American Elephants


Progress in the Middle East? Not Likely. by The Elephant's Child

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The Syrian Civil War fighting has intensified over the past two months, fighting on the plains between Aleppo and the Turkish border, and US. intelligence officers and military planners have little control over the groups they have financed and trained in the bitter civil war that is now over 5-years-old.

Now, absurdly, CIA-armed militias are shooting at Pentagon-armed militias as they maneuver through contested territory.

In mid-February, a CIA-armed militia called Fursan al Haq, or Knights of Righteousness, was run out of the town of Marea, about 20 miles north of Aleppo, by Pentagon-backed Syrian Democratic Forces moving in from Kurdish-controlled areas to the east.

“Any faction that attacks us, regardless from where it gets its support, we will fight it,” said Maj. Fares Bayoush, a leader of Fursan al Haq.

The attacks come amid continued heavy fighting in Syria and illustrate the difficulty facing U.S. efforts to coordinate among dozens of armed groups that are trying to overthrow the government of President Bashar Assad, fight the Islamic State militant group and battle one another all at the same time.



Obama: Iran is Obeying letter of the Nuclear Deal, Not the Spirit by The Elephant's Child

Last Friday, President Obama had a news conference and talked a bit about his friends in the Islamic Republic of Iran. He said: “When they launched ballistic missiles with slogans calling for the destruction of Israel that makes businesses nervous…If Iran continues to ship missiles to Hezbollah, that gets businesses nervous.” And here was Obama, hoping that with the new influx of businesses from around the world, Iran would turn to improving the economy of their country and improving the lives of their people. Here’s the complete transcript.

And here’s Ezra Levant who ran across a video clip posted by the White House, of Obama boasting about just how awesome the Iran Deal is, except the nuclear program isn’t dismantled? The deal is so pathetically awful that if Obama were trying to destroy America, instead of leading the country — what would he have done differently?



Themes Loved by the Media, And the Consequences: by The Elephant's Child

If you inquire at Google about unarmed black men being shot by police, you will find that most newspapers in America seem to believe that it is an urgent crisis, young unarmed black men are being shot regularly by white policemen, and racism is sharply on the rise in the country. This piece from the Washington Post, dated August 8, 2015, is dramatic and typical, and remarkably biased.

Let’s examine a few facts. From a study from the American Enterprise Institute: (Do read the whole thing)

If you look beyond recent headlines about race in America, here is a surprising truth: Most black men in America are doing just fine. Most black men are not poor, most black men will not be incarcerated, most black men are gainfully employed, and most black men will marry.

Black men are CEOs of major corporations, Justices on the Supreme Court, Doctors, famous Movie Stars, Lawyers, Professors, Presidents, Inventors, and stars of every major sports team, they are Generals, authors, artists, and I’m pretty sure that most black women are doing just fine as well.

The Washington Post article linked above lists 17 ‘unarmed’ black men shot by police officers in 2015. Yet there were 990 people shot by police in 2015, in most cases armed and threatening. You have to read the numbers carefully, before coming to conclusions.

Here’s Heather MacDonald on the #Black Lives Matter movement, and what they miss about those police shootings, and the Washington Post data on fatal police shootings of civilians. Another article from MacDonald points out that there was a rise in violent crime beginning in the second half of 2014, up 76% in Milwaukee, 60% in St Louis, and 56% in Baltimore, and in most of America’s largest cities. Because of publicity about Ferguson, Baltimore and other cities, police officers were backing off from proactive policing in reaction to the hostility they were encountering in urban areas.

Officers had told me about being surrounded by angry, jeering crowds who cursed and threw water bottles and rocks at them when they tried to make an arrest. Suspects and bystanders stuck cell phones in officers’ faces and refused to comply with lawful orders. Officers were continuing to answer 911 calls with alacrity, but in that large area of discretionary policing—getting out of a squad car at 1 a.m., for example, to question someone who appears to have a gun or may be casing a target—many officers were deciding to simply drive on by rather than risk a volatile, potentially career-ending confrontation that they were under no obligation to instigate.

MacDonald called that “the Ferguson Effect,” and noted that applications to police academies were way down. Young men were not convinced that risking their lives daily to protect the American people was worth it if they were also going to face daily assaults and abuse from the people they were trying to protect.

In National Review, David French recalls the time when it was dangerous to walk outside at night, and black leaders called for a crackdown on crime. And  he notes the dramatic change in New York City when Rudy Giuliani instituted a program of “broken windows policing” and the cops began to see their jobs as preventing crime rather than just solving crimes. The crime wave broke.

And he turns to an essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates in the Atlantic, which sees mass incarceration as consistent with America’s history of slavery and Jim Crow. Coates rejects messages that call for personal responsibility, pays no attention to black voices who cry for safety and justice in their own communities and focuses entirely on white supremacy, plunder and oppression.

To add to the problems of policing, we need to consider the “Butterfield Fallacy.” It is rooted in ideological prejudice. Fox Butterfield was a reporter for the New York Times “whose crime stories served as the archetype for his eponymous fallacy.”

“It has become a comforting story for five straight years, crime has been falling, led by a drop in murder,” Butterfield wrote in 1997. “So why is the number of inmates in prisons and jails around the nation still going up?’  He repeated the trope in 2003: “The nation’s prison population grew 2.6 percent last year, the largest increase since 1999, according to a study by the Justice Department. The jump came despite a small decline in serious crime in 2002.” And in 2004: “The number of inmates in state and federal prisons rose 2.1 percent last year, even as violent crime and property crime fell, according to a study by the Justice Department released yesterday.”

The ‘fallacy’ consists of misidentifying as a paradox, that which is a simple cause-and-effect relationship. When you put more bad guys in prison, crime goes down. This illusion is back in full effect today.

Those on the Left disapprove of sending people to prison because they think it is racially discriminatory. Yet more crimes are committed by black men.

In the upcoming election, Democrats are worried that black Americans who came out so strongly to vote for the first black president, may well not turn out so enthusiastically for either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. It may be merely a coincidence that #Black Lives Matter and the activists who turned out to stir up violence and protest in Ferguson and Baltimore were turned out along with Occupy activists to rouse up racial protests on American campuses where many young people will be voting for the first time.  And wherever there is an opportunity to rouse up racial animus, #Black Lives Matter is right there. If it is a coincidence, it’s an interesting one.

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America Doesn’t Have an Incarceration Problem, It Has a Crime Problem by The Elephant's Child

“In New York City the number of annual murders peaked at 2,245 —a rate  of six per day—in 1990, the first year the Democrat David Dinkins was mayor. After Republican Rudolph Giuliani took office in 1994, there were 1,177 murders in 1995 and 770 in 1997. By 2013, however, New Yorkers had only faint memories of walking the streets in constant fear.” That ‘s from William Voegeli’s essay in Commentary magazine from July 1, 2015.  “Democrats.” he said, “are gearing up to reverse decades of successful policing.

Voegeli reviews the history of our views on crime and punishment, as the political football it usually is. Hillary Clinton made crime the subject of her first major policy address of her 2016 presidential campaign. She called for creating new approaches that would “end the era of mass incarceration” as well as “working with communities to prevent crime, rather than measuring success just by the number of arrests or convictions.”

Heather MacDonald is having none of that. She says America doesn’t have an incarceration problem—it has a crime problem.

President Obama made a press saturated visit to a federal penitentiary in Oklahoma in 2015. “The cell blocks that Obama toured had been evacuated in anticipation of his arrival, but after talking to six carefully prescreened inmates, he drew some conclusions about the path to prison. “These are young people who made mistakes that aren’t that different than the mistakes I made and the mistakes that a lot of you guys made,” the president told the waiting reporters.

The New York Times suggested that there is a fine line between a president and a prisoner. Anyone who had smoked marijuana and tried cocaine could end up in federal prison. Heather MacDonald disagreed.

This conceit was preposterous. It takes a lot more than marijuana or cocaine use to end up in federal prison. But the truth didn’t matter. Obama’s prison tour came in the midst of the biggest delegitimation of law enforcement in recent memory. Activists, politicians, and the media have spent the last year broadcasting a daily message that the criminal-justice system is biased against blacks and insanely draconian. The immediate trigger for that movement, known as Black Lives Matter, has been a series of highly publicized deaths of black males at the hands of the police. But the movement also builds on a long-standing discourse from the academic Left about “mass incarceration,” policing, and race.

September 2015, “Black Lives Matter goes to the White House”

The Obama White House rolled out the red carpet this week for leaders of the racist revolutionary Black Lives Matter movement, providing yet more confirmation that the Obama administration supports its members’ increasingly violent activism.

Black Lives Matter is animated not only by anti-white racism but by a hatred of normal American values, including law and order. Its members denounce the U.S. for imagined institutional racism and discrimination against African-Americans. Members idolize convicted, unrepentant cop-killers Assata Shakur and Mumia Abu Jamal, both of whom are black, and have declared “war” on law enforcement. Its members openly call for police officers to be assassinated.

Yesterday, President Obama commuted the sentences of 61 drug offenders. These were not sentences for selling marijuana, but for dealing in hard and dangerous substances—crack, coke and PCP. The recidivism rate for offenders who commit such crimes exceeds 75 percent within five years, and that’s just the ones who are caught. Drug crimes usually go unreported because customers and dealers don’t report them. This ignores the heroin epidemic that is growing across the nation.

The President claims that the most important thing we can do is reduced the demand for drugs. He has asked for an additional $1 billion for treatment, and drug crimes must be treated as a public health problem, not a criminal problem.

One expert, Columbia University neuropsychopharmacologist Carl Hart explicitly made the case that “drug addiction is a health problem that requires treatment” is exactly the wrong way to look at the use of drugs in the United States.

“Politicians today, whether Republican or Democrat, are comfortable with saying that we don’t want to send people to jail for drugs; we will offer them treatment.” Hart said in Austin. But “the vast majority of people don’t need treatment. We need better public education, and more realistic education. And we’re not getting that.”

Why does he say most people don’t need treatment? Because—contrary to widespread perceptions—the vast majority of drug users aren’t addicts. “When I say drug abuse and drug addiction, I’m thinking of people whose psycho-social functioning is disrupted,” he said later in the talk. But for more than three-quarters of drug users (and we’re not just talking about marijuana here, either), that description doesn’t apply.

This overturns the conventional wisdom on drug addiction, but Hart thinks that’s a good thing. We’ve all been fed a diet of panic-inducing misinformation about what drugs actually do to our brains, he says.

I think #Black Lives Matter, the incarceration “problem, ” the commutation of sentences for drug dealers is all just a case of community organizing to get black Americans to the polls to vote to win an election. Too many “coincidences” and red flags go up.



Sometimes, In His Rush to Scold Us, President Obama Becomes Oblivious to His Own Contributions by The Elephant's Child

Do not read the following if you have just taken a swig of coffee or another beverage:  From David Bernstein at the Volokh Conspiracy at the Washington PostPresident Obama:

“I understand that we’re in the middle of an especially noisy and volatile political season. But at a time when our politics are so polarized; when norms and customs of our political rhetoric seem to be corroding – this is precisely the time we should treat the appointment of a Supreme Court justice with the seriousness it deserves. Because our Supreme Court is supposed to be above politics, not an extension of politics. And it should stay that way.”

David Bernstein wondered if Obama is oblivious to his own contributions to this corrosion particularly with regard to the Supreme Court:

To take one prominent example, President Obama famously attacked the Citizens United case in his State of the Union address in 2010. Many observers were troubled by the president’s lack of decorum in not just taking such a harsh swipe at the Supreme Court—something that no president had done with such vigor for over seventy years—but in doing so with the justices sitting in front of him. The justices were barred by protocol from objecting in any way, and had to sit there quietly like children while the president scolded them. That’s no way, many critics argued, to treat a coequal branch of government. Not only that, but the president claimed that Citizens United “will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections.” Justice Samuel Alito, agitated that the president inaccurately suggested that the case allowed foreign corporations to spend money on American elections, mouthed “not true.” Later that year, Obama senior adviser David Axelrod declared outright, and in an outright lie, that beneficiaries of Citizens United such as the “benign-sounding Americans for Prosperity, the American Crossroads Fund” are “front groups for foreign-controlled companies.”

As Josh Blackman points out in an extensive survey:

Very few Presidents have spoken about pending Supreme Court cases after arguments were submitted. Even fewer discussed the merits of the cases. Only a handful could be seen as preemptively faulting the Justices for ruling against the government. President Obama, however, stands alone in his pointed and directed arguments to the Supreme Court [while cases are pending]. He has compared the Court invalidating the individual mandate to Lochnerism. He has chastised the Justices for only being able to invalidate the IRS rule [on subsidies to federal Obamacare exchanges] based on a “contorted reading of the statute.” To the President, the Court “shouldn’t even have” granted certiorari. Striking down the mandate would have been “unprecedented” and invalidating the IRS Rule would “unravel what’s now been woven into the fabric of America.” While we can debate the propriety of these comments, and ponder whether or not they have an effect on the Court, the 44th President has set a new precedent for ex parte arguments.

Bernstein adds : Remember. what ever you do, don’t politicize the Supreme Court.



As The Sun Sinks Slowly in the West, So Does the Solar Industry by The Elephant's Child

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Back in 2010, President Obama hailed a Spanish Company, Abengoa, saying its new solar technology would supply tens of thousands of American homes with renewable power, and create local employment.

Since then the Spanish company has built two American plants, one in Arizona and one in California, which supply electricity to more than 160,000 homes based on the capacity of the solar thermal plants. Remember that “capacity” is what the plants would provide on perfectly sunny days, and ignoring clouds or rain.

It appears that Abengoa got overambitious, and saddled with debt from its expansion, is scrambling to avoid what would be the biggest bankruptcy in Spanish corporate history. Abengoa’s American projects in Gila Bend, Arizona, and Barstow, California, still have around $2 billion in outstanding loans guaranteed by the United States government. The plants were partly financed by $605 million in federal grants and tax credits, besides the federal loan guarantees. The New York Times adds:

“The whole reason Abengoa Solar had to get the guarantee from the government is that no private lender thought the risk was worth it,” the Institute of Energy Research, a prominent renewables critic that has received financing from the oil industry, said in 2011.

Do note the NYT phrasing, and the “oil industry” link doesn’t seem to lead anywhere at all. Abengoa has legal problems as well from shareholders and creditors, with claims of misleading investors, and against individual executives. The company lost $1.3 billion last year and paid employees late.

They’ve also done projects in Central and South America. In 2007 they established the world’s first commercial solar thermal power plant on the outskirts of Seville. That year their stock hit a record high of €7.39 a share. In November, the share price had fallen below 40 euro cents. It’s now hovering around 71 euro cents.

Meanwhile up north in Maine: from Bloomberg:

Despite long winters, a famously foggy coastline and relatively few solar panels in operation, Maine is emerging as a pivotal U.S. state for determining how consumers will pay for power generated by the sun.

U.S. solar installations have boomed more than 10-fold in the past five years, driven in part by a policy known as net metering that requires utilities to pay their customers for extra solar energy from rooftop panels. That’s lowered consumers’ monthly bills, and also cuts into revenue for utilities that still must contend with their own fixed costs — spurring conflict between traditional power companies and solar providers.

The permanent problem with the sun is that sunlight is diffuse. The major greenhouse gas is water vapor, which we recognize as clouds. especially here on the Northwest coast where there is not a speck of blue sky today. Note the lovely photograph of the sun at the top of this post, and — the extensive clouds.

US solar installations have increased by 10-fold in the past five years driven by a federal policy  called net metering that requires utilities to pay their customers for extra solar energy from rooftop panels. That has lowered customers’ monthly bills, but the utilities still have their own fixed costs, and it cuts into their revenue.

Maine has proposed replacing net metering with a system that lets utilities sign 20-year contracts with residential solar customers. And instead of paying the retail price, as called for under current policies, utilities would pay rates set by regulators.

Because this is the Twenty First Century, as we are so frequently reminded, the greens are sure there is a technological fix just around the corner, and energy storage will cease to be a problem. But every known rare earth has been tried and found wanting.

Elon Musk’s Tesla Powerwall is meant to be a daily use battery. Tesla has announced prices of $3,000 and $3,500, but that does not include the inverter, and with installation it comes to $7,340. It requires about 7.5 kilowatt hours to charge the Powerwall, providing about  5.4 kilowatt hours of power once charged. The Institute for Energy Research found that it would require a payback period of 38 years which is almost 4 times the warranty period of 10 years for the Powerwall. Even if solar power were used to charge the Powerwall the payback period would be 31 years. The obvious problem is that for home use, we require electricity most when the sun has gone down.

The government’s idea was that by stimulating greater consumer demand with subsidies, production would increase and costs would go down, but in the meantime the industry believes that solar is a complete non-starter unless utilities are forced to pay extremely unrealistic prices for solar energy produced by households with solar panels. It’s not just Maine, even in sunny Nevada solar requires huge subsidies.

Progressives are sure that the government can just order utilities to charge less for their services, much like ObamaCare just assumes that hospitals and doctors can be forced to accept less payment for their services and all will be well. Most of the problems with our frighteningly large national debt and yearly deficits are due to the fact that Progressives just don’t understand the free market at all. They only understand the pursuit of power and an ever-larger government.



Government: Is It Ever Big Enough? by The Elephant's Child

Can the government ever be too big? How much spending is enough spending? And if there can be too much spending, where is that point? William Voegeli, Senior Editor of the Claremont Review of Books, explores these complex questions and offers some clear answers.




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