The agreement asks us to choose between two possibilities. Either Iran has spent a huge fortune and nearly gone to war to slightly lower its already low electricity rates or it wants a nuclear bomb.

The deal assumes that Iran wants lower electricity rates. Iran’s constitution tells us that it wants Jihad. And unlike Obama, Iran’s leaders can be trusted to live up to their Constitution.

You can find Daniel Greenfield’s columns at:  www.sultanknish.blogspot.com


First You Conduct the Operation, Then You Can Tell the Bad Guys About It, If There Are Any of Them Left. by The Elephant's Child

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I wrote back on the 16th that the president seems to feel free to announce our military operations in advance, in effect warning our enemies about just what we’re up to. Our enemies not only read our papers and the internet, but devote considerable expertise to hacking intelligence sources to find out what we are doing.

Is it standard military procedure now to announce everything we are doing or going to do in advance? Or is this Obama, stung by the response to his State of the Union everything is dandy speech trying to show that he’s not either a weak doormat, and does too send needed troops, but can’t manage to do anything without bragging about it first? Seems odd. But then Obama has had a habit of always telling the enemy what we’re going to do, then tacking on restrictive rules of engagement to make sure nobody gets hurt so that he cannot be blamed. But what do I know, I’m just a civilian worrier.

General Joseph Votel, chief of U.S. Special Operations Command wrote to Defense Secretary Ash Carter demanding that the Pentagon stop discussing the operations of elite American troops.

The White House announced in October that a small number of special operations forces—less than 50 —would be deployed to Syria to fight the terror group there. Then Carter told lawmakers that the U.S. would deploy a specialized expeditionary targeting force” to fight Iraq to fight ISIS. These special operators will over time be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence and capture ISIL leaders, Carter told the House Armed Services Committee hearing, according to the Hill.

An anonymous defense official questioned about the memo told Foreign Policy that Carter “shares Gen. Votel’s concerns about the public disclosure of SOF operations, especially any reporting that could expose our personnel to additional risk and undermine their chances for success.”

He further stated, however, that the Pentagon is obligated to keep the public informed.

I don’t think the Pentagon is obligated to keep the public informed before an operation. After will do just fine. I just don’t want the president or the Pentagon making a mission more dangerous by announcing it beforehand, when it is not necessary. Americans may be casual about keeping up with the latest troop movements. Our enemies are not. Shouldn’t that be basic common sense?



Obama’s Huge Problem with the “Rules of Engagement” Threatens Our Troops by The Elephant's Child

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Up till now, the U.S. Army could have engaged with ISIS in Afghanistan — only if  the group “posed a threat to the U.S.” which meant they had to be designated as a terrorist organization by the State Department. Obama has changed the rules of engagement so they can now pursue ISIS-K  (ISIS-Khorasan) in Afghanistan and Pakistan as a terrorist organization.

The designation of the group as a “terrorist organization” means the US also prohibits any cooperation with or supply of material or resources to the group.

ISIS-K was formed a year ago in January by a group of militants who defected from the Tehrik-e Taliban and pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. So Obama’s only a year late in protecting our troops.

“ISIS-K already is believed to be responsible for suicide and small-arms attacks and kidnappings, targeting civilians and Afghan government officials,” CNN reported.

President Obama has had an interesting relationship with the rules of engagement since he became president. The massacre at Fort Hood happened because soldiers on the base were forbidden to carry weapons. And that’s only one of the examples.

American planes in Syria, once they have found a significant target, have to radio back to base to get permission to actually bomb it, and then it goes up the chain of command who decide if there is any risk of killing civilians, so most of the missions reportedly return to base with bombs intact. And it was recently reported that bombing missions had to drop leaflets telling civilians on the ground to run away because we were going to drop bombs on those oil trucks.

In the first four years of the Obama administration — 3 times as many Americans were killed in Afghanistan as in the 8 years of George W. Bush’s conduct of the war — and there was no prospect of victory.

Under Obama, there were 8,000 Islamic terrorist attacks on infidels across the globe — a 25% increase over the period when fighting in Iraq was at its peak. The administration dropped the designation “War on Terror” and replaced it with “overseas contingency operations.” Any student of language could tell you things about that wording.

Obama has a peculiar relationship with national security. I have always suspected that he never saw a war movie, unless it was an anti-war film, never studied the history of the United States and never read a military history. He goes to great lengths to make a show of protecting civilians, but blithely orders drone attacks on gatherings of terrorist  wedding parties or  family gatherings. He really likes Special Forces because they added the death of bin-Laden to his legacy. But he demonstrates his unfamiliarity with things military when he says things like ‘corpse man’ and gets his grandfather’s service in Patton’s Army all confused.

Leaving our troops on the battlefield without the ability to shoot back is simply unconscionable. His reported daily briefings in 3 short paragraphs with 3 choices of action don’t allow for much discussion of pros and cons or alternatives.

Obama ran for the presidency using the Iraq War and George W, Bush as a foil. Public support for the war had begun to decline, and there was a specific unrecognized reason for that. And there was the same reason behind Obama’s attempt to blame every criticism of his actions on George W. Bush.

(h/t: weasel zippers)



Tom Cotton “Mr. Obama, Here’s why closing Guantanamo is a big mistake” by The Elephant's Child

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Here’s Senator Tom Cotton, who has had the unpleasant task of actually fighting jihadists. He has also gone to Guantanamo to find out for himself what the prison is like.

In his final State of the Union speech President Obama promised to “Keep working to shut down the prison at Guantanamo.” He said “it’s expensive, it’s unnecessary, and it only serves as a recruitment brochure for our enemies.”

MEMRI, the Middle East Research Institute, keeps track of the propaganda coming from al Qaeda, ISIS, and all the affiliates throughout the Middle East, and although Gitmo was used once as a recruiting tool, it didn’t work and they dropped that effort. Sending committed fighters back to the battlefield is not a joke. These are not prisoners of war, but terrorists who do ot obey the laws of war, and who are not entitled to prisoner of war status.  Tom Cotton wrote:

Early last year, I visited Guantanamo Bay and witnessed prisoner operations. I saw firsthand that it is not the barebones prison camp President Obama purports it to be. In fact, it couldn’t be further from the picture he’s painted for the public.

Guantanamo Bay can be and has been visited repeatedly by the International Red Cross and other human-rights groups for observation in an open, regular, and transparent manner. Detainees receive the same medical care as the guard force and are able to participate in their daily prayer sessions.

Guantanamo Bay is also a critical tool in our counterterrorism efforts. It is secure from attack and allows us to concentrate trained experts in interrogation in one place, to extract intelligence of paramount importance in uncovering and stopping plots against Americans.

Information obtained from detainees at Guantanamo has been described by the CIA as “the lead information” that enabled the agency to recognize the importance of a courier for Usama bin Laden, a crucial understanding that lead to Bin Laden’s secret hideout in Pakistan and the U.S. raid that killed him. It is this kind of information that we are losing by not making greater use of Guantanamo.

It is hard to deal effectively with terrorists when those who decide how they will be detained have no understanding of why they are terrorists, what they want, and why they are committed to killing Westerners.

I believe President Obama’s Iran Deal is a ghastly mistake, and we will pay a heavy cost for his ideological errors.

Do read the whole thing.



Will Obama Get Away With Closing Gitmo? And Should He? by The Elephant's Child

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As the lamest of ducks, President Obama is trying to shore up his legacy, turning to executive orders and going around Congress in any way that he can. He is turning to executive orders and regulation to accomplish that which he couldn’t get through Congress, specifically his original campaign promises.

But Obama  was not elected on his campaign promises, but on “Hope and Change” and the promise to improve race relations — and yet he has been the most divisive president in history. He said:

There is not a liberal America and a conservative America—there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America—there’s the United States of America.

People thought he meant that. Unfortunately he didn’t.

He is attempting to empty the detention facility at Guantanamo, force a two-state solution on Israel and Palestine, end the embargo on Cuba, and get us out of the Middle East and turn it over to Iran to manage. He believes that the world hates us because we torture people at Gitmo, and that it is a recruitment tool for terrorists. He believes that only Israel’s intransigence prevents a two-state solution, and that Israel is the source of all the trouble in the Middle East, and that Cuba will be a good neighbor if we just end the embargo and welcome them into the family of nations. Not one of these things is true, so how did we get here?

Back in 2009, Richard Epstein, Professor of Law at University of Chicago and New York University described Obama as he knew him in Chicago, and through his own next door neighbor who was Obama’s best friend. Among other things, Epstein said that Obama was very dogmatic, and once he believed something, it was set in concrete. He does not change his mind. And that has often proved to be a telling observation.

The president seems to have a very small group of trusted advisors He speaks of getting a daily intelligence briefing, but we were told he prefers a written couple of paragraphs with 2 or 3 choices on actions to take. He doesn’t like disagreement, and has said that he can do his adviser’s jobs better than they can. All those Czars and he apparently doesn’t listen to them anyway.

Nobody gets tortured at Gitmo, the detainees get better treatment than their guards. Gitmo plays no part in terrorist recruitment. Israel would be happy to have a two-state solution with Palestine if they recognize the State of Israel and stop firing missiles into Israel and sending in jihadists to stab Israelis. Palestine has no interest in a two state solution. Cuba is delighted to have American money, but has no intention of dropping Communism, releasing dissidents, nor changing their dismal nation in any way.

Obama is releasing 17 detainees, most if not all of them al Qaeda associated jihadists, who can be expected to return to killing Americans. This is part of the plan to shutter Guantanamo, and leaves about 90 detainees who cannot be transferred to another country.  President Obama wants to transfer them to this country, but Congress has passed a law forbidding such a transfer,  I believe. The president is trying to find a way around Congress.  He wants the facility closed, many think he wants to return Guantanamo to Cuba.

I am constantly fascinated by those who protest the “inhuman treatment” at Gitmo, the “torture,” the “illegality” without ever bothering to find out anything about the reality there. Can’t be bothered, protesting is fun.

The cost to Obama’s legacy may be severe, and counted out in killings.

—”Source: ‘Al Qaeda followers’ among 17 being transferred from Gitmoby Catherine Herridge, Fox News

The Terrorists Freed by Obamaby Thomas Joscelyn, Stephen F. Hayes, Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Ten detainees leaving Gitmo in bulk transfer Thursday, defense officials sayby Lucas Tomlinson. Fox News

—”High risk’ Guantanamo detainee transferred to Kuwait by Thomas Joscelyn. Long War Journal

Ghana falsely claims 2 former Guantanamo detainees were ‘cleared of any involvement’ in terrorism by Thomas Joscelyn, Long War Journal

Why Obama will get away with closing Gitmoby Eli Lake and Josh Rogin, New York Post




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