American Elephants


Are We All Just Getting Dumber? Or More Informed? by The Elephant's Child

The University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center in an annual survey found that one in every five Americans cannot name a single branch of the government.

The center released its annual Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey on Thursday, and found that about 2 in 5 American adults accurately named the three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial.

  • 39 percent named all three branches
  • 14 percent named two branches
  • 25 percent named one branch
  • 22 percent couldn’t name any branch
  • 1 percent refused to answer

The center notes that the percentage of people who could name all three branches “is the highest in five years, statistically the same as the prior high of 38 percent in 2013 and 2011 and a substantial increase over last year, when 32 percent could do the same.”

According to the center, the survey also found that people who took civics classes in high school, or were regular consumers of news, were more likely to know the answers to the survey questions.

That’s fairly startling, if accurate. National Review noted that the Democrats on stage for their debate Thursday night demonstrated that they are not qualified to hold forth on immigration policy because they have no idea what our immigration policy is. Joe Biden announced proudly that “we didn’t put children in cages” though all the pictures of children in cages come from the Obama administration. Andrew Yang announced that he would return immigration to the level it was during the Obama administration, which is exactly where it is right now. But one should know what the annual level of immigration is within a couple of hundred thousand, and whether it has gone up or down. These are people who supposedly want to be President.

In the past few weeks, Democrats have focused on the chance of a recession (hopefully), but steered clear of any mention of the current economy. You have probably read enough to know why they have.

I suspect that as a society, we are getting dumber. We get our news by surfing through the internet, reading a headline here and there, reading a few words of an article and deciding it’s too long, or not interesting enough, and moving on the the next bright object, as it were. And then we think of ourselves as well informed citizens, but are we actually? Is the nature of the Internet making us shallower and less informed? Scary thought, but plausible.

August reports from the Commerce Department and BLS show excellent economic results that continue to exceed MSM expectations.  Retail sales climbed by 0.4 percent twice what analysts had predicted, and highlight retail sales strength year over year. Employment up for everyone. Need for food stamps dying. Unemployment for all in very low numbers.



Comparisons Are Perhaps Inevitable! by The Elephant's Child

Wilfrid M. McClay, a professor of history at the University of Oklahoma is the author of a new history of the United States: Land of Hope: an Invitation to the Great American Story, which is receiving excellent reviews.

He just wrote a short piece for Hillsdale College’s Imprimis, an always interesting publication, with an essay from an important scholar, free on request from the college. The copy I just received contained this interesting portion of a longer essay.

A related lesson of history is that acts of statesmanship often require courage and imagination, even daring, especially when the outcome seems doubtful. Take the case of Lincoln. So accustomed are we to thinking of Lincoln in heroic terms that we forget the depth and breadth of his unpopularity during his entire time in office. Few great leaders have been more comprehensively disdained, loathed, and underestimated. A low Southern view of him, of course, was to be expected, but it was widely shared in the North as well. As Lincoln biographer David Donald put it, “Lincoln’s own associates thought him “a Simple Susan, a baboon, an aimless punster, a smutty joker” Abolitionist Wendell Phillips called him “a huckster in politics, a first-rate, second rate man.” George McClellan, his opponent in the 1864 election, openly disdained him as a “well-meaning baboon.” For much of that election year, Lincoln was convinced, with good reason, that he was doomed to lose the election, with incalculable consequences for the war effort and the future of the nation.

We need to remember that this is generally how history happens. It is not like a Hollywood movie i which the background music swells and the crowd in the room applauds and leaps to it feet as the orator dispenses timeless words, and the camera pans the room full of smiling faces. In real history, the background music does not swell, the trumpets do not sound, and the carping critics often seem louder than the applause. The leader or the soldier has to wonder whether he is acting in vain, whether the criticisms of others are in fact true, whether time will judge him harshly, whether his sacrifice will count for anything. Few great leaders have felt this burden more completely than Lincoln.



Here’s Michelle Malkin On Illegal Immigration by The Elephant's Child

This is a hard problem for Democrats. They want open borders, at least until we get through the next census count. If they can add enough illegals to get counted in the census in all the sanctuary cities and states, they can add more representatives in the House of Representatives which is organized on the basis of population. The Senate is organized on the basis that each state will have two Senators, no matter what the population, so that all states are represented equally.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, Conservatives believe that immigrants should enter the United States legally. Apply at the U.S. Consulate in their own country, or apply for asylum at the border. Democrats like to believe that letting immigrants just cross the border wherever is because “America is a nation of immigrants”— actually it’s a nation of citizens, and if you want to become a citizen, do it legally, because America is a nation of laws. The Left likes to believe that they are morally superior because they care about the unfortunate or the downtrodden, like illegal aliens.

There’s a big cost to illegal immigration. The State of Idaho spelled out the cost of illegal immigration for their state, that falls on Idaho’s taxpayers. As I keep reminding, governments have no money of their own. Whatever they spend comes out of the pockets of the taxpayers.



Is Communism Once Again Rearing Its Ugly Head? by The Elephant's Child

The current bunch of Democrats remaining in the contest for the Democratic nomination continue to astonish in their very odd understandings of America and Americans. How Bernie Sanders can remain on the list with significant support while professing Socialism as the solution for the government of the United States of America is astounding.

Supposedly one out of three millennials (31%) say they are a democratic socialist or a socialist and would identify as either, according to a poll. The poll found that nearly half of all millennial Democrats (48%) identify as democratic socialists or socialists. The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation found that 50 percent of American millennials view socialism or communism as the ideal political ideology. Our colleges and universities have a lot to answer for, raising up a generation of ignoramuses.

Nazism is an accusation thrown around by the Left at President Trump and his supporters. They apparently fail to understand that Nazism was just another form of socialism. But it remains a choice insult because of the known death toll from the Holocaust:

Between five and six million Jews. More than three million Soviet prisoners of war. More than two million Soviet civilians. More than one million Polish civilians. More than one million Yugoslav civilians. About 70,000 men, women and children with mental and physical handicaps. More than 200,000 gypsies.

Nazism came to a distinct end with the defeat of Nazi Germany. But the death toll from communism encompasses many countries and many regimes. Socialism often turns directly into real communism,  depending on the party’s will for ever more complete control.

Communist regimes did not just commit criminal acts, they were criminal enterprises in their very essence; on principle, so to speak, they all ruled lawlessly, by violence, and without regard for human life.

This is from The Black Book of Communism. It offers a rough approximation, based on unofficial estimates to give some sense of the scale and gravity of these crimes.

USSR: 20 million deaths
China: 65 million deaths
Vietnam: 1 million deaths
North Korea: 2 million deaths
Cambodia: 2 million deaths
Eastern Europe: 1 million deaths
Latin America: 150,000 deaths
Africa: 1.7 million deaths
Afghanistan: 1.million deaths
The international Communist movement and Communist parties not in power: about 10,000 deaths

You might conclude that there is some sort of pattern here, and that perhaps regarding it as an ideal political ideology is beyond ignorance, and approaches insanity.



Been There, Done That. Doesn’t Work! by The Elephant's Child

https://americanelephant.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/xivanpah-plant-575x383-pagespeed-ic-p4ozkp2she.jpg

Environmentalists have long been sure that if we could just eliminate things that are not “natural” from our lives, live in harmony with nature, then the world would be a better place. Relying on the Sun and the Wind were right at the top of the list. We should eliminate chemicals from our diet, stop cutting down trees, save endangered species but stop putting animals in cages, and just quit eating meat. The very word “natural” moved right to the top of the advertising buzz-word list.

So it is no surprise that in the panic about Global Warming, which was the next big thing after we stopped panicking about a new ice age in the 1970s, and the threat of a nuclear winter receded, we turned to trying to harness the power of the sun. Sensible people pointed out that the power of the sun was very diffuse, the sun had the habit of sinking below the horizon at night, and there was the problem of cloudy days and clouds on even nice days. But this is America, and the Twenty-First Century, as we are so frequently reminded, and we have technology!

Well, yes. Words for today, but written on the 15th of June in 2015.

The 2.2 billion Ivanpah solar project in California’s Mojave Desert is definitely high-tech. Those tiny white rectangles in the picture above are more than 170,000 mirrors, each about the size of a garage door, that rotate to follow the path of the sun across the sky. Solar-thermal technology was meant to supersede old-fashioned solar panel farms. The mirrors would reflect the sunlight to the huge “power towers,” enormous pillars to create steam which would generate electricity.

The facility was built by Bright Source Energy Inc, and operated by NRG Energy Inc. NRG owns the facility along with Bright Source, Google and other investors. Last time I wrote about Ivanpah in November, they were trying to get a federal grant to pay off their $1.6 billion federal loan.

The $2.2 billion project is supposed to be generating more than a million megawatt hours of electricity, but 15 months after starting up, the plant is producing just 40% of that, according to the U.S. Energy Department. Why, with new technology, there is a lot more that can go wrong. There’s a lot more on-the-job-learning. The power plant needs a lot more steam to run smoothly and efficiently. They thought they could ramp up the plant before sunrise with fossil fuels to get it humming, but it needs four times as much fossil fuel help to get going.

And despite being in one of the hottest places in the U.S. — not enough sun. Weather predictions underestimated the amount of cloud cover. Then there were millions in cost overruns because of wildlife protections for the ‘endangered’ Desert Tortoise. The birds are not so lucky. Government biologists estimate that  3,500 birds died at Ivanpah in the course of a year. The songbirds go up in a puff of smoke as they chase the bugs that are drawn to the bright light. Raptors chase the songbirds, and die instantly. I wonder if the big corpses break the mirrors when they fall?

New solar farms generate electricity at about 5 cents a kilowatt-hour. Ivanpah is running between 12 and 25 cents a kilowatt-hour. Plans for solar-thermal plants elsewhere are being canceled. American Solar farms generate nearly 16 million megawatt-hours of electricity each year. That amounts to less than 1% of U.S. electricity demand. Utilities are likely to opt for cheaper solar farms that use panels. The Sierra Club continues its disgraceful “War on Coal.” And the EPA continues its efforts to shut down America’s coal-fired power plants that produce nearly 40 percent of America’s electricity, under the illusion that removing whatever carbon dioxide they produce will have a measurable effect on climate change. It won’t. And we will pay a high price for that loss of energy.

You did notice the prominent role of Google, did you not? Do put “Ivanpah” into the search bar of your favorite search engine to see what comes up.  Or you could go outside and sit in the sun for a while, (if any) and see how many clouds there are. The problem is that the sun does not shine all the time. There is night. And in the daytime, there are clouds which prevent getting the energy from the sun, a clear cloudless day is not the norm. Sometimes the sun does not shine for days. Obama’s Clean Power Plan regulations to shut down coal-fired power plants in favor of “clean” wind and solar energy was estimated to prevent approximately 0.03 degrees of warming by 2100.

The reason is simple. The global warming agenda is not about the planet.

The Head of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, readily admitted that the real climate change agenda has nothing to do with the environment, but instead is about redistribution of wealth. “This is probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves,” she says, “which is to intentionally transform the economic development model, for the first time in human history.



Here Is a Wonderful Edition of Uncommon Knowledge from the Hoover Institution by The Elephant's Child

Here’s a remarkable video of Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson from the Hoover Institution, featuring former Secretary of State George Schultz, John Cogan, Terry Anderson and Lee Ohanian. Four economists to talk about the major improvements that happened in the United States between 1919 and 2019. There were momentous improvements affecting all of our lives and our prosperity, inventions, the Great Depression, the Holocaust, World War II, the underlying institutions. prosperity, private property, the rule of law, free markets and what they mean. The role of immigration, the role of government, and attracting talent. You’ll learn a lot of History and a lot of Economics.

This was just published on August 26, 2019. It’s long, but worth every minute. You will learn a lot. Leadership, the uses of government, Socialism illustrated, American institutions, the Great Depression, economic history, a hugely rewarding discussion. You will learn about incentives, taxes, policies and why they matter. You will enjoy it,really. Enlarge it to full screen. You might want to keep a copy so you can listen more than once. I know that I will.

ADDENDUM: Do take special note of Terry Anderson’s visit to an Indian Reservation and the discussion of private property, with a devastating account of socialism thrown in for the benefit of our ignorant college students.



Sixteen Year Old Greta Thunberg Has Arrived in America to Address the UN on the Horrors of Climate Change by The Elephant's Child

Democrats have, in the modern era, always insisted that Republicans, those backwoods folk who live in the hollows of  Arkansas, or the woods of Idaho, are racists or Nazis, or whatever boogie-man they can devise. Democrats are destined to be in charge of the important things, like the country, [and major cities like New York, Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle] simply because they are morally superior.

Democrat-run cities don’t hold out a lot of promise for allowing them to be in charge of much of anything. You should probably keep that in mind when you vote. That said, they are now down to 10 Democrat candidates for the next debate, and there will be only one, not two.

Our governor, Jay Inslee, has dropped out. His campaign was entirely about Climate. But ordinary people are not convinced. He is clearly a true believer, and it is looking as if our state is going to go entirely to renewable resources for energy. Wind and solar, which do not produce dependable power, and Washington state still has renewable hydropower, though we’ve pretty much run out of places to dam. Look for regular blackouts.

We apparently do not need facts in order to be concerned about climate. There’s a worldwide outcry and those most passionate fight to see just how many years we have left. I suspect that few have ever studied up to see what the cries of Climate Change are all about.  And as they cry passionately that we have only 12 years left, their information is as ephemeral as 16 year old Greta Thunberg’s insistence that she can (in complete refutation of science) see the molecules of CO² in the air. A little child will lead us, I guess. She has arrived by sailboat in  America to address the United Nations.

I am concerned with the amount of nonsense out there. I think that our reliance on computers has us accustomed us to too much news in snips and bits. The long reads of background and history and development get passed by, and our understanding because of that lack, is even more incomplete. When there are voices shouting Climate panic and suggesting that the earth is going to end in a very few years, there are lots of people who will take that as fact, and order their lives accordingly, without ever studying up.

It is quite possible to determine who are the experts and who are the phonies, and what is established and what is simply fashionable conversation. Whenever there is a Climate demonstration, there’s usually someone in a polar bear costume to elicit pity and warm feelings, but the polar bears are just fine and multiplying nicely according to Susan Crockford who is the expert on polar bears. But that is how it works today




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