American Elephants

Let’s talk about Global Poverty and the Democrats. by The Elephant's Child

Here is someone you should know.  James Shikwati , a Kenyan libertarian economist, is director of a Kenyan Think Tank, Inter-Region Economic Network (IREN).  He burst upon world attention in 2005, with an interview in Spiegel Online, entitled For God’s Sake, Please Stop the Aid!”

SPIEGEL: Stop? The industrialized nations of the West want to eliminate hunger and poverty.

Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years.  If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid.  The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape.  Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor.

SPIEGEL: Do you have an explanation for this paradox?

Shikwati: Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent.  In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need.  As absurd as it may sound, development aid is one of the reasons for Africa’s problems.  If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn’t even notice.  Only the functionaries would be hard hit.  Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid.

SPIEGEL: Even in a country like Kenya, people are starving to death each year.  Someone has got to help them.

Shikwati: But is has to be the Kenyans themselves who help these people.  When there’s a drought in a region of Kenya, our corrupt politicians reflexively cry out for more help.  This call then reaches the United Nations World Food Program — which is a massive agency of apparatchiks who are in the absurd situation of, on the one hand, being dedicated to the fight against hunger while, on the other hand, being faced with unemployment were hunger actually eliminated…and before long, several thousand tons of corn are shipped to Africa…and at some point, this corn ends up in the harbor of Mombasa.  A portion of the corn often goes directly into the hands of unscrupulous politicians who then pass it on to their own tribe to boost their next election campaign.  Another portion of the shipment ends up on the black market where the corn is dumped at extremely low prices.  Local farmers may as well put down their hoes right away; no one can compete with the UN’s World Food Program.  And because the farmers go under in the face of this pressure, Kenya would have no reserves to draw on if there actually were a famine next year.  It’s a simple but fatal cycle.

It’s a stunning interview, and do read the whole thing, by clicking on the link above. In another essay, Mr. Shikwati emphasizes that what the developing world needs is trade, not aid, to help the poor.

This is pertinent, not only because of the failure to pass the Free Trade Agreement with Columbia, but because of the Democrat Congress’s reasons for voting against the bill.  American Unions have been losing membership and influence in recent years, and they have been ardent supporters of the Democrat Party.  They are now calling in the debt.  The unions want to force other countries throughout the world to adopt their union rules and environmental rules, and to refuse any trade agreements that do not contain those requirements.

Over the past several decades, in contrast to the claims of Democrats, remarkable progress has been made against poverty around the globe.  According to data from the World Bank, the number of extremely poor people has shrunk to fewer than a billion in 2004 from about one and one half billion in 1981.  Most of this has been accomplished through increased free trade.

Mr. Shikwati’s comments are also pertinent because the developed world’s rush to put farm crops into their fuel tanks has disrupted the world food supply, and rising energy prices are also harming poor countries. There is both a short-term and a long-term problem.  Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank points out that food prices have risen 83 percent since 2005 “threatening to drive over 100 million people into extreme poverty”.  Such a move, he added, would “reverse the gains made in overcoming poverty in the last seven years”. Yet we must make sure that we are enacting policy changes that assure that emergency relief will not be required next year and thereafter.

Senator Barack Obama has sponsored a “Global Poverty Act” that would require the United States to increase foreign aid by approximately $65 billion per year.  If the Senate passes the bill, it would be Mr. Obama’s first significant legislative accomplishment. Derived directly from the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, the idea has been for donor countries to devote 0.7% of their GNP to aid.

The idea of making the goal of international development aid by rich countries 0.7% of their national income, rather than of any demonstrated need by developing countries or evidence that any such aid could be used effectively is illogical. Nowhere in the world can we point to a country that has escaped poverty through foreign aid, in spite of more than $2 trillion of foreign aid spending so far. The correct question is: How do countries develop economically?  What actually works?

The answer is foreign investment and increased trade. If rich countries would open their markets to developing countries, those poorer countries could work their way out of poverty and wouldn’t require foreign aid.

The latest report from the United Nations indicates that the goal, of cutting in half the proportion of people worldwide who live on less than $1 per day between 1990 and 2015, was already 80 percent achieved by 2004, 11 years before the deadline. As The Heritage Foundation reports:

US contributions to this goal are substantial. The U.S. is the largest source of foreign direct investment in developing countries, the largest recipient of developing country exports, and the largest provider of development and humanitarian assistance to developing countries.  In a world economy that is increasingly market-oriented and globalized, unprecedent levels of resources are flowing to developing countries.  The share of these resources coming from the private sector, primarily through the mechanisms of trade, investment and remittances, dwarfs official aid flows.

Democrats are always anxious to solve problems by taking money from taxpayers to give to those with the problem.  But problems are most often not so simplistic that they can be solved by simply throwing money at them.  The socialist idea that “redistribution” is the answer and the problem is “rich people” doesn’t meet the most elementary logic test. If we have already met 80 percent of the goal eleven years ahead of time, maybe we should keep on with what we have been doing: Increasing trade, increasing investment,  and sharing knowledge.

But that requires looking into what is actually being done, and what the results have been; rather than attempting to grandstand with a bill to solve world poverty to enhance one’s resume.

The Obama Response by Emerald City Elephant
August 29, 2008, 3:51 pm
Filed under: Election 2008, Politics | Tags: , ,

Naturally, the Obama camp came out swinging against Palin:

Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency.  Governor Palin shares John McCain’s commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade, the agenda of Big Oil and continuing George Bush’s failed economic policies — that’s not the change we need, it’s just more of the same.

Besides the obvious omission of her governorship, and the ridiculous charge that she represents more of the same, and the jaw-dropping charge from Barack Obama that she lacks experience, its funny that the Obama camp claimed McCain, “put the former mayor… a heartbeat away from the presidency.” Are they conceding they’ve already lost?

Palin inexperienced? I triple-dog-dare you! by American Elephant
August 29, 2008, 3:13 pm
Filed under: Conservatism, Election 2008, News, Politics | Tags: , , ,

Like millions of Americans, I know little about Alaskan Governor and sudden Republican vice-presidential nominee, Sarah Palin. Like many, I have embarked on a crash course. I reserve the right to change my mind, but my first impression is that this was a brilliant pick.

My observations:

The choice of a vice-presidential nominee has always been one of the strongest indications of how a candidate intends to lead. It is striking to me, then,  that in an election that is “all about change” it is the Republican ticket that looked to the future for the vice-presidential nod — a position that by definition is about the future — and it was the Democrat ticket that looked deep into the past, decades old recycled liberalism and the Washington establishment.

Perhaps I am the only one, but, ironically, the McCain ticket now seems the younger and more forward looking.

Obama who? What Democrat convention? Is anyone talking about his speech last night? If they are, I certainly haven’t seen it. McCain has cut off that discussion entirely and stolen the spotlight completely with his unexpected and perfectly executed VP announcement.

The press is already working feverishly to undermine her. They have already determined the information most important for Americans to know is that she was a beauty contestant, a hockey mom, mayor of a tiny town, that NARAL calls her “extreme” on abortion (irony anyone?), and that a late night talk show host said she has a “naughty librarian” look to her.

As governor of the Land of the Midnight Sun, one of America’s most beautiful states and home of ANWR, Palin not only locks up the energy issue for Republicans, but could very well take back environmental issues from the insane leftist fringe for rational Americans.

She is a conservative who shows that McCain, despite his deeply misguided populist stances on some issues, wants to lead America in a conservative direction.

The Republican ticket has two proven reformers (granted, McCain has reformed for the worse in some instances). The Democrat ticket features two of the most partisan old-school liberals in Washington with zero record of reform. She has taken on corruption in her own state, including corrupt Republicans, and shown she is more than willing to confront “big” oil if need be.

However, she is under investigation for allegedly trying to get her sisters ex-husband, a state-trooper fired. I find it hard to believe McCain would pick her if there were anything to this whatsoever.

And on the charges, launched almost before she finished her speech, that she lacks the experience to govern — it is to laugh! I think there is nothing the McCain camp would love more than for Democrats to claim that as the Governor of a state with real executive experience she lacks the experience to be Vice-President. They would be making McCain’s commercials undermining Obama for him!

Sure, she may be light on foreign policy experience, although her state is separated from the lower 48 by another country, rests just miles across the Bering straight from another and has a vibrant international trade. But she has more executive experience, and more importantly, more accomplishments, than both the men on the Democrat ticket combined.

And unlike Obama/Biden, our nominee put the less-experienced person at the bottom of the ticket, not the top. Which one would think is the way it should be.

What do you think?

Sarah Palin, Woo Hoo!! by The Elephant's Child

This is exciting! Sarah Palin is a wonderful choice. Strong, feisty, capable, tough, a reformer.  And above all, she’s real.  So many Washington politicians are patted and groomed into what they believe will appeal to this group or that.  Wardrobe consultants, make up consultants, soon it is hard to discern the person beneath the packaging.

We have been trying for months to find out who Barack Obama is, and what he stands for. His disturbing acceptance speech last night gave us no clue.  Is he completely unaware of what has transpired over the past few years, or was he merely trying to feed his followers enough red meat to satisfy their bloodlust?  It was a mean speech, full of attacks on George Bush who, of course, is to blame for everything — but who is not running again.  I suppose if you have a huge stadium full of people for whom high humor is putting a Hitler moustache on President Bush, accuracy doesn’t matter much.

The more I find out about Sarah Palin, the better this choice seems.  She has not been Governor for a long time, but she has accomplished an amazing amount of important things.  I can’t wait to see her out there on the campaign trail.

Obama’s Heavy Hand by American Elephant

Obama continues his thuggish campaign to keep Americans from learning about his relationship to unrepentant domestic terrorist, William Ayers:

DENVER — Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign organized its supporters Wednesday night to confront Tribune-owned WGN-AM in Chicago for having a critic of the Illinois Democrat on its air.

“WGN radio is giving right-wing hatchet man Stanley Kurtz a forum to air his baseless, fear-mongering terrorist smears,” Obama’s campaign wrote in an e-mail to supporters. “He’s currently scheduled to spend a solid two-hour block from 9:00 to 11:00 p.m. pushing lies, distortions, and manipulations about Barack and University of Illinois professor William Ayers.”

Kurtz, a conservative writer, recently wrote an article for the National Review that looked at Obama’s ties to Ayers, a former 1960s radical.

The magazine had been blocked in its initial attempts to obtain records from the University of Illinois at Chicago regarding the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, which Obama chaired and Ayers co-founded. The school later reserved [sic] its position and made the records available Tuesday.

…Christenson said the Obama campaign was asked to have someone appear on the show and declined the request. [emphasis mine. read more]

They can’t refute the charges because they are all true. Obama tries to obfuscate by saying that Ayers committed his crimes when Obama was only 11 years old. True, but that’s really beside the point because Ayers is unapologetic. He was unapologetic when he kicked off Obama’s campaign in his home: he is unrepentant even to this day.

The fact is, that in Barack Obama’s short political career he’s had a disturbing number of relationships with radicals, extremists and even terrorists.

And because he can’t refute the relationships, Obama is doing everything in his power, including some very disturbing tactics, to keep Americans from hearing about them before election day.

But the truth will out.

Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave When First… by The Elephant's Child

According to Rasmussen Reports, voter confidence in the War on Terror is at the highest level ever recorded simce Rasmussen Reports began regular tracking in January 2004.  Fifty-four percent (54%) of American voters now think the United States and its allies are winning the war.  The previous high-water mark for optimism — 52% — was reached a handful of times in September and October 2004.

Optimism about the situation in Iraq is also at an all-time high.  Forty-eight percent (48%) now expect the situation in that troubled country to get better over the next six months.  Only 17% expect thing to get worse.  In addition to being the most optimistic assessment ever recorded, these numbers reflect a remarkable turnaround over the past year.  Last August, just 27% thought things were going to get better while 47% were pessimistic.

Discovering, in the middle of your huge televised national convention, that your message on the war and Iraq is a little off, must be uncomfortable.  But never mind, we’ll just drop it all down the memory hole.

Do You Recognize the World of the Democrats? by The Elephant's Child

Democrats live in an alternate universe.  The world that exists in Democrat convention speeches is an unfamiliar place to me.  Bleak.  Everyone is a victim.  America is a terrible place, the economy is deep in a recession, no one has health care so people are obviously dying in the streets,  the war is a failure, the surge did not work, prisoners at Guantanamo are tortured, oil companies don’t pay taxes and gouge Americans, the earth will die soon unless rescued by Democrats with wind power, and whatever it is, it is all Bush’s fault. I’m sure I missed some horrors.

I went to the gas station today, and gas is expensive, even for my thrifty Toyota. I can imagine the feelings of those filling up SUVs or pickups. I also went to the grocery store, which is also painful. Prices are up. I made more careful choices.  Most of the inflation in gas prices and food prices comes from Democrat intransigence in allowing us to drill for oil, build refineries, build nuclear plants and pipelines. Prices are not up because of a shortage of windmills and solar panels.

Democrats refuse to drill because they owe the environmental organizations that support them, and the environmental organizations do not want us to use oil.  They think oil is bad, dirty, and evil, and they mistakenly believe that it can be replaced almost immediately by “renewable” “clean” energy.

I hate to keep harping on this, but it is confusing and people keep lying about it, or bloviating when they know not whereof they speak.  Lets go right to the source, the U.S. Energy Information Administration. They have some dandy graphs that explain better than words can.  Renewable energy contributes 6 percent of U.S. energy consumption as of 2004, the most recent figures, and it hasn’t changed much.  91 percent of that 6 percent is contributed by hydropower and biomass waste.  Solar energy contributes 1 percent and wind energy contributes 2.3 percent — not of our energy needs, but of the 6 percent renewables.  Geothermal contributes 5.6 percent of the 6 percent.  See how confusing it gets when you start talking percentages?

Here is another colorful diagram that shows where our energy comes from and where it goes, which will help a lot in deciphering all the bloviating.  I will take up the rest of the problems of the world soon.

Democrats Crack Down by American Elephant
August 27, 2008, 2:06 pm
Filed under: Election 2008, News, Politics | Tags: , , ,

Now Democrats don’t want you to see them hob-knobbing with big-money donors, special interests and lobbyists:

DENVER–Police in Denver arrested an ABC News producer today as he and a camera crew were attempting to take pictures on a public sidewalk of Democratic Senators and VIP donors leaving a private meeting at the Brown Palace Hotel. [more]

It’s no wonder they dont want you to see, these are the same big-money donors, special interests, and lobbyists that Obama has promised he will have nothing to do with.

The campaign of lies continues…

The Ad Obama Doesn’t Want You to See by American Elephant

What would an Obama Justice Department look like?

He has given us a highly disturbing glimpse this week by twice demanding the Justice Department go after the producers of the above ad criticizing his relationship with domestic terrorist, William Ayers, and by calling for the criminal prosecution of one of the group’s financial supporters. The Obama camp and his supporters have waged a campaign of intimidation against the television and radio stations airing the ad.

I am reminded of Democrats’ attempts to crush a 9/11 docudrama, The Path to 9/11, including thinly veiled threats to pull ABC’s broadcast license if they did not acquiesce. (They did) And more recent attempts by members to intimidate Republican political donors.

Obama has previously pledged, if elected, he would order the Justice Department to “immediately” investigate whether or not the Bush administration could be charged for war crimes for legally prosecuting a war authorized by congress — including by Obama’s own party.

There is nothing illegal about the ad. It is entirely accurate. Even the Obama camp cannot refute the claims. This is a blatant attempt to use government to crush political opposition —  one thuggish tactic among many that Democrats have shown they are increasingly willing to employ.

And if he is so quick to prosecute political opposition now, why would anyone believe he would behave differently as president?

More Pelosi on Energy Policy. by The Elephant's Child

There was another interesting part to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s appearance on Meet the Press. Ms. Pelosi announced that she was a major advocate of natural gas an an energy source; but then revealed that she is unaware that natural gas is a fossil fuel. And that it must be drilled for either on shore or offshore. Power Line caught this display of ignorance right off. From the transcript:

BROKAW: Well, I think most people understand that, but at the same time, if we work our way off carbon-based fuels, in the meantime, this is not going to happen overnight.

PELOSI: No it isn’t but you could — again, you could reduce the price of gas at the pump immediately with… (inaudible). You can have a transition with natural gas. That, that is cheap abundant and clean compared to fossil fuels. So, so there is a way to transition this instead of doing more of the same. The Bush administration, two oil men in the White House, they want us to believe that the status quo is what we should do and more of it — and more of it, when it will just only keep us in the same place that we are now.
PELOSI: I’m — I’m investing in something I believe in. I believe in natural gas as a clean cheap alternative to fossil fuels.
PELOSI: Well, that’s not — that is the marketplace. The fact is, the supply of natural gas is so big and you do need a transition if you’re going to go from fossil fuels, as you say, you can’t do it overnight, but you must transition.
These investments in wind, in solar and biofuels and focus on natural gas, these are the real alternatives.

The Power Line guys point out that “The Democrats prey on ignorance. Often they know better and are being cynical; sometimes it’s because they are ignorant themselves.”

It is really hard to know what Democrats understand about energy. They seem unaware that the case for catastrophic global warming has dissolved, that carbon dioxide is not the cause of what global warming there has been, and that the planet has been cooling for the past ten years. We don’t need cap-and-trade to cut down on carbon emissions because carbon dioxide is simply essential to life. It makes plants grow and helps them to survive drought, and there are many times in the past when there has been much more CO2 in the atmosphere.

I don’t think that Democrats know this. AlGore dismisses anything that disagrees with his position with great contempt, and so I imagine that most Liberals simply don’t know about changes in the science. I don’t think that they understand the real drawbacks of biofuels. Nor do they grasp the limits of solar and wind.

They are holding American energy policy hostage to misconceptions and orders from their environmentalist sponsors. They ignore the national security implications, because they want the troops out of Iraq and then there won’t be any more wars. Or something like that. If you have a better explanation, please let me know.

Speaker Pelosi’s Improbable Pronouncements. by The Elephant's Child

Democrat Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, appeared on Meet The Press yesterday. Mr. Brokaw inquired about the Democrat Congress’s very low approval poll numbers. She admitted that the oil companies and the administration all ranked higher than Congress in those polls. “BUT the point is this. People—” she said,”we have to look after the consumer, we have to increase the supply of energy. And the President, even as recently as yesterday, said if you drill offshore, you’re going to bring down the price at the pump. It simply is not true.”

Many economists and professors have pointed out that the President is right, and Ms. Pelosi doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Professor Don M. Chance, a professor of finance at Louisiana State University said:

Thus, the current price of any storable commodity will be affected by expectations of future supply because producers use those expectations to determine when to bring their product to market.

Oil is an excellent example because it has a long storage life. Every drop of oil consumned is on the market for only a small fraction of the millions of years of its life.

If producers expect increased supply in the future, the incentive to bring oil to market later is reduced.

Ms Pelosi went on to say that “Well the fact of the matter is — and the President knows this — if you drill offshore today , you won’t have any impact at the price at (sic) the pump for 10 years, and then it’s 2 cents. We can move much quickly (sic) by releasing oil from the strategic petroleum reserve and having an impact at the pump in 10 days, in 10 days.(sic)”

There are offshore oil rigs that have been sitting off the coast of California, idle since Democrats put a block on drilling decades ago. With restrictions lifted, they could potentially be producing in 3 years, because they know where the oil is.

The significantly explored areas are the central and western parts of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. Demand all over the world is such that drilling companies are pulling rigs out of the U.S. Gulf. Larry Dickerson, CEO of Diamond Offshore Drilling, says that there are probably 30% fewer rigs working than there were 3 years ago. The rigs that they have are booked up quite a bit in advance, so they would have to build new rigs or relocate rigs here. While that was going on, oil company customers would be doing the seismic exploration, so he estimates four or five years to start producing oil. Not exactly what Ms. Pelosi claims.

Environmental organizations have a mystic belief in “alternative energy”. Wind, solar, and biofuels. Natural. Not “dirty”. Not nuclear. They make a huge assumption that if we just contribute enough money, these sources that contribute only a minuscule bit of energy will suddenly be able to take over the entire job of supplying American energy. That is wishful thinking. And as these organizations are a huge source of Democrat money, Congressional Democrats cannot afford to do other than follow their demands.

The Left always believes in giving taxpayers’ money to their pet causes. They think of it as government money, or their money, to do with whatever seems noble. Trouble is their ‘noble’ causes seldom seem to work. But Democrats are interested in intentions, not results.

They never seem to understand that if the price of gas is so high that people are interested in alternates, the free market will produce all sorts of folks tinkering in their garages to produce new engines, new batteries, new fuels, new cars.

That is what the Capitalism that they so despise does.

Subsidies, on the other hand, entice people hoping to make a quick buck. England has all sorts of problems with wind farms being put in places where the wind supply is doubtful, simply because the subsidies pay for it. In Japan, when subsidies were removed activity in solar power ceased; because there were not investors willing to risk their money in the hope of future profit.

Speaker Pelosi actually had the nerve to claim that big oil, needed to pay “royalties” to the American people, Big oil pays three times as much in taxes as they receive in profits. If they lease land on which to drill, they bid at auction, enormous sums. If they secure the lease, they pay rent every year. If they cannot find oil on the land that they leased, tough luck, rent continues until the lease term is up. At the end of the lease, it reverts to the government.

American corporations are more highly taxed than their counterparts around the world. U.S. corporations pay 39% in taxes. Their counterparts in Ireland pay 11%. There is a clue here to the reason why U.S. corporations move their business offshore.

The late Walter Wriston, former CEO of CitiBank, said in The Twilight of Soverignty:

Capital will go where it is wanted and stay where it is well treated. It will flee from manipulation or onerous regulation of its value or use and no government power can restrain it for long.

Perhaps if we embroidered little samplers with this quotation, and sent them to members of Congress…Nah!

Exclusive: First Look at Obama/Biden Campaign Signs by American Elephant
August 23, 2008, 8:33 am
Filed under: Election 2008, Humor, Liberalism, News, Politics | Tags: , , ,

Barack Obama Biden Campaign Sign

The wait is over at long last! (For those of you who were waiting, at least.) If you’re like me, you weren’t waiting for the announcement so much as you were waiting for sweet relief from the 24-7 speculative hyperventilation. The operating assumption behind which seemed to be, if pundits could successfully name every known living Democrat as a possible running mate, eventually someone would end up being right.

But man! were they waiting! We posted this little joke, and were inundated with hundreds of hits within the first few minutes. You think they’ll fall for this one too? Heh heh.

According to Ed Morrisey, the much ballyhooed text message didn’t arrive until 4 am EST, hours after the pick was confirmed. So much for telling the Obamaniacs first. He can’t send out a text message on time, but he’s ready to lead the country? Oi! Another promise down the “O” hole and he hasn’t even gotten the nomination yet. How many is that? I’ve lost count. Turns out it was just a ploy to get cell #’s for the get out the vote efforts. Smart politics, bad PR.

I am very pleased, though,  to see that the McCain camp was ready to go with commercials no matter who the nominee ended up being — I’ll give McCain this, he’s been running a shrewd campaign of late.

Whaddya wanna bet McCain’s choice doesn’t get a quarter of the attention? Still, it will be interesting to see how the Obamessiah and Hairplugs respond to the ad:

(ht: Michelle Malkin)

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