American Elephants


Crime and Punishment and the Illusions of the Left by The Elephant's Child

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An official from the U.S. Department of Justice has said the agency will no longer call people “felons” or “convicts” after they are released from prison — because it is too hard for them emotionally.

This fits right in with the Obama administration plan to release large numbers of “non-violent”  felons to remedy “mass incarceration.” To a liberal, crime is never the fault of the perpetrator. It is the fault of society, the criminal’s parents, his lack of a good education, poverty, drugs, or lack of opportunity. Federal prisons are filled with “first-time, non-violent drug offenders” they claim, who were caught up by the criminal justice system and imprisoned, unfairly, for years. This conviction is behind the current drive for criminal justice reform.

Mass incarceration of such prisoners tears apart families, and most of these unfairly imprisoned and nearly innocent are African American, which means that the system is deeply racist. Trouble is that all of these popular buzz words are bunk. There is no mass incarceration. Each prisoner is there because he was arrested for committing a felony, was convicted by a judge and jury or pleaded guilty, may have appealed the sentence or chose not to to appellate courts and received all the rights of due process that are provided by the U.S.Constitution.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that almost all drug offenders in federal prison are serving sentences for drug trafficking, which does not mean selling small amounts of marijuana or heroin.

The Butterfield Fallacy is also at work here. Because crime has decreased, it is believed there is no need for so many people to be in prison. Wrong assumption. Crime is down in a simple cause and effect matter. Because so many criminals are in prison, there is less crime. The vast majority of prisoners are in state prisons, not federal prisons. Recidivism rates for chronic drug traffickers are over 75 percent, in other words three quarters of those released will be arrested again for committing serious crimes. And for every arrest, such criminals commit, on average, twelve other unsolved crimes.

Malcolm B. Benson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 1995, and spent 19 years behind bars. He was released early for good behavior in January 2015. It took him only nine months to kill a 59 year-old Army veteran who was waiting at a bus stop on his way to work, when Benson shot him during a botched robbery. Recidivism is common.  According to Breitbart —

Over the past several years, the U.S. Sentencing Commission has ordered the release of thousands of serious criminals from federal prison, and in 2014 reduced the guidelines for all drug traffickers, regardless of the type of drug, criminal history, history of violence, gang or cartel ties making over 46,000 convicted drug traffickers eligible for early release. It is estimated that the bills now pending in Congress could make another 12,000 eligible for early release.

Jason L. Riley, writing in the Wall Street Journal. asked plaintively:

Why the fate of criminals should matter more than the fate of crime victims is a question that went largely unasked, let alone answered, during last week’s bipartisan celebration of President Obama’s decision to release dozens of individuals from prison and push for looser sentencing guidelines.

If the president is to be believed, it is not the prevalence of thugs that turns black ghettos into living nightmares for residents. Rather, the police, prosecutors and judges who pursue lawbreakers are the bigger cause for concern.

“A growing body of research shows that people of color are more likely to be stopped, frisked, questioned, charged, detained,” said Mr. Obama in his recent address to the NAACP. “What is that doing to our communities? What’s that doing to those children? Our nation is being robbed of men and women who could be workers and taxpayers, could be more actively involved in their children’s lives, could be role models, could be community leaders.”

This is apparently a big part of President Obama’s effort to establish a legacy. He is attempting to empty the detention center at Guantanamo Bay as well, and no new detainees have been held there. He just released the detainee responsible for the attack on the USS Cole, and the deaths of 17 servicemen. Congress has acted to make it illegal to bring detainees to the United States, but none seem to be tried by Military Commissions, as was the original intent, and most of those released have returned to the battle against Americans.



Communicating With the American People: We Don’t Like Being Lied To! by The Elephant's Child

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“The rate of real economic growth is the single greatest determinate of America’s strength as a nation and the well being of the American people.” President Obama has not delivered a single year of 3,0% growth. The Commerce Department reported that the U.S. economy expanded at the slowest pace in two years, rising at an anemic 0.5% rate after a 1.4% fourth quarter advance. Not good, and one of the reasons why so many people are angry.

From Investors Business Daily:

Legacy: The same day the 0.5% GDP growth came out, President Obama is quoted in the New York Times saying the country has done “better” than “any large economy on Earth in modern history.” Delusional doesn’t begin to cut it.

The only real problem with the economy, as far as Obama is concerned, is that he hasn’t been selling his successful policies aggressively enough.

“We were moving so fast early on that we couldn’t take victory laps. We couldn’t explain everything we were doing. I mean, one day we’re saving the banks; the next day we’re saving the auto industry; the next day we’re trying to see whether we can have some impact on the housing market,” he told the Times’ Andrew Ross Sorkin.

Investors added that Obama didn’t “save” either industry. His only contribution to the GM and Chrysler bankruptcy process was to protect union interests at taxpayer expense. Dodd-Frank killed many, many community banks. The stimulus was an enormous expense and accomplished nothing at all.

At a townhall meeting in London, Obama was asked about what he wanted his  legacy to be after eight years.

There are things I’m proud of. The basic principle that in a country as wealthy as the United States, every person should have access to high-quality health care that they can afford — that’s something I’m proud of, I believe in. (Applause.) Saving the world economy from a Great Depression — that was pretty good. (Laughter and applause.)

Well, laughter indeed, but no applause. In early days, Obama was hailed as a great communicator. He was even awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for merely talking about peace. As Noah Rothman said today at Commentary:

The image of Obama as the left’s Great Communicator was always a fabrication. Given how often Obama himself has admitted his persuasive skills have failed his supporters, you might think this invention of a center-left media would have long ago been buried. Yet, it remains with us even today. Born out of a wish and unresponsive to falsifying evidence, the idea that Obama was somehow a marvelously successful communicator will probably be with us long after the president leaves office.

Mr. Trump’s foreign policy speech was similarly hailed as strong and wide ranging.  A lot of people believe what Mr. Trump said, and they’re wrong.

Mr. Trump: “NAFTA, as an example, has been a total disaster for the United States and has emptied our states — literally emptied our states of our manufacturing and our jobs.  Not true.

The North American Free Trade Agreement went into force January 1, 1994. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these were the numbers at the end of December in 1993:

  • Manufacturing employment: 16.8 million
  • Labor force participation rate: 66.4%
  • Unemployment rate: 6.5%

These were the numbers at the end of December 2000:

  • Manufacturing employment: 17.2 million
  • Labor force participation rate: 67.0%
  • Unemployment rate: 3.9%

After seven years of NAFTA, unemployment was down, more people were in the labor force, and there were more people who were employed in manufacturing. In year 8 China joined the World Trade Organization, and problems came from that. This is when the drop in trade came. China is not a good economic partner, but the Obama administration is negotiating an investment deal with China. Either they should stop or Congress should stop them. In any case, Mr. Trump is plainly mistaken on his major arguments.



Keeping the Government’s Hands Off Your Pocketbook! by The Elephant's Child

History Professor Burton Folsom of Hillsdale College explains carefully why government investments usually fail. Professor Folsom has demolished The Myth of the Robber Barons, Explained in New Deal or Raw Deal how FDR’s economic legacy has damaged America, and now with Uncle Sam Can’t Count: A History of Failed Government Investments from Beaver Pelts to Green Energy and in this short video for Prager University, he explains why Big New Ideas are better left to private entrepreneurs.

It’s a matter of incentives. When entrepreneurs invest their own hard earned money, they are careful and thrifty, I have not yet seen a bill for Obama’s investments in Big Ideas like Solyndra, Ivanpah, Solar City, and all the rest, and there’s the high-speed railroad to nowhere supposedly abuilding in California.

There are some lessons here to pay close attention to. Some presidents want to build monuments to themselves, and members of Congress are subject to the same temptations.



President Obama Is Sending 200 More Troops to Iraq by The Elephant's Child

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On April 18, Hot Air reported that “President Obama has decided to add 217 more troops to fight in Iraq, raising the total number now serving in the country to just over 4,000.” AP reported:

Of the additional troops, most would be Army special forces, who have been used throughout the anti-Islamic State campaign to advise and assist the Iraqis. The remainder would include some trainers, security forces for the advisers, and maintenance teams for the Apaches.

The decisions reflect weeks of discussions with commanders and Iraqi leaders, and a decision by President Barack Obama to increase the authorized troop level in Iraq by 217 forces – or from 3,870 to 4,087. The advise-and-assist teams – made up of about a dozen troops each accompanied by security forces – would embed with Iraqi brigades and battalion, likely putting them closer to the front lines and at greater risk from mortars and rocket fire.

They are also sending Apache helicopters in addition to the advise-and-assist teams. The goal is to retake Mosul from ISIS, which they have held since June 2014. There will also be operations to take Raqqa, ISIS’s capital in Syria. You will notice that we always make an effort to tell the enemy just what we have in mind and what our plans are.

A U.S. military spokesman said that ISIS has lost nearly half its strength during the recent bombing campaign. They have put exceptional pressure on ISIS over the past 20 months. Strikes on ISIS-held oilfields have seen its cash flow cut by a third, and ISIS fighters have had their pay cut by half.

Six hundred ISIS fighters have been killed in the past three weeks alone, and precision drone strikes and covert Special Forces raids to take out senior leaders have left the terrorists “paranoid and in chaos.” 650 RAF strikes have helped to force the group to flee from 40 percent of the territory they once held in northern Iraq.

President Bush recommended that we should leave 20,000 troops in Iraq to maintain the hard-won peace, but the new President Obama had run on an anti-Iraq War campaign and a promise to get the troops out of Iraq. Once in charge, he ignored the Bush warnings, and abruptly pulled the military out, which inevitably led to the rise of ISIS.

It apparently took weeks of discussion to get to the point of adding 217 special forces troops. President Obama does not want to be blamed for any unfortunate events or bad results, but he does have confidence in America’s special forces. His fear of being blamed is probably the reason for unusually restricted rules of engagement that have left our military in a vulnerable position.



Obama’s At It Again, Rewriting the Law and Legislating From the Oval Office. by The Elephant's Child

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President Obama has no intention of spending his last months in office trying to persuade Congress to do what he wants. He sees no future in that, and he dislikes Republicans anyway. So it’s not exactly a surprise that he is once again trying to make law from the oval office instead of bothering with the customary route to getting his own way. I guess in law school nobody ever explained the three branches of government and the role assigned to each. Or maybe it’s just that progressives don’t have any respect for the Constitution and see no reason to pay it any mind.

President Obama has no inhibitions about rewriting laws he doesn’t like—even those he’s signed. Witness the Administration’s revision of the Every Student Succeeds Act to allow the feds to regulate state and local school spending.

The law—which passed Congress last year with large bipartisan majorities—devolved power to the states and rolled back some federal mandates. In doing so, Congress rebuffed the White House’s previous attempts to direct local education policy with No Child Left Behind waivers.

The law allowed school districts more discretion over Title I funds which are designed to help poor students. Federal policy dating back to the 1970s required that Title I funds were to supplement state and local spending, not substitute for them.

Schools complained that completing so much federal paperwork diverted resources from teaching, and anyone who just finished their income taxes might well be sympathetic. But Congress allowed school districts to develop their own methods to show their compliance. “The law also specifically prohibited the Secretary of Education from prescribing the “specific methodology a local educational agency uses to allocate State and local funds” or mandating “equalized spending per pupil for a State, local educational agency, or school.”

That’s the part of the law the administration does not like, and that they are attempting to rewrite.

The Education Department recently proposed assessing the local school district’s compliance with the law by whether a Title I school “receives at least as much in State and local funding as the average non-Title I school.” In other words, the Administration is trying to do exactly what the law prohibits it from doing.

Progressives want to force local school districts to equalize spending among all schools. Staff compensation represents more than 80% of school spending. Because of seniority rules in labor agreements and state laws, younger teachers with lower base salaries are apt to be employed at low-income schools.

Demanding equalized spending in Title I schools and non-Title I schools would force states to rewrite their educational funding statutes and districts to redo their labor agreements. Experienced teachers who earn much higher salaries might have to be forcibly transferred to low-income schools, or teachers at Title I schools might have to be paid more.”

The goal on the left — is to force school districts to employ more staff at low-income schools.” Unfortunately quantity of teachers is no more indicative of quality education than is years of tenure. Unions are not particularly interested in teacher excellence, nor quality of education, but only in collecting dues, and exercising political power.  Educational excellence usually comes from the Principals, the individual teachers and the elected representatives of the local people — the local school board— not the federal government.



The Feminist War on Gender Is Creating Massive Problems. by The Elephant's Child

I vaguely remember reading a book long ago by a newly enlightened feminist on her conversion to feminist activism. She had grown up in a family where her father was most definitely the head of the household, the man in the family, who got the Sunday paper first, was served first at the dinner table, and looking back she was troubled by the injustice of it all. Well, poor baby.

N.O.W., the National Organization for Women, was born back in the Sixties, 1966 to be exact, when everyone was protesting about something or other, mostly about their fear of being drafted. Their focus has consistently been on gender equality, and that’s where we lose interest.  Women appreciate the wider range of occupations open to them, but recognize that there are many jobs for which they are just not well-suited. Most women appreciate the difference between the sexes and wouldn’t want it any other way.

N.O.W., AAUW and the National Committee on Pay Equity marshal their forces every April to promote the annual feminist holiday known as Equal Pay Day. Hillary tried to make a big deal of it in a speech yesterday, adding the race card.  It is a verifiable falsehood, says economist Mark Perry at AEI:

based on the false assumption that women are paid 23% less for doing exactly the same work in the exact same occupations and careers, working side-by-side with men on the same job for the same organization, working the same number of hours per week, traveling the same amount of time for work obligations, with the same exact work experience and education, with exactly the same level of productivity.

Equal Pay has been the law since 1966, but the feminists soldier on, trying to open all military combat roles to women. The Marines justifiably object. Former Attorney General Eric Holder invented rights for the transgendered — to protect cross-dressing and transsexualism under federal civil rights laws.

But the feminist drive to eliminate gender is really getting into the weeds with combat roles, and gender dysphoria. They are doing great damage to the gullible. The American College of Pediatricians felt it necessary to come out with a statement that “Gender Ideology Harms Children.” Parents are under pressure to “help their children to transition,” as a grateful woman who had parents with patience wrote in January in the Wall Street Journal: “The Transgender Battle Line: Childhood.” A former transgender wrote yesterday in The Federalist about his alarm at the attempt to redefine gender norms.

So of course the White House had to jump into the controversy with a big promotion on “Breaking Down Gender Stereotypes in Media and Toys so that Our Children Can Explore, Learn, and Dream Without Limit“— urging toymakers, children’s magazines, and organizations like Girl Scouts and Netflix to “raise awareness about gender stereotypes,” once again increasing the focus on something better left alone.

“We’re hosting the conference because we know that the TV, movies, and videos that kids watch, and the toys with which they play, can have a real impact on the skills they develop and their aspirations,” White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said in a post on the White House blog. “This impact goes beyond child development. This affects the quality of our workforce, and has the potential to affect our economy for decades to come.”

There are all kinds of dysphorias, from anorexia, which has killed some of its victims, to bodily dysphorias which has led its sufferers to cut off limbs, or in the case of one man to change his face to that of a cat with surgery, tattoos and piercings. It is a psychological problem and treatment is at best uncertain. Many, after some time, recover. For those who have had surgery to complete their transformation it is much more difficult if they lose the urge to be the opposite sex. North Carolina has passed a law requiring people to use the bathroom according to the sex they were born with.

Faux outrage, as everybody wants to demonstrate how opposed to ‘discrimination’ they are. Women have had to put up with male predators  invading their bathrooms, and see only danger in liberal insistence on changing tradition and good sense.

This is all an outgrowth of the feminist war on gender. There are two genders, male and female. Live with it.



A Little Straight Talk About Where we Are by The Elephant's Child

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Here’s some straight talk about our current problems. Unfortunately, straight talk is somewhat rare, but knowledge of what is true and what is not is a good first step.

Leon Aron, resident scholar and Director of Russian Studies at AEI.

—”The clash of philosophies

From Alabama to Denmark, Nevada to the Netherlands, and from Arizona to Sweden and Germany, Hungary and Poland, voters are flocking to right/left populist, nationalist, isolationist, and nativist demagogues, parties, and movements.

The trend sweeping Europe and the United States is broader and deeper than politics. …This chasm is not merely ideological. It is ethical, linguistic — almost anthropological

Victor Davis Hanson senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

How America Lost Its Groove

Deterrence is lost through lax foreign policy, an erosion of military readiness, and failed supreme command — often insidiously, over time, rather than dramatically, at once. The following random events over the seven years that Barack Obama has been in office have led to the idea abroad that the U.S. is no longer the world’s leader and that regional hegemonies have a golden opportunity to redraw regional maps and spheres of influence — to the disadvantage of the West — in the ten months remaining before the next president is inaugurated.

A Nation of Laws—Sort Of

Any fair reading of State Department and general federal government laws regarding the use of classified information by federal employees makes it is clear that Hillary Clinton violated the law—both by improperly setting up her own private server, and then by sending information through it that was classified. …

If she is not indicted by the Obama administration for violations of federal laws or conspiracy to obstruct justice, in the future it will be almost impossible to prosecute successfully any federal employee for violating government protocols about the handling of classified information.

Hold Colleges Accountable to the Real World

The public is steadily losing confidence in undergraduate education, given that we hear constantly about how poorly educated are today’s graduates and how few well-paying jobs await them.

The cost of college is a national scandal. Collective student-loan debt in America is about $1.2 trillion. Campus political correctness is now daily news.

How could higher education be held accountable and thereby be reformed?

These latest linguistic contortions to advance ideological agendas follow an established pattern of the Obama administration and the departments beneath it.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described Egypt’s radical Muslim Brotherhood as “largely secular.” CIA Director John Brennan has called jihad “a legitimate tenet of Islam,” a mere effort “to purify oneself.

Bill Gertz national security columnist for The Washington Times

Cybercom sounds alarm on infrastructure attacks

The commander of the U.S. Cyber Command warned Congress this week that Russia and China now can launch crippling cyberattacks on the electric grid and other critical infrastructures. …

Most military operations involve the use of commercial infrastructure and thus their vulnerabilities to cyberattacks are a major concern.

“If you were able to take that away or materially impact the ability to manage an air traffic control system, to manage the overhead [satellite] structure and the flow of communications or data, for example, that would materially impact [the Defense Department’s] ability to execute its mission — let alone the broader economic impact for us as a nation. …




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