American Elephants

$500 Million. 5 Fighters. Obama Says It’s Not His Fault! by The Elephant's Child

damaged-buildings-syrian-civil-war1  When you draw a ‘red line,’ or ‘a line in the sand’ publicly in international terms, it is a very serious threat.  When you back down your reputation is permanently damaged. That is usually a lesson that one learns on the playground.

In a 2012 press conference in Stockholm, Obama said:

I have, at this point, not ordered military engagement in the situation. But the point that you made about chemical and biological weapons is critical. That’s an issue that doesn’t just concern Syria; it concerns our close allies in the region, including Israel. It concerns us. We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people.

We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.

Assad unleashed a sarin gas attack on Syrians in Ghouta just outside of Damascus. Obama avoided any action in Syria in order to help with the Iran negotiations. The image above is a neighborhood in Syria.

The answer was supposed to be investing $500 million in training some of the Syrian rebels to fight Assad’s army, but it actually yielded just four or five fighters.

So now President Obama and his foreign policy team are confused.Why is Vladimir Putin pouring troops and weapons into Syria? Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov that it really isn’t helpful, and is making things worse. Russia has deployed a small number of tactical jets in Syria for the first time. Moscow is clearly preparing to help Assad cling to power. American pilots regularly fly surveillance flights and airstrike missions, the direct involvement of Russian forces could mean trouble.

Russia has been an ally of Syria since Sadat kicked the Soviets out of Egypt in 1972. Look at a map. Putin has re-claimed the Crimea and is simply asserting their influence in the Middle East. Putin’s ambition is always to avenge and reverse Russia’s humiliating loss of superpower status over 25 years ago.

Obama’s efforts to train an opposition army to fight the ISIS has been an abysmal failure. And an expensive failure. But the White House is not to blame. The finger, the White House says, should be pointed not at Mr. Obama, but at those who pressed him to attempt training Syrian rebels in the first place. The New York Times says:

In effect, Mr. Obama is arguing that he reluctantly went along with those who said it was the way to combat the Islamic State, but that he never wanted to do it and has now has been vindicated in his original judgment.

Mr. Trump simply says “Syria’s a mess, Why are we fighting ISIS in Syria? Let them fight each other and pick up the remnants.” A comment much in line with his simplistic answers to everything else.

Ryan C. Crocker who was ambassador to Afghanistan under Mr. Obama and ambassador to Iraq under George W. Bush said the president was right to think that a train-and-arm program would not work, but he either should have continued to resist or taken ownership rather than blame others.

How un-presidential that sounds — ‘We didn’t want to do it, we thought it was unsound but you made us do it,’ ” said Mr. Crocker. “It’s just indicative of their whole approach to Syria, which is not to have a policy. This is the worst thing they could say.”

Now refugees are flooding Europe. We don’t know who are refugees, who are migrants, and who are members of ISIS. What we are learning is that EU estimates are that four out of five migrants are not from Syria but from Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq and even states farther removed. Mr. Obama’s response seems to be welcoming a hundred thousand or so refugees every year into the indefinite future.

Talking Tough! by The Elephant's Child

obama-angry-8-560x350Chinese President Xi Jinping is due for a visit to the United States shortly to be honored at a State Dinner.

Chinese government hackers have reportedly stolen commercial data from many U.S. companies, and personal data about many American government employees — including those with security clearances, plus private data from Americans’ health-care companies. Obama has done little or nothing to stop this coast-to-coast raiding of Americans’ property, but has instead worked elsewhere to boost the Democratic party’s political power.

In the Pacific, China’s government is building new island-bases in internationally disputed waters, while Obama focuses his foreign-policy efforts on completing his nukes-and-cash sellout to the deepening alliance of Iran and Russia.

Surely by now, we must have teams working in each government department to harden off their computer files to prevent hacking?The State Department’s lack of control (or concern) over the Secretary of State’s use of a personal computer might argue that there is something more to be desired.

The Daily Mail (UK) just published ( July 15) this “secret”  NSA map of cyber attacks from Chinese hackers  over the past five years. (Click to enlarge). Did the Daily Mail hack NSA to get their “secret map?”


Silicon Valley is the most attacked. Seattle has Boeing and Microsoft, but I can’t imagine what that one lonely dot on the NW coast is. Iron Springs Resort? The Office of Personnel Management hack got 22.1 million people’s Social Security records, everyone who has ever applied for a government job, and their personal references. The IRS hack in May gave them over 100,000 tax records.

President Obama is not taking this lying down. He refused to stay at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel during the U.N. General Assembly this month. (A Chinese conglomerate now owns the hotel.) And he’s really talking tough in a visit to Ft. Meade, speaking about Chinese cyber attacks.

We’ve made very clear to the Chinese that there are certain practices that they’re engaging in that we know are emanating from China and are not acceptable,” Obama said in an appearance at Ft. Meade. “And we can choose to make this an area of competition – which I guarantee you we’ll win if we have to – or, alternatively, we can come to an agreement in which we say, this isn’t helping anybody. Let’s instead try to have some basic rules of the road in terms of how we operate.”

China is really getting the ultimate threat in the Obama arsenal:  “These practices are not acceptable.” That should get their attention.

China responded:

“We hope that the U.S. stops its groundless attacks against China, start dialogue based on a foundation of mutual respect, and jointly build a cyberspace that is peaceful, secure, open and cooperative,” said a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman.  “Maintaining cybersecurity should be a point of cooperation rather than a source of friction between both China and the United States.”

ADDENDUM: During the President’s trip to Alaska, Chinese warships which had been exercising with the Russians in the Arctic traveled 3,000 miles out of their way to broach the 12 mile territorial limits just, by coincidence, when the President was on a 3 day visit to Alaska, and of course they knew his schedule because they had hacked the White House computers.
Violating another nation’s territorial limits just isn’t done, unless it is meant as a provocation. The U.S, brushed it off as unimportant.

As The World Turns, Altering and Illuminating the Affairs of Men: by The Elephant's Child
May 20, 2015, 7:53 pm
Filed under: Middle East | Tags: , ,

TEHRAN — Iran’s supreme leader, The Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed on Wednesday that he will not allow international inspection of Iran’s military sites or any access to Iranian scientists under any nuclear agreement with world powers. He told military commanders that Iran will resist “coercion and excessive demands” from America and other world powers.

The negotiators from Iran and representatives of the six-nation group —the U.S, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — have launched a new round of talks in Vienna focused on reaching a final deal that halts Iran’s nuclear program in return for the lifting of economic sanctions. “The two sides,” the AP says, “reached a framework agreement in March and hope to work out a final deal by June 30.” It’s just that President Obama’s description of the ‘framework agreement’ and Iranian officials’ description of the “framework agreement” didn’t seem to have much of anything in common.

The White House called the collapse of Ramadi, the largest city in Anbar province in Iraq, a “minor setback” and claimed that we are still succeeding in Iraq.The Pentagon reported that ISIS seized large amounts of American weapons including tanks, artillery pieces and Humvees when the Iraqi troops abandoned Ramadi. ISIS is reported to be now operating in Malaysia.

A Russian spy plane was photographed in British airspace over Lancashire, not far from a NATO monitoring station and a factory that makes military planes. As tensions rise  between Moscow and the West, American planes are patrolling the borders between the Latvian countries and Russia.

President Obama spoke to the graduates at the Coast Guard Academy at New London, Connecticut. He said:.

And this brings me to the challenge I want to focus on today — one where our Coast Guardsmen are already on the front lines, and that, perhaps more than any other, will shape your entire careers — and that’s the urgent need to combat and adapt to climate change.

As a nation, we face many challenges, including the grave threat of terrorism.  And as Americans, we will always do everything in our power to protect our country.  Yet even as we meet threats like terrorism, we cannot, and we must not, ignore a peril that can affect generations. …

Perhaps we need to take a harder look at our intelligence operations. There are too many people telling the president just what he wants to hear. Or perhaps the problem is even more serious.

The President Has Again Tried to Circumvent the Constitutional System of Lawmaking. by The Elephant's Child
May 12, 2015, 5:06 pm
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , , ,

Among the publications of the Hoover Institution is an online magazine called Peregrine, which includes short pieces by Hoover fellows. This one about Obama’s use of his executive power by William Suter is particularly interesting:

President Obama is not the first President to use his executive power aggressively. President Lincoln used an Executive Order in 1861 to suspend the writ of habeas corpus. The Supreme Court held that his action was unconstitutional. President Franklin D. Roosevelt attempted to change the composition of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1937 in order to gain favorable votes for his New Deal legislation. His “Court packing” plan was rejected by Congress and the voters. President Truman seized steel mills in 1952 to avert a strike because the mills were needed to support the Korean War. The Supreme Court held that his takeovers were unconstitutional. Previously, Truman acted courageously by issuing an Executive Order in 1948 that desegregated the armed forces. In that instance, he was on solid legal ground because the Constitution states that the President is the “commander in chief of the Army and Navy.” President Obama attempted to make three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board in 2012 when the Senate clearly was not in recess. His reason for doing this was that the Senate would not confirm his nominees. He acted as though he was the first President to be treated rudely by the Senate. Not so! His crude attempt was an insult to the Constitution. The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, held that his appointments were void.

Congress also uses its power aggressively. An example is the Senate’s late-night manipulation of rules to pass the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) in 2010. That embarrassing episode rivaled the famous 1972 Olympic Gold Medal basketball game when three seconds were mysteriously added to the clock, enabling the Soviet Union to defeat the United States. …

President Obama, emboldened by his record of changing laws – including provisions of the Affordable Care Act – decided in November 2014 to bring about his vision of immigration reform, not through Congress, but by use of executive fiats. For years, he maintained that he had no legal authority to change immigration laws. The sweeping election wins by Republicans a few weeks earlier apparently caused the President to change his mind. The largest category of people affected by the President’s executive “Presidential memos” is an estimated population of five million illegal immigrants who have been in this country for five or more years and have children who are U.S. citizens or permanent legal citizens. If they pass a background check and pay their taxes, the President offers a 3-year temporary status of “deferred action” regarding deportation along with work permits. The President’s purported legal authority to do this is his power of prosecutorial discretion. Prosecutors have such authority in individual cases, but no one can seriously think that authority is applicable on such a grand scale. What the President is doing is refusing to execute the law. He has no more authority to do this than he would to exempt corporations from paying income taxes. He cannot change the law.

As one writer put it, “This move by President Obama is not a sign of righteous impatience; it is proof that he has failed at that most basic of tasks – working with Congress.” The President has created a constitutional crisis when there was no need to do so. That is regrettable. (emphasis added)

Obama Versus The Pipeline: An Ideological Battle! by The Elephant's Child


President Obama  in an interview with WDAY of Fargo ND, Feb. 26, 2015 — tried to explain his veto of a bill that would have leapfrogged the approval process for the Keystone XL pipeline:

“I’ve already said I’m happy to look at how we can increase pipeline production for U.S. oil, but Keystone is for Canadian oil to send that down to the Gulf. It bypasses the United States and is estimated to create a little over 250, maybe 300 permanent jobs. We should be focusing more broadly on American infrastructure for American jobs and American producers, and that’s something that we very much support.”

Obama has come to believe that he can say whatever he wants and the people will believe it, and it’s getting to be embarrassing.

Infrastructure is just equipment and structures like, well, pipelines. Building infrastructure is a construction job. Construction jobs only last until the structure is complete, and then construction workers move on to the next project. There are around 20,000 high-paying construction jobs in the pipeline and in materials, and the State Department estimates 42,000 spin-off jobs and the addition of $3.5 billion to the economy. Beats losers like Solyndra and the enormous Ivanpah Project.

The crude oil would indeed travel to the Gulf Coast. and be refined there. Most of the refined product is likely to be consumed in the United States. For Gulf refineries heavy bitumen from the oil sands is an attractive substitute for declining offshore heavy crude supply from Latin America. A report from IHS Energy concluded that 70 percent of the refined product would be consumed in the United States. Canadian crude is eligible for crude export licenses. The likelihood that WCSB crudes would be exported in volume is considered low.

TransCanada has signed contracts to move 65,000 barrels a day from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana, and about 12 percent of the pipeline’s capacity has been set aside for the Bakken region. U.S companies control about 30 percent of the production in Canada’s oil sands region, so production is not strictly Canadian, But the last time I looked, Canada was our friendly neighbor to the North, and our most important trading partner.

Obama got  Four Pinocchios for that speech from the Washington Post Fact Checker.

Little Things Hidden in the President’s Budget by The Elephant's Child

Little things are hidden in the 1200 pages of President Obama’s proposed budget. Sometimes they are found. The President’s budget is definitely dead on arrival, but Economist Steven Moore noticed that once again, President Obama is attempting to defund the D.C. School Voucher program. This is a wonderful program that gives at least some kids stuck in poor-performing schools vouchers (by a lottery)  that they can take to a school of their choice.

The Teachers’ Union is furiously opposed to the program. Students who get vouchers may take them to Catholic schools where teachers are not unionized. The program has been very successful in graduation rates and kids that go on to college. Makes the teachers’ union look bad. You can see the incentives here, including the incentive for the president.

Most embarrassing is that the president’s children go to Sidwell Friends School, very expensive, very exclusive, and they take some of the voucher program kids. Makes the president’s pandering to the union look bad.

The Numbers Contradict Your Words, Mr. President. by The Elephant's Child

Was it only twice this last week that President Obama was berating the Republicans in the House of Representatives by saying that while he’s doing his job (?), the GOP House is “not doing anything.” In Minneapolis when he spent a “day in the life” of Rebekah, a mother who had written to him, concerned about making ends meet.

And, now, some of you may have read — so we take these actions and then now Republicans are mad at me for taking these actions.  They’re not doing anything, and then they’re mad that I’m doing something.

The second time was a speech at Georgetown in which he resorted to his most constant theme since 2008 — upgrading those worn-out roads and bridges — something he never gets around to doing.

It’s not crazy, it’s not socialism.  (Laughter.)  It’s not the imperial presidency — no laws are broken.  We’re just building roads and bridges like we’ve been doing for the last, I don’t know, 50, 100 years.  But so far, House Republicans have refused to act on this idea.  I haven’t heard a good reason why they haven’t acted — it’s not like they’ve been busy with other stuff.  (Laughter.)  No, seriously.  (Laughter.)  I mean, they’re not doing anything.  Why don’t they do this?

You will notice that he is not berating Congress, but only the House of Representatives. What he means is that the GOP led House will not do his bidding. But the House has not been idle as the president suggests. The GOP led 113th Congress has passed 297 bills (280 bills, 17 resolutions) and is about average dating from the seventies. The 112th Congress (2011-2013) passed 301 bills.

In contrast, Harry Reid has refused to bring the majority of those bills to a vote, and his 113th Senate is on track to pass the fewest number of bills of any Senate as far back as 1972, passing a mere 59 bills.  Numbers from Some bills are obviously more important than others, but Harry Reid is unusually intent on seeing that no GOP bills come to the floor to be voted on. Possibly he does not dare allow them to be voted on? Who knows, but if Majority Leader Reid’s  actions were not consistent with his president’s wishes, he wouldn’t be doing that.


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