American Elephants


A Curious And Appalling Agreement to Keep Talking by The Elephant's Child

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With many of the policies our president announces, you know it’s not going to work and I know it’s not going to work, so why is he doing it? I’m certainly not a psychoanalyst, and you probably aren’t either. Congressmen are quick to oppose something and say why, but the White House itself is very close-mouthed. I pay a lot of attention to Richard Epstein’s comments, because I’m a great admirer of Mr. Epstein, and I think he’s an unusually careful observer. (If you haven’t watched the video, it’s helpful if you are curious. Short segment at 20:36).

With all the news about the Iraq nuclear talks, it’s pretty clear that Sec. Kerry and Sec. Moniz have their marching orders. Obama wants a deal. So far the tentative agreement seems to be just what we laughed at for its absurdity. It’s an agreement to keep talking for a few more months, with some very disturbing guidelines. Neither side agrees to what the other said they agreed to.

“Negotiators have a tentative agreement on the rough outline of a possible public statement on the progress they have made so far that would also highlight areas of disagreement, diplomats close to the talks said.”

What I believe would be an acceptable deal bears no relationship to what Obama has in mind, and what he has in mind is frightening in its possible outcome. The questions multiply. (Epstein: He is very dogmatic in his essential positions, and does not change his mind.) But Obama said the Iranians want to be part of the community of nations, or something like that. Well, no, the mullahs have no interest in a community of nations, unless it is a restored Persian empire, and whatever the Iranian people want is of no concern. This is a theocracy, not a democracy. Obama has said Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons. (No one anywhere can find any evidence of such a fatwa) From Raymond Ibrahim:

First, the Islamic doctrine of taqiyya permits Muslims to deceive non-Muslims. Islamic prophet Muhammad himself regularly lied to his infidel enemies, often resulting in their murder (such as the case of Ka‘b ibn Ashraf). He also proclaimed that lying was permissible in three contexts, one being war. Moreover, throughout the centuries and due to historic circumstances (discussed here), taqiyya became second nature to the Shia — the sect currently ruling Iran. …

Indeed, during a recent speech, supreme leader Khamenei — whose fatwa Obama is now citing — boasted about Iran’s uranium enrichment, even as his military commanders shouted, “Allah Akbar. Khamenei is the leader. Death to the enemies of the leadership. Death to America. Death to England. Death to hypocrites. Death to Israel.”

Back in October of 2008, Martin Kramer, President of Shalem College in Jerusalem wrote a primer on the Middle East for the new president. It’s long, but worth your while for understanding where Obama’s ideas about the Middle East came from, and why they are fixed and unassailable — and mistaken.

Here are a couple more excellent short pieces explaining the present situation. “This Is Not a Deal” by Abe Greenwald. And “The Tricks Obama Is Trying to Play with the Iran Announcement” by John Podhoretz, both from Commentary. And here’s “The Iran Deal’s Fatal Flaw” by Charles Duelfer from Politico.

People react differently to great policy changes or errors — some just don’t want to think about it, and others want to learn everything they can. Painful either way.



Desperately Seeking A Legacy, Perhaps in Solar? by The Elephant's Child

pic_giant_042314_SM_The-Adolescent-President-Barack-Obama_0Interesting. President Obama’s Rose Garden speech on the wonderful deal they are working on with Iran has not yet appeared on the White House website under “Speeches and Remarks.” They are usually much more forthcoming. It’s possible that Mr. Obama doesn’t want anyone parsing it too closely. We’ll see.

In the meantime, President Obama flew out to Utah to Hill Air Force Base, apparently to talk about solar energy.

Since I took office, solar electricity has gone up twentyfold.  And our investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency haven’t just helped to cut carbon pollution, they’ve made us more energy independent.  And they’ve helped us create a steady stream of high-wage, good-paying, middle-class jobs. …

And what I’m doing here today is to highlight the fact that the solar industry is actually adding jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy.  They’re paying good jobs — they’re good-paying jobs that are helping folks enter into the middle class.  And today what we’re going to try to do is to build on the progress that’s already been made.

I’m announcing a new goal to train 75,000 workers to enter the solar industry by 2020.  As part of this, we’re creating what we’re calling a “Solar Ready Vets” program that’s modeled after some successful pilot initiatives that have already been established over the last several years.  It’s going to train transitioning military personnel for careers in this growing industry at 10 bases — including right here at Hill.

The Air Base is getting 20% of its energy from renewable sources, he said, and he’s going to work with states to use the Post 9/11 GI Bill to get solar job training.

The Washington Examiner clears up the issue:

A new White House initiative to train veterans for jobs in the solar energy industry could turn into a rout if its key federal solar energy subsidy is phased out on schedule next year — a problem for the industry is that it’s dependent on the subsidy for hiring. The plan may also face challenges as the administration’s plan for heavy energy industry regulation is coming under fire from courts, Congress and state governments.

Without federal subsidies (taxpayer dollars) the solar industry would die. The sun goes down at night and it gets dark — and everybody turns on their lights. So the solar arrays need full-time back-up from conventional power plants. The federal subsidies expire in 2016, and Obama has written continuing subsidy into his absurd budget, but the GOP Congress is fervently opposed to the rules, and Majority Leader McConnell is advising states not to comply with the rules.

According to the U.S . Energy Information Administration, solar power accounts for just 0.4 percent of American electricity production, compared to 66 percent from fossil fuel sources. The EPA is expected to force new regulations that will help the industry. The EPA rules, also known as the Clean Power Plan, are very controversial. Legal scholars argue that the rules may be illegal under the Clean Air Act. The plan currently faces a legal challenge in federal appeals courts by around a dozen states.

Obama’s Legacy is not faring too well. The Progressive program, drummed up in faculty lounges and Think Progress and the lunchroom at the New York Times, has always been heavy on utopian wishful thinking and short of practical steps and proven economic policy. As always. it’s stuff that sounds good in the abstract, but doesn’t work in the real world.

Most of Obama’s policies are already abject failures, but he’s going to make a valiant effort to get a legacy of some sort with executive orders. He is attempting to embed his policies in the political culture so that it would appear too extreme to strike them down. He believes his vision will win out, and voters would punish anybody for trying to scrap his policies.

I don’t know that “existence bias” would trump a recovering economy and recovering employment. At Hill Air Force Base he bragged about our businesses creating another 129,000 new jobs in March, saying that added up to 12 million new jobs over the past 5 years. Unmentioned is that it is the smallest job gain since December of 2013.  January and February jobs numbers were also revised downward. An all-time record of 93,175,000 Americans are no longer in the labor force. A record of 12,202,000 black Americans are not in the labor force — they did not have a job or actively seek one in the past four weeks. ——



And So It Goes: by The Elephant's Child
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Obama’s “Good Deal” is a Self-Serving Fantasy by The Elephant's Child

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Reported: Obama ordered Secretary Kerry to continue talking in Lausanne even though deadline had passed.

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — (Washington Post) “Negotiators from Iran and major world powers reached agreement Thursday on a framework for a final agreement to curb Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from international sanctions an accord that President Obama hailed as a “good deal” that would make the world a safer place.”

Obama appeared in the Rose Garden to say that the U.S. and its partners “reached a historic understanding with Iran which if fully implemented, will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

Poor Obama, He is so desperate for “a deal” that he has turned over everything the Iranians could possibly want, in return for some vague promises that will be meaningless. Close observers have said that he expects this ‘accomplishment’ to equal Nixon’s opening up China. Instead he may have signed America’s death warrant, and Israel’s.

America is an open society, we hang most of our secrets out on a clothesline for all the world to see — and hackers get a good percentage of the rest. Hardening off our electric grid? EMP attacks? Just yesterday some Russian expert suggested that the best way to end America would be to drop a nuclear bomb on Yellowstone. Not defeat — destroy. When is the last time that The United States of America ever suggested destroying another country?

Obama’s speech in the Rose Garden was so full of straw men that it was embarrassing. He even claimed the authority of a push poll yesterday that asked such a mushy-soft question that both Hitler and Mother Teresa would have signed on. UN Officials have said that Iran is already blocking their efforts to track what is going on in their nuclear program. We not only don’t know how advanced their program is, we don’t know for sure how many facilities they have.

Thomas Sowell wrote today:

The Soviet Union was never suicidal, so the fact that we could annihilate their cities if they attacked ours was a sufficient deterrent to a nuclear attack from them. But will that deter fanatics with an apocalyptic vision? Should we bet the lives of millions of Americans on our ability to deter nuclear war with Iran?

It is now nearly 70 years since nuclear bombs were used in war. Long periods of safety in that respect have apparently led many to feel as if the danger is not real. But the dangers are even greater now and the nuclear bombs more devastating.

Clearing the way for Iran to get nuclear bombs may — probably will — be the most catastrophic decision in human history. And it can certainly change human history, irrevocably, for the worse.

The Iraqi Prime Minister said “We will continue enriching. We won’t close facilities and all sanctions will be terminated.” Obama seems to believe that they are just developing nuclear energy for peaceful domestic purposes. If so, why the intercontinental ballistic missiles? And why, when they are a major oil-producing country, do they need nuclear energy? We don’t even know how close or far their development of a bomb is — Obama is claiming 10 years, too far away to be blamed on him, but other sources say as little as 45 days.

We had a powerful restraint in place. Iran supposedly requires a $130 per barrel price for oil to break even, and the price has dropped below $50. Obama compared himself to Richard Nixon and to John Kennedy negotiating nuclear deals with the Soviet Union, but both of them submitted their agreements to Congress for approval.



It’s Not About American Safety, It’s About a “Legacy” For Obama by The Elephant's Child

CAVSZGZU0AAe8F1The key to understanding current events seems to be President Barack Obama. Who is this man, and what does he stand for? He has been our president for over six years and we don’t even know him at all.

Richard Epstein who knew him at the University of Chicago and through his next door neighbor who was a close friend of Obama, said he has the most perfect disposition for a politician. He is in complete control of himself, and wants to be in control of his situation, which, for example, is why he always uses a teleprompter. He keeps all of his thoughts to himself. In the Senate he was the farthest left of all.

Epstein said he has a good mind, but it is a clever means-ends mind. He is very dogmatic in his essential positions, and does not change his mind. Yet he does not have the skill set to deal with the complex problems he wants to address.

Bret Stephens writing for the Wall Street Journal today, called him “The Capitulationist,” with the subhead “The Obama administration refuses to negotiate openly, lest the extent of its diplomatic surrender to Iran be prematurely and fatally exposed.”

Victor Davis Hanson called it a “Chicago Presidency” and said “Malice is a valuable political tool for Barack Obama” The point is not that all this is outrageous, but rather that it is deliberately outrageous, again begging the question, “So what are you going to do about it?” …

“What then is the full Obama presidency? It is the quest for extralegal power not just by ignoring the law, tradition, or custom, but by doing so flagrantly and without concern, to the point of rendering critics impotent — and thereby accruing even more power to enrage and embarrass them.”

Seth Mandel at Commentary “The Obama administration’s official perspective on the Middle East currently engulfed in brutal sectarian conflict, civil war, and the collapse of state authority is: Let it burn. Nothing matters but a piece of paper affirming a partnership with the region’s key source of instability and terror in the name of a presidential legacy.”…

Obviously the president wants a deal, and he’s willing to do just about anything for it. The Obama administration long ago abandoned the idea that a bad deal is worse than no deal, and only recently began hinting at this shift in public. Officials have no interest in even talking about Yemen while they’re negotiating the Iran deal. It’s a singleminded pursuit; obsessive, irrational, ideologically extreme.

Yukia Amano, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency: “Without Iranian disclosure of past illicit activities, including nuclear enrichment and weaponization research, it’s hard to see how the Obama Administration can honor its core pledge to strike a deal that would give the West a one-year warning if Iran decides to build a bomb. As Olli Heinonen, the former Deputy Director-General for Safeguards at the IAEA, told us, “you need to have that baseline. You want to understand what they were doing.” An Iran that has the know-how to rapidly weaponize highly enriched uranium or plutonium may need only months to assemble a bomb.” …

The U.S. may also accept a verification plan that would grant the IAEA access to “some” of the sites that Iran has so far closed to the IAEA. But any verification program that doesn’t give inspectors unfettered and immediate access to any place they want to see does little more than create the illusion of inspections while giving Iran the opportunity to cheat.”

IBD: “At the eleventh hour before the Tuesday deadline, Tehran negotiators predictably changed positions and demanded new concessions. Unfortunately, unlike Ronald Reagan, President Obama won’t be walking away. …Americans should think back nearly three decades ago to a low-key former British Embassy in northern Reykjavik in Iceland.

Americans should think back nearly three decades ago to a low-key former British Embassy in northern Reykjavik in Iceland. It was there, in October 1986, that Ronald Reagan picked up his papers and walked out on a U.S.-Soviet summit, not caring a whit what the media or the Washington establishment would say.

He had won the Cold War by standing his ground that day, as many ex-Soviets confirmed. Striking a note familiar today, Gorbachev adviser Anatoly Chernyaev’s notes show that the Russian ruler believed “Reagan needs” a deal at Reykjavik “as a matter of personal ambition, so as to go down in history as a ‘peace president.'”

But Reagan needed nothing of the sort. He knew his job was to protect the nation and the Free World and that those seated across from him were representatives of what he wasn’t afraid to call an Evil Empire.



It Isn’t Really About Religious Liberty, That’s Just an Excuse! by The Elephant's Child

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Today’s big Kerfuffle is about the Religious Freedom law that Indiana’s Governor Mike Pence just signed into law. It is simply a state-level version of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) which imposes a “strict scrutiny” legal standard when state or local governments pass laws that interfere with the free exercise of religion. Governor Pence and Indiana’s legislators have been denounced as gay-hating bigots, a claim never made when President Bill Clinton signed the federal RFRA, or even about the people and officials of the 20 states with a RFRA. There are another dozen or so states that also have constitutional provisions that are similar.

Ssssh!  It’s not about religious freedom. It about Mike Pence who has been a successful and accomplished governor, is nice looking, very likeable, and who is one of a number of outstanding governors who might well run for the office of the President of the United States. This is what today’s far-left progressives do. The issue is never the issue. And this one is about an attempt to attack Mike Pence and disqualify him as a potential Republican candidate.

If you remember, Rick Perry was disqualified as a potential Republican candidate because of the way he melted down in the debates last time. Melted down? Well, not exactly. He went blank on a third agency he wanted to mention and couldn’t think of it. Something that has happened to lots of us. But the actual small blank moment has been boosted into a “complete disqualification.” Who says? Well, all those news people.

Then there was Chris Christie. It was the bridge thing. He was accused of deliberately blocking a bridge in order to influence votes by making commuters angry. He was absolved of the accusation, but the issue has been boosted into a “complete disqualification.”

Then there was Governor Scott Walker. A New York Times writer accused him of slashing the funds for schools and laying off teachers. Ooops! The writer was Gail Collins, and the slashing of funds, such as it was, happened in the previous administration before Scott Walker took office.

Ted Cruz, who just announced his candidacy, has already been accused as being even more unprepared for office than former state senate backbencher who kept voting present, and was a community organizer. He has been tarred with the McCarthy label, and many more drastic accusations will be forthcoming. What could scare the hard left more? He is conservative, has a link to the immigrant community, speaks Spanish, is an accomplished attorney who has argued for the State of Texas before the Supreme Court many times and often successfully, and is admittedly brilliant.

This is the pattern for the Left. Republican candidates will be portrayed as waging war on women and minorities, favoring only the rich, inflicting pain on working families to benefit the wealthy few, not caring about the poor and vulnerable, while Republicans say the left is using class warfare tactics, or being divisive. Democrats go for the throat, Republicans are too polite to do so, and try to explain how lower taxes for everyone will benefit the economy.

So the issue (religious freedom) is not the issue. The real issue is getting rid of Republican candidates who might be attractive to voters. Attacking religious fundamentalists (the anti-religion crowd has never gotten over Hobby Lobby). Distracting national attention from the poisonous Iran deal negotiations. And finding someone to replace Hillary who is building up a huge scandal with her email evasion before she even declares as a candidate.



Man The Lifeboats, The Ship of State is Sinking by The Elephant's Child

Why Yemen Matters: Daniel Pipes, Washington Times 3/28/15

Last Thursday, the Middle East Kingdom of Saudi Arabia led a 10-country coalition to intervene in the air and on the ground in the country of Yemen. And they didn’t bother to tell the White House what they were doing because they don’t trust them. Saudi and Egypt have been active in a Yemen war before, but on opposite sides. It is striking that they should join forces, not against Israel, but against Iran.

Uncertain of Obama, Arab States Gear Up for War: David Schenker and Gilad Wenig, Wall Street Journal, 3/29/15

“Few organizations boast a reputation of dysfunction comparable to the Arab League’s. Over seven decades the Arab League has distinguished itself through infighting and fecklessness. But now, with the Obama administration seen as missing in action in the Middle East, the alliance of 22 countries is undergoing a renaissance. Over the weekend, the Arab League met in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, and endorsed the creation of an intervention force to fight terrorism in the Middle East.

Regional backing for the force came days after a mostly Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes targeting the Iran-backed, nominally Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen, who last week sacked the provisional capital of Aden and drove Yemen President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi into exile.”

Obama Admin Threatens U. S. Allies for Disagreeing with Iran Nuke Deal: Adam Kredo, Free Beacon, 3/27/15

“LAUSANNE, Switzerland—Efforts by the Obama administration to stem criticism of its diplomacy with Iran have included threats to nations involved in the talks, including U.S. allies, according to Western sources familiar with White House efforts to quell fears it will permit Iran to retain aspects of its nuclear weapons program.

A series of conversations between top American and French officials, including between President Obama and French President Francois Hollande, have seen Americans engage in behavior described as bullying by sources who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.”

Richard Engel: Military Officials Say Allies No Longer Trust  Us, Fear Intel Might Leak to Iran: Daniel Bassali, Free Beacon, 3/27/15

“Saudi Arabia and other countries simply don’t trust the United States any more, don’t trust this administration, think the administration is working to befriend Iran to try to make a deal in Switzerland, and therefore didn’t feel the intelligence frankly would be secure. And I think that’s a situation that is quite troubling for U.S. foreign policy,” Engel said.

Obama’s Latest Concession Guts What’s Left of the Iran Nuclear Deal: Jonathan Tobin, Contentions 3/26/15

“The Iranians were holding their ground on yet another key point in the negotiations and, to no one’s surprise, the Obama administration is preparing to give in to them again. This time the issue is Iran’s refusal to open its facilities up to International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors eager to see how much progress they’ve made on military research for the nuclear program. But instead of threatening to walk away from a process that appears on track to ending sanctions on the Islamist regime over this key point, the administration is preparing to amend the current draft of the deal to allow the Iranians several years’ leeway before they’d be required to give a full reckoning about how close they are to a bomb. What this amounts to is the West waving the white flag on effective verification of Iran’s nuclear activities. And that means that not only will Iran be able to cheat their way to a bomb, but they may very well get there even while observing the agreement that is expected to be finalized by the end of the month.”

Free Fall in the Middle East: Walter Russell Mead, The American Interest, 3/27/15

“But as President Ahab glances around his deck, few of his shipmates are manning their posts—in fact, most seem to be scrambling for the lifeboats. Oh well, there’s always that trusty tar, Unnamed State Department Official, to rely on for a friendly quote in Politico:

“There’s a sense that the only view worth having on the Middle East is the long view. […] We’ve painfully seen that good can turn to bad and bad can turn to good in an instant, which might be a sobriety worth holding on to at moments like this. The truth is, you can dwell on Yemen, or you can recognize that we’re one agreement away from a game-changing, legacy-setting nuclear accord on Iran that tackles what every one agrees is the biggest threat to the region.”…

James Jeffrey, Obama’s former Ambassador to Iraq, cuts through the commentary on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East with a certain pithiness:”

“We’re in a goddamn free fall here.”




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