American Elephants


Down With Capitalism: The Glorious Socialist Future Is Here! by The Elephant's Child

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China Climate Change

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It’s always a good idea to take a hard look at what you think you are wishing for. Sometimes you’re just caught up in a romantic fantasy, and the reality isn’t quite so…… optimistic.



Reason TV Went to the Big Climate March! by The Elephant's Child

Reason TV went to the Climate March, and chatted with some of the marchers. Watch the whole thing. Only 3.17 minutes! They really don’t like the corporations that make all their stuff. More corporate haters than advocates of green policies, which they seem a little fuzzy about. Kind of embarrassing. They didn’t pay attention in high school science class.



Socialism Is The Cure For Climate? Bwa-Ha-ha-ha by The Elephant's Child

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The climate loonies have been out for their big march today, with names like “The Science is Settled”, “We have the Solutions”, and climate scientists like SEIU, CAIR, and Democratic Socialists and Greenpeace, of course. They want to ban coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear energy, and rely on free wind and clean solar energy which amount to about 1.4 percent of our energy requirements. Good luck with that. The Communists were there, Radicals demanding revolution., but it wasn’t much about climate.

These useful idiots demand an end to free enterprise which has produced the solutions to clean air and clean water and environments better cared for. Socialism has been an environmental disaster.  Check out the Chinese in masks peering dimly through the smog, or China’s deadly rivers.  But they are quite sure that Capitalism is killing the planet, and only a socialist future can save the world, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. They don’t care about the climate anyway. They really just want power and money.

Fortunately Americans don’t buy it. Climate change ranks at the very bottom of America’s list of concerns.



When Socialists Promise a Utopian Paradise … by The Elephant's Child

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We have people out protesting about the minimum wage. They seem to think it is right and proper for the government to decide what employers should pay their employees, no matter what skills the employees may possess.  Seattle has just decided on a $15 an hour minimum wage, to be reached gradually. In the socialist paradise of Cuba, they don’t have a minimum wage. They have a maximum wage. Nobody gets to earn more than $20 — but that’s a month, not an hour. Doctors and lawyers get an extra $10 to bring them up to $30 a month.

Fidel Castro declared that his salary was about 900 pesos per month, or $36. But Forbes magazine included the Cuban ruler in its 2006 list of the 10 richest “Kings, Queens, and Dictators.” Interesting revolutionary ethics.

Now Fidel Castro’s former bodyguard has written a book that says Castro’ claim that he lived a life of exemplary revolutionary frugality was a pack of lies. Juan Reinaldo Sanchez, 65, served as a bodyguard for the Cuban leader for 17 years and has published a memoir that portrays Fidel as a sort of feudal lord who ran the island like a personal fiefdom.

Castro controlled about 20 luxury homes, a Caribbean island getaway with a pool and dolphins, at Cayo Piedra south of the Bay of Pigs, where he kept the 88 foot yacht Aquarama II, several fishing vessels whose catch was sold to fatten his bank account. Like most dictators, there were several numbered bank accounts, as well as the finances of several state enterprises including a small gold mine. There were a couple of other large yachts, one a floating hospital. Only special friends like the Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Márquez and CNN owner Ted Turner were invited. And there was a complex of Havana buildings and grounds, including a basketball court, a fully equipped medical center, rooftop bowling alley.

It isn’t just socialist paradises, but apparently Islamic paradises as well. Saddam Hussein was well equipped with palaces and luxury. The Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, has been found to control a financial empire worth an estimated £60bn. An empire which includes businesses as wide-ranging as an ostrich farm, a birth control pill factory, oil and telecommunications.

The big-shots in charge always talk a good game about caring for the poor, and helping the middle class, serving the people, but when you lift up the covers and peek underneath, they all seem remarkably intent on enriching themselves.



The Background to Current Events: by The Elephant's Child

Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin is the essential history to current events. We tend to think of World War II as “the good war,” celebrated in movies and fading memory. It was good in the sense that it was a war waged against true evil, but it was a desperate war in which the whole world was threatened. But we tend to forget the Cold War, a time when kids hid under their desks, and people built fallout shelters. Before World War II even began, index America’s wartime ally Josef Stalin had killed millions of his own citizens—and kept killing them during and after the war. Before Hitler was finally defeated, he had murdered six million Jews and nearly as many other Europeans. At war’s end, both the German and the Soviet killing sites fell behind the iron curtain, leaving the history of mass killing in darkness.

Bloodlands is a new kind of European history, presenting the mass murders committed by the Nazi and Stalinist regimes as two aspects of a single history, in the time and place where they occurred: between Germany and Russia, when Hitler and Stalin both held power. Assiduously researched, deeply humane, and utterly definitive, Bloodlands will be required reading for anyone seeking to understand the central tragedy of modern history.

Timothy Snyder has done a series of articles for the New York Review of Books about the current crisis. Worth your time:  “Fascism, Russia, and Ukraine,” “Ukraine: The Haze of Propaganda,” and “Crimea: Putin vs. Reality.



China’s Renewables Industry Is Collapsing. by The Elephant's Child

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China has gone in for “renewable energy” in a big way.  Their solar panel industry has gone from nothing to becoming the world’s largest producer in only five years. But the industry has now crashed with with negative profit margins, idle factories and soaring levels of debt.

Suntech, a solar panel manufacturer, has been a national champion which became the world’s largest, filed for bankruptcy in March after it defaulted on payment of $541 million of bonds. The Chinese government is scrambling to clean up the mess by offering tax breaks to all solar companies who acquire or merge with their competitors.

LDK Solar, another leading Chinese producer, was forced to turn to provincial and local government for protection from its creditors. LDK was the brainchild of the local Communist Party Secretary, and received millions of dollars in state subsidies, cheap financing, land and electricity in 2005. The local government is pumping in money to keep it from sinking, but the company has already shed 20,000 of its 30,000 employees and its shares are 98% below their peak.

China’s solar panel sector remains massively overbuilt. Demand for solar panels has been shrinking as governments in the West learn that it was the subsidies that made solar energy attractive.

Wind power is little different. Sinovel — one of the world’s largest wind turbine manufactures — was earning hundreds of millions of dollars in profits in 2010, to millions of dollars of losses that grow by the day. Revenues are a fifth of what they were in 2010. In 2012, 17% of all windmills lay idle, the power they produce too expensive to connect to the grid. In some regions, 50% of all windmills remain unconnected to the grid.

China’s green sector crash is a textbook example of a command and control economy, where “experts” substitute their ideas for the complex supply and demand decisions of a free market. The Chinese state gave Chinese manufacturers near-monopoly powers and almost free money. The Bank of China, one of the largest state-owned commercial banks, says that 21% of its solar loans are in or near default. The average debt ratio is 75.8%.

To save face, China’s central planners have switched from subsidizing suppliers to subsidizing demand by demanding that power producers meet green targets in the domestic market. China can, of course force consumers to buy solar energy, but that doesn’t really solve anything. Chinese power customers would just pay the price in more expensive and less reliable power.



You Can’t Turn Your Back On Russia! by The Elephant's Child

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Ukraine seems to be caught once again between the West and Russia. The European Union has wanted to establish a more modern policy towards Eastern Europe through the proposed association with Ukraine. The highlight of Friday’s Eastern Partnership Summit was supposed to be the formal signing of an agreement between Ukraine and the European Union. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, instead put the deal on hold.

Ukraine is a huge country torn between a western portion that looks towards Europe and Brussels and an eastern region that remains highly influenced by Russia. Kiev erupted with massive and bloody protests as hundreds of thousands of protesters poured into the Independence Square. But it is not just about Ukraine’s relationship but with Europe’s relationship with Russia, the sensitive former world power. Ukraine was once a part of the Soviet Union, and although few remain who lived through the Holodomor, when the Soviets deliberately starved Ukraine in the 1930s, the national memory is strong.

President Yanukovych was elected promising to smooth relations with the Russians, but had intended to sign the agreement with the EU. EU member states like Poland want to direct the EU’s influence toward the east, in part as protection against Russia. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin plays power politics. The EU has its own financial crisis, as does Russia, but Russia is promising to give Ukraine billions in loans, but without guarantees.

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso rejected Russian interference, saying “What we cannot accept is a condition on a bilateral agreement to have…a possible veto of a third country.”

Russia once lorded it over the entire Eastern bloc, but for the last 25 years has had to sit back and watch as one country after another has turned its back on Russia, and looked towards the West. The Soviets gave them good reason to turn their backs on Russia, but it must be humiliating for the Russians. Putin wants to stop what he sees as the West’s advance all the way to Russia’s borders. Lots of sticky problems here. Russia is  well-provided with natural gas, and has threatened to blackmail a Europe that is flush with expensive alternative energy that is far more costly than anticipated. Yanukovych is widely regarded as corrupt, and has complained about the International Monetary Fund’s refusal to simply give him billions in loans without conditions.

Police responded violently, leaving many of the 500,000 protesters bloody and beaten, but officials from both Russia and the West were taken aback by the scale of the protests. The battle is now between the street and Yanukovych.

In some ways this is just the continuation of an old story. For the background, I highly recommend Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder.  A new kind of European history, presenting the mass murders committed by the Nazi and Stalinist regimes as two aspects of a single history. Required reading for anyone seeking to understand the central tragedy of modern history.




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