American Elephants


A Search For The Real George Washington by The Elephant's Child

The George Washington that most of us see most often is the engraving after the Gilbert Stuart portrait on the one dollar bill. Reproductions of the Gilbert Stuart portrait and a portrait of Abraham Lincoln used to hang on the front wall of every elementary classroom when I was growing up, with an American flag standing in the corner.

We all know, I think, that George Washington had dreadful false teeth. A terrible pity, both for the President — because they must have been instruments of torture in his mouth — and because they distract our attention from far more important things about the man. Certainly Washington must have had access to the very best dentists of the day. By 1789, he had only one of his own teeth left. The teeth were horrible-looking contraptions made of substances like hippopotamus ivory, hinged at the back and operated with springs. He complained that they distorted his lips, and they must have distorted his appearance as well.

Gilbert Stuart was the most celebrated of portraitists. He trained in London, and was thought to be a potential successor to the famed Sir Joshua Reynolds. However Stuart was extravagant and fled in debt from London. He turned up in Philadelphia during 1795 , hoping to pay off his creditors by creating a multitude of portraits of the world’s greatest man. Washington sat to him for three separate portraits, and Stuart made hundreds of copies.

According to James Thomas Flexner’s Washington: The Indispensable Man, Washington and Stuart did not get on. The portraitist usually kept his sitters amused and their faces alive by a flood of showy and outrageous talk. Washington always felt
According to James Thomas Flexner’s Washington: The Indispensable Man, Washington and Stuart did not get on. The portraitist usually kept his sitters amused and their faces alive by a flood of showy and outrageous talk. Washington always felt uneasy at having to remain still and being stared at and was put out rather than being amused.

Stuart, who felt that “artists were fundamentally superior to all other men including Presidents, resented Washington’s formality. He could not forget what had resulted when, in trying to unstiffen the hero, he had gone to the length of saying, “Now, sir, you must let me forget that you are General Washington and I am Stuart the Painter. Washington replied (as it seemed to him politely), Mr. Stuart need never feel the need for forgetting who he is and who General Washington is.”

Stuart emphasized, as no other portraitist did, the distortions of Washington’s mouth. Flexner suggests that since Stuart was known to have angrily used General Knox’s portrait as the door of his pigsty that perhaps the harm he did to Washington’s historical image was somewhat deliberate.

This life mask by Jean Antoine Houdon gives us more clues as to what Washington actually looked like. He was tall, about 6’2″, and most verbal descriptions mention his ‘roman’ nose, so it was perhaps a little prominent. This is not the face of the Stuart portrait, but looks more probable.

Washington was an outdoorsman who spent much of his life in the saddle, and his complexion would have reflected that — more wrinkles, more weathered. They didn’t have sunglasses and baseball hats with a brim to keep the sun out of the eyes, lots of squinting. The portrait above seems to match the life mask fairly well. A far cry from the disagreeable Gilbert Stuart portrait.

I’m going a bit out on a limb here, but I spent some years in art school attempting to capture likenesses, and the smallest errors in size and distance relationships can lose a likeness completely. Also, people see likenesses differently. Some will insist that two siblings look just alike while others will see no resemblance between the same two. I have no real explanation for that.

I suspect that Gilbert Stuart had such a reputation as a great portraitist, undoubtedly aided by his own self description, that perhaps people were apt to accept his work as the “right” one. Portraits are an odd matter. One tries to capture a mobile. alive face that changes its expression constantly and represent it on a flat surface. If you have ever had photographer’s proofs of pictures of you to choose from, that will explain the problem. They’re all you, but you’ll like some better than others.

Here are “reconstructions” done by a forensic reconstructionist of Washington at his inauguration, as a general, and at around the age of 19. They are startling in their realism. I suspect (nit-picky as I am) that the face is too free of wrinkles, and too pinky-white, and not quite rawboned enough. (I said I was being picky) But they give you a vastly different impression of the man. Haul out a dollar bill and compare. Stuart played a cruel joke on Washington.

Washington didn’t know much about being a general when he was appointed by Congress to lead the American armies, but he was the best we had, and he did fine. His men loved him, and he gradually taught them to be soldiers. He was elected unanimously to be President when he wanted nothing more than to return to Mt.Vernon and retire from public life. The people idolized him. He could have been a king or an emperor, or like some — a dictator for life. But it was he, with his sterling character, who set the nation on the right path. He had a horrible temper, and mostly kept it under firm control. Any of his deeds alone would have made him famous, but in twenty-four years he led the armies, led the country, shaped a constitution, set a nation on its path and then went on home.

The portrait above is by Gilbert Stuart. He made many copies and others made copies of his copies which were sent around the new country so people could see what their new president looked like. Unfortunately, one of them was copied for the engraving on the dollar bill. Just mean.

ADDENDUM: I especially recommend Richard Brookhiser’s
Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington. It is not a life history, but a moral biography, only 199 pages. It’s a rewarding book. I post this every year on Washington’s birthday.



Joe Biden Attended the Munich Security Conference by The Elephant's Child

In Saturday’s Washington Examiner. Joel Gehrke reported on the meeting  of foreign policy leaders at the Munich Security Conference:

Speaking on German soil 75 years after the U.S. and its allies prepared for D-Day, Joe Biden described America as “an embarrassment” and its trade policies “self-defeating.”

“The America I see values basic human decency, not snatching children from their parents or turning our back on refugees at our border. Americans know that’s not right,” the former vice president and potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate told the Munich Security Conference. “The American people understand plainly that this makes us an embarrassment. The American people know, overwhelmingly, that it is not right. That it is not who we are.”

Biden, 76, speaking at the annual gathering of foreign policy leaders, didn’t mention Trump by name. But, despite a longstanding tradition of politics “stopping at the water’s edge” and refraining from criticizing a commander-in-chief while on foreign soil, Biden took the opportunity to blast him, even veering into criticism of domestic policy as he launched into what sounded like a stump speech.

(italics added) I looked through the photos I’ve saved for a picture of Joe Biden, but I could only find one, which I’ve saved because it makes me laugh.

 



Please Make an Effort To Know What You Are Talking About! by The Elephant's Child

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Freshman Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) yesterday announced that “every Democratic presidential candidate” was supporting her Green New Deal resolution.

“The Green New Deal that we introduced two weeks ago, which was an amazing step forward, when we first were engineering it before it was introduced they were saying, ‘She’s divisive. She’s too confrontational. No one will sign onto a single piece of legislation that she introduced,'” said Ocasio-Cortez.

“We were able to to introduce a resolution in both chambers co-sponsored by every presidential candidate, every Democratic presidential candidate and 65 House members,” Ocasio-Cortez continued.

Oh dear, it’s not, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez that you are divisive or confrontational, it’s that you don’t know what you are talking about. The Earth has been warming and cooling for millions of years. The people who suggest that “global warming” is not a crisis, are not “deniers”– they acknowledge that the earth has warmed in the last 40 years – 25 one hundredths of one degree! That’s+0.25 deg.C. according to the UAH Satellite-Based Temperature of the Global Lower Atmosphere.

You want to rely on wind and solar energy — natural and free, provided generously by Mother Nature? The problem is that wind and solar energy do not provide enough energy to power a modern society. The problem is not in the quantity of turbines or solar panels, it is in the wind itself. Wind is intermittent. It blows, occasionally, in puffs and wafts, sometimes in gales, and very often not at all. On the rare occasions when it blows steadily at about 35 mph, the turbines produce energy. When it does not, it requires 24/7 backup from a conventional power source. The conventional power sources don’t do too well with switching on and off all the time, either.

Solar energy is a different matter. Sunshine is diffuse. There are clouds that drift across the sky, at different levels, and sometimes there are clouds for days. it rains. The sun sinks below the horizon at night, just when everyone is settling down for the evening. Ivanpah in California’s Mojave Desert was the biggest and fanciest solar array with thousands of solar panels the size of garage doors shining on a central tower designed to heat and generate massive amounts of power. Didn’t work. The project generated only about 40 percent of the advertised power, and managed to incinerate all kinds of birds, many of them protected species like eagles. Cost a bundle. Useless.

To have enough wind turbines to power the country, you’d need an acreage about the size of California. Not going to happen.

The bit about high speed rail doesn’t work either. It works in Europe because Europe is much denser with many towns and cities close together. You may have noticed that new California Governor Newsom has just dumped Jerry Brown’s pet high-speed rail train to nowhere. Too expensive, Vast cost overruns. Always was a pipe dream, but Brown would not give up on it. You may have noticed that Hawaii’s Mazie Hirono suggested that your idea of ending airline flights to Hawaii didn’t go over well.

The fact that you have all the Democratic potential candidates signed on to your Green New Deal, is frightening. It says that we have large numbers of people running for the highest office in the land who do not do their homework, and do not know what they are talking about. It really isn’t that hard to study up, but the idea that one of them might possibly be elected and know only that they have to believe in global warming because it’s what Democrats do, is pretty scary. But then you got elected, never having done any research either.



National Emergency? You Can’t Do That! by The Elephant's Child

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President Trump did exactly what he said he would, and declared a national emergency over the border, and of course the Democrats exploded in feigned outrage. I did mention that Obama declared a national emergency something like 13 times, so the hissy-fit seems somewhat misplaced, but of course it is all in the preparation for the upcoming court fights. Democrats want open borders. The illegal votes are important for them, and they’re hoping to switch enough votes in targeted states to increase their control of the House of Representatives to make it more permanent. They really don’t like to be out of power.

And of course, they deny every tiny bit of information on which the president has based his declaration of an emergency. Fewer illegals crossing the border now, no drugs except at the ports of entry, and they’ve given more money for technology to find the drugs that are coming through. Attacks on the president’s character, his information, his knowledge, and the usual claim that his only possible reason for not wanting illegal immigrants from Central America is that they are “brown people.” And how interesting that at the same time, they refuse to see or acknowledge the ‘Angel’ families who have lost members of their family to criminal illegal aliens.

Some of the vast field of would-be candidates for the 2020 nomination are joining the push for tearing down existing walls. Pandering to the illegals already here for their illegal votes? Nancy Pelosi outlined the Democrats game plan early on. The governing law is the National Emergencies Act of 1974. The Free Beacon covers the law thoroughly, Everybody plans to sue, picking the most favorable to their cause venue, and it will wind its way through the courts, probably ending at the Supreme Court. White House lawyers seem to believe they have a winning case.

Democrat’s position on the border has been clear for some time. Obama’s invention of the DACA amnesty was clearly illegal, and the results have been even worse than anticipated. Few have gone to college, and a large percentage never finished high school. The fraud rate has been estimated at 40%-50%, and very few have enlisted in the military. What is most discouraging is the Left’s drive for absolute power which is more appropriate to other kinds of governance like Russia or China. What’s the old saying –”Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The results are playing out for all to see in Venezuela, where children are starving to death, because there is no food, and Maduro will not relinquish the presidency even though he has been voted out legally. Nor will he allow the food aid we have sent – into the country. Wonderful system, socialism.



The Real Cost of Immigration in Our Schools by The Elephant's Child

Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies talks about the poorly understood cost of immigration on our public schools. We have already heard that our public schools aren’t doing a good job with history, but immigrant children must come to the point where our history becomes their history of their country. That’s what assimilation is all about. This is a short video, but an important one for understanding the problems.



Is Our Southern Border Situation a Crisis? Of Course It Is! by The Elephant's Child

President Trump declared a national emergency at the border, after Congress delivered a spending bill denying the money Mr. Trump had requested and insisting that there was no crisis at the border. The usual suspects reacted with their usual outrage, insisting that the president was a racist who obviously just didn’t like brown people. Since there clearly was no border crisis, it was interesting that both Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer refused to see, or speak to, a large group of “Angel Moms”who had lost children or husbands to criminal illegal aliens. Most had pictures of their dead family members, but the two Democrats weren’t up to hearing them.

It’s hard to get accurate numbers, but there are apparently twenty national emergency orders from prior presidents still in effect. Obama reportedly issued 13.  Great weeping and wailing about a Constitutional crisis, and threats to take it right to court, which President Trump expected. Does that make you a tiny bit suspicious?

The president has been to the border, talked to present and past Border Patrol Chiefs and individual agents, to Sheriffs from border counties, and he has met with “Angel Moms” as well.

Too many Democrats make it clear that they really want open borders. It is not, as far as I can tell, Republican-run cities that proclaim themselves as “Sanctuary Cities.” They want ICE, the police force in charge of immigration and customs enforcement, abolished, apparently because of the pictures they have seen of children in cages (dating from the Obama administration). It is against the law to detain children with their parents. The kids are well taken care of, well fed, entertained, taken to parks. A couple of kids have died after being turned over to the Border Patrol, but because they didn’t get enough drinking water and care on their trip to the border. Kids who exhibit any signs of ill health are taken promptly to a hospital, as are adults.

Contagious diseases are coming across the border. Mumps is back, Measles is back, and typhoid is rampant in Los Angeles, even in government buildings.

The best source for information about immigration I have found is CIS – the Center for Immigration Studies (cis.org). They identify themselves as anti-illegal immigration and pro-legal immigration, a think-tank that studies all matters on immigration, and testifies to Congress, and supplies them with statistics.

I’m convinced that the Democrat leadership wants open borders, or at least plentiful immigration, as they assume that most illegal immigrants will manage (with help) to vote. California issued voter registration cards with drivers’ licenses. The reported numbers of illegal aliens voting are very discouraging.  I don’t believe that non-citizens should be allowed to vote. I welcome legal immigrants, love the new foods and customs they bring to the country, but I also believe in a border wall. Most countries have walls of one sort or another, and strict immigration laws.

Washington D.C. is filled with walls. The celebrities who rage and froth at the mouth over ICE and cruelty to innocent children ripped from their mothers’ arms, and anything Trump has done in particular mostly seem to have walls around their houses. The elites who fund the political parties like a goodly supply of illegals to do the scut work around their homes.

President Obama’s former Border Patrol Chief, Mark Morgan. appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show with Brian Kilmeade to discuss President Trumps decision to declare a state of emergency in order to reallocate funds toward constructing a wall. Kilmeade asked ” Is the president making up an emergency?”

“Absolutely not,” Morgan responded. “Brian, this is part of the frustration for those of us from a law enforcement, border security perspective. How many more statistics do we have to provide? How many more factually based examples do we have to provide? How many more angel families have to stand in front of some of these individuals before they finally say, ‘Yeah, okay, this is real.’ It’s just incredulous.”

“So, first of all, look at the take now. Sixty thousand [people] are coming in a month illegally into this country. This year so far, 62 caravans of 100 or more – 13 in all of last year, 2,000 in one single day this week,” Morgan answered. “So the numbers are climbing, but it’s manufactured, right? The other thing, the other argument on in between the port of entry is an absolute false narrative. Sixty percent of the southwest border does not have infrastructure, technology and personnel.”

Again, what it means to me is this is absolutely driven on identity politics. The experts have spoken both on ICE, both on United States border patrol and CBP and they have told Congress what they need to protect the borders for the security and safety of this country, Brian,” he continued. “And they have not just ignored it, they have discounted everything that they have said. Unfortunately, to me, I have only drawn one conclusion. It’s based on identity politics.”



Is This The Greatest Government Scandal Ever? by The Elephant's Child

On Thursday, CBS News anchor Scott Pelley said that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe told him that Department of Justice (DOJ) officials met to discuss whether or not to remove President Donald Trump from office in the wake of the president’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. In other words, they were discussing  a coup. These are the people appointed to high government office in the department of the United States that is charged with upholding and being responsible to see that the law is obeyed.  a coup! If you are not sure of the real meaning of that word, look it up.

This is a shocking disclosure. Sorry, you don’t get to plot to remove the president. especially when you work for the president. The interesting thing all along has been the hatred for the president because he defeated Hillary Clinton for the presidency? Because you don’t like him? Because the Democrat party lost control? I can accept  the idea that he scares you because he has a business background rather than a government background, and might not understand all the little things presidents are supposed to overlook, because they’re the Justice Department. You can file articles of impeachment when there is a crime, but there is not, and never has been – a crime. You don’t get to impeach a president because you don’t like him. The Deep State at work.

Nor do you get to impeach a president nor remove him from office because your political party has gone stark raving bonkers. Democrats worship FDR, for saving the country from the Great Depression. But he did no such thing. He had no idea what to do, so he brought in his “Brain Trust” who didn’t know what to do either, so they engaged in endless tinkering which made the Depression last far longer than it would have had he just done nothing. Had he just paid attention to what Coolidge did, which was nothing, the recovery would have come quickly. But Democrats have never understood economics at all. They are fixated on soaking the rich to make everyone equal.

They might turn their attention to all of the things this president is accomplishing for the country, but that would just increase the anger.



Seattle Just Had Two to Three Inches of Snow! by The Elephant's Child

Here in the Seattle area, we are recovering from a winter snowfall. It made the national news in USA today. Had a snarky message from an old friend in St. Louis, who had just talked to another friend from home in Idaho who said they had about four feet of snow on the level. Seattle made the national news on the basis of 2 to 3 inches! Fact! Seattle is a city famously built on seven hills. They plowed down some, and nobody counts anyway, but the problem is that there are slopes in every direction, and even small amounts immediately turn to ice. Lots of car crashes in every direction.

However, just across the mountains to the east the same winter storm produced a blizzard west of the Tri-Cities, and 1,600 dairy cows died in the blizzard. Hit the dairy farmers hard. They were not expecting such conditions. They prepared for the snow, but it just wasn’t enough. Cows normally do fine out-of-doors. Snoqualmie Pass was closed all day by avalanche and snow danger.



Where Are Those Caravans We Were Worried About? by The Elephant's Child

A few days ago there was an enormous caravan coming up on buses to the –Southern border with over 1,200 people from Honduras or Guatemala, and curiously they seem to have disappeared from the news entirely, or am I deluded? Not just “fake news” but absent news. There was more than one huge group, but Mexican cities were so anxious to get rid of them that they were arranging buses or trucks to help them on their way to the Texas border. So where are they?

President Trump held a rally in El Paso, a border town, and also the home town of “Beto” O’Rourke, failed senatorial candidate, who was holding an opposing rally at the same time. He is apparently still trying to decide if he is running for the presidency too. He seems to think that El Paso didn’t really want border walls and claimed Trump only wanted walls because he was a racist. Breitbart posted  a funny picture of O’Rourke speaking to supporters through  very tall fence. I’m not sure that Beto is ready for prime time.

There were news pictures of police cars lined up a few feet apart on the border, I presume to stop the thousand or so disappeared caravan people.
National Sheriff’s organizations appeared before Congress to demand more border security. The Democrats are offering less than half of what Trump asked for and what border patrol people are begging for. I have no idea if it is just refusal to give Trump anything as a win for him, or if they are just determined on open borders. One would think that MS-13 gangs, fentanyl and heroin, new diseases like Typhoid in LA, measles. mumps and many new cases of TB would be of interest to Democrats, but apparently not. Nor are the crimes committed by illegals. The new California governor, Gavin Newsum (?) seems to want open borders too. I don’t care about their race, or their language, I want them to care enough about coming to America that they want to do it legally. Countries have borders and laws. If you don’t obey them coming in, you are probably not going to become a useful citizen.



“A Known Fact That Climate Change Is Happening” by The Elephant's Child

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Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) announced that she is entering the 2020 presidential race, during a snowstorm, and said that it is a known fact that “climate change is happening”.

Klobuchar said Trump’s tweet that mocked her for talking about climate change while standing in a snowstorm is “so wrong.”

“I’m sorry if it still snows in the world, but the point is that we know climate change is happening,” Klobuchar argued. “Just this last year it was one of the fourth hottest years in the history of the world. That’s what’s happening right now. We see this Greenland ice sheet melting. Look at those wildfires in Colorado and California, where you [have had] a dad trying to get through a fire trying to calm his kid down in a car. That’s what’s happening right now in this country. So that’s why I think we cannot ignore it.”

Well, no, no, no, and your entire statement is completely wrong, Senator. The last year, 2018, was the 6th warmest year in the now–40 year satellite record of lower troposphere temperature variations. 25/100ths of one degree Centigrade warmer.

Senator Schumer believes. He announced that the hurricanes were caused by Global Warming. Jerry Brown said that California’s wildfires, drought, and floods were all caused by Global Warming and he wanted to put up his very own satellite to measure the CO² in the atmosphere so he could be prepared.
The new California governor seems to be ready to pursue the same theme. Our Gov. Jay Inslee tried to prevent fossil fuels from shipping from our ports because of Global Warming. I vaguely remember that some Lefty environmental organization was offering help to Democrat governors, linking them to other governors who faced  similar problems, helping to solve them, getting them lots of publicity, that sort of thing, but I cannot remember the details enough to search for an answer.

They have clearly been warned about “the deniers,” obviously conservatives who do not believe in Global Warming, which is the only correct position. They seem to group-believe.  Do remember that in early February of 2015, at a news conference in Brussels, Christiana Figueres, the General Secretary of the IPPC, admitted that the goal of environmental activists is not to save the world from ecological calamity — but to destroy capitalism.

“This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution,” she said.

They don’t care about the environment, it’s a tool in their drive for control. Then, when everyone is truly equal (except for the wise folks who will lead the way) there will be no more rich and poor — you know the rest, you’ve heard it all before. Those others just didn’t do it right. It’s just hard to understand why they believe.



Here’s a Useful Visual Illustration by The Elephant's Child

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This graph represents our energy resources in 2006. There’s been a lot of fracking since then, and a lot more discoveries, so it would probably be different today, but not all that much. It is, however, a good visual to illustrate the utter absurdity of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s assumptions about eliminating fossil fuels and replacing them with “renewables.” Eliminate the Nuclear energy, the Natural Gas., the Petroleum,  and Coal. Ignore the Hydro because that will not grow — and O-C assumes that tiny pink 2.4% can not only power our industrial society, but also all the high-speed rail she has in mind to replace all the automobiles and airplanes she plans to eliminate.

Lots of worried talk about the “greenhouse gasses” in the atmosphere, but the primary “greenhouse gas” is water vapor – clouds. The carbon dioxide is the same stuff we exhale –a natural fertilizer for plants. The slight rise in the amount of CO² is greening the Earth and helping to feed its most poverty stricken peoples.



Reforming Our Education System, One Small Step At A Time by The Elephant's Child

I’m beginning to think we need  a new course somewhere in our education system. It should focus on the history of the world – in the sense of the big sweep of time from the Big Bang down to the present. The movements of people across the globe, the inventions and discoveries that changed the world, like the domestication of animals, the invention of the wheel, that sort of thing. In one sense, to grasp history, you need a sense of the big picture, and we have way too many people that simply do not have one.

The other thing that seems to be missing is a real sense of what it means to be human, which seems to be missing in this age of “identity politics”.

The current trend is to erase any history of which one does not approve, which shows nothing so much as a complete ignorance of what history is. The attempt to tear down Confederate monuments and change the names of buildings was a shameful attempt at “virtue signaling” to demonstrate what a good person the “signaler” is. The purpose of history is to show where we have been so that we can learn from our successes and our mistakes. Historians bemoan the history that is missing because of all the stuff that gets thrown away. Tearing down history because you disapprove of it is deeply shameful — but the virtue signalers are utterly clueless.




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