American Elephants

Obama’s Iran Deal Is Vanishing In A Puff of Disbelief by The Elephant's Child

20131007_obama_iranflag_LARGE“Sometime this week, President Obama is scheduled to sign an executive order to meet the October 15 “adoption day” he has set for the nuclear deal he has made with Iran. According to the president’s timetable the next step would be “the start day of implementation,” fixed for December 25.” That’s Amir Taheri, writing in the New York Post. He added “But as things now stand, Obama may end up being the only person in the world to sign his much-wanted deal, in effect making a treaty with himself.”

Iran has not signed anything and has no plans for doing so. The JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) hasn’t been discussed at the Iranian Council of Ministers, nor has the government bothered to provide a Persian translation of the text (159 pages). The Ayatollah Khamenei said early on that they had no intention of signing a document with America.

Obama’s P5+1 group (Britain China, Germany, France and Russia) have apparently decided that Obama’s deal is really only about lifting sanctions and not enforcing anything. So that’s what they are doing. Putin is renewing his interest with Assad and propping up the Assad dictatorship in Syria, as well as starting delivery of S300 anti-aircraft missiles and is engaged in talks to sell Sukhoi planes to the Islamic Republic.

Britain has lifted the ban on 22 Iranian banks and companies that were reportedly involved with nuclear deals.  German trade with Iran has risen by 33 percent, and they are now Iran’s third-largest trading partner after China.

China has signed a preliminary accord to help Iran build five more nuclear reactors. France has sent its foreign minister and a 100-man delegation to negotiate projects to double Iran’s crude oil exports and negotiate other big business deals. Everybody regards the JCPOA as a green light for dropping sanctions. Indian trade us up 17%, and New Delhi is negotiating a massive investment in a rail-and-sea-hub on the Gulf of Oman.

Austrian, Turkish and UAE banks are lifting restrictions that were imposed on Iran because of their nuclear program. President Hassan Rouhani boasted that “the structures of sanctions built over decades is crumbling.”

They have no intention of shutting down their nuclear project.

The Iranian crowds are not shouting “Death to Britain, France and Germany. Death to India, Russia and China.” They are quite specific. It’s America and Israel. We do need to keep that in mind.

The Mullahs are certain that Obama is paralyzed by his fear of undermining the non-existent “deal.” They are encouraging Palestine in a new Intifada, working to choose the next president in Lebanon, and are calling openly for overthrow of the monarchy in Saudi Arabia.

Obama has hoped to engage Iran on other issues, and reportedly hoped to meet with the Ayatollah Khamenei in Tehran to shake his hand and, I guess, formally turn the Middle East over to Iran. Khamenei declared last week “any dialogue with the American Great Satan to be forbidden.”

There has been a ballistic missile test in Iran that apparently violates the Iran Deal.  Nevermind.

Obama has apparently moved into a fantasy world in which Putin is exhibiting his weakness, while Obama shows what real leadership is with his Climate Change initiatives.  Inside Iran, Obama’s moderate partners who would never actually use a nuclear weapon have doubled the number of executions and political prisoners. They crushed marches by teachers last week. Hundreds of trade unionists have been arrested and potential protesters are terrorized by a new “anti-insurrection” brigade.

President Obama appeared with Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes yesterday. It was an amazing interview. If you didn’t see it, a video and transcript are available here. It is very interesting.

What is Vladimir Putin Doing in Syria? by The Elephant's Child

Putin formalThe great mystery in the Middle East is what is Vladimir Putin doing? Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state from 2005 to 2009, and Robert M. Gates, defense secretary from 2006 to 2011, join to write an op-ed at Fox News

One can hear the disbelief in capitals from Washington to London to Berlin to Ankara and beyond. How can Vladimir Putin, with a sinking economy and a second-rate military, continually dictate the course of geopolitical events? Whether it’s in Ukraine or Syria, the Russian president seems always to have the upper hand.

Obama claimed it is a sign of Russian weakness. Europe is alarmed — they have quite enough on their plates with refugees from the Middle East, not all of them by any means from Syria. They are demanding, expecting far more than the Europeans are willing to give, and the people of Europe are beginning to act in opposition.

The fact is that Putin is playing a weak hand extraordinarily well because he knows exactly what he wants to do. He is not stabilizing the situation according to our definition of stability. He is defending Russia’s interests by keeping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power. This is not about the Islamic State. Any insurgent group that opposes Russian interests is a terrorist organization to Moscow. We saw this behavior in Ukraine, and now we’re seeing it even more aggressively — with bombing runs and cruise missile strikes — in Syria.

Putin is not a sentimental man, and if Assad becomes a liability, Putin will gladly move on to a substitute acceptable to Moscow. But for now, the Russians believe that they (and the Iranians) can save Assad. President Obama and Secretary of State John F. Kerry say that there is no military solution to the Syrian crisis. That is true, but Moscow understands that diplomacy follows the facts on the ground, not the other way around. Russia and Iran are creating favorable facts. Once this military intervention has run its course, expect a peace proposal from Moscow that reflects its interests, including securing the Russian military base at Tartus.

Russians don’t regret their foreign adventures. The last time was Afghanistan, and that didn’t happen until Ronald Reagan armed the Afghan mujahideen with stinger missiles. Putin is not responding to world disorder nor does he have any concern for the Syrian people or for Syria as a state.  He’s not trying to hold the Middle East together.

Vladimir Putin is reacting to circumstances in the Middle East and sees an opening created by American disinclination to fully engage.  He’s playing power politics. There will continue to be refugees until people are safe. Significant support for the Kurds, Sunni tribes and and Iraqi special forces is not, as Mr. Obama claimed, “mumbo jumbo.” It might save our current lack of strategy. We must do what we can to prevent an incident with Russian military activities — but we should never have gotten to a place where Russia is warning us to stay our of their way. The Russians intend to secure their interests in the Middle East.

Richard Cohen: The high cost of avoiding war in Syria

David Ignatius: The U.S. cannot pass Syria on to Putin

Charles Krauthammer: President Obama’s Syria Debacle

Peter Baker: Wary of Escalation in Syria, U.S. Is Waiting Out Putin’s Moves


The Grand Old Party and the Very Big Tent by The Elephant's Child

big-top2You have probably noticed that we are Republicans here. If you have ever clicked on the “about” button in the sidebar, you will see our big tent declaration. I don’t have a big “see how I discovered conservatism” story, I have always been a Republican. My great great grandfather wrote in the very first days of the Republican Party  “I am a quiet but interested member of the Republican Party.”Not exactly a rousing declaration, but there you are.

I’m a conservative, but most Republicans are, they just define “conservative” a little differently. On some subjects I agree with the libertarians, others with  the “establishment.” That’s what “a big tent” means. You agree on some things, not on others, and you fight about it. And at some point you finally discover that you can’t have your own way and you have to compromise. I get really annoyed by the constant battle by conservatives over who is conservative enough and who is not, and just how pure true conservatism must be.

That said, I believe that most Republicans are dismayed or horrified by the extent to which Barack Obama has attempted to radically transform the United States of America, and once his party was soundly defeated to give control of Congress to the Republicans, by executive order, executive note, refusing to enforce the law, and even going to the United Nations to get his own way. This is something new in American politics.

They are angry about the attempt to change the demographics of the country before the next election. They are frightened by the “Iran Deal” which the president mistakenly believes is a good thing. And that hardly even scratches the surface of a very long list. Republicans are united in their dismay, but all over the place about how to deal with it, about what is most urgent, and especially the correct strategy and tactics.

The fight is on and the Democrats are delighted. They call it “Chaos” and are sure that it is a signal of the coming, much desired demise of the Republican Party. They do want to shut us up, but they would prefer that we just go away — permanently. Here are four great pieces that hint that there’s still some life in the Grand Old Party:

—Kevin Williamson, writing at National Review: “OK. Let’s Fight

—Andrew Malcolm, writing at Investors: “Gee, that felt good to dump Boehner, McCarthy as Speaker, but now …

—David Harsanyi, writing at The Federalist: Relax. This Is Exactly How Congress Should Work, when it comes to the House, ‘chaos’ can be preferable to lockstepping.

—Noah Rothman, writing at Commentary: The Noble Goal of the Freedom Caucus

Obama’s Mass Release of Prisoners Soon to Hit the Streets by The Elephant's Child

Over the past thirty years,  Americans have experienced a record decline in crime rates. Neighborhoods once dangerous for the law abiding have been stabilized. The murder rate is down, saving many lives, mostly of young disadvantaged men in our cities. The gains, however, are fragile and at risk.

Later this month, about 6,000 federal prisoners are expected to be granted an early release from the Bureau of Prisons. The U.S. Sentencing Commission has lowered the sentences for many drug offenders, and made the change retroactive. This is the largest one-time release in history, and the 6,000 inmates are set to be released  between October 30 and November 1, but is only a fraction of what is to come. According to Commission estimates, 46,000 inmates currently serving federal prison sentences for serious drug trafficking offenses are eligible for early release.

The Justice Department’s own studies on recidivism — inmates who commit new crimes after their release — are a source of concern. The Justice recidivism report showed that within five years of release, 77 percent of drug offenders in the state system had committed new crimes. Using that number would suggest that there is a potential for over 4,600 offenders and 35,000 new crimes committed in the next five years, and this is only talking about the crimes for which the recidivists are caught.

There is the famous “Fox Butterfield Effect”named after New York Times crime reporter Fox Butterfield who was responsible for such headlines as “More Inmates Despite Drop in Crime”. “Number in Prison Grows Despite Crime Reduction,” and “Crime Keeps on Falling, but Prisons Keep on Filling.”He just didn’t get the connection.

Those who are not U.S. citizens will be deported, but the majority will be placed in home confinement or halfway houses and then supervised release. Those systems are already taxed, but are they prepared for thousands of new charges?

Crime in New York City is already up dramatically, due to Mayor de Blasio’s softer stance on crime. There are genuine risks in this early release plan, and it is the public that will bear the costs. Mr. Obama is already pursuing a less-serious police position in inner city neighborhoods after riots in Ferguson and Baltimore. The”Black Lives Matter” movement has police departments pulling back from policing for fear of attacks and riots — which has been accompanied by an unsurprising rise in crime rates.

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.

They’re At it Again! Another EPA Spill! by The Elephant's Child

WASGINGTON DC, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, UNITED STATES - 2013/06/03: EPA building, Environmental Protection Agency. (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)

It’s not the Gold King Mine this time, it’s the Standard Mine, and it’s not 3 million gallons of toxic waste, but only 2,000 gallons — so much smaller, but once again the EPA neglected to notify the appropriate officials and agencies of the spill in a timely manner.  Once again it’s in Colorado.

The Standard King Mine is an EPA designated superfund site, where the EPA has been directing ongoing clean-up at another abandoned mine.  A spokesman for Rep Scott Tipton (R-CO) said that more than 2,000 gallons of reportedly uncontaminated water were spilled from the mine site Wednesday into a local watershed.

So what has happened to the noxious mustard yellow spill from the Gold King Mine into the Animas river? Last we heard it was moving though Lake Mead on its way to the Grand Canyon, our beloved National Park. It just dropped out of the news didn’t it? Funny how things detrimental to the administration do that.

I suspect that what infuriates people most is that when a rancher makes a small pond to water his stock, the EPA descends with threats and warrants and massive charges designed to reduce the victims to abject terror. The size of the fines is designed to terrorize. But when it’s the EPA at fault — ho hum.

The EPA is under investigation by the Interior Department for the Gold King Mine  near Silverton, Colorado. I’m sure the Interior Department will deal with them fairly, and they will be found to have dealt with a difficult situation with the grace and efficiency expected from an agency of the United States Government.

Brain freeze: corrected. The Gold King Mine spill was 3 million gallons (est,) the Standard Mine spill was 2,000 gallons of”gray water” maybe toxic, maybe not. (est.)


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