American Elephants

Four Years of FOIA Requests, Four Years of Benghazi Hearings by The Elephant's Child


The WordPress wayback machine reminded me of three posts about Benghazi: From December 19, 2012 concerning the Accountability Review Board study of the Benghazi affair. “The Report on Benghazi Came In, All Over, Nothing to See Here, Just Move Along

May 8, 2012: “The Benghazi Hearings. It Matters a Lot

May 18, 2013: Spin, Spin, Spin

Not just a reminder of how long Congress has been trying to find out why four Americans were killed in Benghazi, but why the administration lied to the American people about it, and why they have tried so hard to cover up. “Most transparent administration in history” indeed!

Perhaps you have noticed that the Republicans in Congress are arguing about their goals and what they can accomplish in the face of an administration that is firmly set against their accomplishing anything. This is portrayed by the media as ‘chaos’ and ‘weakness’ and ‘disorganization’ but it is not any such thing. It’s the way things are supposed to work.

When the Founders were first setting up a new, independent, country they were determined to set us free from an over-controlling government. They sought power, not for themselves, but for the American people. All kinds of battles have been fought over the centuries by people trying to win some privilege from their government. The Founders skipped all that and gave the government to the people.

That was and remains the most daring act in the history of government, and it makes all the difference. They did everything they could think of to slow government down, to provide for fighting and disagreement over what laws to pass. We are supposed to argue and fight, and discuss and eventually reach a satisfactory compromise.

Progressives, the certified smart people, have never really understood that. They basically believe that they should be running things, that the American people are stupid or they would be supporting the right of Progressives to rule. That’s why they march in lockstep, use the same words to describe their ideas, promise to give the people extravagant gifts like free college tuition, free healthcare (that’s working out well), equality for all, and let the rich pay for everything. Trouble is that all the billions of the billionaires is not enough. Or as Margaret Thatcher famously remarked “Sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.”

That’s why Progressives hate free speech, want to confiscate your guns, nationalize education, eliminate state’s rights, and eliminate the Republican Party which has the gall to oppose their ideas. That’s why they can’t win elections without vote fraud, why they import illegal aliens to skew population numbers, register them to vote, convince minorities that voter ID is a Republican trick to keep them from voting. And now, why they want to release large numbers of criminals from prison. It’s the Fox Butterfield Fallacy.

Progressives do not play fair, though they talk about “fairness” a lot. They are zealots on a grand mission, they are going to legislate social justice and social equality. They believe that if they can accumulate enough money and enough power, they can make the glorious future work. That it has been tried many times before and failed doesn’t phase them, for when they do it it will be different. I don’t think your ordinary run-of-the-mill Democrats are actually aware of all that. They know that the  Democrat Party cares about them, and Republicans are mean, which is presently proved by their partisan attack on Hillary.

The Benghazi Hearings by The Elephant's Child

151023112135-hillary-clinton-benghazi-hand-large-169Democrats are crowing today, apparently because Hillary escaped the inquisition from the “vast right-wing conspiracy” without any major gaffes or self-indictment. She’s off the hook, we’re back in the game? But Hillary’s testimony requires a little more thought than the lap-dog media is accustomed to giving to much of anything. It is perhaps too soon to be crowing.

Smoking gun? The presence of a server in her home, the attempts to hide it, to prevent anyone seeing any email at all, speak volumes. In the absence of recorded or filmed conversations, emails are the most solid evidence we can have. Why was she not conducting business on State Department security approved computers and devices? Federal law requires official communications to be preserved. The object is a clean and transparent government responsive to the citizens they serve. At one point Barack Obama promised the most transparent administration in history—but that was then and this is now.

We do have a problem with the federal bureaucracy. Individuals of varied degrees of competency and experience are appointed by the President and approved by Congress to head one of the departments of the administration, which means they are walking into an organization that is humming along in some fashion, and take over. Be in charge, direct its operations, and be responsible for its actions.

The State Department has its own peculiarities. We do have Ambassadors in most countries, but apparently the boss is supposed to spend their time visiting lots of countries, particularly the more difficult ones and make progress in some fashion. The culture of the State Department emphasizes diplomacy (which seems to be defined as “keep talking”) above anything else. State has long been accused of being weak on security — going back to when they had the Soviets build their new embassy in Moscow, and the KGB built listening devices right into the walls of every room. So it is indeed possible that when Hillary got her instructions on how the department works, security was not emphasized. But—as we are constantly reminded, she was FLOTUS, and one of the two senators from New York (safe Democrat seat) and in the White House and in the Senate, security is a constant concern. That she was unaware of any need for careful security is beyond belief. And why did she have her own private server in her home anyway?

But here is Hillary’s problem. She was Secretary of State, not just a title to advance one’s career, but the executive officer of a large organization, in charge. The successes or failures of the department are her responsibility, and go to her credit or her dismissal in disgrace.

And there’s the rub. The entire investigation into Benghazi is not, as the lapdog press claims, a political attack on Hillary. Our Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens; his Information Officer Sean Smith; and two brave CIA contractors, former Seals, who were trying to save the Americans under attack were all killed by the attacking jihadists. Ambassador Stevens had written 600 requests for more security. In the hearing, Clinton was asked about an email from Stevens written in early September.

Clinton claimed to believe that Chris Stevens was joking when he asked about security at the Benghazi compound. It was certainly the hearing’s most bizarre moment: “Well, Congresswoman, one of the great attributes that Chris Stevens had was a really good sense of humor and I just see him smiling as he’s typing this because it’s clearly in response to the e-mail down below talking about picking up a few ‘fire sale items from the Brits’,” she told Brooks.

The “fire sale items” were barricades left behind by the British, who were leaving Benghazi because it was unsafe.

Clinton claimed that she never saw Stevens’ requests for more security as such things were passed on to the “security professionals.” Excuse me. As head of the department, it is her job to know about such things and if subordinates did not inform her, they should be promptly fired.

Contrary to her claims of having done “everything’ possible, the gentle manner of Rep. Lynn Westmoreland was disarming. He forced Clinton to admit that she decided not to send the FES (Foreign Emergency Support) team to rescue the Americans in Benghazi.

The night of the attack, September 11, 2012, Hillary knew the compound was under attack, knew that the two CIA contractors were pinned down under attack and calling for backup and help. She brushed that off as something for “the security professionals”and went home and went to bed.

She emailed Chelsea that night and told her that the ambassador was under terrorist attack, but by the next morning, the attack was the spontaneous result of a poorly-made video criticizing Islam. When the bodies were brought home, Hillary told the parents that they would make the video-maker pay for his crime. She had called the prime minister of Egypt on September 12, to tell him that the video was not responsible. Susan Rice went on the rounds of the Sunday shows to blame an ugly video that criticized the Prophet.

To be very clear, the administration lied to the shocked American people, lied to the victim’s parents, but knew from the very first that it was an attack by approximately 100 –150 supporters of Ansar al Sharia — al Qaeda affiliates. The president was campaigning for reelection, claiming that al Qaeda was dead and General Motors was alive. (He’d taken care of the terrorists, and revived the economy)

The story about Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty  is still not clear. The account in Wikipedia does not jibe with what I remember hearing at the time. The backup that they requested was ready to embark, and was told to stand down. The general who prepared to rescue them was subsequently removed, but who did or said what is still a mystery to perhaps be discovered by more Freedom of Information requests. They have been filed constantly ever since 2012.

The reason it has dragged on so long is the refusal of the State Department to provide the emails that have begun to clarify what actually happened and why. Can’t find them. Must be lost. Haven’t found any yet. Then a few trickle out. A great flood of several thousand emails from Ambassador Stevens was delivered just two days before the hearings. That’s how the game is played in our nation’s capitol.

Hillary was forced to make several damning revelations during hours of sworn testimony. Here are nine of them.
The hearing was about politics, Hillary’s politics.. How her politics trumped competence in office.
There were 8 major warnings before the Benghazi terror attacks.
She Knew All Along” from the Wall Street Journal.
— “Still Waiting for the Truth,” The Weekly Standard
Obama administration officials, with the awareness of the Sec. of State, were involved in violating a ban on arming Syrian rebels. The news media is aiding them in covering up the Benghazi to Syria arms transfers.
— “Hillary Owns the War in Libya (And Its Horrible Aftermath)

Don’t forget, Hillary is an old hand at this kind of thing, lots of hearings with tough questions over the years.

Secretary of State John Kerry (Sigh!) Tackles Climate Change by The Elephant's Child

John-Kerry-84pngSecretary of State John Kerry spoke yesterday at the opening session of the Climate and Clean Energy Investment Forum. He said:

There is no doubt in my mind that how we confront climate change will certainly be one of two of the defining issues of our generation and perhaps the defining issue of our generation because of the stakes — the other being the rise of radical extremism, sectarianism and the failure of states simultaneously surrounding it, and vast populations of young people needing jobs instead of mind-bending theories of false assumptions about Islam and other things.

Both are gigantic challenges. But thankfully, the solution to this particular challenge, climate change, is actually just as simple as the realization that it is the challenge that it is. … It is, put quite simply, energy policy—clean energy choices. …

So it’s becoming even more clear with every record-breaking drought, every record-breaking flood, every hottest month ever announcement, or every year – hottest year that we live through, with every peer-reviewed study that details the catastrophe that climate change could unleash and, frankly, that we’re seeing already in certain places. The canary in the gold mine – in the coal mine indicators, which are many in various parts of the world, particularly the Arctic, Antarctic, and in some other places – they all begin to detail the catastrophe that climate change has the potential to unleash.  …

Now, decades of science tell us that unless we make that transition, we are facing irreversible impacts to infrastructure, food production, water supply, sea level, ecosystems, and potentially to human life itself on this planet. And the wakeup call is not new. Year after year, the science has been screaming at us. And as time goes on, we are seeing the warning cries of climate change, frankly, rising all over the world. The past decade was the hottest on record; the one before that, the second-hottest on record; the one before that, the third-hottest on record. Nineteen of the 20 hottest years in history have occurred in the past two decades.

I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but that is a total load of leftist propaganda. There’s not a word of truth in his entire speech.

The Clean Power Plan is one of the most controversial mandates ever to be attempted. The issue of “Climate Change” is intended to destroy capitalism. The American power sector’s CO2 emissions are now at their lowest level since 1998. The Arctic and Antarctic sea ice melts in the summer and grows in the winter, and is growing more extensive rather than receding. The expected reductions in CO2 emissions from the Clean Power Plan would reduce global temperatures by about 0.03 degrees Celsius by 2100.

Theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson is now retired, but he was a professor of physics at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton — and one of the world’s great minds. “Climate change,” he says,” is not a scientific mystery but a human mystery. How does it happen that a whole generation of scientific experts is blind to obvious facts?”

I’m 100 per cent Democrat myself, and I like Obama. But he took the wrong side on this issue, and the Republicans took the right side,

What has happened in the past 10 years is that the discrepancies between what’s observed and what’s predicted have become much stronger,” he said. “It’s clear now the models are wrong, but it wasn’t so clear 10 years ago.

To any unprejudiced person reading this account, the facts should be obvious: that the non-climatic effects of carbon dioxide as a sustainer of wildlife and crop plants are enormously beneficial, that the possibly harmful climatic effects of carbon dioxide have been greatly exaggerated, and that the benefits clearly outweigh the possible damage.”

Nobel laureate Ivar Glaever also said that President Obama’s statements on global warming are”dead wrong.” “I think Obama is a clever person, but he gets bad advice. Global warming is all wet” he said in a speech to scientists from 90 countries on July 1 at the 85th annual Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau, Germany.

Kerry added “I mean, it’s incomprehensible that a grownup who has been to high school and college in the United States of America disqualifies themselves because they’re not a scientist when they’ve learned that the Earth rotates on its axis but they’re not a scientist, where they’ve learned that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west and it does so 24 hours a day, and you can run the list of things that we know science tells us happens, and we accept it every single day.”

That makes it pretty clear that John Kerry has never investigated the science of climate change at all, but just accepted Democrat talking points as gospel.

Whatever Bad Thing is Happening is Caused by Climate Change! by The Elephant's Child

In the Democrat Debate in Las Vegas, the candidates were asked what is the greatest crisis facing America? A little Middle East, and more of income inequality, but for Bernie Sanders  it was Climate Change. I’m becoming convinced that Progressives, or Socialists in Bernie’s case, get all of their information from Progressive talking points.

Our colleges and universities have insisted that they are teaching our children “critical thinking” which seems to mean the progressive line. This has widely been called “the Information Age” — which refers more to volume than quality. But where is the help in managing the flow?

There was a time when we had 3 major networks, but not only has that expanded, but the sources of information have exploded. Newspapers may be dying, but they are moving online, and with a few keystrokes I can access any newspaper in the world, most in English. There is social media, and Twitter for instantaneous information, far more than anyone has the time to pursue — yet we are told that a significant number of people get their news from late night comedy shows.

It seems to me to be essential to teach our kids how to manage information. How do you determine which websites are honest and reliable? The ‘fact checkers’ have not been either reliable or helpful. When you have a debate among candidates for the presidency of the United States and one of those candidates announces that the greatest crisis facing Americans is climate change, and that we must act because our grandchildren will face an uninhabitable world, what are you supposed to think?

Susan Rice, President Obama’s national security adviser, just announced that the mess in Syria is caused by Climate Change.

The president himself scoffed at Vladimir Putin’s adventures in Syria and said his own efforts on climate change were more important leadership for the world.

Where does this panic about the climate come from? I haven’t noticed anything out of the ordinary actually occurring. California has a drought, as they have had many times in the past. South Carolina just got a lot of rain and floods, but it’s not even a 100 year event. Hurricanes are down in number and severity.

According to the satellite data, we have had no warming in the past 18 years and 8 months. Dangerous climate change exists only in computer programs that attempt to model the climate and predict the future. But we don’t know enough about our present climate to be predicting the future. We are just learning that the surface of the ocean has effects on clouds that we don’t understand, and for that matter we don’t have any understanding of just how clouds affect climate. The ocean is rising by millimeters, not inches or feet, and those with waterfront lots don’t need to worry for a century or two.

Progressives ignore science completely in their fear of genetically modified crops (GMOs). According to the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association and countless other well qualified international bodies there is no peer-reviewed scientific evidence that GMO crops are unfit for human consumption in any way.

Are we doomed to simply get dumber each year as our sources of information increase? To know less and less about how to separate fact and fiction? Scary indeed.

Samuel Eliot Morrison: “Admiral of the Ocean Sea” by The Elephant's Child

History_Ask_History_Did_Columbus_Really_Discover_America_SF_still_624x352How about we just call this “Make Fun Of History Day?” Or ‘I feel so superior because we don’t do the bad thing that our ancestors used to do.’ Tear down the Jefferson Memorial because Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. Destroy his statues!  End history.  This is beyond silly. History is what actually happened. Our knowledge of what went on in another time is limited to the writings of the time. Slavery, at the time, was simply an accepted custom, as was indenture. Teachers were often indentured servants, as were others with little money and needed skills. We look back at the institution of slavery now and realize that it was a horror for those who were enslaved, but that is our mores or customs of today.

Some day in the future, people may find our dangerous way of driving cars on freeways with so many accidents hard to understand. It’s not our business to judge the past, only to learn from it. Besides, if Jefferson had not done anything else, the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark Expedition alone make him worthy of that beautiful memorial.

So pay no attention to those trying to rewrite history. Here’s an excerpt from Samuel Eliot Morrison’s biography of Christopher Columbus Admiral of the Ocean Seas: A Life of Christopher Columbus. Learn a little about him instead.

At the end of 1492 most men in Western Europe felt exceedingly gloomy about the future. Christian civilization appeared to be shrinking in area and dividing into hostile units as its sphere contracted. For over a century there had been no important advance in natural science and registration in the universities dwindled as the instruction they offered became increasingly jejune and lifeless. Institutions were decaying, well-meaning people were growing cynical or desperate, and many intelligent men, for want of something better to do, were endeavoring to escape the present through studying the pagan past. . . .

Yet, even as the chroniclers of Nuremberg were correcting their proofs from Koberger’s press, a Spanish caravel named Nina scudded before a winter gale into Lisbon with news of a discovery that was to give old Europe another chance. In a few years we find the mental picture completely changed. Strong monarchs are stamping out privy conspiracy and rebellion; the Church, purged and chastened by the Protestant Reformation, puts her house in order; new ideas flare up throughout Italy, France, Germany and the northern nations; faith in God revives and the human spirit is renewed. The change is complete and startling: “A new envisagement of the world has begun, and men are no longer sighing after the imaginary golden age that lay in the distant past, but speculating as to the golden age that might possibly lie in the oncoming future.”

Christopher Columbus belonged to an age that was past, yet he became the sign and symbol of this new age of hope, glory and accomplishment. His medieval faith impelled him to a modern solution: Expansion.

Thanks to Instapundit for the excerpt.

Chicago Has Had 16 Mass Shootings This Year. The President Didn’t Notice. by The Elephant's Child

President Obama does not intend to be restrained by custom, regulation or Constitution. When a 26 year old student fatally shot nine people and injured nine others on campus, then killed himself, President Obama announced that any such incident should be politicized, and promptly ordered the nation’s news media to politicize it.

He has flown to Roseburg, Oregon to commiserate with the families. I don’t know if having the president there to sympathize helps any, but it is a dreadful tragedy, and I’m sure the president wants to help.

The President’s home town, Chicago, has had 16 mass shootings this year, 48 since 2013 A mass-shooting is categorized as when 4 or more people are wounded in a single shooting incident, but there is no official government database or definition of a “mass shooting” though the FBI defines a “mass murder” as 4 or more victims killed.

The shootings that don’t spark national debates are the ones in inner cities, where the shootings are often categorized as gang-related and the victims are poor minorities. In other words: the ones that happen in Chicago.

Professor James Alan Fox, who co-wrote “Mass Shootings In America,” said there are several key characteristics of inner-city mass shootings that distinguish them from the ones that tend to garner national attention.

For one, the shooter’s profiles are different, Fox said. Their motives are different, too: In urban areas, the violence often stems from interpersonal disputes and criminal activity, Fox said.

“It’s crooks killing crooks,” he said of inner-city violence. “It seems like, in school shootings, the victims are more innocent.”

“Chicago has strict gun control laws, so there is no political capital to be harvested by paying attention to mass shootings there.”

(h/t: Thomas Lifson, American Thinker)

Government Workers Make 78 Percent More Than Their Counterparts In The Private Sector by The Elephant's Child


Annoyance or Last Straw? The federal government employs 2.1 million civilian workers in an uncountable (new ones pop up all the time) number of agencies or offices  across the nation. “This federal workforce imposes a substantial burden on American taxpayers.” says the CATO Institute. “In 2015 wages and benefits for executive branch civilian workers will cost more than $260 billion,”

Since the 1990s, federal workers have enjoyed faster compensation growth than private-sector workers. In 2014 federal workers earned 78 percent more, on average, than private-sector workers. Federal workers earned 43 percent more, on average, than state and local government workers. The federal government has become an elite island of secure and high-paid employment, separated from the ocean of average Americans competing in the economy.
After the “Worst recession since the Great Depression” as Obama always claims for his excuse, after more than six years of economic “recovery,” the middle class is worse off than at the end of the Great Recession in 2009. The number of working age people not in the workforce is over 92,000,000.

In 2014 federal civilian workers had an average wage of $84,153, according the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). By comparison, the average wage for the nation’s 111 million private-sector workers was $56,350. …

The BEA data can be broken down by industry. Among 21 major sectors that span the U.S. economy, the federal government has the fourth highest paid workers after only utilities, mining, and management of companies.6 Federal compensation is higher, on average, than compensation in the information industry, finance and insurance, and professional and scientific industries.
The federal government has the fourth highest paid workers after only utilities, mining, and company management. Federal compensation is higher on average than compensation in the information industry, finance and insurance, and professional and scientific industries.
Rising federal compensation stems from legislated increases in general pay, increases in locality pay, expansions in benefits, and growth in the number of high-paid jobs as bureaucracies become more top-heavy. Compensation growth is also fueled by routine adjustments that move federal workers into higher salary brackets regardless of performance, and by federal jobs that are redefined upward into higher pay ranges.
The little dip in the blue line of rising federal wages is the recent partial pay freeze. The chart above includes benefits such as health care and pensions, which makes the advantage over private sector workers even larger. The level of compensation does not represent the nation’s highest skilled workers, but the security of working for the government. (The quit rate for the federal government is ¼ of the rate for the private sector. Security and generous benefits.)

The benefits package is overly generous. Jobs should be privatized wherever possible. It is the nature of a bureaucracy to grow. Congress has shoved way too much of the task of lawmaking off to federal agencies — easy example: the sloppy designation of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act (congressmen weren’t sure what they meant so they left it to the EPA and other agencies to figure it out, This has resulted in a power grab perhaps unrivaled in the history of bureaucracies.) And there is SEIU, the Service Employees International Union. If you can manage the time, do read the whole thing. It should affect your vote.


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