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.



Here’s Thomas Sowell With a Few Well Chosen Words on Climate Change. by The Elephant's Child

This is an “oldie but goodie”. One can always count on Dr. Thomas Sowell to make sense. I wish it were a characteristic more widely available. We could surely use more of it around in these perilous days.



I Didn’t Watch The Debate. Smartest Thing I Did Today. by The Elephant's Child

I did not watch the debate tonight. I am tired of this whole bunch who are vying to see who can offer the best thing to buy the peoples’ votes. Did anyone watch the whole thing?

I’ve seen lots of comments, which only make me glad I did not watch. Best analysis was from John Hinderaker at PowerLine blog.

1) Joe Biden was the winner tonight. He pretended to be sane, and did a decent imitation.

2) Julian Castro–did anyone remember that he was on the stage?–is running to be Elizabeth Warren’s VP. He did her dirty work tonight.

3) It’s time to pull the plug on Bernie Sanders. It’s not just that he is a raving maniac–he is an extremely elderly raving maniac. I hope he made it through the night.

4) Early on in the campaign, I thought Kamala Harris had a good shot. I was wrong.

5) Andrew Yang showed himself to be the quintessential Democrat. He gets votes the old-fashioned way: he buys them. Unfortunately, he could only afford to buy 12.

6) I heard a rumor that Amy Klobuchar participated tonight, but I can’t verify it.

His analysis was enhanced with the best Bernie Sanders picture I’ve ever seen. You can see it here.



Jordan Peterson Comments on Climate Change by The Elephant's Child

I always enjoy Jordan Peterson, because he’s so opinionated. He thinks deeply about matters, and sorts out the pluses and minuses and decides  what’s important and what is not, and talks with his hands as well.

This one is great fun.



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.



Victor Davis Hanson Writes on Today’s University by The Elephant's Child

Victor Davis Hanson wrote yesterday for American Greatness about the decline and fall of the American University, an essay with the subhead “The damage that the modern university has wrought has now outweighed its once-positive role.” Ouch!

Dr. Hanson is not only a noted historian, but he has long been a college professor in an American university, though in recent years he has been a fellow at the Hoover Institution.

It certainly sounds like an article one would want to avoid if they were about to send a potential victim off to begin a college career. However, knowing the hazards helps to avoid them or prepares you to do battle as the case may be.

The rest of us need to know and understand what is going on in our universities, and how young people are being mis-educated, and overcharged. Can’t help to change things if you don’t understand what you are fighting against.



Did You Ever Stop to Consider the Differences Between Fact and Opinion And Why it Seems So Hard to Find the Truth? by The Elephant's Child

Daniel Boorstin was an American historian at the University of Chicago, who became Librarian of Congress in 1975 and served for the next 12 years. He was a prolific author and was awarded most of the prizes ever offered to authors, the Pulitzer, Bancroft, National Book Award for Nonfiction and National Book award for History. The book I have in hand is Democracy and its Discontents, and he writes of odd things like: what is Opinion, and do we have too much of it.? To which a good many people would immediately shout “Yes!”

But that’s not really true because we are constantly looking for more opinion, but we’d prefer some that agrees with us. And opinion has taken something of a nasty turn in the wake of the “can you top this” leftist hatred of Donald Trump. Boorstin begins, “in the beginning “opinion” was a synonym for uncertainty—for a notion grounded in personal preference (rather than fact)”

Until the rise and triumph of liberalism in Europe, “opinion” was closely identified with error, and to say that something was “mere opinion” was a way of saying the notion was hardly worth taking account of.

Then, by the late eighteenth century, when representative government, Protestantism and modern liberalism had taken firm root in Western Europe, “Opinion” acquired different overtones. “Opinion ” was frequently qualified by such words as common, general, or public, and shifted from its uncertainty or error-prone quality to something else—to its power. Here was a hint, too—in the age of the Baron de Montesquieu, David Hume,Adam Smith, and Edward Gibbon—a hint of the rise of the new social sciences, which were less intent on moralizing than on describing the forces at work in society. Gibbon, for example in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, traced the currents of public opinion as forces in ancient history. In that descriptive age, writers began to characterize this force as if it were something newly discovered and perhaps only recently created. Accordingly, Christof Wieland, the German man of letters, in 1798 wrote that public opinion was

oo0an opinion that gradually takes root among a whole people:  oooespecially among those who have the most influence when they ooowork together as a group. In this way it wins the upper hand to
ooosuch an extent that one meets it everywhere. It is an opinion that ooowithout being noticed takes possession of most heads, and even
oooin situations where it does not dare express itself out loud it can be ooorecognized by a louder and louder muffled murmur. It then only ooorequires some small opening that will allow it air, and it will break   oooout with force. Then it can change whole nations in a brief time and ooogive whole parts of the world a new configuration.

I had never stopped to consider “opinion” as a separate entity, for today the “news” and “opinion” are mostly one and the same thing. Yet often what we search for are “facts”– something solid, proved to be true. And so we have “fact checkers” whom we cannot depend upon anyway, because what they say has probably been politicized. Boorstin died in 2004 at the age of 96, but I wonder what he would say about opinion today.

With the proliferation of websites, blogs, social media like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and all the others, and space offered on most websites to comment on the opinions featured, and on the opinions offered in other peoples comments – there’s a lot of opinion out there, much of it vulgar, scatological and insulting. I do read comments, and I’m often startled by the public fury, and the need to give the worst possible insult to a stranger. I’m troubled by a lot of it, of the Nazi, racist, sexist, white supremacist type, and a little puzzled by those who take such violent, vulgar exception to what a stranger thinks in a country where free speech is treasured.




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