American Elephants


Clear Language Matters. Make Fine Distinctions, Insist on Free Speech and Clear Speech. by The Elephant's Child

The situation in Syria was not only an affront to international law, but a probe of sorts to test the new president of the United States. President Trump’s response was prompt and direct, but careful. It was not, as the Democrats try to claim, the start of a war, or a sign of the belligerence of an out-of-control administration. It was a very specific and limited missile strike against the specific airbase that had launched the Sarin Gas attack on Syrian rebels by their own administration. Because it was directed  so specifically, it announced that poison gas attacks were simply not acceptable, and this strike was a clear warning that we are a powerful nation and we are capable of much more. There will be no more statements of “red lines” that are not observed.

America means business. It was not, as has been claimed, an attack on Assad. The Russians and Syrians were warned, so there would be little or no loss of life. These distinctions are important. The free world approved.

Democrats are not good at distinctions. They are more comfortable with generalities. Hillary was interviewed by the New York Times Nicholas Kristof at the “Women in the World” summit. Kristof asked Hillary:

I have to ask fundamentally, a man who bragged about sexual assault won the election and won 53 percent of the white women’s vote. What does that say about the challenges that one faces in women’s empowerment, that in effect misogyny won with a lot of women voters?

In the first place, Trump did not brag about sexual assault. He spoke of women and celebrity and said that when you are a celebrity, some women will let you do anything you want to them.  He did not say that he had done anything.

Hillary immediately blamed everything on identity politics: misogynyshe lost because she is a woman. The country is just not ready for  the first woman president. Fine distinctions: Hillary ran for the presidency because she wanted to be the first woman president, not because there were things she wanted to do to improve the country or help Americans. That’s why her brief career in the Senate was marked only by a bill to name a post office, and her career as Secretary of State resulted only in Benghazi and a record amount of air travel miles. There were no accomplishments. The change was her gender. She promised to continue all the accomplishments of the Obama administration but to do it as a woman.

Nikki Haley, a woman, has made a real difference in her brief time as Ambassador to the United Nations. People are already suggesting that she can be the first woman president. She has demonstrated over and over competence, authority, determination, and things have shifted because of it.

In this strange new universe, a real-estate developer and reality-TV celebrity with no political experience whatsoever, obviously won the election because he is a man. Identity politics is the controlling theme. You can be decide your identity and your gender by your feelings of the moment, which, making fine distinctions — is clearly nuts.

The Left, in their drive for ever more control, believe that when they achieve full control,  they will fix human nature, so we are all more complacent and cooperative. Unfortunately human nature is immutable, unchanging and quite definitely unfixable.

Insist on fine distinctions. Don’t let them get away with sloppy thinking. Insist on free speech. Hold college and university authorities to task for allowing bad behavior to destroy the educational process. Speak out.

Surely you have noticed that what the Left advocates are abstractions. Social justice —there is no such thing. We have laws and courts, and they don’t do social justice. Equality —you can have equality under the law, but you can’t make people equal, some are smarter, some are more beautiful, some are stronger, some are older. Diversity—to the Left refers only to skin color, certainly not to diversity of ideas. Our values —one of Obama’s favorites, “that’s not who we are as Americans.”



An Inherited Catastrophe, A Quick Response by The Elephant's Child

Bashar Assad’s Sarin attack on the Ghowa agricultural region just outside Damascus, which has been held by rebels, was also an attack on International Law. The attacks came in early morning hours when many were still asleep. Initial estimates of the numbers of dead range upwards of 1,400, including way too many children.

Headlines in the media ranged from an irresponsible “TRUMP DECLARES WAR,” to less bellicose statements, but few recognized the very limited nature of the act. It would have been more accurately described as a direct response on the specific Syrian airfield from which the Sarin gas attacks were launched, to put that airfield out of business— and prevent further attacks. It was a correct and immediate response.

President Trump has received wide support from world leaders.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande in a joint statement said “President Assad bears sole responsibility for this development. His repeated use of chemical weapons and his crimes against his own population had to be sanctioned.” British Prime Minister Theresa May said the action was an “appropriate response.” Israel, Australia, Japan, Italy all expressed their support for American action and condemned the use of chemical weapons. Even Erdogan’s Turkey expressed support. The use of chemical weapons is an international war crime.

Russia predictably denounced the strike as an “act of aggression against a UN member,” and said they would demand an urgent UN Security Council meeting. Iran also condemned the US strike.

Hollywood celebrities chimed in with commentary on Twitter in about the manner you would expect. Perhaps someday they will learn that their commentary is not valued for its international expertise, but for the humor.

Barack Obama drew a Red Line in Syria, then failed to follow through and  essentially told the world that they could act with impunity, and America would do nothing. Always a mistake. Russia moved in as a military patron and Iran has become Assad’s protector on the ground with arms supplies and Hezbollah.

The next step should be to establish safe zones in Syria, with protection from possible attacks. The Wall Street Journal said:

Every military operation carries risks but this one could also have major political and strategic benefits if Mr. Trump follows the air strike with some forceful diplomacy. The demonstration of renewed U.S. purpose in the region could have an electrifying impact across the Middle East. The Saudis, the Gulf Sunni states and Turkey would begin to rethink their accommodation to the Russia-Assad-Iran axis of dominance that none of them wants.

Mr. Trump also needs to make Russia and Iran begin to pay a price for their support for Mr. Assad’s depredations. They have had no incentive to negotiate an end to the civil war because they see themselves on the road to a relatively cost-free victory. That calculus may change if it looks like the costs of intervening are rising and Mr. Assad is no longer a sure winner.

The Journal added:

The larger point for Mr. Trump to recognize is that he is being tested. The world—friend and foe—is watching to see how he responds to Mr. Assad’s war crime. His quick air strike on the evening he was having dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping makes clear that the Obama era is over. If he now follows with action to protect Syrian civilians and construct an anti-Assad coalition, he may find that new strategic possibilities open up to enhance U.S. interests and make the Middle East more stable.

ADDENDUM: The missile strikes were delivered while President Trump was having dinner at Mar -a-Lago with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Presumably the Chinese President took notice, as did the rest of the world. A bit of a wake-up call. New administration in town.



The United States of America Has Immigration Laws. They Will Be Enforced. by The Elephant's Child

Back in January President Trump informed the American people that an immediate priority for his administration would be to require sanctuary cities to cooperate with federal law. To explain, if two drivers were hauled over on the freeway, one heading South, one heading North, each given a ticket for speeding and asked for their driver’s licenses—the officers in each case returning to their cars and asking for any outstanding warrants—the one heading North will be taken in, as he has an outstanding warrant for selling a small amount of a prohibited drug. The one heading South has a federal detainer request for criminal sex trafficking  and is an illegal immigrant, and will be released to go his own way because police in sanctuary cities are required to release illegal immigrants.

An October 2014 report from ICE that was made public in 2015 detailed 276 sanctuary cities that released 8,145 illegal migrants of whom 1,867 were later arrested 4,298 times with multiple violations amounting to 7,491 charges. Illegal migrants are 3.5 percent of the U.S. population but are 37.6 percent of federal sentences and 13.6 percent of all offenders sentenced for crimes nationwide. The undocumented comprise 12 percent of murder sentences, 20 percent of kidnapping sentences and 16 percent of drug trafficking sentences. Unauthorized migrants are about 7 percent of the California population but over 12 percent of the state prison population.

Sanctuary cities become magnets for illegal immigrants with criminal records. The Left tries to portray this effort as empathy, but it is nothing of the sort, it is an effort to get more potential Democrat voters with open borders. Those who were admitted under Obama’s open borders policies were sent to voting districts where they would potentially change the political nature of the district. There are also extensive records of illegals voting. The federal government is trying to deport dangerous criminal aliens. Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez was a seven-times convicted felon who was free in San Francisco because the city refused to honor a detainer warrant from ICE. Because of the city’s sanctuary policy Kate Steinle was shot and killed in 2015 in a senseless, avoidable and brutal crime.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has warned sanctuary cities and counties that they face losing federal funding, but in their rage against losing an election, the Democrat legislature in California is going to officially become a sanctuary state. The state Senate passed the bill, 27-12 sending it to the Assembly.

The bill was amended last week by de León, D-Los Angeles, and will now allow local and state agencies to let Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents know before convicted felons of serious or violent crimes are released from custody. It also makes it easier for local agencies to transfer criminals into ICE’s custody.

The changes to the bill also allow California law enforcement agencies to work with ICE task forces if the main purpose of the team is not immigration enforcement.

“We will cooperate with our friends at the federal level with serious and violent felons. But we won’t cooperate or lift a finger or spend a single cent when we’re talking about separating children from their mothers, mothers from their children,” de León said. “That’s not who we are as a great state.”

I guess Obama’s “That’s not who we are…” has become an all-inclusive meme for the Democratic Party. California is currently home to an estimated 2.3 million or more illegal aliens. California is also currently suing the federal government to say they can’t take away their federal money. The  House Appropriations Committee has said they will have no problem withholding funding.

Here is a map showing the locations of Sanctuary Cities, Counties and States. Interesting locations.

 



Professor Jordan B. Peterson Doesn’t Like the Social Justice Warriors Either. by The Elephant's Child

It’s encouraging to learn that there are professors out there who aren’t happy with the situation in academe either. Dr. Jordan is at the University of Toronto, and Canada’s probably a litter farther into the post-modern bit that we are, but it is a very discouraging state of affairs, especially if you have a kid to send off for higher education. 18 year-olds have never been adults, and their struggles to achieve adulthood have usually been messy and more often than not made parents wonder what they are spending all that money for.

But “post-modern” doesn’t even begin to cover the nonsense, and the faculties and administrations have a great deal to answer for. Starting with their own inability to act like grown-ups, and stop tolerating bad behavior.



Investing In Children. Setting Them Up For Success. by The Elephant's Child

America’s new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos gave her first big policy speech last Wednesday, and you probably didn’t hear about it. The media wasn’t interested and barely covered it. There is a lot of opposition to Secretary DeVos, largely from the teacher’s unions.

She spoke at the Brookings Institute, and said”We must change the way we think about funding education and instead invest in children, not in buildings.”

There is no perfect, one-size-fits-all system of education: A magnet school is not inherently better than a traditional school, nor is education at a private school inherently better than education at a charter school.

Similarly, there is no one delivery mechanism of education choice: Open enrollment, tax credits, home schools, magnets, charters, virtual schools, education savings accounts and choices not yet developed all have their place, but no single one of these is always the right delivery method for each child.

Policymakers at every level of government would do well to maintain a humble acknowledgement of these facts. Let’s put aside the politics of the adults and actually focus on what will best serve kids.

And that’s what brings us here today. Too much of the conversation on education loses sight of the thing that matters most: the individual child. This report sheds light on how districts are providing choices and information to parents and opportunities to students.

In the real world today, every problem with the schools is claimed to be the result of not enough money.  Whether it’s your kid being bullied, not learning to read, the choice of textbooks, the quality of the teacher, the remedy is more money for the schools—which doesn’t seem to change anything.

The two school districts that score highest arrive at the high score by different paths.  New Orleans provides a wide range of choices to parents —all of its schools are charters (and it’s important to note that charter schools are public schools) and there are vouchers available for a good supply of affordable private schools.

Denver scored well because they have a single application process for both charter and traditional public schools, and a website that allows parents to make side-by-side comparison of schools. The choices, however, are limited.

You can read the whole speech here, and if you are a parent of kids in school, you will want to, and the rest of us who pay the taxes that funds all this would be advised to pay attention too.

When my kids were growing up, we moved a lot, and the kids went to the school in the district where we lived. We didn’t have any real choice, and some teachers were good and some weren’t so good, and we tried to make up at home for whatever seemed to be missing.

If Secretary DeVos can get across her point that the purpose of this whole thing is not to enrich teacher’s unions and politicians, but to give kids an education that is right for them and makes the most of their abilities, we will have won a major battle. It’s no wonder the unions don’t appreciate her. The schools should not be run by politicians in Washington, but by parents and their children. There is no one-size-fits-all education, and what’s right for your kid many not be what was right for mine.



No News Is Good News by The Elephant's Child

Late getting to the computer yesterday, so I was anxious to find out what had happened during the day.  Apparently nothing. Nothing happened at all. There was an enormous amount of nit-picking, nattering and he-said she -said. If you paid the slightest attention to the news, your life has been diminished, your understanding of the world has shrunk and you know significantly less. The headlines:

“College Plans to Fire Professor who taught a ‘Men in Literature’ Course”

“It Took Three People Two Months  to Create Hillary’s Campaign Logo”

“Cuba Reforms Are Stalling”

“How The Melting Pot Became Cultural Appropriation”

“Swarthmore Students Upset They Actually Got in Trouble for Office Sit-In Protest”

“Auschwitz Demonstrators Who Killed Sheep Weren’t Neo-Nazis.”

“Ashley Judd Embarrasses Herself On Women’s Rights”

“Ten Human Body Modifications You Can Expect In Next Decade”

“AP Reporter Says Sensational WaPo Claim on Tillerson Not True”
(Career diplomats say have not met him and have been instructed not to speak to him directly or make eye-contact)

These are all quite real and typical. There wasn’t anything at all that was actually what we would normally call news. I include no links, because if you read the articles you would know less than you do now. This may simply be a matter of not seeing the elephant in the room, or being more interested in nit-picking, perhaps  it is really a comment on the current state of journalism.

 



The Russia Flap, The Russia Flap. The Russia Flap by The Elephant's Child

One of the people to whom I always pay attention is Victor Davis Hanson. His views of the world today are formed and influenced by his deep knowledge of history, the patterns of thought that descend from the Greek Classics down to today’s world, and are well-seasoned by plain old common sense that comes from a background in farming and coping with the vicissitudes of weather and regulation.

His article “The Russian Farce” from National Review is a masterpiece in today’s strange world where every public or private word that can be nit-picked — will be, ominous meanings will be attached and debated, and the Democrats really need to take a couple of aspirin and lie down for a while and maybe they’ll feel better. Hysteria is not becoming.

In the same manner, Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev was often portrayed in the media as the urbane, suave, and reasonable conciliator, while President Ronald Reagan was depicted as the uncouth disrupter of what could have been improved Russian–American relations.

Senator Ted Kennedy reportedly reached out to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov in 1984 to gain his help in denying Reagan his reelection.

In sum, the American Left always felt that Russia was unduly demonized by the American Right and was a natural friend, if not potential ally, of the United States. That tradition no doubt influenced the decision of the incoming Obama administration to immediately reach out to Vladimir Putin’s Russia, despite its recent aggressions in Georgia and steady crackdown on internal dissent, and despite Russia’s estrangement from the prior Bush administration.

Do read the whole thing. It disposes of the silly Russia flap quite thoroughly, should embarrass a whole bunch of reporters, and points out the drive to deny reality.




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