American Elephants


The 242nd Anniversary of “The Shot Heard Round the World” by The Elephant's Child

A little Henry Wadsworth Longfellow for the eighteenth of April. Today is the 242nd anniversary of the “Shot heard round the World.” Teach your children a little history, too many of the snowflakes now in college have apparently never heard of him or his famous ride, nor do they understand why it is a big deal. The kids will not learn about it in school, They are learning that patriotism is racist or at the very least problematic. They will not learn unless you teach them.

Listen, my children, and  you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend,”If the British march
By land or sea from the town tonight,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light—
One if by land, and two, if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm.”

Then he said, “Good night!” and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, a British man-of-war:
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend, through alley and street,
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed to the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry-chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the somber rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade—
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town,
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night-encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel’s tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, “All is well!”
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay—
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide, like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now gazed at the landscape far and near.
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth
And turned and tightened his saddle girth:
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and somber and still.

And lo! as he looks, on the belfry’s height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns!

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet:
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.

He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides:
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock,
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer’s dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.
It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, blank and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadows brown.

And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket-ball.

You know the rest.  In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled—
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the red-coats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm—
A cry of defiance and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will awaken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the  midnight message of Paul Revere.

(The illustration is from a lovely edition of the poem illustrated by Ted Rand for children or any Longfellow lovers. Copies still available from Amazon at very reasonable  prices) Children love the cadence of the famous lines that capture the sound of a galloping horse.



Solving the Problem of Good Drinking Water for All by The Elephant's Child

Members of the political left often assume that if they just had complete control, they could fix all the annoyances that bother them so much, fix or at least repair human nature, create great inventions, do away with the political right—one of the truly major annoyances—everyone would be happy and get along. Anyone who is a member of a family knows that assumption to be absurd. Human nature is fixed, immutable, and unchangeable. Governments don’t create great inventions. Great inventions are oftentimes made by accident, and blundered into. One such discovery is graphene.

Andre Geim, a Russian-born scientist at the University of Manchester in Britain, and Konstantin Novoselov were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 for isolating graphene. Dr. Geim wanted thin graphite to study its electrical properties. A doctoral student suggested using cellophane tape.”They used the tape to peel off layers of graphite until they got to a layer so thin it was transparent. Not only did it not fall apart, it was strong, flexible and possessed astonishing electrical properties.”

Back in 2013 when I first wrote about graphene. I didn’t know there was such an occupation such as a materials scientist. Andre Geim and Konstantin Novosetov at Britain’s Manchester University were playing around with scotch tape and a lump of graphite in 2004. That resulted in a shared Nobel prize, knighthood, and a £61m National Graphene Institute.

As of May in 2004, it had resulted in more than 9,000 patent applications. Companies like Apple, Saab, Lockheed Martin, Nokia, BASF SE were interested, for potential uses such as filtering salt from seawater, flexible touch screens, anti-rust coatings, sports equipment like tennis racqets, DNA sequencing devices and distilling vodka. Labs all over the world are hard at work, including the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Research has shown that graphene is better than Kevlar at stopping bullets fired at supersonic speeds.

In 2015, I wrote about a graphene heating system that would dramatically reduce home energy costs from 25 to 75 percent. Now researchers from the University of Manchester have made a breakthrough in desalinization by using the “wonder material graphene.” They have designed a graphene oxide sieve to make seawater potable, and more importantly have tweaked the graphene composite in order to make it commercially scalable. The BBC reports:

[It] has been difficult to produce large quantities of single-layer graphene using existing methods, such as chemical vapour deposition (CVD). Current production routes are also quite costly.

On the other hand, said [Dr Rahul Nair], “graphene oxide can be produced by simple oxidation in the lab…In terms of scalability and the cost of the material, graphene oxide has a potential advantage over single-layered graphene.”

Though the material is only 13 years old, its potential for applications has surged dramatically ranging from better information and energy storage to faster transistors to more efficient lasers.

 Companies have worked to include graphene into the design of objects as small as a computer chip to as large as an airplane wing. It has been called the most flexible, most conductive, and strongest material in the world, and we’re just getting started on deploying it into manufacturing processes.

Part of the hold-up on this graphene boom has to do with how expensive and time consuming it is to manufacture. That’s where these graphene oxides come in, the production of which is evidently much simpler. The latest breakthrough involves using these graphene oxides to help ensure future water security, but there’s a lot more to be excited about when it comes to this miracle material.

 



Victor Davis Hanson’s Take on the Decline and Fall of the Left by The Elephant's Child



Clear Language Matters. Make Fine Distinctions, Insist on Free Speech and Clear Speech. by The Elephant's Child

The situation in Syria was not only an affront to international law, but a probe of sorts to test the new president of the United States. President Trump’s response was prompt and direct, but careful. It was not, as the Democrats try to claim, the start of a war, or a sign of the belligerence of an out-of-control administration. It was a very specific and limited missile strike against the specific airbase that had launched the Sarin Gas attack on Syrian rebels by their own administration. Because it was directed  so specifically, it announced that poison gas attacks were simply not acceptable, and this strike was a clear warning that we are a powerful nation and we are capable of much more. There will be no more statements of “red lines” that are not observed.

America means business. It was not, as has been claimed, an attack on Assad. The Russians and Syrians were warned, so there would be little or no loss of life. These distinctions are important. The free world approved.

Democrats are not good at distinctions. They are more comfortable with generalities. Hillary was interviewed by the New York Times Nicholas Kristof at the “Women in the World” summit. Kristof asked Hillary:

I have to ask fundamentally, a man who bragged about sexual assault won the election and won 53 percent of the white women’s vote. What does that say about the challenges that one faces in women’s empowerment, that in effect misogyny won with a lot of women voters?

In the first place, Trump did not brag about sexual assault. He spoke of women and celebrity and said that when you are a celebrity, some women will let you do anything you want to them.  He did not say that he had done anything.

Hillary immediately blamed everything on identity politics: misogynyshe lost because she is a woman. The country is just not ready for  the first woman president. Fine distinctions: Hillary ran for the presidency because she wanted to be the first woman president, not because there were things she wanted to do to improve the country or help Americans. That’s why her brief career in the Senate was marked only by a bill to name a post office, and her career as Secretary of State resulted only in Benghazi and a record amount of air travel miles. There were no accomplishments. The change was her gender. She promised to continue all the accomplishments of the Obama administration but to do it as a woman.

Nikki Haley, a woman, has made a real difference in her brief time as Ambassador to the United Nations. People are already suggesting that she can be the first woman president. She has demonstrated over and over competence, authority, determination, and things have shifted because of it.

In this strange new universe, a real-estate developer and reality-TV celebrity with no political experience whatsoever, obviously won the election because he is a man. Identity politics is the controlling theme. You can be decide your identity and your gender by your feelings of the moment, which, making fine distinctions — is clearly nuts.

The Left, in their drive for ever more control, believe that when they achieve full control,  they will fix human nature, so we are all more complacent and cooperative. Unfortunately human nature is immutable, unchanging and quite definitely unfixable.

Insist on fine distinctions. Don’t let them get away with sloppy thinking. Insist on free speech. Hold college and university authorities to task for allowing bad behavior to destroy the educational process. Speak out.

Surely you have noticed that what the Left advocates are abstractions. Social justice —there is no such thing. We have laws and courts, and they don’t do social justice. Equality —you can have equality under the law, but you can’t make people equal, some are smarter, some are more beautiful, some are stronger, some are older. Diversity—to the Left refers only to skin color, certainly not to diversity of ideas. Our values —one of Obama’s favorites, “that’s not who we are as Americans.”



Random Jottings from my Notepad by The Elephant's Child

— Tom Sowell: “Socialism, in general, has a record of failure that only an intellectual could ignore or evade.”

—Scott Carpenter was asked: “What did you think about as you were rocketing into space?”
He answered: “That each part of this rocket was made by the lowest bidder.”

—Ralph Peters:  “Obama’s Mideast Policy: Praise Muslims, Ignore Christians, Blame Jews.”

—Charles Schumer: “The only way we’re going to work with him is if he moves completely in our direction.”

— The Iran Deal: There is no deal. Nothing was signed. Iran said we’ll do this. Obama said, fine, we’ll pay for it.

— Monica Crowley: “Government has no profit motive, only a power motive.”

—You cannot spend your way out of recession nor borrow your way out of hard times. Social Security workers per beneficiary: 1960 – 4.9, 2010 -2.8, 2035 – 1.9 (CBO estimate).

— The population of Israel before the Holocaust was 600,000.

—Andy McCarthy: “Nihilism is the key. Today’s hard left is defined by what it is against: the United States, free-market capitalism, and any foreign policy premised on defending American interests or promoting individual liberty. Only this part of the agenda is concrete, leaving neo-communism elastic enough to strike alliances with any movement that shares it. What neo-communists are for, by contrast, is a set of abstractions—”social justice”, “equality”, “redistributive rights instead of the rule of law” and, of course, “our values.” The details of those can be worked out later, once the more pressing imperative of undoing the existing order has been realized.”

—Zero Hedge: “All that debt Obama acquired and all the stimulus did work to redistribute wealth and income toward the well-connected cronies that funded Obama into office. Obama can talk all he likes about cutting taxes for the middle class, the data shows who Obama’s redistributionist policies have overwhelmingly favored.”

—Vaclav Klaus: “The people who are supporting Global Warming are not interested in temperature. They are interested in government control—identical to Communism.”

—C.S. Lewis: “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road: in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”



Desperate Democrats Embarrass Themselves In Another Confirmation Hearing by The Elephant's Child

With the exposure of the Susan Rice story, and the dreadful sarin gas attack in Syria by the Assad administration on his own people other things escape our attention. The confirmation hearings for Dr. Scott Gottlieb who the president has nominated to run the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) didn’t get a lot of notice.

Our very own Seattle Senator Patty Murray and other Democrats devoted the morning to attacking Dr. Gottlieb for his “unprecedented financial entanglements” because he has consulted for various companies and invested in health-care start-ups. (Possibly because that is his area of expertise?) Sheldon Whitehouse suggested “dark money operations,” which is a strange description of financial disclosures available to all on the internet. Bernie Sanders tweeted that it was a “disgrace” to have an FDA commissioner who has taken money from drug companies.

These are the same committee Democrats who attacked Betsy DeVos for not having enough experience in public education, nor experience in government.  Consistency and hypocrisy are ongoing problems for the Democrats.

Dr. Gottlieb not only disclosed all his work in accordance with government rules and will liquidate his investments, he agreed to recuse himself for a year on decisions involving his past interests. He also promised to follow directions from the HHS ethics office and to be an “impartial and independent advocate for the public health.”

Another remarkable ugly charge was that Dr. Gottlieb would not address the opioid crisis because he has worked with companies that produce painkillers. Desperate Democrats, out of power, are having trouble finding believable or even sane talking points.

Dr. Gottlieb has called the opioid crisis “a public emergency on the order of Ebola and Zika” and suggested an “all-of-the-above” strategy that would include creating new painkillers that were less addictive and better patient care. He hopes to increase generic drug competition. He offered a tutorial in how companies exploit the regulatory barriers to competition for their commercial advantage,

He has written about how the FDA can unleash innovation without compromising public safety. Democrats, always confused about the evils of “profit” have forgotten about the immense value of expertise. This is another of President Trump’s outstanding nominees, so of course he should be attacked. It will be good to have someone who understands the needs of patients and their doctors and the pharmaceutical industry in that office.



Investing In Children. Setting Them Up For Success. by The Elephant's Child

America’s new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos gave her first big policy speech last Wednesday, and you probably didn’t hear about it. The media wasn’t interested and barely covered it. There is a lot of opposition to Secretary DeVos, largely from the teacher’s unions.

She spoke at the Brookings Institute, and said”We must change the way we think about funding education and instead invest in children, not in buildings.”

There is no perfect, one-size-fits-all system of education: A magnet school is not inherently better than a traditional school, nor is education at a private school inherently better than education at a charter school.

Similarly, there is no one delivery mechanism of education choice: Open enrollment, tax credits, home schools, magnets, charters, virtual schools, education savings accounts and choices not yet developed all have their place, but no single one of these is always the right delivery method for each child.

Policymakers at every level of government would do well to maintain a humble acknowledgement of these facts. Let’s put aside the politics of the adults and actually focus on what will best serve kids.

And that’s what brings us here today. Too much of the conversation on education loses sight of the thing that matters most: the individual child. This report sheds light on how districts are providing choices and information to parents and opportunities to students.

In the real world today, every problem with the schools is claimed to be the result of not enough money.  Whether it’s your kid being bullied, not learning to read, the choice of textbooks, the quality of the teacher, the remedy is more money for the schools—which doesn’t seem to change anything.

The two school districts that score highest arrive at the high score by different paths.  New Orleans provides a wide range of choices to parents —all of its schools are charters (and it’s important to note that charter schools are public schools) and there are vouchers available for a good supply of affordable private schools.

Denver scored well because they have a single application process for both charter and traditional public schools, and a website that allows parents to make side-by-side comparison of schools. The choices, however, are limited.

You can read the whole speech here, and if you are a parent of kids in school, you will want to, and the rest of us who pay the taxes that funds all this would be advised to pay attention too.

When my kids were growing up, we moved a lot, and the kids went to the school in the district where we lived. We didn’t have any real choice, and some teachers were good and some weren’t so good, and we tried to make up at home for whatever seemed to be missing.

If Secretary DeVos can get across her point that the purpose of this whole thing is not to enrich teacher’s unions and politicians, but to give kids an education that is right for them and makes the most of their abilities, we will have won a major battle. It’s no wonder the unions don’t appreciate her. The schools should not be run by politicians in Washington, but by parents and their children. There is no one-size-fits-all education, and what’s right for your kid many not be what was right for mine.




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