American Elephants

The Biggest Election in The World. A Sweeping Victory For Free Markets. by The Elephant's Child

India’s remarkable parliamentary election has lasted for five weeks and counted some 550 million ballots. Indian voters have given  a landslide victory to Narendra Modi”s Bharatiya Janata Party. Mr. Modi will be the first Prime Minister to govern without a coalition in nearly 30 years, and he has an unusual mandate to enact market-opening reforms that had stalled under the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The losing Congress Party had ruled India for most of its 67 years. Under Sonia Gandhi, the Congress Party kept to its old political strategy of doling out benefits to the poor and discouraging foreign investment. Growth was below 5% which to most Indians felt like a recession. The Indian work force was growing by 12 million a year, but only two million new jobs were being created. That would feel like a recession. As the Wall Street Journal said:

Mr. Modi’s record offers reason for optimism. As governor for 13 years of Gujarat state, he was the archetypal energetic executive, forcing through approvals of new projects and welcoming foreign investment. Gujarat now accounts for 25% of India’s exports, and the poverty rate has plunged. As the son of a tea-seller, Mr. Modi also has a gut sense of the economic aspirations of ordinary Indians.

India’s growing middle class has been exposed to the broader world and wants more opportunity. He appealed to this class in his campaign, and emphasized the difference between an older generation who “died for independence” and a younger India that “will live for good governance.”It looks like far more Indians found his record appealing. India is celebrating Hope. The Wall Street Journal adds:

More importantly, Mr. Modi will need to build ideological consensus to reverse India’s deep-rooted distrust of markets. Riding herd on civil servants is possible in a state of 60 million people like Gujarat, but it is impossible in a fractious nation of 1.2 billion people.

Richard Epstein, Hoover Institution fellow and  Law professor who often works at the confluence of law and economics visited India for the first time in January. His account of his attempt to buy a local phone so he could make an occasional call to family back in the United States is a far better demonstration of the crushing weight of the enormous Indian bureaucracy and its civil servants, than anything I could write.

The American media hasn’t paid much attention to this sweeping victory of conservative, free-market, and anti-Islamist forces. Modi is moving quickly to dispel fears that his pro-Hindu leanings would sideline minorities.

“The age of divisive politics has ended, from today onwards the politics of uniting people will begin,” Modi said. “We want more strength for the well-being of the country … I see a glorious and prosperous India.”

“I want to take all of you with me to take this country forward… it is my responsibility to take all of you with me to run this country,” he added.

Congratulations to the Indian people on a remarkable democratic election. We wish you well for the future. May your hopes be well-rewarded.

It was 34 years ago today! by American Elephant

[Ed. note: the following was originally posted in 2008 on this infamous day]

Chances are, if you’re not from Washington or Oregon, the date May 18th has little meaning to you. Heck, even around here many don’t think of it unless someone reminds them. But I remember — every year. It’s one of the only world events I remember from back then — I was very young after all; but the eruption of Mt. St. Helens on May 18, 1980 was just the kind of event that little boys remember forever.

We were very fortunate; the mountain exploded northwards, but the winds carried the ash-cloud away to the southeast. I remember being somewhat disappointed that the ash wasn’t turning day into night for us like it was for all the people on the television. In fact, we didn’t seem to get any ash-fall at all, much to my chagrin; while people on the other side of the mountain were measuring it in inches, like snow.

So much excitement! …and so little pay off.

About the most exciting thing I personally experienced was standing on my father’s roof to see the enormous plume looking fairly small and unimpressive so many miles away. I’m not sure if we heard the explosion or not. They say people heard it as far as 700 miles away, and we were certainly much closer than that. I think we did — but that could just be my memory playing tricks on me.

So close, and yet so far. But I still remember it every year.

Where were you?

Update: Michael Rubin at the Corner links to an excellent photo montage on the eruption and the aftermath.

The Remarkable Success of America’s Shale Revolution! by The Elephant's Child

The revolutionary drilling techniques that are changing the energy situation in America and in the world—hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling—are unlocking oceans of shale oil in Texas and North Dakota. The stunning increase in the combined output of the Bakken, Eagle Ford Shale and Permian Basin oil fields between 2007 and 2014 is a remarkable success story. It is bringing amazing energy-based prosperity to America in the form of millions of “shovel-ready” jobs throughout the economy; a huge boost in state tax revenues; millions of dollars of royalty payments to landowners and farmers; lower energy prices, and more energy independence.

America’s contemporary society depends on cheap plentiful and dependable energy. Energy is a big percentage of the costs of everything that needs manufacturing, transporting and distributing. This has been one of the most remarkable success stories in American history. And it wasn’t all that long ago when every politician was concerned about our “dependence on foreign oil.”

Environmental activists have pushed for bans, moratoriums, or other restrictions alleging that “fracking” is somehow a threat to public health or to the environment, and searched for some species that can be called endangered. but increasing numbers of environmentalists have distanced themselves from the fracking ban movement. Greenhouse gas emissions have fallen 10 percent since 2005, attributed largely to the increased use of natural gas.

Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have unlocked a 200-year supply of natural gas, making the fuel more affordable for economic growth and household use. The activists don’t want to hear any good news, it disturbs their vision of a declining world and open-ended government planning.

This dandy chart from Economist Mark Perry illustrates the marvelous growth in production from less than 200,000 barrels per day to nearly 1,600,000 barrels per day at present and climbing. That should power a lot of economic growth!  Perhaps we should ask just why the administration is not interested in that!

Combined, the three fields have gone from 1 million barrels per day in 2007 to 4 million in 2014, all on private land, so Obama cannot halt production.


Seven Stories Tall, and Longer Than My House! by The Elephant's Child

Paleontologist and femur. ………………………………………………Photo MEP

The fossilized bones of a dinosaur believed to be the largest creature ever to walk the earth have been unearthed in Argentina. It is thought to be as heavy as 14 African elephants. The bones were discovered by a farm worker in a desert area of  Patagonia that has yielded many dinosaur discoveries. Based on its huge thigh bones, it was 130 feet long and 65 feet tall, (equal to a seven story building).

Dr. Paul Barrett, a dinosaur expert from London’s Natural History Museum said the new species is a “genuinely big critter,” but urged caution in declaring it the worlds’ biggest.

Argentinosaurus, also a Patagonian find in 1987, was originally estimated at 100 tons, but it’s weight was eventually lowered to around 70 tons—these estimates are based on incomplete skeletons, and paleontologists have different methods for calculating size and weight.

In the same week, paleontologists announced the discovery of the fossilized remains of a small member of the sauropods. This one is thought to be only about 30 feet long  and is “a small guy in a lineage of giants.” The sauropods are better-known  as diplodocids typified by the well-known Diplodocus which lived in North America. The weight of “the small guy” is assumed to be more like that of an elephant. Paleontologists didn’t think it was possible that diplodocid sauropods reached South America, so the new discovery is exciting.

It is simply hard to grasp the size of a creature with that big a thigh bone. But there may be more fossils yet to be discovered. Simply amazing.

An illustration of Argentinosaurus, also a sauropod, but only a mere 70 tons.



Surveillance and Privacy: Questions and Answers. by The Elephant's Child


The New Yorker has published a long Q.& A. session with General Keith Alexander who retired in March after eight years as the director of the NSA. Edward Snowden’s revelations about government surveillance have alarmed many Americans about potential intrusions into their private lives.

The intelligence community is unaccustomed to explaining itself in public. A voluminous body of popular thrillers in both books and movies is not an accurate or even reasonable approximation of what it is the intelligence community does, but it leaves indelible impressions, inaccurate as they may be. We don’t know how it really works, and that is a little scary.

The article consists of excerpts from the interview, and I would recommend reading the whole thing. General Alexander is attempting to illustrate for a general audience what the intelligence people are trying to do, and he does it well.

In January, President Obama claimed that the NSA bulk-metadata program has disrupted fifty-four terrorist plots. Senator Patrick Leahy said the real number is zero. There’s a big difference between fifty-four and zero.

In an era of increasing terrorism, everybody dealing with it wants more information. You have different agencies looking at different parts of different pictures, trying to solve a puzzle, but the CIA is looking at a different picture solving a different puzzle. There are thousands at any given time.

Metadata is the least intrusive, most efficient way to do it. You don’t want to translate millions and millions of calls; you want to get to the most efficient approach. Then, once you know that’s a terrorist, then you can go and get content. So how can you do that in the U.S.? The first thing that people will say is: if you take our data, you’re going to be looking at what we’re doing. You’ve entered into a huge debate—a constitutional debate. You’ve got the Fourth Amendment. So the Administration and Congress set up a program where all three branches of government agree to the approach, such that it comports with the Constitution. …

The number of terrorist attacks in 2012—do you know how many there were globally?

How many?

Six thousand seven hundred and seventy-one. Over ten thousand people killed. In 2013, it would grow to over ten thousand terrorist attacks and over twenty thousand people killed. Now, how did we do in the United States and Europe? How do you feel here? Safe, right? I feel pretty safe.

General Alexander does a fine job of explaining what they do, how tedious the work is and how difficult to dig out actionable intelligence, in a clear way that should allay the fears of anyone about their personal affairs. “This is the most overseen program,” he said,”I think, in our government.”

The article, however, prompted thoughts of just how much the Obama administration has damaged our trust in government. All presidents have issues that they feel should not be made public. All administrations do things  which we disagree. There are some real disagreements in the Democratic Party with actions that the president is taking, but they have learned to keep their disagreements out of the public eye. Obama’s attempts to please his audience with what he says — rather than be straightforward— have left many no longer believing what officials say.

Obama wants to put his actions in the best possible light, which is understandable, but when it is false, it destroys trust. When he exaggerates numbers to make them seem positive, and it is not true, it destroys our trust in government. Republicans don’t have a lot of faith in big government to begin with, whoever is promoting it. We expect accountability, and demand that agencies do their assigned jobs rather than play politics at the whim of the administration.

If Americans do not trust their government, Obama has only himself to blame. If the IRS cannot be trusted, Americans are more reluctant to be taxed. If the Veterans Administration cannot be trusted to care for the veterans who they serve; it points the way to what can be expected from ObamaCare, and that expectation is unavoidable. If the State Department cannot protect the men they selected to serve in difficult countries, we need a new State Department who will.


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