American Elephants


SWAT Teams From the EPA, NOAA, and the Department of Education? by The Elephant's Child

SWAT team

The proliferation of federal SWAT teams is troubling. In late February four armed federal agents with a drug-sniffing dog descended on the Taos Ski Valley in what was called a “saturation patrol.” The agents were working on tips of possible drug selling and impaired driving in the ski resort’s parking lot and surrounding area. The armed agents were from the U.S. Forest Service.

Did you know that the Department of Education has SWAT teams? They can invade your home at gunpoint and hold you and your family in custody for hours. In 2011, federal “education” agents busted down the front door of Kenneth Wright’s Stockton home at 6 in the morning. Wright’s terrified children— 3, 9, and 11 were forced to sit in a patrol car for two hours, Wright was in custody for six hours.

The Education Department had a broad search warrant and seized paperwork and a personal computer. The agents, 13 from the Education Department and a couple of police officers — told him they were investigating his estranged wife’s use of federal aid for students. She didn’t even live in the house.

Are you obeying all the thousands of regulations in the Federal Register? Are you prepared for early-morning break-ins by the USDA, Railroad Retirement Board, Bureau of Land Management, Tennessee Valley Authority, Office of Personnel Management and the Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior, EPA, Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Park Service, and NOAA— the folks who monitor the atmosphere and forecast the weather have 96 special agents and 28 armed enforcement officers.

An armed EPA raid in Alaska sheds light on 70 federal agencies with armed divisions. The incident that sparked the raid was last August when a team of armed federal and state officials descended on the tiny Alaska gold mining  town of Chicken,  Alaska — looking for possible violations of the Clean Water Act. This is not the first time the EPA has descended on citizens with a SWAT team, but it is clearly excessive. Violating the Clean Water Act indeed.

We’re getting into Fourth and Fifth Amendment territory here.



Understanding Ukraine: The Problems Today and Some Historical Context by The Elephant's Child
April 3, 2014, 6:32 am
Filed under: Europe, Freedom, History, Politics, Russia | Tags: , ,


A Brief Trip Down Memory Lane: by The Elephant's Child

The foreign policy favored by liberalism and pursued by the Clinton administration reflects a coherent vision of the world—coherent, consistent, and dangerously at odds with the realities of the international system. This misguided foreign policy…rests on three shaky pillars:

  1. Internationalism (i.e. the belief in the moral, legal, and strategic primacy of international institutions over mere “national interests”).
  2. Legalism (i.e. the belief that safety and security ar achieved through treaties—international agreements on such matters as chemical weapons, nuclear nonproliferation an anti-ballistic missiles).
  3. humanitarianism (i.e. the belief that the primary world role of the United States is—to quote Secretary of State Madeline Albright—to “terminate the abominable injustices and conditions that still plague civilization”).

In reality…the “international community” is nothing more than a fiction. [It is] a state of nature with no enforcer and  no universally recognized norms. Anarchy is kept in check, today, as always, not by some hollow bureaucracy on the East River, but by the will and power of the Great Powers, and today, in particular, of the one great super-power. The administration’s penchant for treaties—a hopelessly utopian project—and the third pillar stems from an abiding liberal antipathy to any notion of national interest—thus it is only “disinterested intervention’ that is pristine enough to justify the use of force.

Charles Krauthammer: “A World Imagined” The New Republic, March 15, 1999

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

 



Forecasting the Climate: Maybe Not So Bad After All. by The Elephant's Child

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will soon publish the second part of its latest report on the likely impact of climate change. It will reportedly be less frightening than last time around in 2007.

Contrary to media opinion, the real debate has never been between “deniers” and the rest, but between those who think warming is fairly harmless and those who think the future is alarming.

Matt Ridley writes in the Wall Street Journal that a small amount of warming over a long period will probably be a good thing. People can adapt. Satellites have recorded roughly a 14% increase in greenery on the planet over the past 30 years, in all ecosystems.

And if renewable energy had proved by now to be cheap, clean and thrifty in its use of land, then we would be right to address that small risk of a large catastrophe by rushing to replace fossil fuels with first-generation wind, solar and bioenergy. But since these forms of energy have proved expensive, environmentally damaging and land-hungry, it appears that in our efforts to combat warming we may have been taking the economic equivalent of chemotherapy for a cold.

Almost every global environmental scare of the past half century proved exaggerated including the population “bomb,” pesticides, acid rain, the ozone hole, falling sperm counts, genetically engineered crops and killer bees. In every case, institutional scientists gained a lot of funding from the scare and then quietly converged on the view that the problem was much more moderate than the extreme voices had argued. Global warming is no different.

 



Obama’s Delay of the Keystone XL Pipeline is All About Politics. by The Elephant's Child

Last month at a press conference after meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, President Obama was asked about his delay in approving the Keystone XL pipeline.

Harper has been urging Obama to do the right thing and approve the pipeline that would pump oil from Alberta, Canada to U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast.

The president is caught between the proverbial rock and hard place. He has claimed that all the jobs are just “temporary.” The State Department has approved the pipeline twice, both Hillary and Kerry. It will not increase greenhouse gases. Hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer has promised $100 million to the Democrats if they just keep opposing global warming. Green activists are continually demonstrating against the Keystone, for unknown greenie reasons. Unions badly want the jobs involved. The oil is being moved by rail at present, which is more dangerous.

By delaying a decision, Obama is hoping to get past the 2014 election without hurting the re-election chances of several Senate Democrats running in red or purple states that strongly support the Keystone XL and the energy industry.

Those candidates include Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mark Udall of Colorado, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, plus two open seats in Montana and West Virginia held by two retiring Democrats.

Think about the political problems facing these Democrats.

Montana, where Democratic Sen. Max Baucus just retired, will be able to ship 100,000 barrels a day of oil from the Bakken shale formation. If Obama kills the Keystone XL, he kills Montana jobs and may hurt the chances of a Democrat holding that Senate seat.

TransCanada has released a detailed job breakdown in response to critics who argue that the company’s job creation estimates for the project are too high and will lead only to ‘a few hundred’ temporary jobs. They presented a detailed account of employment potential in the U.S. right down to the number of oilers, labourers and welders needed for the  U.S. $7 billion project.

Their claim (January 2012)breaks the project into 17 pipeline segments with 500 workers per segment —8,500 jobs. Thirty pump stations, each station requires 100 workers—3,000 jobs. Six hundred jobs for the six construction camps at Cushing, Oklahoma.Construction, management and inspection oversight — 1,000. That’s 13,000 construction employment opportunities and 7,000 in manufacturing. The spin-off jobs for materials, steel pipes, related services would generate all sorts of indirect jobs and revenue for suppliers.

If the vulnerable Democrats can waffle on the issue, and Obama continues to deny the project, he gets money from the green activist lobby, and they have a lot to donate.

Democrats biggest claim in an election year is that they care about the little people. They don’t. ObamaCare is a clear example. Once they get  you signed up and dependent on their program, they don’t care what kind of health care you actually receive. Evidence: “If You like your doctor you can keep your doctor,” “Your insurance will cost $2,500 less,” VA insurance. Indian Health Service. Medicaid.

It’s all about politics. Not the “little guy.”



An Unusual London Bus Shelter by The Elephant's Child

Pepsi Max surprised London commuters with a very unusual bus shelter. This is brilliant advertising. Memorable, startling, fun, and people who experienced it will talk about it all day, and tell all their friends. What more could a creative director ask?



President Barack Obama Visits Brussels by The Elephant's Child

The imperial presidency at work. The president is off to Brussels with a 900-strong entourage, including 45 vehicles and three planes, to attend the EU and NATO summits.The visit will cost Belgium more than €10 million, to cover his 24 hours in the country.

The president will arrive on Tuesday night with a 900-strong entourage, including 45 vehicles and three cargo planes. Advance security teams orchestrating every last detail have combed Brussels already, checking the sewers and the major hospitals, while American military helicopters were last week given the green light for overflights. The city hosts at least four EU summits a year, with each of these gatherings costing €500,000 in extra police, military and transport expenses. “But this time round, you can multiply that figure by 20,” said Brussels mayor, Yvan Mayeur.

Belgium itself is mobilizing 350 police and military on motorbikes to secure the president’s routes to EU and NATO summits on Wednesday, while a convoy of nine US helicopters will take Obama to an American first world war cemetery.

Brigette Grouwels, who heads the city’s transport policy, said locals should just take the occasion to walk, cycle and take public transport, and experience first hand a city unencumbered by cars.

I want our president to be safe on foreign visits, but this is getting ridiculous. Every time he takes a trip, we hear more about the disruption his grandiose entourage causes, and the expense, than about anything accomplished by the trip.

Imposing a €2 million cost on Belgium for a 24 hour visit seems both excessive and unnecessary. But an entourage of 900? Besides drivers for the 45 vehicles and pilots and crew for the three planes, who are those 900 people? What bothers me is that the Obamas seem unaware of the problems they cause, and simply feel it is their due.

Michelle’s presidential suite in Beijing runs $8,350 a night. I don’t know what kind of entourage she has. But it makes a nice Spring Break for the kids.



Obama’s Fantasy World Is Dangerous to Our People by The Elephant's Child

eucom-photo

President Obama’s budget for FY 2015 was widely heralded as “dead on arrival.” Spends too much on all the wrong things, and it will never get by the House of Representatives. Fortunately.

But reporters continue to dig into it to try to understand the president’s priorities. We know the major outlines—he’s big on redistribution of wealth,  and wants millions to waste on climate restraining efforts.

We’re in the middle of the seventeenth year of a complete lack of observable global warming but the investment in catastrophic climate change is huge, and nobody’s going to give up with or without a fight. How is Obama to reward his supporters if he cant funnel subsidies to them through the guise of saving us from a nonexistent  rise in temperatures caused by a benign rise in carbon in the atmosphere. But I digress.

What is noticeable as they dig into the budget is that in the wake of a world in turmoil, where it seems that everywhere passions and anger are rising, the cuts to our national defense are indefensible. Now we learn that the cornerstone of U.S. Naval power is eliminated under the Obama budget. The president is seeking to abolish two highly successful missile programs that experts say have helped the U.S. Navy maintain military superiority for the past several decades. The U.S.Navy has been responsible for keeping the world’s sea lanes open and safe—no small matter.

The Tomahawk missile program—the world’s most advanced cruise missile— is set to be cut by $128 million under the FY budget proposal and completely eliminated by FY 2016, according to budget documents released by the Navy. The Long Range Anti-Ship missile, an experimental anti-ship missile not yet capable of passing basic tests. The number of actual Tomahawk missiles acquired by the United States will drop significantly from 196 last year, to 100 in 2015, and zero in 2016. The stock would be completely depleted by 2018.

The Navy will also be forced to cancel its acquisition of the well-regarded and highly effective Hellfire missiles in 2015.

The proposed elimination of these programs came as a shock to lawmakers and military experts, who warned that cutting these missiles would significantly erode our ability to deter enemy forces.

Seth Cropsey, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for American Seapower, said “It doesn’t make sense. This really moves the U.S away from a position of influence and military dominance.” If someone were trying to “reduce the U.S. ability to shape events” in the world, “they couldn’t find a better way than depriving the U.S. fleet of Tomahawks. It’s breathtaking.”

While the military is seeing budgets cut dramatically, and equipment scaled back—the Tomahawk cuts seem not to be due to a lack of funds.  The administration seems to be taking the millions spent on the Tomahawk program and investing it in an experimental program that experts say will not be battle-ready for at least 10 years.

Putin has on the border of Ukraine 20,000 troops, artillery, and attack helicopters. The Ukrainians asked for weapons, we said no, but offered MREs (meals ready to eat). Putin essentially said Russia was swindled at the end of the Cold War, swindled of its empire, swindled of its colonies and swindled of its own territory and I’m here to get it back. He’s also establishing bases in South America.

China is attempting to make the South China Sea its own private pond. Japan’s Prime Minister Abe  is attempting to reform their pacifist constitution, and re-arm.  North Korea, Syria, Iraq, Iran. Clearly a time to reduce our power in the world—so we won’t be thought to be a bully.

And the president can’t be bothered to attend National Security meetings?



About that “War on Women” by The Elephant's Child

Jason L. Riley reports in the Wall Street Journal:

At a fundraiser in Miami on Thursday, President Obama described his political opponents as “no less patriotic” than Democrats. “They love their families just as much. Many of them do wonderful things in their communities,” he added. Then he went on to describe Republicans as selfish ideologues who are indifferent to the needs of women and the less fortunate.

“[T]heir basic vision is that we don’t have an obligation, at least through our government, to help; everybody has got to just look out for themselves or the community that you’ve built in your church or synagogue or your block or your family,” said Mr. Obama of the Republican world view as he understands it. “We don’t have to worry about that kid on the other side of town. We don’t have to worry about that woman who is cleaning our house—which is why every initiative we put forward they say no to.”

He cited polls showing public support for preschool education, but he did not cite the multitude of studies that show that it does not confer any lasting benefit for the kids.

He bragged about polls showing that the public liked minimum wage increases, but forgot to mention that such increases are job destroyers and increase unemployment. You can’t just order a business to pay people more without figuring out where the money is going to come from — vastly increased prices, or getting rid of some employees.

He said polls showed that the public supports immigration reform, but didn’t mention what kind of reform the public supports. Since he refuses to support the immigration laws that are on the books, the reform the public supports may refer to first enforcing the laws.

He warned the donors to whom he was speaking (yes, he’s still campaigning, and never mind the mess in the Ukraine) that the midterm elections may not go well for Democrats. And he added:

The challenge is, is that our politics in Washington have become so toxic that people just lose faith and finally they just say, ‘You know what, I’m not interested, I’m not going to bother, I’m not going to vote.

As usual. It is not his fault that everything is going badly — that ObamaCare is a mess, that his weak posture on foreign policy has encouraged Putin’s adventurism, the debt is soaring, and there still are not any jobs. It’s those rascally Republicans refusing to do what he wants them to. At least he didn’t call us racist this time.



Here Is What is Troubling Americans About Our Politics and Our Government by The Elephant's Child

I read a lot, but I seldom seem to get to the newest books when they are new, partly because I’m suspicious of blurbs and wait for reviews by people I trust. I’ve been fooled by blurbs once too often. So I didn’t get to Angelo  Codevilla’s book on “The Ruling Class” when it came out in 2010. It is a delight.

The people who run our government at the state and federal level have come to believe that—

Ever since the 1930s, as people who think this way have taken over more and more functions in an ever bigger government, they have become ever more inclined to dismiss the public’s opposition as ignorant and to believe themselves entitled to shape a new and different America.

Through their conception of their own superiority, and by accumulating power, they have made themselves into a bipartisan Ruling Class that now dominates public affairs and encroaches ever more into our lives’ most intimate details….

Hence, our Ruling Class’ first priority in any and all matters, its solution to any and all problems is to increase the power of the government—meaning of those who run it, meaning themselves. Secondly it is to recompense political supporters with public money, privileged jobs, contracts, etc. That is why our Ruling Class’ solution, not just for economic downturns and social ills but also for  hurricanes and tornadoes, global cooling and global warming, has been to claim more power for itself.

Codevilla says “While Europeans are accustomed to being ruled by presumed betters whom they distrust, the American people’s realization of being ruled in the same way shocked this country into well-nigh revolutionary attitudes.”

Professor Codevilla spreads the blame around in bipartisan fashion, but if you surf the internet or listen to talk radio, you are well aware that this is a major concern of the American people and they are continually trying to  figure out just what to do about it. This lucid little book is a great help to understanding.



A Bully at Home, Feckless in Foreign Policy. by The Elephant's Child

Daniel Henninger began his column in the Wall Street Journal today thusly:

By the time the second World Trade Center tower collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001, the whole world was watching it. We may assume that Vladimir Putin was watching. Mr. Putin, a quick calculator of political realities, would see that someone was going to get hit for this, and hit hard.

He was right of course. The Bush presidency became a war presidency that day, and it pounded and pursued the Islamic fundamentalists of al Qaeda without let-up or apology.

During that time, it was reported that Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer in East Germany, deeply regretted the fall of the Soviet Union’s empire and despised the Americans who caused it to fall. But no one cared what Mr. Putin thought then.

Mark Steyn added:

That’s true. A couple of days after September 11th, the Bush Administration called Moscow and demanded the Russians agree to letting the US use military bases in former Soviet Central Asia for their planned invasion of Afghanistan. That must have been quite a phone call. Washington was proposing not only to do to the Afghans what the Kremlin has so abysmally failed to do, but to do it out of the Russians’ old bases. And yet Moscow understood that, for once, America was serious. And so, presented with a fait accomplis, they agreed to it.

Back to today, Daniel Henninger again:

Sometimes world affairs go off the grid. Diplomats may give reasons why it is not in the interests of Mr. Putin or Russia to take this course. Vice President Biden told the Poles in Warsaw Monday that Mr. Putin’s seizure of Crimea was “flawed logic.” It is difficult for men embedded in a world of rational affairs to come to grips with Mr. Putin’s point of view: He doesn’t care what they think.

And everything Obama does confirms to Putin that the Crimea is his, so why stop there. So Putin will roll on, reassembling the Russian Empire. The Obama Administration pursues its own foreign policy priorities:

Secretary Kerry says the U.S. will send scientists to discuss homosexuality with the President of Uganda.

National Security Advisor Susan Rice wants to take affirmative action in the legal sense on behalf of women. The post of U.S. ambassador to Russia has been vacant for three weeks. Al Kamen of the Washington Post says Ms. Rice would like to place a woman in Moscow. It was rumored that White House press secretary Jay Carney who once worked in Moscow for Time magazine wanted the job of ambassador.

Russian forces invade the Ukraine Naval Base.  President Obama reveals his “Final Four” picks. Joe Biden is in Eastern Europe conferring with our allies there, and trying to convince them that we are serious.

Conservatives who note the stark difference between Obama’s domestic legally questionable hardball and his passive international posture must wonder whether Obama behaves as he does because he is naive or just because he wants the U.S. to have less say in the world. His stated foreign policy objectives are to keep the U.S. out of war and transform America’s image from that of unilateralist bully to a nation that plays well with others.

The trouble is that under Obama the U.S. does not play well with others. Obama’s view of the world is extraordinarily naive, as is the substance and the style of his foreign policy.



Congress Calls Obama’s Attention to a Matter of Backbone.. by The Elephant's Child

Eighty-three U.S. senators got together yesterday to demand that President Obama meet with core principles, including unmistakable consequences, in any final nuclear agreement with Iran. Leaders in the bipartisan letter were Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chris Coons (D-DE) Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH).

The number of senators included serves as a warning to the administration that they have the support to override a veto on tougher Iran sanctions.  Harry Reid (D-NV) who held up a sanctions vote at the request of the White House, did not sign the letter. The letter stated:

For twenty years, Congress has consistently focused attention on the threat of the Iranian program and taken the lead in initiating sanctions.  Congress has repeatedly stated that preventing an Iranian nuclear capability is a key goal of U.S. foreign policy.  Nine separate pieces of sanctions legislation have passed Congress since 1996.  We appreciate your continued commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and your efforts to implement the sanctions, which isolated and pressured the regime into negotiations.

We believe that Congress has a continuing role to play to improve the prospects for success in the talks with Iran.  As these negotiations proceed, we will outline our views about the essential goals of a final agreement with Iran, continue oversight of the interim agreement and the existing sanctions regime, and signal the consequences that will follow if Iran rejects an agreement that brings to an end its nuclear weapons ambitions.

They enumerated these core principles:

  • We believe Iran has no inherent right to enrichment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
  • We believe any agreement must dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons program and prevent it from ever having a uranium or plutonium path to a nuclear bomb.
  • We believe Iran has no reason to have an enrichment facility like Fordow, that the regime must give up its heavy water reactor at Arak, and that it must fully explain the questionable activities in which it engaged at Parchin and other facilities.
  • We believe Iran must fully resolve concerns addressed in United Nations Security Council resolutions including any military dimensions of its nuclear program.
  • We believe Iran must submit to a long-term and intrusive inspection and verification regime to achieve the goal described in the Joint Plan of Action “reaffirm[ing] that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons.” Finally, we believe Iran must not be allowed during these negotiations to circumvent sanctions. We view this period as one fraught with the danger of companies and countries looking to improve their commercial position in Tehran, especially given recent reports of rising purchases of Iranian oil. Iran cannot be allowed to be open for business. As you have stated, we must come down on those who are undermining sanctions “like a ton of bricks.”

If negotiations failed, or if Iran violated the Joint Plan of Action, Congress will ensure that the legislative authority exists to rapidly and dramatically expand sanctions.

A similar letter was sent to President Obama from the House, led by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer(D-MD) and signed by 395 lawmakers.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who previously opposed unilateral military action against Iran, is losing faith in America’s ability to keep it secure. Israel is one of America’s staunchest allies in the region. Other regional U.S. allies are already making contingency plans. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, worried about the U.S. withdrawal from the region, have forged closer ties than before. Turkey is less willing to work with the U.S. and has even made moves to improve ties with Iran. Israel will go to great lengths to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, with or without Washington’s blessing.




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