American Elephants

Everything You Wanted To Know About Endangered Species… by The Elephant's Child

“Emperor penguins, whose long treks across Antarctic ice to mate have been immortalized by Hollywood, are heading towards extinction, scientists say. Based on predictions of sea ice extent from climate change models, the penguins are likely to see their numbers plummet by 95% by 2100. That level of decline could wreak havoc on the delicate Antarctic food chain. The research is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.” —BBC News, 26 January 2009

“Nearly twice as many emperor penguins inhabit Antarctica as was thought. UK, US and Australian scientists used satellite technology to trace and count the iconic birds, finding them to number almost 600,000. The extent of sea ice in the Antarctic has been relatively stable in recent years (unlike in the Arctic), although this picture hides some fairly large regional variations.” –Jonathan Amos, BBC News, 13 April 2012

The effort to save species that seem in danger of becoming extinct is a noble one, but it is really hard to tell. Are these the only ones, or are there more over there— on the other side of the hill? Where do you look? Is there a natural predator that has grown too numerous? In this era of environmentalism, many would be environmentalists have erred in their enthusiasm to be the noble ones who saved a species.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of saving species if they are truly endangered;  but the record of the Endangered Species Act is somewhat embarrassing. Having grown up in the back of beyond, I understand how very hard it is to find a particular plant or animal in all of nature.

If you have prowled the internet at all today, you may have run into an indignant story about how dead-broke California spent $205,000 to relocate a plant growing in a concrete-bound median strip on a San Francisco highway. It was thought to be the last living specimen of Arctostaphylos franciscana, a form of manzanita,  but it turns out that a California nursery has plenty for about $15 each.

And as I pointed out last week, the polar bears are just fine. Native peoples are more apt to know if there is a decline in numbers of a species, but there’s a need for common sense here. If the endangered species just happens to prevent something that the greenies have been complaining about, your suspicions are probably correct.

John Stossel Talks About Big Government. He Doesn’t Like It. by The Elephant's Child

A brief but charming interview with John Stossel at the Heritage Foundation, wherein he explains the difficulty in explaining ideas like “the Buffet Rule” and Bastiat’s Broken-Window Theory.

Obama Knows “The Buffett Rule” Is A Fraud. by The Elephant's Child

Remember Rick Santelli whose rant on the economy was the impetus for the founding of the Tea Party? Here he is again. Still ranting.

Here we’ve all been so worried about the deficit, what it will do to our economy and the burden on our children, but Obama explained that if we just pass the Buffett Rule, it “will help us close our deficit.”

Of course the Congressional Budget Office chimed in. Mark Steyn reminded us that the CBO are “the same nonpartisan bean-counters who project that the entire U.S. economy will cease to exist in 2027.” They predict that “Obama’s Buffett Rule will raise…$3.2 billion per year. Or what the United States government currently borrows every 17 hours. So in 514 years it will have raised enough additional revenue to pay off the 2011 federal budget deficit. If you want to mark it on your calendar, 514 years is the year 2526.”

He adds: “For what Obama’s spending, there aren’t enough of them, or us, or “the rich” — and there never will be.  There is only one Warren Buffett.  He is the third-wealthiest person on the planet. The first is a Mexican, and beyond the reach of the U.S. Treasury. Mr. Buffett is worth $44 billion.  If he donated the entire lot to the government of the United States, they would blow through it within four and a half days.

Doesn’t matter. That’s not what Obama is on about. He thinks if he can just get Americans riled up about “the rich” then he can point to Mitt Romney as one of the hated rich. If Congress doesn’t pass his Buffett Rule, which they won’t, then he can point to a recalcitrant Republican Congress that blocks his every effort to save the country.

Since he has no real accomplishments to run on, Obama clearly plans on taking the low road. He does not tolerate honest differences, and he will impugn the motives of anyone who dares to disagree with him. Envy of “the rich” and pointing out that rich and old-fashioned Mitt Romney and his stay-at-home wife are simply out of touch with ordinary people, is Obama’s strategy.  But that’s not what ordinary people are concerned about.

Ordinary people of both parties care about the 88 million unemployed. They care about an economy that is not creating jobs, and a debt and deficit that keep growing without the slightest effort to rein in spending.

Heritage did this handy little graph to show just how totally insignificant the amount raised by the Buffett Rule would be. Once again, a visual explanation helps to explain what is not so clear in numbers.

The Hill suggests that weak jobs numbers raise pressure on the Federal Reserve to adopt a new stimulus to boost the economy.

Arrrggggh! It is not another useless stimulus that the economy needs. It is a halt to reckless spending, the constant flow of new rules, the burden of over-regulation,  the coming Tax Armageddon, the rising cost of energy, and the crushing burden of ObamaCare. Businessmen and business organizations keep telling the folks in Washington why they are not hiring, why the economy is not growing, but nobody hears them. The smartest people in the world are fully in charge, and as soon as they enlarge the government a little more, all will be well. Or not.

Wow! I Didn’t Know Africa Was So Big! by The Elephant's Child

(Click to enlarge, you have to see this big)

This handsome graphic representation of the continent of Africa gives us a whole new understanding of the size and potential of the continent in a way that verbal descriptions cannot. Many kinds of graphic representations become easier on the computer and more shareable. The right combinations of visual and text can add to learning in new ways that we don’t understand well yet.

For example, there is a YouTube video that is a representation of wars throughout history and the change that the wars bring about, that really impressed me. It is much too brief, and too fast in the speed-up of centuries, to be very useful; but there is a tantalizing glimpse of the potential for a new and better understanding of history in seeing visually the sweep of armies and population shifts. Bill Gates is involved with something like this, but the little I have seen is different but interesting.

When my youngest was in high school world history, the teacher called everything to a halt and inserted a class in geography. He found his class was clueless about basic geography which made any attempt to explain history meaningless.

We were being transferred frequently, and my oldest missed telling time completely.  He left his old school just before they reached that section, and the new school had already completed it. Took ages for us to discover that he had no idea how to tell time.

In any given group, we do not know what knowledge is missing unless some accident exposes the missing information. If we know a thing, we assume that those around us do as well, and it is not always apparent that they do not. Kids especially have lots of missing knowledge, but as they are unaware of it, cannot tell anyone that they don’t know.  And we don’t think to ask.

If you have school age kids, have you read their books to see what they are learning and what is missing?

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