American Elephants


George Will, Who Was Disinvited, Spoke at the Disinvitation Dinner by The Elephant's Child

The William F. Buckley Program at Yale University, sponsored a “Disinvitation Dinner,” in honor of those who our American universities had invited to speak, and then disinvited because some of our precious students had been frightened by the possibility they might hear some words spoken which disagreed with their own. Excellent idea. The dinner, not the disinvitation. Students are enrolled in our colleges and universities because they don’t know much of anything, a fact of which they need be reminded.

George Will gives an excellent speech that is very funny about the very serious matter of freedom of speech, which is under threat today as never before. Make time for this when you can. You will enjoy every minute.



Hillary, Searching for a Political Advantage, Takes On Fortune 500 CEOs , Who She Thinks Make Too Much Money! by The Elephant's Child

hillary clinton

The news today seems to be mostly about Hillary, and about income and wealth distribution. But I repeat myself. The phrase that sticks in my mind from Hillary supporters goes something like “Don’t you want a really powerful woman to be our next president?” Well, no. And Hillary is not a “powerful woman.” She’s a celebrity — famous for being famous. Powerful women are deemed to be powerful based on their accomplishments. We can all recite a number of Hillary’s scandals, but accomplishments are harder to come up with.

(Reuters) – Hillary Clinton, under pressure from the left-wing of her Democratic Party to aggressively campaign against income inequality, voiced concern about the hefty paychecks of some corporate executives in an email to supporters.

Striking a populist note, Clinton, who announced on Sunday she was running for president in 2016, said American families were still facing financial hardship at a time “when the average CEO makes about 300 times what the average worker makes.

That’s an old phony statistic derived from an ABC News article citing a 2009 study, comparing the income from the CEOs of S&P 500 companies (which are only a part of the largest companies in the country, many of which are privately owned). And who is the average worker? Does this compare union longshoremen in west coast ports with McDonalds workers? Is the comparison with average workers in those S&P 500 companies? This is a favorite theme of the left, trying to drum up class envy and then promising to help everyone on the lower end. They talk a lot about income inequality. What they don’t talk about is human nature.

Some people are born with the proverbial silver spoon in their pampered lives. Some people desperately want to be rich, really rich. Hillary charges $300,000 a speech for a half-hour of platitudes, often to Universities who are sticking kids with huge student-loan bills. She adds on amenities due to one in her position. Some people would like to make a little more, but prefer a life that is not centered on a drive for money. They value other things in life more.

What amazes me is that Hillary’s life has been centered on becoming the first woman president. I simply don’t understand that kind of goal. Hillary has been in the public eye for 23 years. One would assume that she would have some pretty definite ideas about what she would want to accomplish as president. Apparently not. She is being urged to champion income inequality by supporters of Elizabeth Warren who like Warren’s attacks on big banks.

Most first ladies have had a philanthropic cause that they champion, though there is no formal need to do so. Laura Bush championed books and reading as a former librarian. Lady Bird Johnson chose highway beautification. There are a number of websites that tell the story of the President’s wives and their accomplishments. You can look up Hillary.

We are always fascinated by the lives of the very rich (consider Downton Abbey and the struggle to maintain that great architectural pile and avoid bankruptcy). Most people who appear on the Forbes 500 move off the list within a few years, and most people who are among the poor move up. The top 20% of the income pile pay 85% of all taxes. The bottom 20% don’t pay any taxes and are subsidized with 2.3% of national income.

Think of the kid who gets his first real job and moves out of his parents’ home. Shares an apartment, eats lots of Top Ramen and macaroni and cheese. As he gains experience and skills, he moves up. In a bad economy some move back into the parents’ home. Most of us have known someone whose drive to make money trumps everything else. Or there are those who choose to marry money. Or musicians who work dumb jobs to support their music, hoping to someday make it pay. That’s real life. It’s all very well to cite data, but real human beings are not data. Life happens.There is such a thing as luck. Some people fall into a situation where their abilities and ideas are highly valued, and some people get fired.

Real people are not statistics. Statistics and data can tell us some things, but they are not very useful in describing human nature. Some people are sure they can regulate social justice, make everything fair, end poverty, stop crime, end wars. Life doesn’t work that way. On the whole, poverty is declining everywhere. Capitalism and free markets are making everyone’s lives better, while at the same time religious fanatics are chopping off heads and throwing people into the ocean to drown because they believe in a different religion. If you don’t understand human nature in all its strengths and flaws and go on a fevered crusade to pretend to make everybody equal — it’s not going to work out too well for real people.



Free Speech Has Been Expelled From Our Universities. Students Must Be Shielded from Uncomfortable Ideas. by The Elephant's Child

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The cries of pain from our coddled college students grows ever more shrill. It would be helpful if the media stopped paying attention. It is not newsworthy. It is largely about a misunderstood First Amendment to the Constitution with which they are seriously, deeply, unfamiliar. Clearly, they have not the slightest understanding of freedom of speech, human nature, nor real life. No wonder they don’t seem to know anything.

The problem is that they are easily offended, and not just that, but they somehow have the idea that they have a right not to be offended. And even beyond that, there is an expectation that they shouldn’t encounter opinions that conflict with their own. And these are supposed to be institutions of higher learning? Jack Kelly wrote at Real Clear Politics:

The Center for Campus Involvement at the University of Michigan recently cancelled a screening of “American Sniper” the Clint Eastwood film about Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. It was cancelled after sophomore Lamees Mekkaoui gathered “roughly 200″ signatures (out of a student body of 42,700) on a petition alleging that the film “promotes anti-Muslim rhetoric and sympathizes with a mass killer.”

The Center for Campus Involvement said in a statement “We deeply regret causing harm to members of our community, and appreciate the thoughtful feedback provided to us by students.”

In a recent essay for the Weekly Standard, historian Gordon S, Wood wrote about his own history professor and mentor Bernard Bailyn and the state of history in our colleges and universities. Bailyn got off on the wrong foot from the outset with his “Peopling of British North America Project.” Didn’t he know, his critics carped, that there were people, indigenous people already here before the English came?”

College students and many historians have become obsessed with inequality and white privilege in American society. And this obsession has seriously affected the writing of American history. The inequalities of race and gender now permeate much of academic history-writing, so much so that the general reading public that wants to learn about the whole of our nation’s past has had to turn to history books written by nonacademics who have no Ph.D.s and are not involved in the incestuous conversations of the academic scholars.

But a new generation of historians is no longer interested in how the United States came to be. That kind of narrative history of the nation, they say, is not only inherently triumphalist but has a teleological bias built into it. Those who write narrative histories necessarily have to choose and assign significance to events in terms of a known outcome, and that, the moral critics believe, is bound to glorify the nation. So instead of writing full-scale narrative histories, the new generation of historians has devoted itself to isolating and recovering stories of the dispossessed: the women kept in dependence; the American Indians shorn of their lands; the black slaves brought in chains from Africa. Consequently, much of their history is fragmentary and essentially anachronistic—condemning the past for not being more like the present. It has no real interest in the pastness of the past.

Back at the University of Michigan, the screening was back on a day later. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said he would show “American Sniper” to the football team.”Proud of Kris Kyle and proud to be an American,” Mr. Harbaugh tweeted. “if that offends anybody, then so be it.”

Denying free speech is “a horrible betrayal of everything universities are supposed to be about” wrote Walter Russell Mead, a professor at Bard College. But the worst thing about “PC stupidity and mandatory cocooning on campus is…the catastrophic dumbing down of a younger generation that is becoming too fragile to exist in the current world.”

If you expect to get through life without being offended, you’re going to have a hard time of it. Colleges are offering “safe spaces” to students who are traumatized by “microaggressions.” Smith College President Kathleen McCartney apologized for causing students to be “hurt” and “made to feel unsafe” because she didn’t object when a fellow panel member uttered the “N word” during a discussion about teaching “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Free speech advocate Wendy Kaminer, wrote “It’s amazing to me [students] can’t distinguish between racist speech and speech about racist speech.”

Back at Michigan, the CCI scheduled an alternative film for those who objected to “American Sniper,” a children’s movie about a stuffed bear. When “American Sniper” was screened, the 150-seat room was filled to near capacity. Most applauded as the credits rolled. Only seven students chose to watch “Paddington Bear.”

It is interesting, if appalling, to pay a little attention to the whining students to see just what subjects or what speakers draw the outrage and offense of students, and just who those students seem to be.The Media will not touch that question.They remain unidentified.

ADDENDUM: Christina Hoff Summers of the American Enterprise Institute, also blogs as the “Factual Feminist.” An outstanding scholar, she took on a misleading ad campaign by Verizon which portrays girls as victims of sexism in math and science. Actually, girls are thriving in math and science, and it has nothing to do with sexism. But the precious little girls at Georgetown were “invited to a “Safe Space” if they feel triggered or upset by today’s events. Hate speech will not be appreciated in this space.” Can’t have their ideas questioned. They are victims, and proud of it.



Is The Constitution Dead? Did It Die While We Weren’t Paying Attention? by The Elephant's Child

Constitution

This lovely paragraph is in Myron Magnet’s review of Philip Hamburger’s Is Administrative Law Unlawful? in City Journal, the magazine of the Manhattan Institute:

The world-historical accomplishment of the American Revolution, and of the Constitution that came out of it, Hamburger notes, was that they turned upside-down the traditional governmental model of “elite power and popular subservience.” Americans “made themselves masters and made their lawmakers their servants” through a Constitution that they themselves had made. They observed laws that had legitimacy because they themselves had consented to them, through representatives whom they themselves had chosen. And “they made clear that not only their executives but even their legislatures were without absolute power.” Citizens claimed for themselves the liberty to do anything that the laws didn’t expressly forbid, and that freedom richly nourished talent, invention, experimentation, specialization—all the human qualities that are the fuel of progress and modernity.

It struck me that much of what drives the Left is contained in that paragraph. What the Left aims for is elite power and popular subservience. Obama, today, in response to a Republican sweep of the 2014 election, has decided, instead of making an effort to work with Congress in a bipartisan manner, to conduct foreign policy and legislate all on his lonesome. Politicians, by their very nature have a healthy dose of self-esteem, and they choose their rhetoric carefully to place their accomplishments or lack of accomplishments in the best possible light. That’s just natural. But insisting that because you are President of the United States you can do whatever you want to do by executive order, ignoring the tripartite nature of our Constitutional government, is just wrong.

The Constitution lodges all legislative power in Congress, which therefore cannot delegate its lawmaking function. It is, Hamburger says, “forbidden for Congress to pass a law creating an executive branch agency that writes rules legally binding on citizens—for example, to set up an agency charged with making a clean environment and then to let it make rules with the force of law to accomplish that end as it sees fit. The power of the legislative’ as the Founding Fathers’ tutelary political philosopher, John Locke, wrote, is   ‘only to make laws and not to make legislators.’ And if Congress can’t delegate the legislative power that the Constitution gives it, it certainly cannot delegate power that the Constitution doesn’t give it—namely, the power to hand out selective exemption from its laws, which is what agencies do when they grant waivers.”

James Madison, architect of the Constitution saw the separation of powers as an essential bulwark of American liberty. Administrative agencies, however, make rules, carry them out, adjudge and punish infractions of them, and wrap up legislative, executive and judicial powers in one noxious unconstitutional mess. Judicial power cannot be delegated as legislative power, the Constitution puts all of it in the judicial branch. Unlike real judges, administrative judges carry out the policy of their agency, as set and overseen by their department chief or the relevant cabinet secretary who in turn oversees him. This is not a court, and not a law, and not legal. Yet they can and do order  parties to appear before it, and extort millions of dollars in settlements, force companies to allow inspectors to enter their premises without warrants, and impose real criminal penalties. It can even kill a whole industry, as Obama’s EPA is attempting to do to the coal industry and the coal-fired power industry because the President mistakenly believes the carbon dioxide they emit is the cause of global warming.

Elites, particularly Leftist elites, do not like the Constitution which restrains their grasp for power. Many have accused Barack Obama of wanting to be a king. He laughs it off, and tries to pretend that his executive orders and executive notes and memorandums and signing statements are all perfectly constitutional, and adds, of course, that Bush did it.

Constitutional government is by its nature slow, designed to force new laws to be discussed and argued about, which will incline them to be better written and better law. But Congress, at some point got lazy, and felt it would speed things up if they just handed the administrative function in its entirety off to the assorted agencies of the government.

Thanks to Obama, we have a prime example of the failure of that whole endeavor in the Environmental Protection Agency. Good intentions come up against the nature of bureaucracy which is to grow and elaborate their mission and enhance their power. The Clean Water Act has long since accomplished it’s intent, and the EPA is vigilantly attempting to extend its regulating power to the trickles that flow into the ditches that flow into the creeks that flow into the streams that eventually flow into the “navigable waters,” the big rivers, that were originally given into their oversight. That’s pure power grab.

Congress must take back the legislative power assigned to it, agencies must shrink drastically in size, authority, and reach. They are not allowed to make law, administer law, investigate and judge law and assign penalties. Things have gotten so far out of whack that most, if not all, agencies have their own swat teams.

Part of the problem is that judges don’t know or understand the intricacies of the underlying facts of that which the agencies are attempting to regulate. Congress told the EPA that the navigable waters of the United States should be reasonably clean. The courts don’t necessarily understand where the dividing line for “enough” should fall.

Even while adhering to Supreme Court precedents about administrative power, they “remain free—indeed, [the courts] are bound by duty—to expound the unlawfulness of such power.” And at some point, Hamburger expects, the Supreme Court will have to man up and frankly state that what the Constitution says is the supreme law of the land.

And the people are going to have to let their representatives know that we care about the Constitution and our freedom, and are opposed to the administrative state.



There Is No Deal. There Is No “Framework” Deal. There Is No Truth! by The Elephant's Child

The New York Times headline claimed “Iran Agrees to Detailed Nuclear Outline. The Washington Post followed up with: “Iran agrees to nuclear restrictions in framework deal with world powers.” All hogwash. The “historic agreement” that President Obama is trying desperately to sell is pure fantasy. There has been no agreement on any of the fundamental issues that have led to international concern about Iran’s highly secret nuclear activities and have led to 13 years of diplomatic thrusts and talks and six mandatory resolutions by the United Nations Security Council.

What we have is a bunch of contradictory statements by the assorted  participants in the latest round of talks in Switzerland and an ignored deadline. Everybody is trying to make positive statements that spin things in a desirable manner without exceeding the boundaries of reality. So there was a 291 word joint statement in English by Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif and the EU foreign policy leader Federica Mogherini who led the so-called P5+1 group of nations including the US in the negotiations.

Then there was the official Iranian text in 512 Persian words, and the text from US Secretary of State John Kerry who has put out a 1,318 word document which acts as if all is a done deal. The three different documents not only do not agree, they are frankly contradictory. The Mogherini and French texts are vague and not even good spin.

The Persian text carefully avoids any words that might in any way give the impression that anything has been agreed by the Iranian side or that the Islamic republic has offered any concessions whatsoever. The Iranian text is labelled as a press statement only. It opens insisting that it has no “legal aspect” and in intended only as a “guideline for drafting future accords.” Last April they were caught cheating on the amount of oil they were allowed to export under the relaxed sanctions.

The American text pretends to spell out “parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” and claims that key points have been “decided” — and what remains to be done is  to work out the “implementation details.” The U.S.version claims that Iran has agreed to certain restraints for example reducing the number of centrifuges from 19,000 to 6,500.

The Iranian text, however, says that Iran “shall be able to …” or “qader khahad boud” in Farsi to do such a thing. The same is true about enrichment in Fordow. The Americans say Iran has agreed to stop enrichment there for 15 years. The Iranian text, however, refers to this as something that Iran “will be able to do,” if it so wished. Sometimes the two texts are diametrically opposed.

The American statement claims that Iran has agreed not to use advanced centrifuges, each of which could do the work of 10 old ones. The Iranian text, however, insists that “on the basis of solutions found, work on advanced centrifuges shall continue on the basis of a 10-year plan.”

The American text claims that Iran has agreed to dismantle the core of the heavy water plutonium plant in Arak. The Iranian text says the opposite. The plant shall remain and be updated and modernized.

The American text talks of “sanctions relief” while Iran claims that the sanctions would be  “immediately terminated.” Which is it? This is not a small matter. Remember that Obama is a fierce competitor and determined to build a legacy, and get his way.

In his Rose Garden statement, Obama said:

Over a year ago, we took the first step towards today’s framework with a deal to stop the progress of Iran’s nuclear program and roll it back in key areas.  And recall that at the time, skeptics argued that Iran would cheat, and that we could not verify their compliance and the interim agreement would fail. Instead, it has succeeded exactly as intended. Iran has met all of its obligations. It eliminated its stockpile of dangerous nuclear material.  Inspections of Iran’s program increased. And we continued negotiations to see if we could achieve a more comprehensive deal.

Today, after many months of tough, principled diplomacy, we have achieved the framework for that deal.  And it is a good deal, a deal that meets our core objectives.  This framework would cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.  Iran will face strict limitations on its program, and Iran has also agreed to the most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated for any nuclear program in history.  So this deal is not based on trust, it’s based on unprecedented verification.

According to the Persians, they have agreed to no such thing. Iran has said clearly that Obama is lying. Iran has cheated on every single restriction ever placed on them. There have been 20 years of nuclear deal-breaking. In 2003, after Iran came clean, inspectors kept finding new and undeclared sites within Iran. In December they were caught shopping for components for its heavy-water reactor which can produce weapons-grade plutonium.

Iran says plainly that they will not shut down a single facility, will not dismantle a single centrifuge, and will not ship it’s stockpile of enriched uranium out of the country. The UN inspections people say they really don’t know just what the Iranians have, and won’t know without being able to do surprise inspections.

But Obama wants you to know that the deal he has not made is a good one. He claimed that the only alternative to his deal was another ground war in the Middle East. Yet anyone who has been paying the slightest attention could come up with several alternatives. Obama is regarded as completely weak. The Arab nations have joined together with Israel to protest the deal he seems so determined on. He says “this is our best bet by far to make sure Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon.” But he also says that ” Iran wants to join the community of nations” just at the moment that they are sponsoring genocide in Syria. He seems to think the Iranian people want to be part of that community, without any understanding that Iran is a dictatorial theocracy, and if the people dared to speak out, which they don’t, they would swiftly be executed.

Willful ignorance, and a frightening fantasy. When they shriek “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” — they actually mean it.



The Left Gears Up For The Coming Campaign by The Elephant's Child

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We have one declared candidate for President of the United States, but the media cannot wait. They want the contest on now, because campaigns always make for better opportunities for stories, and that’s easier than trying to understand the ups and downs of daily policies and events.

This time it’s PolitiFact, and whatever it is they are going to fact check it! Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker said in January, before a New Hampshire audience, that he paid just $1 for his sweater at Kohl’s. He said there was a time when the word “thrift” was not in his vocabulary. He said he had bought something at the price on the tag, and his wife couldn’t believe he didn’t understand the concept of bargain hunting. He learned his lesson.

Now, we grant this is not the most important topic in politics today. But we decided to fact check it for two reasons,” PolitiFact’s James B. Nelson wrote. “First, we heard from readers from around the country who thought it was an unbelievable story — as in, literally impossible to believe. Second, it goes to what has been a major theme of Walker’s visits to some of the early primary states — that he is just an average guy.”

PolitiFact, a division of the Tampa Bay Times, noted that Walker’s reputation for being a regular Joe contrasts nicely with the more “well-heeled” GOP 2016 hopefuls, particularly former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

They called the Kohl’s in Hooksett, NH, and an employee in menswear said all of their Henley sweaters were on the clearance racks. Based on photos of Walker in the sweater, it appeared to be a “Chaps twisted button Mock Sweater” in ‘walnut twist.’ Unable to find it on the Kohl’s’ website they went to the local store and found plenty of Chaps sweaters marked between 80 and 90 percent off, even more than Walker had claimed. Some were originally priced at $70 and marked down to $7, but Walker said he used his “Kohl’s Cash” a store discount card based on previous purchases.

Politifact was forced to hand Gov. Walker a “true” rating for his claim. Dang! No big story there. But you see what I mean.



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.




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