American Elephants


The Triumphant Trip to Asia Didn’t Work Out So Well. by The Elephant's Child

The article in the Wall Street Journal begins:

“Has there ever been a major economic summit where a  U.S. President and his Treasury Secretary were a thoroughly rebuffed as they were at this week’s G-20 meeting in Seoul?  We can’t think of one.  President Obama failed to achieve  any of his main goals while getting pounded by other world leaders for failing U.S. policies and lagging growth.

The root of this embarrassment is political and intellectual: Rather than leading the world from a position of strength, Mr. Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner came to Seoul blaming the rest of the world for U.S. economic weakness. America’s problem, in their view, is the export and exchange rate policies of the Germans, Chinese or Brazilians. And the U.S. solution is to have the Fed print enough money to devalue the dollar so America can grow by stealing demand from the rest of the world.

A subsequent piece is titled “Obama Tries to Repair Damage” in the World News section of the paper, and describes  his visit to Japan for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.  That didn’t go well either.  In a news conference that closed the summit, Mr. Obama said:

“Part of the reason the United States is attracting dissent is we’re initiating the ideas.  The easiest thing for us to do is take a passive role and let things drift. But we thought it was important for us to put forth more structure” for a global economy emerging from financial crisis.

American Spectator suggests that since the President took a “shellacking” the other day, he might be looking for someone weaker to bully.  So during his visit to Indonesia he attacked the people of Israel for its decision to advance the approval of some 1,000 new housing units in East Jerusalem during a sensitive time in the peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

Prime Minister Netanyahu fired back: “Jerusalem is not a settlement.  It is the capital of Israel.”

When the Palestinians stop firing rockets into Israel and stop training their children to be jihadists, there might be room for an agreement, but it is not going to come about because of Mr. Obama’s bullying.

The source of all this angst is, of course, the 2010 election which represented “the greatest defeat for a newly elected president in a midterm since the Republican Party under Warren Gamaliel Harding in 1922.” pointed out James Ceaser in an essay at Real Clear Politics.  James Ceaser is a professor of politics at the University of Virginia and a senior visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Jonathan Last suggests that President Obama’s problems are rooted in his vanity, in an article at the Weekly Standard, titled  “American Narcissus.” His vanity, Last says, is overwhelming.  It defines him, his politics, and his presidency.”

The point of all this is that Mr. Obama pointedly refuses to acknowledge the unmistakable message of the midterm election.  The problem, Mr. Obama claims is just that he isn’t creating jobs fast enough, and Americans are frustrated.

As James Ceaser says: The Democrats’ open campaign is to persuade the public that the election did not mean what Republicans thought, and “there is an allied effort underway, far more subtle, to undermine and weaken the Republican position.  It comes from a group of self-proclaimed wise men who present themselves as being above the fray.  These voices, acting from a putative concern for the nation and even for the Republican Party, urge Republicans to avoid the mistake of Obama and the Democrats after 2008 of displaying hubris and overinterpreting their mandate. With this criticism of the Democrats offered as a testimony of their even handedness and sincerity, they piously go on to tell Republicans that now is the time to engage in bipartisanship and follow a course of compromise.”

All very connected stories, and very interesting.



Lascaux: A Visit to the Cave. by The Elephant's Child

Lascaux is the setting of a complex of caves in southwestern France noted for its Paleolithic cave paintings. The cave was discovered on September 12, 1940 by four teenagers and their dog. The cave was opened to the public in 1948. By 1955, it was determined that the carbon dioxide produced by 1,200 visitors a day had visibly damaged the paintings. The cave was closed to the public in 1963 in order to preserve the art.

The caves are now carefully monitored, and only a few scientific experts are allowed to work inside the caves.  Some efforts at preservation have met with unintended consequences.  A black mold may have been the result of air conditioning or lights intended to protect the paintings.

The caves contain nearly 2,000 images which have been painted onto the walls using mineral pigments, although some have been incised into the stone.  The Hall of the Bulls is the most famous, with four black bulls that are the dominant figures.  One of the bulls is 17 feet long.

The paintings are estimated to be 17,300 years old, mostly of large animals, many of which are known from the fossil evidence to have lived in the area at the time.  There are varied theories about some of the other images and dot clusters, ranging from star charts to visions experienced during ritualistic trance-dancing.  Others suggest that the images could be a record of hunting success, or a ritual in advance to insure hunting success.

The website is huge, and rewards patient investigation.  Clicking on a  British flag will get you the English language.  Sometimes the view can be dragged with your mouse, and sometimes not.  The Wikipedia article about Lascaux is available here. If the Paleolithic music gets on your nerves, it can be turned off by clicking on the word ‘sound’ at the bottom of the page.  Beyond that, you’re on your own.  Enjoy.




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