American Elephants


Addressing the Administrative State: Drain the Swamp by The Elephant's Child

After a year of impressive accomplishment, in spite of “the resistance”, Kimberly Strassel at the Wall Street Journal is offering ” A Big Beautiful Trump 2018 Issue: Civil Service Reform.” Send your message of approval to the White House! The Journal has a pay barrier, but Instapundit has the essentials.

Let 2018 be the year of civil-service reform—a root-and-branch overhaul of the government itself. Call it Operation Drain the Swamp.

When Candidate Trump first referred to “the swamp,” he was talking about the bog of Beltway lobbyists and “establishment” politicians. But President Trump’s first year in office has revealed that the real swamp is the unchecked power of those who actually run Washington: the two million members of the federal bureaucracy. That civil-servant corps was turbocharged by the Obama administration’s rule-making binge, and it now has more power—and more media enablers—than ever. We live in an administrative state, run by a left-leaning, self-interested governing class that is actively hostile to any president with a deregulatory or reform agenda.

It’s Lois Lerner, the IRS official who used her powers to silence conservative nonprofits. It’s the “anonymous” officials who leak national-security secrets daily. It’s the General Services Administration officials who turned over Trump transition emails to Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the absence of a warrant. It’s the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Leandra English, who tried to stage an agency coup. It’s the EPA’s “Scientific Integrity Official” who has taken it upon herself to investigate whether Scott Pruitt is fit to serve in the office to which he was duly appointed. It’s the thousands of staffers across the federal government who continue to pump out reports on global warming and banking regulations that undermine administration policy.

More broadly, it is a federal workforce whose pay and benefits are completely out of whack with the private sector. A 2011 American Enterprise Institute study found federal employees receive wages 14% higher than what similar workers in the private sector earn. Factor in benefits and the compensation premium leaps to 61%. Nice, huh?

Here’s a website that offers information on federal pay and benefits. It does not seem to be an official government website, but offers information for those who wish to become government employees. Do follow the link to Instapundit and read and save the invaluable Ms. Strassel’s invaluable piece.

We live in an administrative state, run by a left-leaning, self-interested governing class that is actively hostile to any president with a deregulatory or reform agenda.

You might consider reading Philip Hamburger’s recent book “Is Administrative Law Unlawful? Philip Hamburger is a leading scholar on the Constitution and a Professor of Law at Columbia University.

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Common Sense is Not Anywhere as Common as Assumed by The Elephant's Child

Mitch Daniels, President of Purdue University, had an excellent article in the Washington Post last Wednesday about GMO foods. The campaign against GMO foods he says, is the kind of foolishness that only rich societies can afford to indulge.

Of the several claims of “anti-science” that clutter our national debates these days, none can be more flagrantly clear than the campaign against modern agricultural technology, most specifically the use of molecular techniques to create genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Here, there are no credibly conflicting studies, no arguments about the validity of computer models, no disruption of an ecosystem nor any adverse human health or even digestive problems, after 5 billion acres have been cultivated cumulatively and trillions of meals consumed.

And yet a concerted, deep-pockets campaign, as relentless as it is baseless, has persuaded a high percentage of Americans and Europeans to avoid GMO products, and to pay premium prices for “non-GMO” or “organic” foods that may in some cases be less safe and less nutritious. Thank goodness the toothpaste makers of the past weren’t cowed so easily; the tubes would have said “No fluoride inside!” and we’d all have many more cavities.

The article is an excellent plea for a little common sense. Mitch Daniels points out that suggesting that the poor in developing countries should fear GMO foods is not just wrong, but immoral. The story of the Green Revolution and the work of Norman Borlaug who should be one of the great heroes of the world should be taught in school.  Golden Rice is a variety of rice (Oryza sativa)  produced through genetic engineering (there are the ‘scary’ words) to biosynthesize beta-carotene in the edible parts of rice. It is intended to produce a fortified food to be grown and consumed in areas where there is a shortage of dietary vitamin A, a deficiency which is estimated to kill 670,000 children under the age of 5 each year.

This is a broad problem of political and scientific ignorance. Ilya Somin of the Volokh Conspiracy added his views on the problem.He links to Reason science writer Ron Bailey and William Saletan of Slate. The basic problem of ignorance is heightened by the very words “genetically engineered” which sound, to the ignorant, really scary. Ilya Somin notes that a 2012 National Science  Foundation survey found that about 25% of Americans don’t know that the Earth revolves around the sun rather than visa versa. There’s a lot about basic knowledge in Ilya Somin’s article that certainly suggests that we have a major problem with our schools. Do read that whole thing too.

I would suggest though, that much of the problem exists because of our grocery stores. Food producers are concerned with their marketing, and inclined to cater to any possible fears of the consumer. Hence you have “low sodium” products, “sugar-free,” “low-fat,” and “No GMO products” among others on every can or carton in the store. If everyone is telling you that GMO is a bad thing, pretty soon you’ll start to believe it.

Another article by Ilya Somin explains the problem of mandatory government warnings where the state of Florida required producers of skim milk that does not contain added vitamins to label it as “imitation milk” which it of course is not. The European Union has imposed mandatory labeling of GMO foods, even though there are no dangers involved. Read the comments on Mitch Daniels’ fine essay. You might wonder if perhaps Leftism is just a cult.



The Trials and Tribulations of American Elephants by The Elephant's Child


Aside from being exhausted from all the Christmas preparation and execution, I managed to poison my cat. She shares the general markings of this cat, but it is not a picture of her, and honest, I didn’t do it on purpose.

We got some ornamental plants for Christmas, and I left one on the kitchen table while trying to find a stand for it, and Scarlett took a bite. I removed cat from table, shut her in the bathroom to sleep it off, where she has a basket, kitty litter, drinking water and peace and quiet.

When I went to check, she had decorated the entire bathroom except for the ceiling and medicine cabinet with the most spectacular case of diarrhea ever seen. Called the after hours vet, got the number for animal poison control, looked up the plant online.

The online sources I found were mostly neither comprehensive nor authoritative. Called poison control, they said $65 please, here’s your case# and take her to your vet in the morning and your vet can call this number.

She got shots, one an opioid for the pain which has made her really loopy, and there we are. She’ll be loopy for at least another day or two. Setback for her treatment for gastrointestinal problems. Another $200+

Why, you might ask did I call a black cat Scarlett? First page of Gone With the Wind, + the fact that she’s a real bitch. My other cat is twice her size and is daily reminded that Scarlett rules the roost, and it to be obeyed at all times. Such is life among the elephants.

ADDENDUM: The picture of the cat who was not mine prompted a memory of another cat story from 2010, memorable because it was hysterically funny. Comic relief to my day. It’s the story of “Missing Missy, “which may not even be true, but worth reading the whole thing because it gets funnier and funnier. It went viral at the time.



ISIS Has Lost 98 Percent of The Territory It Once Held by The Elephant's Child

ISIS has lost 98 percent of the territory is once held. The so-called Caliphate has been dramatically reduced. The big gains come after years of micromanaging of the war, and the rejection of a more aggressive strategy that could have shortened the conflict. Obama was very concerned that he might be blamed  for civilian deaths, and his rules of engagement were onerous. Individual target determination was being done in the White House, which added weeks and weeks of time. The limitations actually resulted in greater civilian casualties according to retired Air Force Lt. General David Deptula, the former head of U.S. Air Force Intelligence.

The latest American intelligence assessment says there are fewer than 1,000 ISIS fighters remaining in Iraq and Syria—down from a peak of nearly 45,000 just two years ago.

U.S. officials credit nearly 30,000 U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and regional partners on the ground for killing more than 70,000 jihadists. Meanwhile, only a few thousand have returned home.

The remaining ISIS strongholds are concentrated in a small area along the border of Syria and Iraq. ISIS, at one point, controlled an area the size of Ohio.

While ISIS has been largely defeated, it continues to call on followers around the world to conduct terror attacks during the holidays with a new message sprouting up on Tuesday, and a suicide attack in Kabul on Christmas with ISIS claiming responsibility. It’s part of the terror group’s effort to expand influence into Africa and Afghanistan. The U.S. envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition warned late last week not to expect a complete defeat anytime soon.

The remaining ISIS strongholds are concentrated on the border between Iraq and Syria. ISIS once controlled an area the size of Ohio. They are continuing to call on followers around the world to conduct terror attacks during the holidays. Deptula said the fight with ISIS could have ended much sooner if President Obama had given his commanders in the field more authority. “He micromanaged the war.” Deptula said. “We could have accomplished our objectives through overwhelming air poser in three months, not in three years.”

Al- Qaeda has apparently reappeared in Syria according to Joshua Geltzer , a visiting professor at Georgetown Law School, and author of  “U.S. Counter-Terrorism Strategy and al-Qaeda: Signalling and the Terrorist World-View.” The center for al-Qaeda now seems to be in Syria, not Afghanistan. There is progress, but the threat of terrorism is still intact.

ADDENDUM: John Hinderaker reports at Powerline that Radio Farda is reporting that demonstrations have broken out across Iran, “against high unemployment, a stagnant economy with inflationary prices and expensive overseas military interventions are spreading unpredictably fast in several cities.”

On Friday, protests spread to Kermanshah in the west, Tehran, Esfahan in central Iran, Rasht in the north, Ahvaz in the southwest and even Qom, the religious capital of Shiite clergy in Iran.

Some of the protesters, at least, chanted for a return of “Reza Shah,” the dynasty that was overthrown by the mullahs in 1979.



Saving a Historic Tree at the White House. by The Elephant's Child

The headline in Newsweek magazine read “Melania Trump orders removal of the near-200-year old tree from the White House.” Misleading headline ripe for seeming to be an attack on the First Lady.

The huge Jackson Magnolia, reportedly planted by President Andrew Jackson from a sprout at his Tennessee home two hundred years ago, has become badly damaged and the steel cables that hold it up are failing. Like other living things, trees get old and die.

Experts at the National Arboretum said the tree needs to be radically trimmed. Melania Trump reviewed the findings and agreed to the cutback. She noted that visitors and journalists often stand under the tree during White House events, especially during the liftoff of Marine One.  The wood from the tree will be preserved, and the White House groundskeepers have been growing offshoots of the tree that are now somewhere around eight to ten feet tall. One of those seedlings will eventually be planted in place of the historic tree.

There’s a lesson here about headlines, and some credit due to Melania Trump who ordered the right thing in response to expert opinion. Here’s the tree in 1918.

 



Unleashing the Power of American Freedom and Innovation by The Elephant's Child

It wasn’t that long ago that Democrats and the mainstream media (but I repeat myself) were moaning about how businesses were hoarding cash and buying back stock instead of investing. The talking points were all about “Corporate Greed.” Bernie Sanders was all about “trickle-down economics,” a dumb slur that goes back to 1981 and the Reagan Revolution that lowered taxes for everyone, but particularly for corporations that, like today’s, were the highest in the world, and real brakes on the economy. Reagan lowered corporate taxes dramatically and set off a 20 year boom.

Democrats are sure that corporations are evil entities that prey on the people by trying to make a profit. If they weren’t so greedy, then everything would be more affordable, and the people would be happier. If you can’t make a Democrat understand that if corporations do not make a profit, they cease to exist—you’re not going to make much headway with the Trump Revolution.

Once again, American corporate taxes are the highest in the world, and it really harms their ability to compete. Add to that the over-regulation of the Obama administration, and you have the explanation for why the Trump tax cuts and reversal of unneeded regulation has corporations poised to expand and invest with a vengeance. AT&T will increase its U.S, investments next year by $1 billion, pay a $1,000 bonus to some 200,000 employees. Comcast, explicitly citing tax reform and the FCC decision to end net-neutrality, pledged a $1,000 bonus to about 100,000 employees and vowed to invest “well in excess” of $50 billion over five years.

Boeing said the new law “boosts Boeing’s competitiveness” and will move up an additional $300 million of investments, dedicating $100 million to corporate giving; $100 million for worker development; and $100 million to enhance the company’s facilities.

Why are corporations giving bonuses or raising pay levels? Because we are already reaching very low levels of unemployment as business expands, and they will need to compete for good employees by offering incentives. Democrats assume that an incentive is when the wise people in government tell corporations what extra they must do for their customers, like Obama’s requirement that Pizza parlors list all of their ingredients on a visible sign with the calorie count for each. (um, people who are counting calories don’t buy pizza).

Wells Fargo and Fifth Third Bancorp said they would increase their minimum wage to $15 an hour, and Fifth Third is throwing in a $1,000 bonus for hourly workers. Nexus Services is giving a 5% pay raise to its employees and hiring 200 more.

Democrats remain sure that it’s all about tax cuts for the rich, and have been shrieking that for months, and the negative media spin has indeed resulted in poor opinion poll numbers. People have been told over and over that they tax cuts only go to rich people and everybody else will suffer. Yet well over 80% of the people will receive a cut in their taxes.

Europe is worried. The tax reform passed in Washington this week is a challenge to Europe’s big taxers. This opens a new competitive war with Europe’s high-taxing governments. The bill cuts the top federal corporate rate to 21% from 35% which brings down the average effective rate including state and local taxes down to about 23% from around 29%. This also creates incentives for European companies to invest in America. German executives will wonder why they should build their next factory in Germany with a 31% effective corporate rate + more troublesome labor regulations and an aging population. This is a big shock to the European system.

Republicans don’t do a good job of explaining what tax cuts mean and why they work, but assume that other Republicans will understand and celebrate. I believe that most people could not tell you how much they paid in taxes last year— without looking it up. They have their taxes withheld, and pay no attention to the pay slip, and just turn the whole thing over to their tax guy and put it away in a file. Who wants to think about taxes? When the government takes less, America is set free to innovate, create and grow.



“Climate Change” Will No Longer be a National Security Threat by The Elephant's Child


The Trump administration will reverse course from the Obama administration policy which considered climate change a national security threat. The new National Security Strategy to be released on Monday will balance the idea of energy security with economic development and environmental protection.

“U.S. leadership is indispensable to countering an anti-growth, energy agenda that is detrimental to U.S. economic and energy security interests. Given future global energy demand, much of the developing world will require fossil fuels, as well as other forms of energy, to power their economies and lift their people out of poverty.” a draft of the National Security Strategy said.

President Obama made climate change, and the burdensome regulations that accompany its focus, a primary focus of his administration, including in his National Security Strategy released in 2015. “[W]e are working toward an ambitious new global climate change agreement to shape standards for prevention, preparedness, and response over the next decade,” that report said.

Here’s what the National Security Strategy said in 2010, when “climate change” first made its appearance in national security planning.

nss-2010-climate

John Holdren, who was Obama’s Science Advisor, had long been fearful of man’s effect upon the planet. He was deeply concerned about overpopulation earlier, and when climate change emerged as a potential problem, he adopted that concern as well, and passed it on to Obama.

The Navy and Coast Guard can go back to their ordinary responsibilities. And the rest of us can go back to worrying about the chemicals in our food and whether our cell phones will give us brain cancer.




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