American Elephants

Michael Ramirez Comments on Libya, Even if Obama Won’t. by The Elephant's Child

(click to enlarge)

Michael Ramirez draws with a sharpened stiletto, and this time directs his piercing attention to the Obama Administration’s reactions to the Libyan revolt against Gadaffi’s brutal administration and his even more brutal response to the protests.  Michael Ramirez’s ability to create visual metaphors is amazing.  See more of his work here.

The EPA Embarrasses Itself Once Again! by The Elephant's Child

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Air and Radiation was asked on Tuesday, during a House of Representatives hearing, if she knew what the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is.

Almost everything the EPA does, the Energy Department does, the Interior Department does, as well as assorted offices, bureaus, agencies, departments, and regulatory bodies of all sorts are basing their efforts on the importance of removing CO2 from the atmosphere to prevent catastrophic global warming.  The basic assumption is that CO2 created by the activities of human depredations on our pristine planet must be stopped, reversed, or sequestered by changing our economy from one fueled largely by fossil fuels into a “21st century”Basic Knowledge economy powered by clean, free, wind and solar energy.

This is the impetus behind enormous government subsidy for wind farms, solar arrays, ethanol, electric cars, high-speed rail, experiments with algae, compact fluorescent lightbulbs, and volumes and stacks of government regulation that will negatively impact American business, employment, transportation, the economy, the pocketbooks of consumers, the power grid, the national debt and the deficit.

When Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) asked Gina McCarthy, head of the Office of Air and Radiation, who has been commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and has “worked at both state and local levels on critical environmental issues,” has extensive experience with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the nation’s first market-based greenhouse cap-and-trade system” and has a master of science in environmental health engineering and planning and policy from Tufts University, If she knew what the level of atmospheric CO2 was — she didn’t know.

The CO2 level in our atmosphere is roughly 391 parts per million.

This simple fact is available through the simplest of Web searches. That number means that CO2 is merely a trace gas in the atmosphere.  Since we exhale CO2 every time we breathe, it cannot possibly be poisonous or a pollutant.  It is a natural fertilizer for plants, helping them to grow and resist cold, heat and drought.  It is a basic building block of life, and if CO2 were eliminated, life would be eliminated as well.

The EPA seems to know what the proper temperature for the Earth should be.  They seem to know the proper level of CO2 in the atmosphere, which they pegged at 350 ppm a few years back as the top limit for human safety.  Oddly, scientists have learned that CO2 has been much higher in the past, and we are currently at a fairly low level.  The optimum level seems to be around 1,000 ppm.  At least that’s what real greenhouses have found. The Medieval Warm Period is the most beneficial climate known to man, and the CO2 levels were then much higher than at present.

Gina McCarthy’s job is pushing a political agenda, not responding to science or educating the public.  Such a devastating display of ignorance should disqualify her from any government occupation.

What Does America Stand For In the Middle East? by The Elephant's Child

“Arab nations lag behind rest of world economically, despite oil and natural gas,” read the headline in The Washington Post.

“The nations of the Arab Middle East sit atop perhaps half of the planet’s oil and a third of its natural gas reserves, yet the economies of the region are among the most stagnant.” Growth per-capita ranks behind Asia, Latin America and even the rest of Africa.” Unemployment, particularly among young people, remains high, and the size of government remains high. IMF officials estimate that Egyptian government agencies or state-run enterprises account for upward of 77 percent of the non-agricultural employment in Egypt.

Public-sector wages are kept artificially high, and encourage workers to seek public sector jobs.  As a result, growth rates don’t keep pace with the population.  The UN’s 2009 Arab Human Development Report found that Arab states as a whole were less industrialized than they were in 1970.  Governments used revenue from oil and gas, and in the case of Egypt tourism and the Suez Canal,  to maintain a  large public workforce and cheap goods.

David Warren takes us back to 1952 in Egypt, in a short column, and reviews a bit of Egyptian history, with the overthrow of various kings and potentates, and resulting disorder.  Is the overthrow of Mubarak just another in a long list of failed leaders?

Americans are apt to sympathize with the downtrodden, and with popular revolts, remembering our own colonial rebellion.  But few countries have had our fortuitous path to democracy.

At the eve of the Revolution our population was around 4 million, widely scattered. We had enjoyed 156 years of relative freedom and little government, with plenty of opportunity for free land and freedom to do business. The people who came to settle in America were perhaps genetically selected (if that is possible) for courage, spirit and self-reliance.  And many came to get away from some kind of government regulation or oppression.  Philadelphia was our largest city, and the population in 1776 is estimated as somewhere in the vicinity of 35,000 to 40,000.  Though there were English governors, the British government was across the Atlantic. And perhaps, above all, we were fortunate in our first President, who resisted all pressure to become a King, a president for life, or anything but a citizen temporarily elevated to office, and when he completed his term, he went along home.

Contrast that with the situation of Egypt now.  Egypt is the 15th most populous country — at 82,079,636 according to 2011 estimates.  Cairo has a population  of an estimated 10.902 million, and the median age in Egypt is only 24.  Around half the population lives on less than $2 a day, and a spike in food prices leads to trouble.  Egypt is the world’s largest grain importer in most years — or to rephrase that, they can’t feed their own population.  In 2009, Egyptian imports were $55 billion against $29 billion of exports.  Subtract billions of tourism, and current news probably doesn’t have a lot of people going to see the pyramids, and they are in real trouble.

The general conversation suggests that it’s either democracy or the Muslim Brotherhood, so everyone is enthusiastic about Arab democracy.  But democracy is more than just elections.  It requires the freedom to organize, the gradual development of political parties, and the peaceful transfer of power.  It requires the rule of law, but our notions of the rule of law include things like property rights, the ability to start a business, to borrow and lend, a free market.  It requires a free press, or at least the free exchange of ideas. Perhaps in today’s world Twitter and Facebook must be a sort of substitute.

The U.S must support a freedom agenda. Our only agenda should be to help protect new nations against totalitarian  parties. We can offer guiding principles. That’s what Americans do. We can be a firm voice standing for freedom and democracy.  We should be clear-eyed about what we stand for.

The real terror that is eating away at the Arab world is socio-economic marginalization.  A report by Hernando De Soto, the Peruvian economist, noted that 92% of Egyptians hold their property without normal legal title.  The largest employer in Egypt is the extralegal sector.They do not have access to ordinary business organizational forms that would allow them to grow in the way that legal enterprises do. To open a small bakery in Egypt, they found would take more than 500 days.  Legal institutions fail the majority of people.  To get title to a vacant piece of land would take more than 10 years of dealing with red tape.

To empower the people, and allow economic growth from the bottom up for an aspiring people requires reform of existing legal institutions.  A freedom agenda is not supported by dithering and uncertainty.  It requires a firm voice standing up for American Principle.  That really isn’t so hard, it just means knowing what American principles are.

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