American Elephants


Just What Does Being “Presidential” Mean? by The Elephant's Child

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I have always suspected that Leftist ideology would prefer that we were more like Europe. Not sure what that means—Kings and Queens instead of boring old presidents? More castles for the exceedingly rich so they don’t have to build their own? Surely it’s not more wars. I also suspect that it’s partly because they are more than a little unfamiliar with history. They are very big on blaming America for slavery and racism, apparently unaware that slavery was the way of the world pretty much until the British and America banned it. American Indians practiced slavery. The vast majority of the trans-Atlantic slave trade went to the sugar islands of the Caribbean and South America, not here.

My point, however, is that Americans don’t understand the efforts made by the Founding Fathers, the early settlers, and historians well-versed in history to not favor any kind of royal trappings, they wanted us simple, ordinary, common, down-to-earth, good people. After the Revolution, when we thought we were done with British royalty, many wanted George Washington to be a King, but he would have no truck with that. He really didn’t want to be the President —he just wanted to go back to his farm. Whenever someone got to yearning for more elegance, there was usually someone else to remind that we don’t do that sort of thing. There was just an extensive article this week about the tendency of residents of “the swamp” to want to buy great art (with taxpayer dollars) to make Washington DC  a little classier.

Which brings me to the vast complaints about President Trump. The problem is the tweets. Of course it’s the language too, the Queens accent, (Dan Bongino, who is from Queens. says Trump talks like someone from Queens who is in the construction business.) Even the Never Trumpers always emphasize the tweets. The insults, the name-calling, the criticism. He’s Not Presidential!! they cry, forgetting that tweeting was not available to the previous 44 or 43.  I don’t mind because it tells us what he’s thinking, and I find that helpful information. And if they knew a little more presidential history, they wouldn’t yammer on about being “unpresidential.”

But “presidential”— if there is some particular standard for presidents, I must have missed it. We have had a very few exceptional, a lot of more or less OK ones, some marginally competent and some downright awful. The party that is not in power always has nasty thing to say about the president that is in power. Presidents are only ordinary men (so far) with all the faults and quirks that go along with being human, who are maybe a little more ambitious that the rest of us. We elect them to run the country for four years, and if they do a very good job we may give them another four years. We ask a lot of a president, but he gets to surround himself with the best advisors he possibly can get along with, but he’s the boss. When the board of directors of a corporation needs a new CEO do they sit around the table complaining about his funny hair, or his tan out of a bottle? They want someone who can make the company work better, earn more money, make better products, hire better people, make the company grow and prosper.

But isn’t that exactly what Trump is doing? Making the country grow and prosper? Black and Hispanic unemployment is the lowest in history. Small business prospering, large business prospering. But the Media says Trump is a racist? (see previous post) No, former Speaker Pelosi, tax cuts are not just for the rich. Everybody benefits, and the rich don’t necessarily benefit the most. And announcing that the first thing you’d do when you get back in power is to end the tax cuts immediately requires an immediate remedial course in economics, as well as a failure to get back in power.

When you cut taxes, people are able to keep more of their own money, and invest it in new businesses, new products, new ideas, or just buy something they’ve needed for years. When the government dumps dumb regulations that are not accomplishing anything, people are freed up to do new things. But the environment! Trump is getting rid of regulations. Yes. filling the gas tanks of America’s cars with fuel made of corn (food) was a dumb idea. The Paris Climate Accords were a scheme to get the rich countries to give a big chunk of their wealth to poor developing countries for free, and pretending that it had some effect on the climate (it didn’t) was a dumb idea.  What the Left hates is that the country is prospering under Trump, and there’s a possibility that he might get re-elected, which accounts for much of the venom.

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The Long Hot Summer by The Elephant's Child

Sorry about the light blogging. It’s been hot. Well, those of you who live in other states are not particularly bothered by temperatures in the high 80ºs. I have lived in Arizona, but everything there is air-conditioned. This is the Pacific Northwest. where it rains a lot, and we grow mossy backs and suffer when it gets warm. It’s only really hot for a few days to a week, in the summer, and we have lots of fans. and suffer. Sorry, it’s not global warming, just summer.

For fun, here is a piece by John Scotto, at American Thinker, who attempts to define Modern Liberalism.  Pretty good list. He starts off with Promoting illegal immigration, Embracing open borders, Calling for the abolition of ICE, and Bashing law enforcement without pause.  What’s fun, is not only the list of 15, but the comments where everybody else chimes in with their own ideas.  What’s clear is that everyone is troubled by what is essentially a rebellion against the law and the Constitution, simply because they have been stripped of power.

How can roughly one half of the country have so little knowledge of history and ignorance of the workings of an economy? Well, yes, that’s a question that pretty much answers itself. We have a major problem with our educational system and the news media. We have done ourselves a disservice by laughing and calling it “Trump Derangement Syndrome.”I  plead guilty as well. They are not joking, but deadly serious, and furious at being out of power. Perhaps this is related to their paucity of candidates.

Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez as the new face of the Democratic Party? Joe Biden?  Andrew Cuomo? Bill DeBlasio? Pocahontas? I’m sure our governor wants to run. What was Hillary’s slogan? “Onward together” The new one is “For the People” Sure to be a winner, is it not?

No wonder they will fight to the death to prevent a law requiring citizenship to vote, or any restriction whatsoever on voting by illegal aliens. No wonder President Trump has spoken so frequently of “draining the swamp.” Being in power means far more than just running the country to ones’ taste. You get rich  by  getting jobs for your husband or wife, you can get book contracts, and even have the books ghost written for you. I don’t think we used to believe that holding a public office was meant to make the occupant a millionaire. From 1975 to 1979 Ronald Reagan wrote more than 600 radio addresses in his own hand, planning every plank in what would become his presidential platform. There’s a wonderful book, Reagan In His Own Hand
that explains why he was so successful, about how he prepared for the presidency. Democrats, you may have noticed, don’t even bother to find out how economics works.

The story of Supply-Side economics is quite interesting, and John Steele Gordon’s An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power is a wonderful history of how and why we learned that capitalism works. In getting a link to Amazon for the book, I noticed that there is a Chinese edition.
I wonder is Xi has read it?



Here’s What “Draining the Swamp” Really Means! by The Elephant's Child

“Draining the Swamp” is a newly popular phrase for trying to rein in the overgrown government in Washington D.C. that seems to be leading to an administrative state — a catastrophic error devoutly to be avoided. Philip Hamburger has written a splendid assessment titled Is Administrative Law Unlawful and a companion The Administrative Threat which explain just what we have to worry about.

Investors Business Daily has written about just how it works.

What was first proposed by Congress as a modest law to assess the environmental impact of highway construction and other publicly owned projects, has grown into a bureaucratic monster, the likes of which no one ever imagined.

Nearly a half-century ago, before major federal environmental laws existed, Congress wanted to ensure that all federal agencies consider the environmental impact of their actions. This well intended action led to passage of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

America’s permitting and regulatory process is now so tightly bound in red tape, virtually no major energy or construction project can be accomplished without years of permitting delays, involvement of multiple government agencies, and seemingly endless  litigation. According to a 2016 review by the National Association of Environmental Professionals, it now takes an average of 5 years to complete one NEPA environmental impact statement. This timeline doesn’t include the years of litigation that routinely follow every major energy and construction project.

In North Dakota a badly needed drinking water project was held up in permitting and court for nearly 15 years. Colorado is still waiting after 10 years of trying to expand a reservoir to boost their drinking water supply. Everyone recognizes that the permitting process is a huge problem. The Obama administration ran into it with his stimulus program, and tried to speed up the process. But what is needed is not just “fixing” the rule, but to reform the NEPA process by making environmental permits a “one agency, one decision” deal, include a two-year deadline. For most NEPA permits, a lawsuit can be filed up to six years after the project ends. Environmental activists often simply do not want any change to take place in the area of their concern, and will use all kinds of silly lawsuits to end or slow development. The “endangered species” idea can be used anywhere, if you can’t find a specimen, but there may be large quantities on the other side of the ridge.

The Obama administration imposed a record 600 major regulations, which added rules that cost the economy $100 million or more at a rate of every three days.

President Trump is taking on the issue of permitting reform head-on, laying out a comprehensive plan to streamline approval for major infrastructure projects. A big part of the cost of any infrastructure project is red tape, which I’m sure he knows well from his construction projects. So far by the end of December had saved some $8.1 billion in net federal regulatory costs. The impact on the larger economy is more significant. Scott Pruitt is doing a fabulous job.

Regulations destroy freedom. The question: Is the loss of freedom worth what the regulation will cost?



What is American Greatness? by The Elephant's Child

The Question was “Can the Swamp Be Drained?” Kimberly Strassel of the Wall Street Journal speaks on the Governmental Swamp, Can the political corruption in our government be defined and can we actually actually make progress in fixing it?

It’s a fairly long speech, you may need to save it for the weekend, but don’t miss it. It’s important, and Kim is terrific.  The lecture was given as part of the April 2018 National Leadership Seminar for Hillsdale College, and posted on Feb. 27.



Draining the Swamp at the Veterans Administration by The Elephant's Child

Our Veterans seeking care from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can perhaps breathe a little easier. Five hundred and forty-eight VA employees have been terminated since Donald Trump took office and David Shulkin  took over as secretary of what was called “probably the most incompetently run agency in the United States.”

Another 200 VA workers have been suspended and 33 have been demoted. Those disciplined include 22 senior leaders, more than 70 nurses, 14 police officers and 25 physicians. A program analyst dealing with the Government Accountability, which audits the department, a public affairs specialist, a chef of police and a chief of surgery were also disciplined.

Food service workers, housekeeping aides were also fired.  Lower level jobs in which the deportment has employed felons and convicted sex-offenders were also fired. You could call it a rigorous housecleaning.

The record of failed care for veterans has become a national scandal. Mr. Shulkin was initially appointed by former president Obama as a VA undersecretary, but by the end of the Obama administration he was increasingly frustrated with the American Federation of Government Employees union which defended the rights of bad employees to a government paycheck even when they are harming the veterans they were there to serve. Managers were reluctant to vigorously pursue firings, and firings were often overturned by the federal Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).

Put in charge by President Trump, Shulkin asked Congress for new legislation to reduce the role of MSPB, especially when firing senior leaders. Congress passed the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act in response, and Trump signed the bill in June.

The VA has been found to be a prime abuser of extended paid leave. Two or more years seems excessive, but it was not unusual. Here’s how bureaucracy works: the inspector general’s staff is designed to avoid conflicts of interest in internal investigations. Their work can lead to criminal charges, but they become involved only in an internal review finds evidence on criminal activity. VA internal investigative policies are designed to see if policies and procedures are followed, not to look for criminal activity.

In a 2013 case where an elderly hospitalized veteran died at a Louisiana hospital, in March of 2013. A VA internal investigation found that Harris, a nurses aide, had violated no policies and was not negligent, so was returned to patient care, in April.  However, the local coroner found that the veteran had died of blunt force trauma to the head, and witnesses told him and the VA inspetor general that they saw Harris striking the man. Harris was arrested on December 10, 2013. Harris was out on bail, and on extended (2 years) paid leave until just 3 days before his trial. It was the coroner’s intervention that led to a criminal probe by the IG.

It seems that when the VA wants to appease congressional critics or media critics or even just prevent poor-performing employees from doing further damage, the department paid them to stay home instead of firing them. Even during the campaign Trump talked about “draining the swamp” and the care we owed to our veterans. There is no excuse for such irresponsible practices. Looks like the swamp is finally starting to drain. 548 terminated, and that may be only the beginning. The organization has been put on notice that our veterans will be faithfully served.



Deregulating the Administrative State by The Elephant's Child

We have Trumpkins and Trumpsters, Never Trumpers, and on the other side foul language, Russian conspiracy freaks, Maxine Waters and CNN, among others. The Left goes on about Authoritarianism, and is apparently extremely worried about a new burst of  Fascism, Administrative control and loss of Freedom while President Trump works hard at lessening the regulatory burden that the Obama administration inflicted on business, the economy in general and our individual lives. There’s a bit of a disconnect here.

Look, we the people are the board of directors, and every four years we endeavor to hire someone to run the place for four years. Big job, and an important job. Keep the economy running, try to keep the peace, get along with other nations, keep the federal bureaucracy in check, world’s policeman—not a job we or the world wants, but somebody has to pay attention. Just keeping the country running properly is a huge job. Lots of agencies and offices and administrations and services, transportation and intelligence, military and the courts. It’s very very complicated and most things happen very slowly and it’s little wonder that they refer to it as a swamp.

A lot of the agencies and services don’t work very well, and President Trump is already endeavoring to straighten some of them up. The Veterans Administration can now fire people who are not meeting the needs of the vets they are assigned to serve. Maybe we won’t have our veterans dying while they are waiting for an appointment. Most people will not appreciate the fact that Trump has ended the task of a government agency to keep reporting on the progress of their efforts to deal with Y2K — the change of the calendar from 1999 to 2000 that was expected to be a major problem for America’s computers. 17 years have passed and only now can they stop working on formal reports, due every year. The roots and tangles that gum up the swamp are rules,  regulations and requirements that go on eternally unless they receive an official order to stop. That—is how you drain a swamp. The president is very pleased with ending unnecessary regulation, and welcomes suggestions for more bad regulations to remove.

The Left is incensed that the Supreme Court has allowed President Trump’s temporary travel ban to proceed. If they were even slightly aware, they would recognize the depth of the problems Europe faces because of the flood of migrants from the Middle East and Africa. Europe, long slumbering under waves of unwanted immigration, is beginning to awaken and notice the constant terror attacks, the sexual attacks, no-go areas, the new attacks with trucks and cars and knives rather than explosives. Banning travel temporarily from seven nations designated as sources of terror by the Obama Administration — until they can figure out a way to vet them, is not cruelty but common sense.

The Left needs to take a deep breath, and stop making fools of themselves. But that’s undoubtedly asking too much.




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