American Elephants


Clear Language Matters. Make Fine Distinctions, Insist on Free Speech and Clear Speech. by The Elephant's Child

The situation in Syria was not only an affront to international law, but a probe of sorts to test the new president of the United States. President Trump’s response was prompt and direct, but careful. It was not, as the Democrats try to claim, the start of a war, or a sign of the belligerence of an out-of-control administration. It was a very specific and limited missile strike against the specific airbase that had launched the Sarin Gas attack on Syrian rebels by their own administration. Because it was directed  so specifically, it announced that poison gas attacks were simply not acceptable, and this strike was a clear warning that we are a powerful nation and we are capable of much more. There will be no more statements of “red lines” that are not observed.

America means business. It was not, as has been claimed, an attack on Assad. The Russians and Syrians were warned, so there would be little or no loss of life. These distinctions are important. The free world approved.

Democrats are not good at distinctions. They are more comfortable with generalities. Hillary was interviewed by the New York Times Nicholas Kristof at the “Women in the World” summit. Kristof asked Hillary:

I have to ask fundamentally, a man who bragged about sexual assault won the election and won 53 percent of the white women’s vote. What does that say about the challenges that one faces in women’s empowerment, that in effect misogyny won with a lot of women voters?

In the first place, Trump did not brag about sexual assault. He spoke of women and celebrity and said that when you are a celebrity, some women will let you do anything you want to them.  He did not say that he had done anything.

Hillary immediately blamed everything on identity politics: misogynyshe lost because she is a woman. The country is just not ready for  the first woman president. Fine distinctions: Hillary ran for the presidency because she wanted to be the first woman president, not because there were things she wanted to do to improve the country or help Americans. That’s why her brief career in the Senate was marked only by a bill to name a post office, and her career as Secretary of State resulted only in Benghazi and a record amount of air travel miles. There were no accomplishments. The change was her gender. She promised to continue all the accomplishments of the Obama administration but to do it as a woman.

Nikki Haley, a woman, has made a real difference in her brief time as Ambassador to the United Nations. People are already suggesting that she can be the first woman president. She has demonstrated over and over competence, authority, determination, and things have shifted because of it.

In this strange new universe, a real-estate developer and reality-TV celebrity with no political experience whatsoever, obviously won the election because he is a man. Identity politics is the controlling theme. You can be decide your identity and your gender by your feelings of the moment, which, making fine distinctions — is clearly nuts.

The Left, in their drive for ever more control, believe that when they achieve full control,  they will fix human nature, so we are all more complacent and cooperative. Unfortunately human nature is immutable, unchanging and quite definitely unfixable.

Insist on fine distinctions. Don’t let them get away with sloppy thinking. Insist on free speech. Hold college and university authorities to task for allowing bad behavior to destroy the educational process. Speak out.

Surely you have noticed that what the Left advocates are abstractions. Social justice —there is no such thing. We have laws and courts, and they don’t do social justice. Equality —you can have equality under the law, but you can’t make people equal, some are smarter, some are more beautiful, some are stronger, some are older. Diversity—to the Left refers only to skin color, certainly not to diversity of ideas. Our values —one of Obama’s favorites, “that’s not who we are as Americans.”



Random Jottings from my Notepad by The Elephant's Child

— Tom Sowell: “Socialism, in general, has a record of failure that only an intellectual could ignore or evade.”

—Scott Carpenter was asked: “What did you think about as you were rocketing into space?”
He answered: “That each part of this rocket was made by the lowest bidder.”

—Ralph Peters:  “Obama’s Mideast Policy: Praise Muslims, Ignore Christians, Blame Jews.”

—Charles Schumer: “The only way we’re going to work with him is if he moves completely in our direction.”

— The Iran Deal: There is no deal. Nothing was signed. Iran said we’ll do this. Obama said, fine, we’ll pay for it.

— Monica Crowley: “Government has no profit motive, only a power motive.”

—You cannot spend your way out of recession nor borrow your way out of hard times. Social Security workers per beneficiary: 1960 – 4.9, 2010 -2.8, 2035 – 1.9 (CBO estimate).

— The population of Israel before the Holocaust was 600,000.

—Andy McCarthy: “Nihilism is the key. Today’s hard left is defined by what it is against: the United States, free-market capitalism, and any foreign policy premised on defending American interests or promoting individual liberty. Only this part of the agenda is concrete, leaving neo-communism elastic enough to strike alliances with any movement that shares it. What neo-communists are for, by contrast, is a set of abstractions—”social justice”, “equality”, “redistributive rights instead of the rule of law” and, of course, “our values.” The details of those can be worked out later, once the more pressing imperative of undoing the existing order has been realized.”

—Zero Hedge: “All that debt Obama acquired and all the stimulus did work to redistribute wealth and income toward the well-connected cronies that funded Obama into office. Obama can talk all he likes about cutting taxes for the middle class, the data shows who Obama’s redistributionist policies have overwhelmingly favored.”

—Vaclav Klaus: “The people who are supporting Global Warming are not interested in temperature. They are interested in government control—identical to Communism.”

—C.S. Lewis: “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road: in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”



An Inherited Catastrophe, A Quick Response by The Elephant's Child

Bashar Assad’s Sarin attack on the Ghowa agricultural region just outside Damascus, which has been held by rebels, was also an attack on International Law. The attacks came in early morning hours when many were still asleep. Initial estimates of the numbers of dead range upwards of 1,400, including way too many children.

Headlines in the media ranged from an irresponsible “TRUMP DECLARES WAR,” to less bellicose statements, but few recognized the very limited nature of the act. It would have been more accurately described as a direct response on the specific Syrian airfield from which the Sarin gas attacks were launched, to put that airfield out of business— and prevent further attacks. It was a correct and immediate response.

President Trump has received wide support from world leaders.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande in a joint statement said “President Assad bears sole responsibility for this development. His repeated use of chemical weapons and his crimes against his own population had to be sanctioned.” British Prime Minister Theresa May said the action was an “appropriate response.” Israel, Australia, Japan, Italy all expressed their support for American action and condemned the use of chemical weapons. Even Erdogan’s Turkey expressed support. The use of chemical weapons is an international war crime.

Russia predictably denounced the strike as an “act of aggression against a UN member,” and said they would demand an urgent UN Security Council meeting. Iran also condemned the US strike.

Hollywood celebrities chimed in with commentary on Twitter in about the manner you would expect. Perhaps someday they will learn that their commentary is not valued for its international expertise, but for the humor.

Barack Obama drew a Red Line in Syria, then failed to follow through and  essentially told the world that they could act with impunity, and America would do nothing. Always a mistake. Russia moved in as a military patron and Iran has become Assad’s protector on the ground with arms supplies and Hezbollah.

The next step should be to establish safe zones in Syria, with protection from possible attacks. The Wall Street Journal said:

Every military operation carries risks but this one could also have major political and strategic benefits if Mr. Trump follows the air strike with some forceful diplomacy. The demonstration of renewed U.S. purpose in the region could have an electrifying impact across the Middle East. The Saudis, the Gulf Sunni states and Turkey would begin to rethink their accommodation to the Russia-Assad-Iran axis of dominance that none of them wants.

Mr. Trump also needs to make Russia and Iran begin to pay a price for their support for Mr. Assad’s depredations. They have had no incentive to negotiate an end to the civil war because they see themselves on the road to a relatively cost-free victory. That calculus may change if it looks like the costs of intervening are rising and Mr. Assad is no longer a sure winner.

The Journal added:

The larger point for Mr. Trump to recognize is that he is being tested. The world—friend and foe—is watching to see how he responds to Mr. Assad’s war crime. His quick air strike on the evening he was having dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping makes clear that the Obama era is over. If he now follows with action to protect Syrian civilians and construct an anti-Assad coalition, he may find that new strategic possibilities open up to enhance U.S. interests and make the Middle East more stable.

ADDENDUM: The missile strikes were delivered while President Trump was having dinner at Mar -a-Lago with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Presumably the Chinese President took notice, as did the rest of the world. A bit of a wake-up call. New administration in town.



How to Think About Vladimir Putin, President of Russia. by The Elephant's Child

In Imprimus, the free monthly publication of Hillsdale College, always interesting, Christopher Caldwell, senior editor at The Weekly Standard, takes on “How to Think About Vladimir Putin.” He stresses that he is not telling anyone what to think about the Russian President, but only how to think about him. In a period when the Democrats are just sure that Putin intervened in the election to defeat Hillary Clinton with the cooperation of Donald Trump, this is what fuels the fury. If Hitler were conveniently still alive they would be sure he was trying to defeat Hillary too. But I found this piece fascinating, and a corrective I needed.

Vladimir Vladimirovich is not the president of a feminist NGO. He is not a transgender-rights activist. He is not an ombudsman appointed by the United Nations to make and deliver slide shows about green energy. He is the elected leader of Russia—a rugged, relatively poor, militarily powerful country that in recent years has been frequently humiliated, robbed, and misled. His job has been to protect his country’s prerogatives and its sovereignty in an international system that seeks to erode sovereignty in general and views Russia’s sovereignty in particular as a threat.

By American standards, Putin’s respect for the democratic process has been fitful at best. He has cracked down on peaceful demonstrations. Political opponents have been arrested and jailed throughout his rule. Some have even been murdered—Anna Politkovskaya, the crusading Chechnya correspondent shot in her apartment building in Moscow in 2006; Alexander Litvinenko, the spy poisoned with polonium-210 in London months later; the activist Boris Nemtsov, shot on a bridge in Moscow in early 2015. While the evidence connecting Putin’s own circle to the killings is circumstantial, it merits scrutiny. …

When Putin took power in the winter of 1999-2000, his country was defenseless. It was bankrupt. It was being carved up by its new kleptocratic elites, in collusion with its old imperial rivals, the Americans. Putin changed that. In the first decade of this century, he did what Kemal Atatürk had done in Turkey in the 1920s. Out of a crumbling empire, he rescued a nation-state, and gave it coherence and purpose. He disciplined his country’s plutocrats. He restored its military strength. And he refused, with ever blunter rhetoric, to accept for Russia a subservient role in an American-run world system drawn up by foreign politicians and business leaders. His voters credit him with having saved his country.

Here’s the whole article, do read the whole thing, you’ll be glad you did. And you might consider subscribing to Imprimus. It’s free and informative.



The Russia Flap, The Russia Flap. The Russia Flap by The Elephant's Child

One of the people to whom I always pay attention is Victor Davis Hanson. His views of the world today are formed and influenced by his deep knowledge of history, the patterns of thought that descend from the Greek Classics down to today’s world, and are well-seasoned by plain old common sense that comes from a background in farming and coping with the vicissitudes of weather and regulation.

His article “The Russian Farce” from National Review is a masterpiece in today’s strange world where every public or private word that can be nit-picked — will be, ominous meanings will be attached and debated, and the Democrats really need to take a couple of aspirin and lie down for a while and maybe they’ll feel better. Hysteria is not becoming.

In the same manner, Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev was often portrayed in the media as the urbane, suave, and reasonable conciliator, while President Ronald Reagan was depicted as the uncouth disrupter of what could have been improved Russian–American relations.

Senator Ted Kennedy reportedly reached out to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov in 1984 to gain his help in denying Reagan his reelection.

In sum, the American Left always felt that Russia was unduly demonized by the American Right and was a natural friend, if not potential ally, of the United States. That tradition no doubt influenced the decision of the incoming Obama administration to immediately reach out to Vladimir Putin’s Russia, despite its recent aggressions in Georgia and steady crackdown on internal dissent, and despite Russia’s estrangement from the prior Bush administration.

Do read the whole thing. It disposes of the silly Russia flap quite thoroughly, should embarrass a whole bunch of reporters, and points out the drive to deny reality.



South of the Border, Down Mexico Way… by The Elephant's Child

Activists portray illegal immigration solely as a human story of the desperately poor from south of the border fleeing misery to start new, productive lives in the U.S. — despite exploitation and America’s nativist immigration laws. (Victor Davis Hanson)

We see the marches and the signs —No Human is Illegal—which is nonsense. Words have meanings, and neither wishful thinking nor activist cash get to redefine them. We are a nation of laws. We have specific immigration laws, which during the Obama administration were set aside and ordered to be unenforced. Mexico has a continuing interest in failing to pay any attention to the reasons why their citizens don’t seem to want to come home, amounting to around $25 billion in remittances sent from citizens who are working in America, and often subsidized by U.S. social benefits.

The Democratic party is also invested in illegal immigration, worried that its current agendas cannot win in the Electoral College without new constituents who appreciate liberal support for open borders and generous social services.

In contrast, classically liberal, meritocratic, and ethnically diverse immigration might result in a disparate, politically unpredictable set of immigrants.

Its a complex, difficult problem. It is probably impossible to remove all illegal aliens. When you get to the “Dreamers” those who were brought to this country when they were little children who have never known any other country, empathy kicks in and we are unlikely to deport them.  Victor Davis Hanson is an important voice, for he has grown up in an agricultural area of California where legal and illegal immigrants are a significant portion of the population.

The Center for Immigration Studies (cis.org) is a think tank dealing with facts and answers on immigration problems. Here is Jessica M.Vaughan’s testimony about “Restoring Enforcement of Our Nation’s Immigration Laws” before  the subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, March 28. It’s an excellent overview of where we are and where we’ve been, where is our strength and our weakness. And what should be Congress’ priorities, what about public safety and illegal hiring.

CIS has also made it clear that there is a cost for illegal immigrants. NAS, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine have estimated the average cost to taxpayers of illegal immigrants. NAS estimates that one illegal immigrant costs state and local governments approximately $75,000 in a lifetime—taking into account taxes paid and the cost of providing benefits such as education and health care. If a portion of the population of illegal aliens were stopped, around 9 to 12 percent, the wall would pay for itself.

The number of illegal immigrants crossing from Mexico declined by 40 percent from January to February. Customs and Border Protection normally sees a 10 to 20 percent increase in those months. An Executive Order to enforce immigration laws has made a difference.

Andrew McCarthy, who is a former assistant Federal U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York simply believes that in most cases, illegal aliens who are encountered in the course of ordinary law enforcement operations should be detained and deported. Willpower and resolve that put the burden on straightforward law enforcement rather than the political fortunes of politicians will solve most problems.

It will take some willpower from Congress. President Trump is requesting bids on construction of the wall. Mexico has a wall on their southern border, complete with guard towers. You may find it amusing that the first thing former President Obama did when contemplating the move into their rented mansion in a tony section of the nation’s capitol, was to build a wall around the new house.



U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley by The Elephant's Child

Dan Senor, interviews the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference. The former governor of South Carolina has only been in her new job for two months, but she is making a real difference. This is a very impressive lady. Do watch. Another remarkable appointment by President Donald Trump.




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