American Elephants

The Illusion of an Arab Spring is Long Gone. by The Elephant's Child


Sunrise at the Temple of Karnak in Luxor, Egypt

Egypt has problems. Cast your mind back to May of 2011. Egypt is the 15th most populous country at 82,079,636 according to 2011 estimates. Cairo had a population of an estimated 10.902 million, and the median age was 24. Half the population lived on less than $2 a day, and a spike in food prices leads to real trouble. Egypt is the world’s largest grain importer. To rephrase that, they cannot feed their own population. The Peruvian economist Hernando De Soto has estimated that 92% of Egyptians hold their property without normal legal title. Egypt is dependent on revenue from tourism.

If you remember, Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26 year-old Tunisian street vendor helped to start what became known as the Arab Spring, by an act of desperation by setting himself on fire in a public square. That act led to spontaneous uprisings in Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Syria. The White House and the media spoke breathlessly of Western-style democracy sweeping across the Arab desert. They ignored polls that showed that large majorities of Egyptians were yearning to vote in Islamic law. Skeptics pointed out that the Arab world has no experience whatsoever of democracy, and radical Islamists would soon sweep in.

Obama urged on the rioters and pressured Mubarak to step down. They held elections, the Muslim Brotherhood got 60% of the vote, and Mohamed Morsi was elected President, and promptly dismissed the Generals of the Egyptian Army.

President Morsi has now handed over control of a tourist destination to a party that loathes tourists. On Sunday President Morsi appointed Adel al-Khayat of the Gamaa al-Islamiyya party as Governor of Luxor, a region that is home to the ruins of two temples and several monuments. The party holds conservative views against sunbathing, women wearing shorts, alcohol, and is responsible for the 1997 attack in Luxor that killed 60 tourists. The New York Times reported:

“A fatwa, or religious decree, published on the Gamaa al-Islamiyya’s web site advised members of the group not to build tourist accommodations. ‘Because tourist villages have aspects that anger Allah, including alcohol, gambling and other forbidden things, building these hotels and villages is considered aiding their owners in sin and aggression, and is not permitted,’ the decision read.”

Tourism accounts for more than 11% Egypt’s GDP, and 90 percent of Egyptians employed in  Luxor work in industries that depend on tourism to stay afloat. The revolution and the political turmoil following it has already nearly ended the country’s tourist economy, and this move won’t help.

To cap that off, President Morsi has escalated a fight with Ethiopia this week over a dam on the Nile River. Ethiopia is building a dam upstream from Egypt and expects to start filling in a 74 billion cubic meter reservoir in 2015. Egypt fears the dam will choke off its main supply of water.

Speaking to hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Cairo Monday, Mr. Morsi said that Egypt was ready to “protect every drop of the Nile water,” for which it was ready to spill “our blood.” Conjuring up a conspiracy by domestic and foreign “enemies” to impoverish Egypt, he called on Egyptians to face up to the “threats to the country.”

The combative speech turned up the volume on bellicose noises from Cairo. Last week, the president held a meeting with opposition figures who, unaware they were being filmed live, said that Egypt may need to act militarily in Ethiopia to stop the construction of the dam. The video went viral.

Ethiopia dismissed the Egyptian threats as “psychological warfare” and said it will continue to build the dam.

Morsi has been in office for only 12 months, and none of the promises to make the streets safe or revive the economy have been realized. Youth unemployment is extremely high, and the government’s foreign currency reserves have been depleted. Egypt now depends on handouts from friendly nations like Qatar and Libya to buy food and fuel. The opposition has called for mass rallies across the country on June 30.

Secretary of State John Kerry has promised $4 billion in aid, and airplanes, but this is not an Arab Spring, and our government does not seem to grasp the nature of radical Islam. Now Mr. Morsi has turned to conspiracy mongering and nationalistic posturing. Didn’t work for Mubarak and his generals, and is unlikely to work in the current situation.

What our adventures in Syria will add to the mix remains to be seen. Our government seems remarkably naive in their approach to the Islamist governments in the Middle East.

Governmental Ethics and The Public Trust by The Elephant's Child

The New York Times is still willing to plump for the story of a couple of rogue agents in the Cincinnati office for the unlawful targeting of conservative groups. They are simply wrong, deliberately so, in still trying to blame it all on the couple of rogue agents in the Cincinnati office. Elijah Cummings (D-My), ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has now stated that” the case is solved”—and it’s time for the nation to”move on.” The about face by Mr. Cummings is a disturbing indication of the administration’s desire to get this mess swept under the rug as quickly as possible.

Only days earlier, he was calling for a “thorough investigation” to restore “truth and trust”, and wanted to get to the bottom of whatever transpired at the IRS.

We now know that Washington was deeply involved. We have letters from Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations and IRS attorney Carter Hull. Cincinnati officials have claimed that they were “micromanaged” by officials in D.C. Now a top official in Washington — Holly Paz— has told congressional investigators that she was involved in 20 to 20 of the cases. Her signature is also on letters to clients.

Holly Paz, a senior IRS supervisor in Washington DC admitted to targeting Tea Party applications for tax-exempt status. She was personally involved in scrutinizing up to 30 Tea Party applications., including some requests that sat around for more than a year without department action.

She has been placed on “administrative leave” which seems to mean staying at home with full pay.  Paz described an agency in which IRS Supervisors in Washington worked closely with agents in the field, but didn’t fully understand what those agents were doing. She said agents in Cincinnati talked about handling “tea party ” cases, but she thought the term was merely shorthand for all applications from groups that were politically active, conservative and liberal.

She was only among the first to be interviewed. More to come. Mr. Cummings said “The witch hunt needs to end.”

It is clearly not a witch hunt. There has been a serious erosion of the public trust. A new poll reveals that tow-thirds of American voters believe that the IRS specifically targeted conservative groups as part of an effort to punish political opponents.

Perhaps the thinking is that if President Obama is just out of the country for most of the next month, and concern with the Syrian revolution, maybe people will lose interest and forget all about it, and move on to the next item of interest. Is it possible that the administration does not understand what a serious breach of trust and ethics this whole thing is? The president has been quite casual about going around Congress, ignoring the law, and doing what he chose. This one is too big, and too disturbing.

A Little More Intrusion into Your Personal Life. You Won’t Mind, Will You? by The Elephant's Child

If you weren’t already worried enough about surveillance, and having your phone calls, emails, Facebook page and tweets monitored, according to the Gateway Pundit, the Immigration Bill now being debated in the Senate will create a national database on every adult in the U.S.  Homeland Security will create a massive federal database containing you name, age, Social Security number and photograph, from state issued photo IDs, according to Wired. 

A Senate aide disputed the Wired account arguing that a Supreme Court ruling Printz v. US would prohibit the federal government from forcing state officials to turn over driver’s license images. But already the faces of more than 120 million people are stored in searchable photo databases which are increasingly used by police to identify suspects, accomplices and bystanders in criminal investigations.

Just fills you with confidence in the government, doesn’t it? It’s always been clear that inside every Liberal lurks a little totalitarian who can’t stop trying to rearrange things to suit himself, but it does seem to be piling up.

The Skagit River Bridge (temporary) Reopens Tomorrow. by The Elephant's Child


Governor Jay Inslee has announced that a temporary bridge to replace the collapsed Skagit River Bridge will open tomorrow. This is on I-5 between Seattle and Vancouver B.C. and has slowed traffic with a detour since May 24. A temporary bridge in place with slightly reduced speed limits in just 24 days is not bad.

The Media, always hotly in pursuit of a dramatic story, made a great deal out of the collapse, which was due to a truck with an extra wide load striking a major bridge support, rather than President Obama’s  favorite “crumbling roads and bridges” didn’t measure up in the drama department.

Traffic can once again move smoothly, and end the backups on the bridge detour. Good job.

Animals You Didn’t Know Existed by The Elephant's Child


This handsome fellow with the spectacular horns and amazing beard is a Markhor, a large species of wild goat found in Northeastern Afghanistan and Pakistan. The species is classed by the IUCN as Endangered, as there are fewer than 2,500 mature individuals. The Markhor is the national animal of Pakistan. When it chews its cud, a foam-like substance comes out of its mouth which drops on the ground and dries. This dried foam-like substance is sought after by the local people, who believe it is useful in extracting the poison from snake bites.

This collection of 22 animals that most of us didn’t know existed simply accentuates Dr. Tim Ball’s column in the previous post.

We don’t know how many species there are. We don’t have even crude estimates of populations. We don’t know how much population numbers vary.

Animal populations and distributions vary considerable over time. Every report of decline or discovery in a new location is now attributed to human induced climate change or other human activity. Perhaps the most outrageous is the claim of humans hunting Ice Age species to extinction. All ignore natural variability, but that is the pattern of anti-humanity environmental hysteria.

I’ve posted articles before on newly discovered species that no one knew existed, as well as on species that were supposed to be extinct, except that we found some more.

The Endangered Species Act doesn’t have a very good record of success. Some stopped being endangered when we stopped shooting them, some were never endangered in the first place, some stopped being endangered when numbers of their predators were reduced, and some—like the wolf, beloved by the environmentalists, have returned in such numbers that they are a threat to ranchers and other wildlife. People aren’t very good at establishing the balance of Nature.

(via @MeredithDake. And thanks to Seriously for Real/Amazing World for the fascinating article)

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