American Elephants


Mysterious Middle Eastern Events: Waiting for the Fog to Clear. by The Elephant's Child

Nearly two weeks ago, a mysterious explosion destroyed an Iranian missile development base. The Israeli Military reported on the effect of that explosion, and on the same day, Iran’s official news agency FARS reported that a loud blast was heard in the Iranian city of Isfahan at 2:40 pm local time. A security official confirmed that the explosion had occurred, but refused to give further details. The head of the security department said “we have no exact information; the incident is being investigated.”

FARS news agency said that the blast was heard distinctly in several parts of the Iranian city. they posted a picture from an April bomb attack in Kashmir, and subsequently took it down. The Iranian regime announced that there was no explosion in Isfahan. Members of the Green democracy movement confirm, that there was indeed an explosion in Isfahan. So there you have the news from Iran.

Israeli military intelligence reported earlier today on the last explosion in Iran, which destroyed a missile technology production site at a military base in Tehran which killed one of Iran’s heads of the missile projects:

The blast in the site where surface-to-surface missiles were developed can delay or bring to a complete halt the production of the missiles at that site,” said head of the Directorate of Military Intelligence Research Section Department Brigadier General Itai Baron at a briefing in the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

“However,” Baron cautioned, “It must be emphasized that Iran has other development sites other than the one that was destroyed.”

So, accident, bad luck, incompetence, Iranian opposition, some outside source?  Who knows? According to one blog, at least 17 gas pipeline explosions have been reported since last year. Nearly a dozen major explosions have damaged refineries since 2010. Michael Ledeen suggests that the opposition is abandoning its commitment to non-violence.  J.E. Dyer says the attacks seem to be poorly designed, if that’s what they are, but the idea of a war against the mullahs seems a possible explanation.

It’s all speculation at this point. The Middle East is aflame from one end to the other. Not exactly the “Arab Spring” of fantasy. Assad is living on borrowed time, Egypt is near revolution and running out of money, the Muslim Brotherhood is winning across the Arab countries. Saudi Arabia is worried about the development of shale oil. Lots of inspiration for thriller authors, lots of confusion for the rest of us.



Obama Gives Up On Jobs, Abandons “White Working Class.”” by The Elephant's Child

In an article in The New York Times, discretely titled “The Future of the Obama Coalition,” preparations by Democrat operatives for the 2012 election make it clear that for the first time the party will explicitly abandon the white working class. Well, I suppose that the white working class, very large numbers of whom aren’t actually working, might have soured a bit on the Obama Coalition.

  • 13.9 million unemployed, that’s an unemployment rate ranging from 9% to 9.2%
  • The long-term unemployed (27+ weeks) number 5.9 million.
  • Those who are working part-time but want full-time employment — 8.9 million.
  • And that doesn’t count those who are just discouraged and not looking.

All pretense of trying to win a majority of the white working class has been abandoned. But just what is “the working class” — that sounds like a communist designation. I would think that it includes anyone who works, but, oh yes, they limited it by race. It’s the white working class.  Blacks and other minorities who have way higher—around 15% — unemployment rates, will be presumed to follow the party line, even if Obama is killing their employment prospects right and left. Apparently he thinks they’re not educated enough to grasp that.

The former are to be jettisoned “in favor of cementing a center-left coalition made up, on the one hand of voters who have gotten ahead on the basis of educational attainment —professors, artists, designers, editors, human resources managers, lawyers, librarians, social workers, teachers and therapists — and a second, substantial constituency of lower-income voters (presumably without educational attainment) who are Obama Gives Up disproportionately African-American and Hispanic.”

“The 2012 approach treats white voters without college degrees as an unattainable cohort.” Poor jerks just aren’t educated enough to appreciate the wonderfulness of the Obama record and all his stunning accomplishments?

The better-off wing…puts at the top of its political agenda a cluster of rights related to self-expression, the environment, demilitarization, and importantly, freedom from repressive norms — governing both sexual behavior and women’s role in society — that are promoted by the conservative movement.

While demographic trends suggest the continued growth of pro-Democratic constituencies and the continued decline of core Republican voters, particularly married white Christians, there is no guarantee that demography is destiny.

I don’t understand this kind of thinking. I was brought up in an America that was not divided up by “class.” I’ve known people well who have no more than a 3rd grade education, and extremely rich people as well, and if I classify them, it’s about character and decency, not some kind of elitism.  I’ve known quite a few PhDs who were a little lacking in the character department.  In 2008, Obama was all about Hope and Change, and claimed that he would bring people together. That didn’t work so well, so he’s trying a different tack.



Bye-Bye, Barney Frank! by The Elephant's Child

Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) announced today that he is stepping down.  A tireless advocate for progressive causes, and a long time bane of the GOP.  He is the ranking member on the powerful  financial services committee, co-author of the unfortunate  financial regulation bill — the Dodd-Frank Bill.  It is his ties to the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that are his most notable mistakes. President Bush called for reform of these two agencies 17 times in 2008 alone.

Fannie and Freddie bought bad loans, guaranteed them, pressured bond-rating agencies, and ignored experience, restraint and regulation. The massive losses of $2 trillion killed the economy.  Barney Frank’s response:

These two entities — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — are not facing any kind of financial crisis. The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.

The administration warned about the growing financial problems at these agencies and offered plans to reduce the risk in 2001, 2002, 2003 ( a banner year-Fannie had to declare a $1.2 billion accounting error), 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, and the problems grew larger. The Democrat controlled Congress fiercely resisted any change.

Barney Frank and Chris Dodd drew up a financial reform  bill that does not address the problems of Fannie and Freddie, nor does it address the enormous problem of “too big to fail.” No meaningful regulatory reforms, no strong consumer protections and doesn’t address the Community Reinvestment Act that began the whole thing.

The departure of Mr. Frank does not solve much of anything. The ranking member of the powerful financial services committee will be Maxine Waters (D-CA), who asked the heads of Goldman Sachs and State Street questions about how these investment banks set the limits on their (nonexistent) consumer credit cards. She asked Ken Lewis, CEO of Bank of America, a question about “offshore loss mitigation caps” a term no one had ever heard of before. But her most notable moment was captured on YouTube:

There you go.  This congresswoman believes that the government has the right to simply seize control of a private industry.  Not promising.



The Green Boondoggle Has Failed! Will somebody Please Tell Obama? by The Elephant's Child

Energy Secretary Steven Chu called last week for increased investment in clean energy technology, dismissing Republicans who have been critical of the Obama administration’s green agenda.  Congress has been holding hearings on the Obama administration’s $535 million loan guarantee to Solyndra.  Republicans were very critical of Chu’s approval of loan guarantees to the company which clearly did not meet the category of prudent investment.

Chu spoke at a General Electric solar plant in Colorado. “There are some in Washington who think we can’t or shouldn’t compete when it comes to producing solar panels, wind turbines and other clean energy technologies.  They’re ready to wave the white flag and declare defeat. I disagree.  America’s workers, entrepreneurs and innovators are the best in the world — and they are ready to compete.”

Chu noted that global competition is “fierce.” Countries like china are investing billions in low-carbon technology, but he insisted that America can come out on top. “The stakes are too high to turn our backs on the clean energy industry.  We can compete in the global marketplace — creating American jobs and selling American products —or we can buy the technologies of tomorrow from abroad. The choice is ours,” Chu said.

From Bloomberg Business Week, Nov. 22:

 Losses for China’s largest solar manufacturers, including Suntech Power Holdings Co. and JA Solar Holdings Co. may continue through next year as declining shipments prompt them to slash prices and liquidate inventory.

Shipments at Suntech will fall about 20 percent in the fourth quarter from the third, the world’s largest panel maker said today in its third-quarter earnings report. JA Solar, the country’s biggest cell producer, also said shipments will fall sequentially, and it wrote off inventory in response to falling prices, driving down gross margins.

Cell prices have fallen 59 percent since Dec. 27, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Seven Chinese companies reported lower gross margins since yesterday and three said margins have moved into negative territory, an unsustainable level, said Hari Chandra Polavarapu, an analyst at Auriga USA in New York.

In the meantime, a group of seven domestic solar equipment makers has petitioned the Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission over crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells from the People’s Republic of China. They accuse the Chinese of “dumping” their products — selling them at less than cost — and President Obama quickly showed his support for the protectionist petition:

We have seen a lot of questionable competitive practices coming out of China when it comes to the clean energy space, and I have been more aggressive than previous administrations in enforcing our trade laws. …We’re going to look very carefully at this stuff and potentially bring actions if we find that the basic rules of the road have been violated.

Trina Solar Ltd., a Chinese manufacturer told Business Week that even the well-known largesse of China’s Marxist government is modest compared to the pork dispensed by the American republic. The documents support Trina’s claims.  One solar industry observer points out that the heavily subsidized American companies are trying to blame Chinese Manufacturers for winning the same game they themselves are trying to play. The U.S. is a net exporter of solar technology by a margin of about $1.9 billion. But the solar energy race seems to be a bubble.

The market for wind and solar is an artificial market created by governments mandating reliance on high-cost, intermittent electricity sources. America’s strength is innovation, China’s strength is mass production. There’s nothing special about Chinese solar panels, but they are produced with cheap labor.  The recession and sovereign debt crisis is putting pressure on governments to cut back on the subsidies — which they are doing.

None of the governments involved seem to be aware of Climategate 2.0 and the collapse of the entire global warming paradigm. Everyone is operating in their own private bubble. Spain is cutting back by 40%. Britain may cut back subsidies for wind farms and household solar panels. Japan is reconsidering it’s commitment to cut CO2 emissions by 25% by 2020.  Even the European Union is questioning whether it should press ahead with decarbonization if other countries don’t follow suit.

To suppose that we can subsidize our way to a level playing field is to forget that Beijing is flush with cash and Washington is broke.

Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.




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