American Elephants


What Did Obama Mean By “Fundamentally Transform”? by The Elephant's Child

Obama lecturing

Most of us are apt to divide the world up into the good guys and the bad guys. Opposites.  Simplistic thinking, of course. No nuance. (when did that word slip into the daily vocabulary?) Winners and losers. Short and tall, rich and poor, hard-working and lazy, handsome and ugly, cruel and kind, smart and stupid. It helps us to understand those things we encounter in the world, we can modify our judgment later.

World War II was clear — Allies and Axis, and the Cold War — Communists and the Free World. Things began to get confused with the War in Vietnam. Protesters couldn’t decide who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. Jane Fonda has never been forgiven for her stupidity, but she was not alone among the far left. It was a confusing time, and when the Draft was ended, surprisingly so were the protests.

Questions today on the internet ask “Is Obama a Christian?” and “Is Obama a Muslim?” But those are the wrong questions. Obama has given every indication of signing up with the bad guys, the Axis, the Communists, and those who oppose our country. His dislike for the Israeli prime minister is obvious; his distaste for the United Kingdom is clear; his support for a deal with Iran; his support for the Muslim Brotherhood; for the deposed president of Egypt; inability to reach a status of forces agreement with Iraq; Benghazi; refusal to help the dissidents in Iran, and in Syria; and the silly outreach to Cuba; and the support for most anti-American governments in South America.

There is a pattern.  A pattern which is behind Rudy Giuliani’s asking if the president loves America. One would think that the media would be somewhat aware of the direction of the entire Obama administration, instead of dissolving in wrath when someone actually notices. (Or is that why the media boiled over —they’re beginning to notice?)

I think he is just doing exactly what he said he would do: attempt to “fundamentally transform the United States of America.” Everybody was so excited with the idea of the first black president, the mellow baritone voice, the moving phraseology “Yes We Can!,” “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for!,” that they didn’t really pay any attention to what he actually said that he wanted to do. I don’t think he is trying to destroy the country, he just wants to “fix” it.

We are paying the price for our inattention. And it’s up to us to find out exactly what he meant by “fundamentally transform.” It matters. It matters a lot.



“Once You see what he is trying to accomplish, it all makes sense.” by The Elephant's Child

Victor Davis Hanson, National Review Online:

“The Wise People of American foreign policy — Madeleine Albright, General Jack Keane, Henry Kissinger, General James Mattis, George Shultz, and others — recently testified before Congress. Their candid and insightful collective message dovetailed with the worries of many former Obama-administration officials, such as one-time defense secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, as well as a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. Their consensus is that the U.S. is drifting, and with it the world at large: The Obama administration has not formulated a consistent strategy to cope with the advance of second-generation Islamic terrorism. It is confused by the state upheavals in the Middle East. It is surprised by the aggression of Putin’s Russia and the ascendance of an autocratic China. Our allies in Europe, much of democratic Asia, and Israel all worry that the U.S. is rudderless, as it slashes its military budget and withdraws from prior commitments.

While I think the symptomology of an ailing, herky-jerky United States is correct, the cause of such malaise is left unspoken. The Obama team — with its foreign policy formulated by President Obama himself, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, White House consigliere Valerie Jarrett, Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and present Secretary of State John Kerry — is not in fact befuddled by the existing world. Instead, it is intent on changing it into something quite different from what it is.”

“So far,” Hanson says,” from being chaotic, current U.S. foreign policy is consistent, logical, and based on four pillars of belief.”

Do read the whole thing, Victor Hanson spells out why, in Obama’s mind, we are doing what we are doing. Obama does have a strategy. It’s just mistaken.



It’s Not About Terrorism, It’s About the Lack of Opportunity by The Elephant's Child

Last night on Hardball on MSNBC, Host Chris Matthews interviewed State Department spokesgirl Marie Harf, who explained to viewers just why Obama’s attempts to deal with ISIS have been so ineffective.

Remember that Marie Harf, as a spokesperson, does not express her own opinion, but the opinion of her boss, Secretary Kerry, the administration and the president. So this is Obama ‘s foreign policy:

MATTHEWS: Are we killing enough of them?

HARF: We’re killing a lot of them and we’re going to keep killing more of them. So are the Egyptians, so are the Jordanians. They’re in this fight with us. But we cannot win this war by killing them. We cannot kill our way out of this war. We need in the medium to longer term to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups, whether it’s lack of opportunity for jobs, whether…

MATTHEWS: We’re not going to be able to stop that in our lifetime or fifty lifetimes. There’s always going to be poor people. There’s always going to be poor Muslims, and as long as there are poor Muslims, the trumpet’s blowing and they’ll join. We can’t stop that, can we?

HARF: We can work with countries around the world to help improve their governance. We can help them build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people…

It must often seem that conservatives are anxious to find anything that will reflect badly on Obama, but it’s the policies that are the problem, and I think Conservatives are seriously worried about national security, do not feel that the administration understands the problem, and fears that they want to make a deal with Iran, the evil state that sponsors the terrorism that we see in the world.

Conservatives are inclined to believe the “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” shouts of their officials. The “root causes” theme always has some appeal to the West, because it offers a simple, and simple-minded cure. But it never works and has been proven wrong over and over. Democrats just can’t bring themselves to believe in evil, except when applied to Republicans or anyone else who stands in their way.

And sorry, Marie. Wars are always won by killing the enemy, until they are so utterly defeated that they give up abjectly and permanently. Wars are not won with peace treaties, nor with amelioration of root causes. Wars are won by defeating the enemy. Mr. Obama is more concerned about global warming than the threat of Islamic terrorism, which he cannot even dignify by naming it.

The President does not know what he is talking about. He misconstrues Vladimir Putin, and does not know his history. He does not understand Iran, and does not grasp their intentions. He has surrounded himself with yes-men and women, and does not listen to disagreement. A president needs to have those who disagree with his policies around, so he can learn what the opposition thinks, and evaluate whether his own position is correct. He needs to be probing the best minds he can find, to learn and ponder ideas other than his own.

ADDENDUM:The jihadists recruited from Western countries are usually, according to studies, from comfortable middle class families, or well-to-do parents, who have been radicalized by charismatic preachers or recruiters. Poverty and lack of opportunity are not usually the problem.



Do You Care About the Price of Oil? Here’s Why You Should! by The Elephant's Child

When most of us think about the price of oil, it comes to mind only when we have to fill up at the gas station. If you have a vehicle with a large gas tank, you pay quite a bit of attention. But when the price of oil drops significantly, it’s like getting a major tax cut.  Not just what you pay at the pump, but our entire economy runs on energy. When oil prices are high it means that everything you buy will cost more. Businesses and factories run on energy, everything must  be transported. And there are our energy bills. Keeping warm as the climate gets colder matters.

OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Companies) decided on Friday to maintain their crude oil output despite a glut, largely due to Americas energy bounty from shale oil and fracking. That decision in turn knocked down U.S. benchmark oil prices by 10% to $66.15 a barrel. That’s the lowest level since September 2009. Scared investors dumped energy stocks. That, in turn, affects national currencies.

Brent crude price for January deliveries was $70.15 a barrel on Friday. BP plans projects assuming a price of around $80 a barrel. Russia planned it’s 2015 budget assuming an average oil price of $100 a barrel. President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow will stop pursing a gas pipeline to Europe amid opposition from the European Union and instead build a new line to Turkey.

Some say that OPEC’s decision to keep pumping in the face of  increased American exports is intended to drive marginal producers out of business. Some think it may have something to do with Iran and ISIS’s dependence on oil sales. Most of the world’s worst dictators depend on a high price for oil. Mr. Putin’s ability to buy domestic political support will decline with declining oil prices.

Economist Larry Kudlow is exulting in the lower prices.  “Seldom has so much good news  been portrayed so negatively. Oil prices continue to fall in the U.S . and around the world, but nearly everybody in the media is grumpy about it.”

“The International Energy Association (IEA) reports that most production in the Bakken formation, one of the main drivers of shale-oil output, remains profitable at or below $42 a barrel.”

So there you go. More on the oil industry that you ever wanted to know. If America’s oil producers will continue to prosper and the lower cost of oil will give a boost to your budget and the economy, the EPA has other ideas. Their Clean Power Plan could double the amount of coal-fired capacity  being retired by 2020. Energy Ventures Analysis has found the EPA  underestimates how much it’s power plant regulatory regime  will raise electricity and natural gas prices — a 37% increase by 2020. They don’t believe the EPA estimates, and claim the cost would be the equivalent of the energy used by 29 million homes.

There ‘s always somebody to rain on your parade. Why am I not surprised it’s the EPA?



Obama Goes to Australia, Offends Everybody. by The Elephant's Child

There didn’t seem to be much news from President Obama’s trip to Australia for the G20 meeting. The media made a lot of his climate accord with China at his previous stop in Beijing. The commentary recognized that Obama set a path for America to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions by 2020, and China would go ahead building coal-fired plants at a tremendous rate until 2030 when they might start paying attention to their emissions. The general assumption is that China will pay no attention the agreement anyway, but Mr. Obama seems to believe it to be a great accomplishment.

President Obama ruffled feathers by demanding to make a speech to young people at Queensland University, where he offended everybody with what they called “an ill-informed, insulting speech from Barack Obama about climate change, the Great Barrier Reef and coal.”

The U.S. Embassy carefully had advised the president not to couch his climate change comments in a way that would be seen as disobliging to the Abbott government. “Historians of the US-Australia relationship are unable to nominate a case of a visiting president making such a hostile speech to the host government.” Heads of State just don’t go to other countries and insert themselves into political debates in that country.

Queensland is a coal mining state. Mr. Obama said that climate change “here in Australia” means “longer droughts, more wildfires”  and “the incredible natural glory of the Great Barrier Reef is threatened.” Well, no it doesn’t, but it has been a contentious point in Australian politics. Climate change does not cause wildfires, nor does it harm the Great Barrier Reef.

Prime Minister Abbott has been critical of Obama’s Green Climate Fund, and points out that the “four-fifths” of the developed world that had used fossil fuels to develop could not deny “the other fifth” access to coal to generate electricity for the hundred million people who were without it.

Queensland officials are so angry at Mr. Obama’s remarks about the Great Barrier Reef and his attack on coal production in a resources state that they are considering a formal complaint. Informal messages were sent to the U.S. delegation that the president’s speech was not in keeping with that of a guest and ally.

Hopes for a positive G20 summit meeting crumbled abruptly when Obama called Vladimir Putin a jackass. At a joint press appearance President Obama blurted “Everyone here thinks you’re  a dick.” Mr. Obama then unleashed a ten-minute tirade at the Russian President.

Look, I’m not just talking about Snowden and Syria,” Mr. Obama said. “What about Pussy Riot? What about your anti-gay laws? Total jackass moves, my friend.”

As Mr. Putin narrowed his eyes in frosty silence, Mr. Obama seemed to warm to his topic.

“If you think I’m the only one who feels this way, you’re kidding yourself,” Mr. Obama said, jabbing his finger in the direction of the Russian President’s face. “Ask Angela Merkel. Ask David Cameron. Ask the Turkish guy. Every last one of them thinks you’re a dick.”

Mr. Putin released  a terse official statement reading, “I should be afraid of this skinny man? I wrestle bears.”

After one day of meetings, the G20 nations voted unanimously on a resolution that said perhaps everyone should just go on home.

The American press, for the most part simply reported that Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper told Putin that he wasn’t sure about shaking Putin’s hand, and Putin “should get out of Ukraine.” For Obama’s tirade I had to go to the Daily Mail and Zero Hedge.  Interesting omission.

ADDENDUM: I ‘m told that the conversation between Obama and Putin comes from a parody in the New Yorker last year, and has inadvertently been picked up by many bloggers as accurate. Apparently it is not. I apologize. It seemed to fit right in with his speech that so offended the Aussies. That was quite real, and reported in the Australian newspapers, as well as in the text supplied by the White House. Mr. Obama has seemed particularly angry since the election, and short tempered, but that’s just the view from partial glimpses.

 



The Fall of the Berlin Wall, November 9, 1989 by The Elephant's Child

This video included the thrilling moment when the first people spilled across the border, twenty-five years ago.  The wall was erected to keep the people in the Russian Sector of a divided Berlin in. And so it did for forty-four years. The Wall stood 13 feet high and was augmented with watchtowers, alarms, trenches, mines, guard dogs and guards with machine guns all to keep the people of East Berlin in. More than 100 people were killed trying to cross the wall.

In Berlin, Christopher and Marc Bauder, light artists,  created ten miles of lighted white helium balloons to mark the route of the wall through Berlin, as a reminder of how the city used to be.The 8,000 balloons began at Bornholmer Street border crossing, one of the former checkpoints between East and West Germany, and were released into the night sky as a symbol of liberation.

As former National Review editor John O’Sullivan has noted “Communism had failed to retain enough true believers who would murder on its behalf.”

At the end of the War in Europe, a ruined Berlin was occupied by the three Allied powers: Britain, France and the United States, and the Soviet Union. A discovery of archival photographs in 2010 demonstrates the ruined, starving city and signs of life in the struggle for survival. The devastation of war was nearly complete. Here is the gallery of 20 pictures from der Spiegel. Here is a post from 2009 recounting German Chancellor Angela Merkel who spoke before a joint session of Congress  remembering the American and Allied pilots who flew food to a starving Berlin.

Does anyone remember the Berlin Blockade and the answering Berlin Airlift today? It was an incredible accomplishment made possible with courage and split-second timing. On June 24, 1948, Soviet forces blockaded rail, road and water access to the Allied-controlled sector of Berlin. The United States and United Kingdom responded by airlifting food and fuel to Berlin from Allied Airbases in western Germany.

It was a very tense time. The Soviets wanted to drive the Allies out of Germany. Airlifting food and fuel seemed nearly impossible to meet the desperate need. But Allied efficiency saved the day. Gradually the number of aircraft increased, At the height of the campaign one aircraft was landing every 45 seconds at Templehof Airport. Timing was so strict that a plane that was not able to land  had to turn back to make way for the next. As the Allies showed that they could maintain the airlift indefinitely, the blockade fell apart. Moscow lifted the blockade on May 11, 1949.

Mikhail Gorbachev spoke in Berlin today, warning of the potential for a new Cold War. It was the ordinary people of Eastern, Soviet controlled Europe who rose up in protest and deserve pride of place.  But history records, for different reasons, two major figures: Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. John Fund notes the Reagan effect:

Reagan first saw the Wall in 1978, when he told his aide Peter Hannaford: “We’ve got to find a way to knock this thing down.” After he became president, he returned in 1982 and enraged the Soviets by taking a couple of ceremonial steps across a painted borderline. Then, in 1987, he overruled his own State Department by giving a momentous speech in which he implored the Soviet general secretary directly: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

lightbarrier

Here’s the lighted balloon wall. It must have been very moving to see them drift away, one at a time.

They did tear down the Wall and Berlin was unified only two years later.  In the wake of learning that a number of students at Texas Tech have no idea who won the Civil war, a little history seems appropriate. It’s a day and a history worth celebrating.



Serious People With Real Talent to Offer! by The Elephant's Child

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Weren’t we told after the 2012 election about the high-tech ground-game of Obama’s election team? They just knew how to do elections, and the stodgy Republicans would never be able to catch up?  Yes, I thought that was the conventional wisdom.

And wasn’t there supposed to be a fatal war in the Republican party between stodgy, conventional Conservatives and the radical, extremist Tea Party? I think even Homeland Security has the Tea Party on their watch list of dangerous extremists.

The Tea Party (TEA—Taxed Enough Already) cheerfully took inspiration from British colonists fed up with British taxes who dressed up as faux Indians, and threw a lot of bales of tea into Boston Harbor. Great fun, hardly dangerous extremism. The tea-party wave sent 87 new Republicans to the House  in 2010, and a steady group of reformers to the Senate. Harry Reid has kept the Senate from accomplishing anything, but the influence of the tea party on the Republican caucus has been important internally.

The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel is paying  close attention:

The Senate is about to change in ways that go far beyond GOP control. Voters aren’t just sending a bumper crop of Republicans to Washington in January; they are sending an A-Team. …

It happens that most of the incoming Republican freshmen are experts in, and passionate about, the issues that are about to dominate Washington. The country hasn’t witnessed a real foreign-policy debate since at least 2004, but President Obama’s mishandling of ISIS has made it inevitable. Joining the fray will be folks like Arkansas’s Tom Cotton. The 37-year-old Harvard-educated, former Army platoon leader has in his few short House years positioned himself as a leading voice on foreign policy.

Add Iowa’s incoming senator, Joni Ernst, who served in Iraq and Kuwait, and who made her opponent’s votes to defund the Iraq war a prominent part of her campaign. In Alaska, Dan Sullivan, who looks to win that Senate race, ran on his military service and his time working on foreign policy for Condi Rice in the White House. The voices of these younger veterans are going to resonate in any coming debate over the president’s cuts to the Pentagon budget. Expect, too, an interesting new dynamic vis-à-vis the Rand Paul wing of the GOP.

Cory Gardner, Dan Sullivan and Montana’s Steve Daines know their way around energy and the environment. Nebraska’s Ben Sasse ran on a fully thought out replacement for ObamaCare, Thom Tillis, and David Perdue are both former businessmen who are deeply interested in tax-code overhaul and budget reform.

Last Tuesday, the voters said clearly that they wanted a change in direction of policy, but it was more than just complaint about the way things were going. They did something about it. They elected men and women of real substance.




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