American Elephants


Six Answers to Your Most Pressing Questions: by The Elephant's Child

Here are Six Answers to your Most Pressing Questions today, or they would be the most pressing if you’d thought of them.

  1. When Obama Rewrites ObamaCare, Why Doesn’t Anyone Sue Him? Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) has a remarkable legal mind, and it pays to listen. “President Obama has repeatedly suspended parts of the Affordable Care Act without the consent of Congress. The latest unilateral action happened Monday night, when the administration announced another delay of the employer mandate, the law’s provision that businesses with more than 50 employees must provide their employees with insurance starting in 2014 or pay large fines.
  2. Why is Janet Yellen so concerned and disturbed about income inequality? James Pethokoukis explains why “income inequality” is a flawed enthusiasm of the Left. “A ‘very concerned’ Janet Yellen told a congressional panel today that she thinks income inequality is “one of the most important issues and one of the most disturbing trends facing the nation at the present time.”
  3. Actually, We Won the War on Poverty, And sorry liberals; It was conservative ideas that did it. “After all, despite the alarm of the current debate about America’s poor, the country has actually reduced poverty more than we often appreciate—and that decline in poverty has been less about the liberal programs of the New Deal and Great Society and more about economic growth and center-right welfare reforms than is widely recognized.”
  4. Why I’m Getting Sick of Defending ObamaCare: Incompetence, politics, and delays frustrate advocates of health care reform. Waiting for a Democrat to notice that all is not well? Ron Fournier is beginning to have trouble with it. “It’s getting difficult and slinking toward impossible to defend the Affordable Care Act. The latest blow to Democratic candidates, liberal activists, and naïve columnists like me came Monday from the White House, which announced yet another delay in the Obamacare implementation.
  5. HIT Apologia: Health Information Technology, promised by the Left to save all the costs racked up by ObamaCare, forced on the health care industry with a $20 billion appropriation from the HITECH law to upgrade information technology. A team of RAND Corporation researchers projected in 2005 that rapid adoption of HIT would save the U.S. more than $81 billion annually. Not the first time people got a little overexcited by the wonders of high tech. Seven years later, information on efficiency and safety are mixed and health care expenditures have grown by $800 billion. The evidence is overwhelmingly negative. You doctor probably has more interaction with his computer than he does with you. They gave the problem to engineers to solve instead of doctors to develop what would work for them.
  6. “ObamaCare both sucks and blows” John Podhoretz offers up full-throated outrage at the latest announcement that “the Obama administration is once again unilaterally delaying a key aspect of its health-care law and what this act of astonishing royalism suggests about the president and his fundamental disrespect for the American system of checks and balances.” For your enjoyment.


Excuses, Excuses, Excuses! by The Elephant's Child

Sorry about the light posting recently. I just finished a course of radiation treatment following surgery in December, and it has temporarily wiped me out. Fatigue.  All is well, however, and I’ll just be tired for a couple of weeks.

Misspellings and odd juxtapositions of letters are to be excused. Be patient. We had about an inch and a half of snow on Saturday, which melted on Sunday and we’re back to our normal rain and clouds. Good. Did not need icy streets just now. Told to take extra vitamin D to cope with our gloomy climate. Figures.



The Letter ‘S’ in IRS Apparently Stands For ‘Scandal’ by The Elephant's Child

Powerline has today a letter from William Henck who has worked in the IRS Office of the General Counsel as an attorney for over 26 years. Powerline says:

Although it goes over some old ground, we submit the following personal account by Mr. Henck for the consideration of readers in the context of current controversies without further comment. He writes:

I have been an attorney in the IRS Office of Chief Counsel for over 26 years. Over a number of years, I have attempted, largely unsuccessfully, to alert the public to abuse within the IRS. One of my kids suggested that I contact a blog and Power Line has graciously agreed to publish this account.

I do not personally know whether the IRS has targeted conservative groups or individuals, but I do know that the environment within the agency is ripe for such activity and there is nothing to prevent it from occurring. As stated in more detail below, I have personally witnessed improper giveaways of billions of dollars to taxpayers with inside access at the agency, bullying of elderly taxpayers, the cover-up of managerial embezzlement and misappropriation of thousands of dollars in government funds, and a retaliatory audit. I have also heard credible accounts of, among other things, further improper giveaways, blatant sexual harassment, and anti-Semitism. All of these matters have been swept under the rug.

Do read the whole thing. It sheds a bit of light on all the controversy about the IRS  targeting of conservative groups. As I’m sure you have heard Mr. Obama say, it is simply a phony controversy, nothing to see here, just move along. The problem is that Ms. Lerner kind of blew that to smithereens with her attempt to plead the Fifth Amendment to avoid incriminating herself.

Corruption in government is no small thing. It spreads. Public sector unions are much to blame. When a miscreant can no longer be fired, government’s ability to have an ethical agency is ended. And the damage goes on from that.

When Rudy Giuliani was Mayor of New York City, he had enormous success with his “broken windows theory” of policing. You take care of the small things like graffiti, turnstile jumping, and the attention to the small things shows that you are going to take care of the bigger ones. He made a big difference in crime in New York.



The Headline of the Day! by The Elephant's Child

From Jammie Wearing Fools: ” Woman Who Can’t Afford Her Own Birth Control Scrapes Up Money to File for Congressional Run.”

Surely you remember Sandra Fluke (rhymes with Cluck) who appeared before the nation in a pretend Congressional hearing, set up to  look as if it was official after the committee in question (I can’t remember which committee) refused to have her as a witness since they didn’t think she had any testimony worth hearing.

Her testimony was a protracted whine about the vast expense of contraceptives which she thought taxpayers should pay for so she didn’t have to. It emerged that a month’s supply was available for around $9.00, which made her demand that taxpayers spring for it seem remarkably silly. But silly me. There it is in ObamaCare, and everybody is paying for it. If you wonder why you can no longer see your doctor, or afford health care — it’s because the Democrats stuck in all sorts of little goodies to reach favored voting groups, in this case radical feminists.

With the retirement of Henry Waxman, Ms. Fluke has filed with the California state Democratic Party to seek its endorsement in the race for the Waxman seat. She has not yet officially announced her campaign, nor filed with the Federal Election Commission. But California is known for some of the dumbest women in Congress, so why not? The idea that someone should work their way up in politics seems to have gone by the wayside. Experience is no longer necessary.

Jammie adds: “Just what Congress needs, another attention whore.”

 



Al Qaeda Training British and U.S. ‘Jihadists’ In Syria To Set Up Terror Cells At Home by The Elephant's Child

You are aware, of course, that al Qaeda has been “decimated and is “on the way to defeat.” Since the Benghazi attack, President Barack Obama has touted al Qaeda’s demise at least 32 times, even though  Libyan President Mohamed Yousef El-Magarief, members of Congress, an administration spokesman and several press reports said that al Qaeda played a role in the attack. In Green Bay, Wisconsin, on November 1, Obama said “Thanks to sacrifice and service of our brave men and women in uniform, the war in Iraq is over, the war in Afghanistan is winding down, al Qaeda has been decimated, Osama bin Laden is dead.

But nobody told the British newspapers. The Telegraph today says that Al Qaeda is training hundreds of British and European jihadis in Syria — and telling them to return home to set up terror cells.

British people fighting in Syria are being trained as “jihadists” and then encouraged to return to the UK to launch attacks on home soil, an al-Qaeda defector and western security sources have told the Telegraph.

In a rare interview on Turkey’s border with Syria, the defector from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) said that recruits from Britain, Europe and the US were being indoctrinated in extremist anti-Western ideology, trained in how to make and detonate car bombs and suicide vests and sent home to start new terror cells.

British security and intelligence agencies believe the threat of would-be terrorists being indoctrinated and directed back to the UK by al Qaeda organizers in Syria is growing. Foreign fighters are proud of 9/11 and the London bombings. A defector from ISIS said of the foreign fighters he met in Syria: “They talked often about terrorist attacks. The British, French and American mujahideen [holy warriors] in the room started talking about places that they wanted to bomb or explode themselves in Europe and the United States. Everyone named a target. The American said he dreamed of blowing up the White House.”

Up to 500 fighters from Britain have joined the struggle against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, many already known to MI5 for their radical sympathies. Some have gone with the intent of fighting the regime but are brainwashed by al Qaeda and urged to return home and launch attacks there instead.

The French interior minister, Manuel Valls, said the possibility of French citizens  returning from Syria as hardened jihadists was “the biggest threat that the country faces in the coming years.” France and Europe risk being “overwhelmed” by the phenomenon.

Shiraz Maher, a senior research fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London, estimated last week that up to 50 British fighters have already returned home.

I don’t suppose that anyone here is apt to think of this as a warning about open borders, uncontrolled illegal immigration, amnesty, and the declining rate of real assimilation among new immigrants. Europe may have a rude awakening over their rush to encourage immigration to relieve declining birthrates in Europe, and their inability to assimilate their immigrants. We may have a rude awakening over our administration’s insistence that al Qaeda has been defeated, and is no longer a concern.



Antarctic Adventures Can Become Addictive by The Elephant's Child

Icebreaker1928
1928: The cutter Bear, used by U.S. Admiral Richard Byrd on an expedition to the South Polar regions. (click to enlarge)

The Week has assembled a group of historic photographs of icebreakers here, from a much longer historical photography collection from the U.S.Coast Guard, showing icebreaking since the mid 1800s. You start getting interested in the Arctic and Antarctic, and explorations and rescues, and first thing you know, you’re collecting every book you can find about Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton’s Antarctic explorations and the Endurance, and then you get the 2002 Kenneth Branagh film (excellent) and books about the incredible expedition and examples of leadership, survival and courage, and you’re hooked.  You’ll be ordering up the whiskey reproduced from the Scotch Whiskey buried for a hundred years, in Shackleton’s Nimrod Expedition Hut. There’s even a book about that.



Gaze Upon My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair! by The Elephant's Child

From the archives, September 28, 2010:

President Barack Obama was interviewed by Rolling Stone, and is typically modest about his accomplishments.  He tells the Democrats to “wake up” and gaze upon his works:

When I talk to Democrats around the country, I tell them, “Guys, wake up here. We have accomplished an incredible amount in the most adverse circumstances imaginable.” I came in and had to prevent a Great Depression, restore the financial system so that it functions, and manage two wars. In the midst of all that, I ended one of those wars, at least in terms of combat operations. We passed historic health care legislation, historic financial regulatory reform and a huge number of legislative victories that people don’t even notice. We wrestled away billions of dollars of profit that were going to the banks and middlemen through the student-loan program, and now we have tens of billions of dollars that are going directly to students to help them pay for college. We expanded national service more than we ever have before.

The Recovery Act alone represented the largest investment in research and development in our history, the largest investment in infrastructure since Dwight Eisenhower, the largest investment in education — and that was combined, by the way, with the kind of education reform that we hadn’t seen in this country in 30 years — and the largest investment in clean energy in our history.

You look at all this, and you say, “Folks, that’s what you elected me to do.” I keep in my pocket a checklist of the promises I made during the campaign, and here I am, halfway through my first term, and we’ve probably accomplished 70 percent of the things that we said we were going to do — and by the way, I’ve got two years left to finish the rest of the list, at minimum. So I think that it is very important for Democrats to take pride in what we’ve accomplished.

We hear from international statistics on education that our kids are deficient in math, science, reading and just about everything except that they excel in self-esteem, where they are right off the charts.  Brings a bit of verse to mind, from Shelley:

I MET a traveller from an antique land
Who said: —Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert.  Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

What made me think of this were the 2013 Twitchy Awards for this year’s top 5 most malignantly narcissistic Obama moments: (which made me laugh), and it seemed appropriate to add this Photoshop, but I don’t know who created it.

BZufMyGCUAEFEUh



Finally, Someone in The Media Fesses Up! It’s Not Affordable. by The Elephant's Child

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USA Today passed out a nugget of truth as a Boxing Day Gift:

More than half of the counties in 34 states using the federal health insurance exchange lack even a bronze plan that’s affordable — by the government’s own definition — for 40-year-old couples who make just a little too much for financial assistance, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

Many of these counties are in rural, less populous areas that already had limited choice and pricey plans, but many others are heavily populated, such as Bergen County, N.J., and Philadelphia and Milwaukee counties.

More than a third don’t offer an affordable plan in the four tiers of coverage known as bronze, silver, gold or platinum for people buying individual plans who are 50 or older and ineligible for subsidies. …

The prices of exchange plans have shocked many shoppers, especially those who had plans canceled because they did not meet the ACA coverage requirements. But experts are not surprised.

“The ACA was not designed to reduce costs or, the law’s name notwithstanding, to make health insurance coverage affordable for the vast majority of Americans,” says health care consultant Kip Piper, a former government and insurance industry official. “The law uses taxpayer dollars to lower costs for the low-income uninsured but it also increases costs overall and shifts costs within the marketplace.”

The law’s name notwithstanding! That’s why we call it “ObamaCare” not the Affordable Care Act.



And the Award for Dumbest Quote of The Year Goes To: by The Elephant's Child

Thomas Friedman of the New York Times

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(Click to enlarge)
What could he possibly have been thinking? Or was this simply the absence of all thought?

(h/t: American Digest)



“It’s Going to Be a Glorious Thing.” Can She Possibly Believe That? by The Elephant's Child

Pelosi

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) says December has been a “great month” for ObamaCare sign-ups, and she says things will only get better as more people enroll. “It’s worth the trouble. It’s going to be a glorious thing,” Pelosi told a conference call on Monday.

“It’s about life, a healthier life, liberty, the freedom to pursue our happiness. It honors the vows of our founders. A person can follow his or her passion and not be chained by a policy, so they could start a business, be self-employed, change jobs. It’s a very, very exciting thing. And it’s about wellness and prevention. It’s about the health of America, not just the health care for Americans. So we’re very proud of it, and our enthusiasm for it…strengthens our determination to make sure it works.”

Pretty amazing, huh. Do  you think she actually believes that?



Your Power Bill Is Going Up. Blame The Environmental Movement. by The Elephant's Child

America is is the midst of an energy boom. Fracking technology has released abundant oil and gas stored in shale deposits. The amazing paradox of the domestic fossil-fuels boom has been overwhelming destructive federal government policy. The U.S.Oil boom driven by private investment and ingenuity has transformed North American oil markets. The International Energy Agency estimates that America will surpass Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s largest oil producers by 2015.

Oddly, in the midst of an energy boom, U.S. electricity prices have skyrocketed to new highs. This paradox is not a result of the free market, but of runaway “green” regulation by the government. In November, the BLS Electricity Price Index hit 202.284, an all-time record high nearly 20% higher than just six  years ago. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2008 the U.S. produced 2.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. Today, it’s 12.3 billion cubic feet and growing fast. But as energy booms, electricity prices are going up as well.

What is at work here is the green movement’s moral beliefs about what kinds of energy are “good.” Wind and solar power, which are “morally pure” cannot exist without generous governmental (taxpayer) subsidy. Wind and sunshine are of course free, but as producers of electricity, very expensive. The wind is intermittent and must be backed up 24/7 by conventional power, and the wind may not blow for days at a time. The sun goes down at night, and only shines in the day when the clouds don’t cover it. Trust me, I live in the Seattle area. We call the occasional appearances of the sun “sun-breaks.”

Electricity is now one of the most regulated goods in the U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency has sweeping powers to regulate CO2 — a power not found anywhere in the Constitution, electricity has become even more expensive, and will get more so. The EPA’s new rules, put in place to pander to the environmental movement will remove 34,705 megawatts of coal-based energy capacity off the market. This will increase electricity prices and the cost of everything where electricity is used.

This is a de facto ban on all new coal-fired power plants in spite of the fact that coal produces a third of all electricity in the country due to its cheap coast and plentiful supply.  Despite the fact that CO2 levels are falling in the U.S., not rising, and despite the fact that the earth is cooling, not warming, as it has been for the last 17 years.

The demonization of coal and other fossil fuels means that utilities must shut coal-fired plants, and replace them with more costly energy sources like wind and solar. This is an enormous hidden energy tax, levied on every individual and every business — killing jobs and adding to the unemployment rolls.

Chicago political rules mean you must reward your financial supporters. The environmental movement is flush with money, wind and solar are awash with crony capitalism, and besides, the cost of higher electric bills will be borne by taxpayers.

Of course higher electricity bills on top of higher grocery bills, higher cost health insurance and higher cost of medical care may seem unreasonable. When confronted with a problem, Democrats first reaction is to make a law, to regulate. But that’s where the whole problem came from in the first place — excessive regulation.

Ironically, the very success of economic and  political freedom reduced its appeal to later thinkers. The narrowly limited government of the late nineteenth century possessed little concentrated power that endangered the ordinary man. The other side of the coin was that it possessed little power that would enable good people to do good.  And in an imperfect world there were still many evils. Indeed, the very progress of society made the residual evils seem all the more objectionable. As always people took the favorable developments for granted. They forgot the danger to freedom from a strong government. Instead, they were attracted by the good that a stronger government could achieve — if only government power were in the “right” hands.
…………………Milton and Rose Friedman: Free to Choose



The Great Summing Up by The Elephant's Child

I always hate the week between Christmas and New Years. The Media does the “Great Summing Up.” Lists and rankings, best and worst, biggest news stories, best photos, most notable deaths, the best books, the worst books, the funniest cartoons and the best and worst movies. These are not exactly think pieces.

The American Dream is dying, or dead. Things are really bad and only getting worse. The Least Productive Congress in History? The Do-Nothing Congress has been good for America, and if they pass few new laws, we can breathe slightly more easily.  Congress passed just 70 laws, which may be too many. But Obama and Congressional Democrats planned an array of Big Government initiatives — gun control, immigration reform, a higher minimum wage, more job creation, infrastructure (again!), climate change, and education, to name only a few. Congress ended the year with none of those initiatives signed into law. And we are far better for it. No major tax hike, and the probability of a major tax hike in the next year has fallen.

Congress’ approval rating fell to a new low in a November Gallup poll at 9%, and 72% of Americans agreed that “big government” was the nation’s Number One threat. That is an encouraging opinion.

It used to be that a limited government with only modest aims was the guiding principle of nearly every Congressman. Until some sanity is restored to Congress, gridlock may be the best thing we can hope for. A year spent thoughtfully repealing useless laws, wretched excess, and governmental duplication would do us a world of good.

Markets have been encouraged by governmental inaction. Businessmen are not quite so frightened about what government might do next. In 2013, the growth oriented NASDAQ has surged 40%. Markets look six months to a year on down the road.

The EPA is facing real questions about just what ‘science’ they are relying on in their push for power and control. They are backing off their attempt to require 15% corn ethanol in gasoline, which will save many cars and all sorts of small engines. Inaction from the EPA would be a real boon to the economy.

The Democratic majority is running scared from the ObamaCare disaster and its potential influence on the 2014 election. The President is not going to win back the approval of the American people easily. The economy might survive after all. Let’s hear it for gridlock, and root for another do-nothing year in the nation’s capitol.




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