American Elephants


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

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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.



How to Talk To Progressive Millennials by The Elephant's Child

This speech by Bill Whittle was the keynote speech at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s 2016 West Coast Retreat earlier this month in Palos Verdes, CA. He’s a terrific speaker, and in this case he was talking about talking to the millennials — Progressive millennials.

So his speech became sort of a lesson in how to talk to progressive millennials who have a lot of preconceived notions about conservatives — about some of today’s common issues of disagreement, like Citizens United, and guns, and Socialist paradises and science — that sort of thing. And because he’s a terrific speaker, he does it very well indeed. You can watch, or if you prefer to read the transcript it is here.

I’m inclined to read transcripts myself, because I go back and read some sentences over again when I think something is particularly well said, and there’s a lot of that here.



Obama Managed to Ignite a Firestorm in Britain by The Elephant's Child

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I always understood that the White House had a Protocol Office that kept  Presidents informed on manners and customs in the various countries the President might visit, and with how to treat the diplomats and leaders of other countries. I don’t know if President Obama has abolished the office, or if he just doesn’t pay any attention.

On his visit to England, President Obama felt called upon to write an op-ed in The Telegraph, one of the leading British newspapers. He skirted the history of British-American relations, and then summarized what he expects the British need to do to get our full support. We must be resolute and adaptive in preventing terrorist attacks, resolve conflicts in the Middle East, invest in NATO so we can meet our commitments and then he stuck his nose into the upcoming Brexit election, which is a difficult and touchy issue in England about whether to continue membership or leave the European Union.

That ignited a firestorm. It was a remarkably poor choice for an American president to tell the British what to do.

So I will say, with the candour of a friend, that the outcome of your decision is a matter of deep interest to the United States. The tens of thousands of Americans who rest in Europe’s cemeteries are a silent testament to just how intertwined our prosperity and security truly are. And the path you choose now will echo in the prospects of today’s generation of Americans as well.

As citizens of the United Kingdom take stock of their relationship with the EU, you should be proud that the EU has helped spread British values and practices – democracy, the rule of law, open markets – across the continent and to its periphery. The European Union doesn’t moderate British influence – it magnifies it. A strong Europe is not a threat to Britain’s global leadership; it enhances Britain’s global leadership. The United States sees how your powerful voice in Europe ensures that Europe takes a strong stance in the world, and keeps the EU open, outward looking, and closely linked to its allies on the other side of the Atlantic. So the US and the world need your outsized influence to continue – including within Europe. …

When it comes to creating jobs, trade, and economic growth in line with our values, the UK has benefited from its membership in the EU – inside a single market that provides enormous opportunities for the British people. And the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the EU will advance our values and our interests, and establish the high-standard, pro-worker rules for trade and commerce in the 21st century economy.

— “President Obama’s warning to those championing Britain’s exit from the EU was stark: Leave, he said, and the “U.K. is going to be in the back of the queue” on trade deals with the U.S.”

Mr Obama’s catchphrase is ‘Yes, you can! – so why is he telling us Brits “No you can’t’?

— “Obama infuriates the Brits as he threatens to send UK to the back of the queue’ if they vote to leave the European Union.”

— “Barack Obama, our fair-weather friend, is wrong about the EU”

— “Armed Forces Minister: Obama ‘Woefully Ignorant ‘ of Threat EU Membership Poses”

— “Obama might as well have declared: ‘Britain lost the War of Independence because you have small d**ks’

American presidents usually do not comment or express opinion publicly in elections in other countries, but Australia and Canada have heard from Mr. Obama about their internal affairs.

Mr.Obama has been very outspoken about his irritation at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress when he was invited by Republicans to address them. When Honduran President Zelaya was ousted in a military coup after he tried to rewrite their Constitution to extend his tenure in office, President Obama commented in favor of Zelaya and in contradiction of Honduran Law. Obama’s campaign people have turned up in other elections.



It’s Earth Day! Do You Care? Did You Observe It? by The Elephant's Child

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Today is “Earth Day” and many communities try to observe it, because not caring would be a potential negative. Mostly they offer opportunities for volunteering for something or other, often recycling. Most people care about clean air and clean water, but except for Flint, Michigan, the air is pretty clean and the water is fine. Hillary, typically, in her speech after winning the primary in New York suggested that Flint was a common problem throughout the country and hardly anyone had safe water, which is bunk.

I write about climate a lot, but I should admit clearly that I am not only not a climate scientist, but not any kind of scientist. I did, however, grow up very rural in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains (that’s stretching it a bit) on 400 acres at around 4000′ elevation between National Forest and Bureau of Land Management land. I spent most of my time outdoors, and the protestations of coming climate disaster from a bunch of city people always seemed like bunk to me. Some winters we had not much more than 3′ of snow on the level and some winters we had five feet.  We had a couple of miles of river frontage with plentiful trout, and I once stepped on an eel to the astonishment of both of us.

President Obama sees climate change as an urgent issue of national security, but the public in general does not. They see terrorism, the economy, health care and government spending as far bigger issues. Only 29% of Democrats are worried about climate change as a voting issue, and 3% of Republicans. according to Karlyn Bowman at AEI.

Also at AEI, scholar and economist Mark J. Perry who a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan, Flint, lists for Earth Day18 spectacularly wrong predictions made around the time of the first Earth Day in 1970, expect more today.” Paul Erlich is of course on the list. which ranges from greatest cataclysm in the history of man, through mass starvation, to urban dwellers having to wear gas masks to survive, and sunlight reduced by one half.  Spectacularly wrong.



The Butterfield Fallacy Raises Its Ugly Head in the White House. by The Elephant's Child

When President Obama recorded his Weekly Address for today, Saturday, he took up the matter of criminal justice, and showed clearly that he is a victim of the Butterfield Fallacy—which consists of misidentifying as a paradox that which is a simple cause and effect relationship. When you put more of the people who are committing crimes in prison, the crime rate goes down. It is not a complicated matter of “Oh look, the crime rate has dropped, why do we have so many people in prison?”

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It’s true that more young black men are convicted of crimes and sent to prison. That is because more crimes are committed by young black men. There are more murders in the black community and they are committed by young black men. There are lots of reasons: gangs, fatherless households, young single mothers, peer pressure, unemployment, police backing off because of what has been called “the Ferguson effect” when the police were blamed for young black men killed in self defense by policemen. When policemen are attacked and threatened for trying to maintain order in the community, they are more hesitant to stop people on suspicion, make arrests, or try to prevent trouble. Higher crime rates mean lack of opportunity— the unemployment rate for young blacks is the highest of any category.

Lack of discipline in the schools: when school is orderly and the demand for excellence is high, more learning takes place, more kids are able and encouraged to go to college or to good trade schools.  This is another area where the Left shifts the blame. Schools are harshly criticized for expelling obstreperous kids who disrupt classes, so schools lighten up on the discipline because they are criticized, and the schools become more out of control.

Most of the protests in the universities and in the black communities is due to agitation by #Black Lives Matter, Acorn, Organize for America and other groups trained by community organizers to disrupt and encourage protest. The Left is deeply worried that the black community that turned out so resoundingly to support the first black president will not turn out at the polls in such numbers this time. From what I can see, that’s why there is so much emphasis on race, at a time when, except for agitation and protests, race relations have been so much better.

Locking criminals up does make communities safer. Discipline for badly behaving kids, and expelling those who won’t mind the rules from school makes for more orderly schools. Of course we need more uniformity in sentencing laws. Selling hard drugs is a crime and sellers should be put in prison. Released felons should be helped to reenter society successfully. I hope there is a sincere desire to help, not just an effort to increase racial tension for the sake of the next election.

ADDENDUM: I removed the graphic on gun violence because it is incorrect. Sorry about that!



Economics Can Be Fun, Honest! Lessons for Trump, Clinton and Sanders. by The Elephant's Child

Dr. Madsen Pirie, President of the Adam Smith Institute is explaining how basic economics is based on fundamental understanding of human nature. I posted this back in 2012, and found it in the archives when one visitor called it to my attention. This clearly demonstrates why Donald Trump doesn’t understand Trade at all, and is up the river without a paddle for his canoe. Ditto Hillary and Bernie.

Economics often seems too complicated for us everyday mortals, but it’s just based on understanding the real world. The workings of the market, the everyday buying and selling, profit and loss, tell us, if we choose to pay attention, how money, trade and markets really work.

Never fear, these are all really, really short, and worth your time.

Economics can be fun, and here’s another lesson: Economics is fun, Part 2. All about Price. How do products get priced, and what is the right price?

Part 3 is about Specialization. This is not about those puzzling charts and graphs,  and how Money, Trade and Markets really work.

Part 4 is about Trade and how countries become rich.

Part 5 is about Time and Investment.

Part 6 of Economics is fun is about Money:

There are more, but so far you have invested around ten minutes. If you want more, go to You Tube and enter “Economics is fun” and start with lesson 7. You are better armored against the  remarkable statements of our politicians on the stump. A little knowledge, as they say, is a dangerous thing. You might try them out on your kids if they are the right age.



President Obama Is Sending 200 More Troops to Iraq by The Elephant's Child

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On April 18, Hot Air reported that “President Obama has decided to add 217 more troops to fight in Iraq, raising the total number now serving in the country to just over 4,000.” AP reported:

Of the additional troops, most would be Army special forces, who have been used throughout the anti-Islamic State campaign to advise and assist the Iraqis. The remainder would include some trainers, security forces for the advisers, and maintenance teams for the Apaches.

The decisions reflect weeks of discussions with commanders and Iraqi leaders, and a decision by President Barack Obama to increase the authorized troop level in Iraq by 217 forces – or from 3,870 to 4,087. The advise-and-assist teams – made up of about a dozen troops each accompanied by security forces – would embed with Iraqi brigades and battalion, likely putting them closer to the front lines and at greater risk from mortars and rocket fire.

They are also sending Apache helicopters in addition to the advise-and-assist teams. The goal is to retake Mosul from ISIS, which they have held since June 2014. There will also be operations to take Raqqa, ISIS’s capital in Syria. You will notice that we always make an effort to tell the enemy just what we have in mind and what our plans are.

A U.S. military spokesman said that ISIS has lost nearly half its strength during the recent bombing campaign. They have put exceptional pressure on ISIS over the past 20 months. Strikes on ISIS-held oilfields have seen its cash flow cut by a third, and ISIS fighters have had their pay cut by half.

Six hundred ISIS fighters have been killed in the past three weeks alone, and precision drone strikes and covert Special Forces raids to take out senior leaders have left the terrorists “paranoid and in chaos.” 650 RAF strikes have helped to force the group to flee from 40 percent of the territory they once held in northern Iraq.

President Bush recommended that we should leave 20,000 troops in Iraq to maintain the hard-won peace, but the new President Obama had run on an anti-Iraq War campaign and a promise to get the troops out of Iraq. Once in charge, he ignored the Bush warnings, and abruptly pulled the military out, which inevitably led to the rise of ISIS.

It apparently took weeks of discussion to get to the point of adding 217 special forces troops. President Obama does not want to be blamed for any unfortunate events or bad results, but he does have confidence in America’s special forces. His fear of being blamed is probably the reason for unusually restricted rules of engagement that have left our military in a vulnerable position.




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