American Elephants

Hits and Misses in the ‘War’ on the Islamic State by The Elephant's Child

It was only days ago that we had word that “Jihadi John,”  the British citizen Mohammed Emwazi, who became known for beheading  Western  hostages for ISIS— was reported hit in Raqqa by an attack from an American drone. U.S. counter terrorism officials said he was killed with a ‘flawless’ drone missile strike the moment he stepped into a car. Pentagon officials are 99 percent sure that he was killed.

He was “evaporated” near a clock tower where ISIS staged public executions. Britain’s Daily Mail had an extensive article on the “World’s most wanted man.” The drone strike took off from Incirlik Air Force Base in Turkey, and was piloted from Creech Air Force Base in Las Vegas.

The Daily Mail piece also included an aerial photograph of the site of the drone strike. But it also contains evidence of the problem many have complained of, the White House’s tight control over targeting that is making the administration’s claims of conducting effective air control over ISIS so absurd.


So we know the exact site of ISIS main headquarters, the Islamic Court, but declined to target those because…? Obama seems happy to go after anyone with a drone attack, I suppose because he can assume that the missile that got the target didn’t get anyone who was near, or if they were near they were probably bad guys too? One would assume that targeting ISIS main headquarters might set back their terrorist activities a little.

The British Prime Minister welcomed reports of the killing which he called an ‘act of self defence’.

He stopped short of confirming that Emwazi – who he branded a ‘barbaric murderer’ – was dead but said the targeted attack was ‘the right thing to do’.

There is a high possibility British spies were operating on the ground in Raqqa to help identify Emwazi before the strike and may now be trying to collect DNA evidence to prove his death.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Emwazi’s role in ISIS propaganda videos used to radicalize people meant he was a ‘target worth going after’.

We need a public excuse?

The EPA Is Not Now, And Never Has Been, In Any Situation — Transparent! by The Elephant's Child

AR-150829613.jpg&maxw=725&maxh=575I have wondered about the progress of the spill from the Gold King Mine as it proceeds down the Colorado River System through Lake Powell and the Grand Canyon. As the spill approached Lake Powell, news about the spill precipitously dropped from the news. Not an accident. Environmental Protection Agency officials have required their contractors to sign non-disclosure agreements, or secrecy pledges.

“The statement of work includes a standard requirement that the contractor shall not publish or otherwise release, distribute, or disclose any work product generated under the contract without obtaining EPA’s express advance written approval,” an EPA spokeswoman told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “This does not require either an NDA or confidentiality agreement be signed by individual employees.”

Non-disclosure agreements are often used to protect important government secrets, they are not supposed to obstruct official accountability at critical times. The EPA was clearly at fault here for a massive spill of 3 million gallons of highly toxic mine waste, not only rife with materials such as cadmium, lead and arsenic. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the cadmium turned the river a bright mustard yellow, so it couldn’t exactly be kept secret. The picture above is of the narrow-gauge railroad that runs from Durango to Silverton, and is very popular with tourists. I have ridden it, and it’s a beautiful trip, but not with a yellow river.

The initial reporting was plentiful as it flowed through small Colorado towns and as it reached the Navajo Reservation where the river flows right through the center of the reservation near Shiprock and Teec Nos Pos. This is water essential to the reservation, for tribal animals and water, and for irrigation, and just for drinking water. There were some sloppy attempts to truck water in to the reservation, with dirty tanks, and the tribal leaders said they would sue. This is public business, and lawsuits will be paid with taxpayer  money.

The EPA has said that there are 28 separate contracts with Environmental Restoration and it would take until the 22nd of December to review them all to determine just which contract would pertain to the Animas and Colorado Rivers. Uh huh. Even looking through Google’s array of pictures, they don’t seem to include Lake Powell nor the Grand Canyon National Park. Interesting.

The EPA is forestalling transparency in a spill that affects the regional supply of drinking water across the American Southwest. Timely? Nah.

But it is a bit of a pattern for agencies of the Obama administration. The IRS? Don’t ask. The VA? Congress is working on transparency, but it seems that it is difficult to impossible to fire government officials. This was going to be the most transparent administration in history. That’s turning out well.


(click to enlarge)

Guantanamo: Myths, Propaganda, and The Consequences of Progressive Politics. by The Elephant's Child

BN-LD124_2gitmo_M_20151105184452Under the Obama administration, the Democrats have lost 900 state legislature seats, 12 more states are now governed by Republicans, Congress now has 69 more Republican House seats, and 13 more Republican Senate seats. That’s Obama’s legacy. Normally, when Congress has turned against the president’s programs, the president will seek to cooperate more, or at least consult, with the other party in recognition of the intent of the people.

Obama, on the other hand, has determined that he’s going to show the people just who’s the boss and govern by executive orders and memos. When Obama released Taliban who were being held at Gitmo in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl, he sent them to Qatar, for the Qataris to manage. He said:

We will be keeping eyes on them. Is there the possibility of some of them trying to return to activities that are detrimental to us? Absolutely. That’s been true of all the prisoners that were released from Guantanamo. There is a certain rate that takes place.

I wouldn’t be doing it if I thought it was contrary to the American national security and we have confidence that we will be in a position to go after them if, in fact, they are engaging in activities that threaten our defenses. But this is what happens at the end of wars. That was true for George Washington, that was true for Abraham Lincoln, that was true for FDR. That has true for every combat situation, that at some point you make sure that you try to get your folks back, and that’s the right thing to do.

The Editorial Board at Bloomberg remarked that “It may come as a surprise to Barack Obama that the commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces does not necessarily get to decide when a war is over.”

He also does not understand that the detainees in Guantanamo are not prisoners of war, to be sent home when the war ends,  but terrorists — armed enemy combatants who do not qualify under the Geneva Conventions  as prisoners of war. They have nevertheless been treated as humanely as if they were.

Democrat political propaganda has attempted to portray the detainees at Gitmo as if they were subject to daily torture. Innumerable inspections from every human rights group have determined that they are being well treated, with respect for the Muslim religion. Yet articles about Gitmo are usually 640x392_50143_187015accompanied by this image of the first arrivals, as if this was the daily state of affairs there. It is not. If you look up pictures of Guantanamo, the list of queries includes wanting to see pictures of torture, or of waterboarding.

Democrats always believe their own propaganda, probably because they don’t read anything else. The Geneva Conventions of 1949 were formed because of the way Allied prisoners of war were treated by the Japanese and the Nazis. Today ISIS chops off heads and burns their prisoners alive, or ask John McCain about the Vietnamese, long after the Conventions were accepted as international law. Nazis during WWII were detained in prison camps here, and were well treated. Yet the myth persists. Democrats are always sure detainees are being mistreated, because to so believe fits their political agenda.

Normally, six national security agencies and the Defense Secretary must sign off on letting a detainee go. Obama has ignored them and had his own special committee appointed, composed largely of compliant minions, to make the decision. Announced just as the Pope was arriving, Abdul Shalabi, suspected of being an Osama bin Laden bodyguard, was released back to Saudi Arabia. Shalabi has agreed to take a ‘rehabilitation class’ in Saudi Arabia.

Out of 647 detainees who have been released from Guantanamo Bay, 116 have gone right back to “re-engaging” in terrorism according to a report from the DNI James Clapper.

In August, Muktar Yahya Najee al Warafi  sued for release on the grounds that the war is over and the law authorizing it (and his detention) has expired. (Yes the detainees have full access to attorneys).  Warafi, a Yemeni, served as a medic for the Taliban in 2001. He cited claims by White House officials and Obama’s declaration last January that “America’s longest war has come to a responsible end.”

U.S District Court Judge Royce Lamberth was not persuaded. As long as hostilities continue, so does the war’s legal basis, and Obama’s rhetoric does not overturn Congress’ intention.

President Obama is about to send Congress a plan to close the terrorist prison at Guantanamo Bay. It is doomed from the start, but then he can shut down Gitmo by executive order. As Josh Earnest said, we “work with Congress where we can, but if Congress continues to refuse, I wouldn’t rule out the President using every element of his authority to make progress.” The Wall Street Journal added:

Another day at the office for a progressive President intent on reducing the legislative branch to a nullity. For the record, the National Defense Authorization Act this year contains an explicit congressional ban on transferring detainees to the U.S. through 2016.

The White House wants to transfer the prisoners to the U.S. Naval Consolidated Brig in South Carolina; at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, or the federal supermax prison in Colorado. The WSJ again:

Mr. Obama’s inability to negotiate honestly with the legislature is a hallmark of his Presidency. More damaging is the precedent he is setting by making major policy changes with no more than a wave of his executive hand. Press reports note that Administration lawyers are working on legal justifications for the Gitmo order. Decision first, the law later.

The press is still invested in Obama’s success, or at least in quieting outrage. Any other president who, while prosecuting an unpopular war, credited with 3 out of 4 deaths in Afghanistan under his watch, saw a series of critical national security advisors resign might get some unfavorable coverage. On Sept. 22, General John Allen announced his intention to resign, Within a week, Evelyn Farkas, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, handed in her resignation. The report from Commentary with the details is a devastating account of a president paralyzed with indecision. He is being tested by the world’s bad actors and has little resolve to act early and decisively.

Nearly 500 Hospitals Have Misbehaved, Or Have They? by The Elephant's Child

hospHospitals in 43 states will pay a combined $250 million in fines to settle charges that they violated Medicare requirements when implanting cardiac devices in patients.

The heavy hand of government descended on 457 hospitals accused of implanting cardioverter defibrillators in patients between 2003 and 2010 before Medicare coverage allowed. It seems that Medicare will cover the devices, which cost around $25,000, but only if doctors wait the recommended 40 days after a patient has had a heart attack and 90 days after a patient has had bypass surgery to do the implant. The waiting periods are designed by some bureaucrat to “give the heart an opportunity to improve function on its own to the point that the defibrillator may not be necessary.”

The DOJ said most of the hospitals were named in a lawsuit brought on by whistleblowers under the False Claims Act, which allows private citizens to bring lawsuits on behalf of the United States and receive a portion of the proceeds of any settlement or judgment awarded against a defendant.

The lawsuits were filed by a cardiac nurse and a health care reimbursement consultant in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The DOJ said the whistleblowers received more than $38 million from the settlements.

This may be all on the up and up. Over-cautious doctors disobeying the ordered 40 day wait time and costing Medicare money. The doctors motives for squandering Medicare money? The whistleblowers motives to go for $38 million? Did all or any of the patients survive? Don’t know.

Where are the whistleblowers who get big rewards from stopping, say, the EPA from wasting taxpayer money? With 457 different hospitals, the whistleblowers had no chance to observe incorrect wait times. Perhaps the doctor’s judgement is different?  I make no accusations. I just find it all odd, and sadly, I trust Doctors much more than I trust Medicare bureaucrats.


Gina McCarthy Attempts to Prove the Value of the EPA. Big Job. by The Elephant's Child

epa04236753 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Gina McCarthy signs US President Barack Obama's new carbon pollution emission guideline plan at EPA headquarters in Washington, DC, USA, 02 June 2014. The plan, which bypasses Congress, calls for a 30 percent cut in carbon emissions by 2030.  EPA/JIM LO SCALZO (Newscom TagID: epalive211077.jpg) [Photo via Newscom]

There is some evidence that  the consistent mention of the “Pause,” that obvious fact, is beginning to bother some of the climate consensus crowd. To wit, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. Of course the EPA has had some really bad press lately, as the world watched a great spill of noxious yellow mine tailings, that we were told is extremely toxic to life on Earth, into a tributary of the great Colorado River that serves most of the American Southwest. The Navajo Tribe said they would be instituting a massive lawsuit, but we have heard nothing further about that, nor has the spread of the yellow mess made the major news, or perhaps I just missed it. Gina McCarthy stated, in the pages of The Hill, that:

America has come a long way in protecting public health and the environment over the past 45 years. Since 1970, we’ve cut air pollution by nearly 70 percent, while our economy has tripled in size. America’s environmental laws have provided a solid foundation for success, but they’re only part of the equation. Without resources to work hand in hand with state, local and tribal partners to enforce these laws, progress isn’t possible. Laws talk the talk, but enforcement walks the walk.

When rules under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and other laws are not followed, people suffer. Neighborhoods become polluted, livelihoods become threatened and the health of kids and families are put at risk.

Enforcement programs keep dangerous illegal activity in check. They hold violators accountable and deter bad actors. They level the playing field for businesses that play by the rules. And most of all, they provide security and protection to people across America, who depend on clean air, water and land to live healthy, productive lives.

This is probably what McCarthy believes. She is all for enforcement, big enforcement. Strong standards are a key step, and holding everyone accountable allows the EPA to protect American lives and especially the children (it’s always asthma). But I take it as a bit of self-justification from an agency under fire.

The problem is that the EPA has taken the original mandate of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, which Congress didn’t bother to define, as their authority to grab for power and control of ever more of America. They have been slapped down by the courts over and over, but it doesn’t seem to bother them at all. They issue immense fines, preferably in the billions, because the threat of enormous fines makes people and businesses surrender quickly. Not content with just cleaning up smog, they have turned to fine particulates, going so far as attempting to regulate farm dust, which may seem possible for city apartment dwellers, but for anyone who had ever been near a farm—is an absurdity.

The EPA attempt to grab control of the drip from your downspouts as a part of the “navigable waters of the United States” has been halted by the courts, but ‘overreach’ is in their blood. The pictures that accompany the news from the agency usually feature smokestacks which are belching (probably water vapor) but give the impression of noxious pollutants.

Carbon Dioxide remains a pollutant to the EPA, but for the rest of us (excluding Barack Obama and John Kerry) it remains plant food, one of the basic necessities for almost all life on Earth. Increasing levels of CO2 have increased crop yields by at least 10–15 percent, and are good for humankind as well as the natural world, for an acre of land that is not used for crops is left for nature. Between 1990 and 2011 – 13, although population increased by 31% to 7.1 billion, available food supplies have increased by 44%. This is good news that your probably didn’t hear.

I don’t believe that the EPA has saved a single life from pollution, nor kept a single child from contracting asthma (doctors don’t know the cause). Their overreach is not only excessive,  but damaging to the people and the economy. I don’t believe that the agency needs a swat team of their very own. They need to produce the science that they use to promulgate their rules and regulations, and establish that they are actually a needed bureaucracy, rather than an agency out for self-serving power grabs. And they need to prove that there is some reason why they should continue to exist.

If You Missed the Debate, Here Are the Important Parts in Just 2 Minutes by The Elephant's Child


(h/t: Free Beacon)

Republican Candidates – 10, CNBC – 0 by The Elephant's Child

A most interesting debate last night. The mainstream partisan media disgraced itself. Feisty Republicans would have none of it, and told them they were a disgrace. ‘Gotcha’ questions are unprofessional but expected. Stupid questions that indicate that the panel of moderators did not understand the real issues are a little more depressing.

Listeners  would have been surprised to learn that the debate was supposed to be about the economy. The economy is a shambles, largely due to Democrat mismanagement, and there are a lot people hurting, The American people want to know who can fix it.

Democrats do not want the Republicans to talk about how they are going to jump-start the economy, because their own candidates are talking about free college tuition and other pie-in-the-sky offers to buy votes, but it is not going to happen. You can’t take enough money away from the rich to make it unnecessary for the vast majority of people to provide for themselves, with their work, their thrift and their savings.

Ted Cruz efficiently scolded the media and racked up the biggest applause ever in any debate. Ted, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina and Chris Christie were all winners.

Ben Carson is as always, soft-spoken and brilliant. Mike Huckabee speaks well, had a great analogy comparing the blimp on the loose over Pennsylvania to an escaped gas bag of a Democratic party.

I thought Donald Trump was a big loser, but apparently his inability to come up with any significant policy discussion as opposed to just saying ‘I can do that’ and talking about his great big wall continues to attract supporters. I am unimpressed with his wealth, and as several economic types have mentioned, he would have been far richer if he had just put his father’s $100 million in a mutual fund.

John Kasich seemed angry, apparently at having to share a stage with people who didn’t have his accomplishments on offer.  Rand Paul did not advance his cause, nor hurt it either. Jeb Bush did badly. Whoever advised him to attack Marco Rubio on the basis of Rubio’s missing some votes in Congress made a major mistake. Jeb Bush is a good man, and was a good governor of Florida. He would probably be a good president. But he is a really lousy campaigner.

So what do I want in a president? Someone who can communicate well with the American people. The president works for us. I expect a good understanding of world affairs — not a knowledge of every president of every nation — but sufficient knowledge to understand the major threats, and to know who would be the strongest advisers to help devise good policy. Obama has made some really dreadful appointments.

I want someone who respects Congress and wants to work with them to get the economy growing once again. And I want someone who is an avid learner. It’s a big office, and none of the aspirants know anywhere near as much as you need to face the problems we face in reality. You need some excellent choices of advisors and cabinet members. And I really don’t want anyone who believes that the Constitutions is an old tired document that needs updating and revising. Nor anyone who believes that the clear history of the absolute failure of socialism everywhere it has been tried is because the right people haven’t done it yet, or that this time it will be different. Other than that, I haven’t made my mind up yet.

ADDENDUM: Smarting from criticism,CNBC put out a statement defending the moderators performance: “People who want to be president of the United States should be able to answer tough questions.”

That was the problem. They didn’t ask “tough questions” they asked dumb questions. The troublesome thing is that they don’t seem to know the difference. That’s what happens when you live in a world of approved talking points and approved sound bites — you don’t even recognize reality when you encounter it.


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