American Elephants


We Need a Remedial Course in Knowing, How to Retain Knowledge and What to Do With It. by The Elephant's Child

library_the-old-library-trinity-college-dublin-thomas-burgh

One of my perennial worries is about the state of knowledge. The world is, of course, always changing, but what has changed most dramatically is the flow of information.

We seldom give it a thought, but in the early days of the republic, news was transmitted by horse and rider, or coach.  And then the town crier  cried the news —and the simple word of mouth. Most people didn’t  have books, except for the Bible. The Revolution, the making of the Constitution, the War of 1812 all happened without telephone or radio to spread the news. The new Capitol in Washington D.C. was burned by the Brits, and it took days or weeks for anyone to find out.

The great Civil War took place entirely without a radio or a telephone, no newsreels, but there were newspapers and magazines, and even new photography, which has left a first visual record for us. There were railroads, and canals and roads.

Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876. Most people thought it was little more than a toy, but they soon began to install telephones in their towns, homes or businesses. The first one appeared in Appleton, Wisconsin in 1877 when a banker ran a line from his home to his bank.

The first transcontinental telephone call took place in 1915 from New York to San Francisco. In 1948 Bell Labs’ Claude Shannon published a landmark paper on “a Mathematical Theory of Communication” which provided mathematicians and engineers with the foundation of information theory which sought to answer questions about how quickly and reliably information could be transmitted.  Direct long distance dialing came about in 1951, and the first transatlantic telephone cable was installed between America and Britain.  It took 3 years and $42 million to plan and install using 1,500 miles of specially insulated coaxial cable.

The first television was introduced at the World’s Fair in 1939, but TV didn’t become common in people’s homes until the 1950s and sixties. The first public tests of a cellular phone system took place in 1978, and it wasn’t till the year 2000 that we finally reached 100 million cellular telephone subscribers.

Even the millennials probably know a little something about the history of the computer, but the kids in college who are protesting freedom of speech, don’t want to hear disagreeing words, need “safe spaces” and think buildings or statues, or crests that remind us of people who thought incorrect things in the past, should be removed.

Even Democrat Attorneys General and Rhode Island’s Senator Whitehouse are out to stamp out the utterances of those who have the gall to deny that a warming climate is going to destroy the earth.

The absurdity in the nation’s colleges and universities is happening at the rare time in our history when we are completely connected to all the information in the world, in an instant, at our fingertips. They are connected to networks of friends wherever they are and to thousands of people they only know through their devices.  Mine’s a tiny computer — roughly 2¾” by 5½”— and I can carry it around in my pocket, and talk to anyone in the world, and call up information from practically anywhere. But how am I supposed to know what is true and what is false?

We had to find out for ourselves how to deal with this flow of information and the even greater flow of advertisements and enticements and lies and scams. But we have had all the years of our lives to get used to things gradually.

Our schools, which are supposed to be the foundation of knowledge, have drifted off into realms of “social justice” and “diversity” and “white privilege” and women’s studies and black studies and college tuitions that range upwards from $50,000 to $60,000 a year and more, to receive less and less in the knowledge department.

Yet they are not only NOT teaching how to manage this flow of words and pictures and ideas, but don’t seem to recognize that the world has changed and they need to fill the kids on the past and how we got here as well as how to cope with the present and plan for the future.

Handwriting is out, ancient history is gone, what use is geography when you can call up Google maps in an instant? Social Justice isn’t even real. There is only one ‘justice’ which is found in the Constitution and the body of laws and in the courts. Students at Stanford (Stanford!) have petitioned for the return of Western Civ. Shakespeare is mostly gone, and Churchill is completely out of fashion. Yet there are more remedial courses in colleges than ever before, because too many students arrive unprepared to do college level work.

A political campaign is a bad time to bring up this subject, but it is the moment of our highest awareness. You can’t help but notice. When Hillary is attempting to make equal pay for women a central part of her campaign — and is unaware that it has been the law since 1963, She mentioned last year that Muslims have nothing to do with terrorism, more than once, in spite of the obvious facts of 9/11, Paris and Brussels. Bernie Sanders is espousing the most discredited political system the world has ever known, which is failing before our eyes in Venezuela, and Cuba, and other countries around the world.

I picked up a book a while back called Too Big To Know by David Weinberger, read some bits and put it aside to read later. Guess I’ll have to read it now.Here’s one paragraph from the Prologue:

So we are in a crisis of knowledge at the same time that we are in an epochal exaltation of knowledge. We fear for the institutions on which we have relied for trustworthy knowledge, but there’s also a joy we can feel pulsing through our culture. It comes from a different place. It comes from the networking of knowledge. Knowledge now lives not just in libraries and museums and academic journals. It lives not just in the skulls of individuals. Our skulls and our institutions are simply not big enough to contain  knowledge. Knowledge is now a property of the network, and the network embraces businesses, governments, media, museums, curated collections, and minds in communication.

I wouldn’t have chosen the words ‘exaltation of knowledge’, nor described it in quite those terms, but I’ll have to read the book. I’ll report back when I have.

*The photo is of the Old Library, Trinity College, Dublin, and those are the stacks.



Climate Change & National Security, An Insider’s View by The Elephant's Child

On April 13, Robert H. Scales, U.S. Army Major General (ret.) testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environmental and Public Works regarding the Obama administration’s linking of climate change and national security. This excerpt comes from the Wall Street Journal’s “Notable & Quotable” column.

The common spark for all wars is jealousy and greed amplified by centuries-long animosities and political ambitions. The catalyst for war is the ignorance of leaders that leads them to misjudge. Humans start wars believing they will be profitable, short, glorious and bloodless. These truths never change. None are affected in the least by air temperature.

But the myth of climate change as an inducement to war continues to curry favor among Washington elites. One source for connecting war to temperature comes from the political closeness between environmentalists and the antiwar movement. Their logic goes like this: “Global warming is bad. Wars are bad. Therefore they must be connected.” Remember, prior to the 1991 Gulf War, environmentalists warned of a decade of global cooling that would come from burning Kuwaiti oil fields. . . .

General Scales added that in elevating climate change to the role of a real security threat, the military has become an agent for propagandizing the dangers of climate change to the American people. This might have been just political correctness—but this silliness has a real impact on our actual security.

The military follows orders, but in its attempt to follow the president’s intent, alternative sources of energy might be adopted before the technologies are proven. Our men and women in uniform might be fighting a war with underpowered or poorly performing weapons.

Our men and women in uniform are smart and perceptive. They can spot phoniness in a heartbeat. Think of a soldier in Afghanistan or Iraq returning from a dangerous and exhausting mission being obliged to listen to a senior defense official lecture them on the revelation that fighting climate change is their most important mission.

These men and women see the realities of battle all around them. The military threat of rising temperatures is not one of them.



The European Union is Coming Undone Over Political Correctness. Could We Just Use Common Sense Instead? by The Elephant's Child

Constitution

The news almost daily has headlines regarding the influx of refugees or migrants into Europe. They are generally referred to as Syrian refugees or Syrian migrants, but they come from a wide range of countries including many from Africa, and Asia as opposed to what we usually think of as the Middle East. We have seen pictures of massive marches of immigrants in Europe and read the tales of the problems Europe is having with their refugees, and specifically with Islamic terrorism. Paris and Brussels are only the start.

Did you know that the Obama administration has issued around 680,000 green cards to migrants from Muslim nations during the last 5 year period? If there is no change in current policy, the U.S. will admit another 680,000 over the next five years, or possibly more. During the same five years, we issued green cards to only 270,000 migrants from the European Union.

According to DHS files the largest numbers of migrants came from Iraq and Pakistan with 83,000 each, and 75,000 from Bangladesh, 45,000 from Egypt, 31,000 from Somalia, 24,000 from Uzbekistan, Turkey and Morocco had 22,000 migrants each, Jordan and Albania 20,000 each and Lebanon and Yemen each had 16,000. Indonesia (15,000), Syria (14,000), Sudan (13,000), Afghanistan (11.000). and Sierra Leone  (10,000). There were only a few thousand each from Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Kosovo and Libya.

The administration, aside from being unable to say the words ‘Islamic terrorism,’ seems to believe that terrorism doesn’t really exist— even when the Ayatollah Khomeini leads his followers in chants of ‘Death to America‘ and ‘Death to Israel‘ — that’s just P.R. to please the locals. The programs launched by the administration to reach out and protect Muslims are extensive, and the administration has agreed to a terrorist front’s demands to purge FBI’s anti-terrorism material that was thought to be ‘offensive’ to Muslims.

A closely watched case, United States v. Texas, is going to be argued before the Supreme Court on April 18, Monday. The court surprised watchers when it asked that the parties in that case address a question they did not raise in their briefs: whether President Obama’s “Deferred Action for Parents of Americans” (DAPA) order violates the “Take Care Clause” of the Constitution. (“he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed,”) That clause had never before been addressed by the Court. An interesting development for the president who has said “I have a phone and a pen,” and has not been troubled by taking the laws into his own hands.

DAPA is a set of executive branch directives giving some four million illegal aliens who have given birth to children in the United States what the orders call “legal presence” — even though they are here in violation of the law. This “legal presence” entitles DAPA beneficiaries to work permits, a picture ID, driver’s licenses, social security, Earned Income Tax credits, Medicaid, ObamaCare, and other social welfare benefits. Until the 2014 election, President Obama repeatedly and emphatically stated that he did not have authority to issue such an order without congressional action. Then he did it.

Absolute monarchs rule absolutely. What they say goes. It was a long battle in English history, and King John (1119-1216) did things his way until confronted with armed insurrection at Runnymede (1215) when he agreed to the Great Charter which established the principle that even kings are not a law unto themselves, and must act through settled law.

The framers of the U.S. Constitution took care to carefully consider what prerogative powers were suitable for an American president. Much of the Constitution is devoted to replacing prerogative powers with settled law. Henry VIII believed his royal proclamations should have the force of law —Parliament repealed the Act of Proclamations.

As our Constitution was being written, the Committee on Detail changed the words of the draft Constitution which vested a “single person” with the power to carry into execution the national laws” to read “he shall take care that the laws of the United States be duly and faithfully executed.” That changed the execution of the law from a power to a duty rather than a power, indicated by the word “shall.” A reversal would portend ever-increasing  exercise of executive powers. The question is not whether the president’s rule would make good policy, but whether the Constitution allows the president to rule statutory violations. It does not.

The State Department wants to increase the rate of bringing Syrian refugees to the United States to an average of 1,500 a month in order to meet President Obama’s target of settling 10,000 refugees in the country by September.  Why by September? That’s Obama’s target —perhaps he expects to get 10,000 of them voting by November. Who knows? We have Trump’s Yuge wall, 40 feet tall, that he claims he will make Mexico pay for, which is absurd. The 18 to 24 month time for processing admission of  refugees has reportedly been slashed  to 3 months to meet the president’s goal of 10,000 refugees this fiscal year.

Although the Muslim immigrants clearly include some ISIS members seeking entrance to the U.S, (they are certainly plentiful among European migrants), the slashing of processing time is worrying. It would seem that immediate admissions should focus on providing a safe haven for the remnants of historic Christian communities throughout the Middle East that are now targeted for extinction. Churches have been burned, priests arrested, Christians have been tortured, raped and crucified. They have nowhere to go. Present policy does not take into account their precarious situation. The State Department accepts refugees from lists prepared by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees which oversees the large refugee camps— but Christians do not dare enter those camps, where they are attacked and targeted by Islamists.

Playing politics with Immigration is a particularly unseemly thing to do. Instead of efforts to carefully vet Muslim immigrants, we run into accusations of “Islamophobia,” designed to stop any dissension. Religious freedom, promised by our Bill of Rights, does not aim to free those who are intending terrorist attacks. There are many tenets of the Muslim faith that are directly antithetical to the U.S. Constitution. We should be able to clearly explain those to all Muslim immigrants. We do not tolerate honor killings, we do not regard women as second-class citizens, we don’t accept wife-beating, and rape is a crime. These are serious prison offences. That is not Islamophobia — it’s just clearly setting the ground rules. There should be a clear discussion of rules that are in the Koran that are not acceptable under our Constitution. If they cannot agree to American law, perhaps they would prefer to go elsewhere.

One of the most despicable acts of President Obama has been to delete some of the requirements under the law for becoming an American citizen. That’s why Europe is in such great turmoil at present. They have no programs for assimilation, or for becoming a citizen of a particular country. European nations have always been tribal, with  differing languages, customs and rules. After centuries of constant and deadly wars they thought to end them by opening borders and sharing finances and laws. It hasn’t worked. An unelected and unrepresentative bureaucracy merely substitutes for the absolute monarchs that once ruled Europe, and the people are not quite at the armed insurrection stage, but it’s not all peaches and cream either. Political correctness dictates acceptance of poor refugees, common sense dictates something else.

Emma Lazarus’s “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore—” is all very compassionate, but hardly an acceptable guide to immigration.



The Fake and the Real, Playing With Your Emotions and Your Mind. by The Elephant's Child

This is one of those posts that leaves you scratching your head and wondering if it is real — or just a giant hoax. It sounds authentic, but I’ll leave it to you to decide. It’s about crowd sourcing — as a business. It comes in The California Sunday Magazine, which I guess we will assume is real. I mean these days how can you tell?

The story is about a company called Crowds on Demand. The author signs on as a recruit, doesn’t know what he’ll be doing, really, but it pays $15 an hour.  The 24-year-old CEO started the company as a 21 year-old UCLA undergrad after he had volunteered with Jerry Brown’s gubernatorial campaign and found that it could be challenging to attract large crowds to speeches. He believed that there was an opportunity for a service to turn out—well— fake crowds. Plenty of bodies to give the impression of enthusiasm. Once he got started he found there was a demand not only for crowds to support a candidate, but for crowds to protest a candidate.

I just wrote about the increasing unreality as it becomes more and more difficult to discern what is real and what is not. In the age of Photoshop, with skilled artists, it’s impossible to tell. The young CEO is getting very rich, very fast, and drives a silver Tesla.

When people inquire about a potential event, Adam guides them through the possibilities and the approximate costs: $600 for fake paparazzi at a birthday dinner; $3,000 for a flash mob dancing, chanting, and handing out fliers as a PR stunt; $10,000 for a weeklong political demonstration; $25,000 to $50,000 for a prolonged campaign of protests. According to Adam, protests have become the company’s growth sector, and just as with advertising, repeat impressions are key. “When the targets of our actions see that we’re going to be back, day after day, they get really scared,” he says. “We’re in it for the long haul, and the problem’s not going to go away on its own.”

Fascinating article, excellent illustrations, and really quite scary. We are not doing well as a nation at managing the flow from the Information Age. As the information becomes more and more unreal, or more questionable, all the checks and balances are disappearing, and we need to pay more and closer attention — but are we up for it?



A Little Straight Talk About Where we Are by The Elephant's Child

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Here’s some straight talk about our current problems. Unfortunately, straight talk is somewhat rare, but knowledge of what is true and what is not is a good first step.

Leon Aron, resident scholar and Director of Russian Studies at AEI.

—”The clash of philosophies

From Alabama to Denmark, Nevada to the Netherlands, and from Arizona to Sweden and Germany, Hungary and Poland, voters are flocking to right/left populist, nationalist, isolationist, and nativist demagogues, parties, and movements.

The trend sweeping Europe and the United States is broader and deeper than politics. …This chasm is not merely ideological. It is ethical, linguistic — almost anthropological

Victor Davis Hanson senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

How America Lost Its Groove

Deterrence is lost through lax foreign policy, an erosion of military readiness, and failed supreme command — often insidiously, over time, rather than dramatically, at once. The following random events over the seven years that Barack Obama has been in office have led to the idea abroad that the U.S. is no longer the world’s leader and that regional hegemonies have a golden opportunity to redraw regional maps and spheres of influence — to the disadvantage of the West — in the ten months remaining before the next president is inaugurated.

A Nation of Laws—Sort Of

Any fair reading of State Department and general federal government laws regarding the use of classified information by federal employees makes it is clear that Hillary Clinton violated the law—both by improperly setting up her own private server, and then by sending information through it that was classified. …

If she is not indicted by the Obama administration for violations of federal laws or conspiracy to obstruct justice, in the future it will be almost impossible to prosecute successfully any federal employee for violating government protocols about the handling of classified information.

Hold Colleges Accountable to the Real World

The public is steadily losing confidence in undergraduate education, given that we hear constantly about how poorly educated are today’s graduates and how few well-paying jobs await them.

The cost of college is a national scandal. Collective student-loan debt in America is about $1.2 trillion. Campus political correctness is now daily news.

How could higher education be held accountable and thereby be reformed?

These latest linguistic contortions to advance ideological agendas follow an established pattern of the Obama administration and the departments beneath it.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described Egypt’s radical Muslim Brotherhood as “largely secular.” CIA Director John Brennan has called jihad “a legitimate tenet of Islam,” a mere effort “to purify oneself.

Bill Gertz national security columnist for The Washington Times

Cybercom sounds alarm on infrastructure attacks

The commander of the U.S. Cyber Command warned Congress this week that Russia and China now can launch crippling cyberattacks on the electric grid and other critical infrastructures. …

Most military operations involve the use of commercial infrastructure and thus their vulnerabilities to cyberattacks are a major concern.

“If you were able to take that away or materially impact the ability to manage an air traffic control system, to manage the overhead [satellite] structure and the flow of communications or data, for example, that would materially impact [the Defense Department’s] ability to execute its mission — let alone the broader economic impact for us as a nation. …



Rising Threats: Shrinking Military. Three Former Secretaries of Defense Speak Out. by The Elephant's Child


“Bret Baier talks with Mr. Obama’s three former defense secretaries, who all agree: inexperienced paranoid Obama staffers tried to micromanage the war on terror from the White House, believing that the military had it in for Obama, and shade their views to please the president. Taken together, it’s quite a damning portrait of a president deeply in over his head, and a world out of control as a result:”

In an interview with the New Yorker in 2008, the new President Obama said confidently:

I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.

That’s a quote that will continue to haunt him. But he hasn’t done a very good job of hiring aides and advisors. He has ignored the advice of the most capable, and paid too much attention to the sycophants. It’s all to easy to lap up the flattery from those who want to please, but  when capable advisors tell you that you’re making a mistake — you’d better listen.



Progress in the Middle East? Not Likely. by The Elephant's Child

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The Syrian Civil War fighting has intensified over the past two months, fighting on the plains between Aleppo and the Turkish border, and US. intelligence officers and military planners have little control over the groups they have financed and trained in the bitter civil war that is now over 5-years-old.

Now, absurdly, CIA-armed militias are shooting at Pentagon-armed militias as they maneuver through contested territory.

In mid-February, a CIA-armed militia called Fursan al Haq, or Knights of Righteousness, was run out of the town of Marea, about 20 miles north of Aleppo, by Pentagon-backed Syrian Democratic Forces moving in from Kurdish-controlled areas to the east.

“Any faction that attacks us, regardless from where it gets its support, we will fight it,” said Maj. Fares Bayoush, a leader of Fursan al Haq.

The attacks come amid continued heavy fighting in Syria and illustrate the difficulty facing U.S. efforts to coordinate among dozens of armed groups that are trying to overthrow the government of President Bashar Assad, fight the Islamic State militant group and battle one another all at the same time.




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