American Elephants

A Fond Farewell by The Elephant's Child

The coverage of the memorials and funeral for a former President of the United States has been a time of looking back, trying to understand the history, celebrate the long life of what almost everyone agrees was a very good man. There are, of course, many Democrats who can’t manage to be polite or decent, because George H.W. Bush was a Republican.

President Bush was what is called a “patrician”– someone from the American aristocracy. An American aristocracy is an odd notion, for the sense of the word implies”noble birth”, but we don’t do that here. He was, however, the son of a senator, the father of another president, but also the father of another governor, so there is an aristocracy of public service.

President Donald Trump has been excoriated as “unqualified” to be president, because he has neither held public office nor served in the military. President George H.W. Bush not only served in the military, but flew a torpedo bomber in the very nasty Pacific War,  got shot down, survived in a tiny rubber raft, got picked up and went right back to flying and bombing.

Qualifications to be president are quite straightforward: you have to be a natural born citizen, have attained the age of 35, and been resident in the United States for fourteen years. We have had some four star generals: Washington, Grant, and Eisenhower, and others who had noted military service: Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt, and a few others, but not all of the presidents were military men. Abraham Lincoln served for just three days. Joe Biden just announced that he is the most qualified person to be president. So there you are. Michael Avenatti announced that he isn’t running after all. But the line of Democrats who are just dying to run grows apace.

So in spite of being a country where anyone with the correct minimal qualifications is entitled to run, we seem to want our president to be someone special. We nitpick their every utterance, criticize their demeanor, their decisions, their behavior. George Washington set the standard. The people were willing to proclaim him King, but he would have none of it, and when his term was done, he just went on home.

There always seems to be a sort of itch to put them on a pedestal. Perhaps that is why the Democrats are so eager to have the first black, the first woman, the first (pseudo) Native American, and there’s Kamala Harris as not only being black – but also female. One can just be grateful for the 35 year-old qualification or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would be running.

The country has hung out their flags, stood in long cold lines to have the chance to walk by the catafalque in the Capitol Building to mourn the passing of a good and kind man. I can appreciate all the other stuff, but I do marvel at the man who celebrated his 90th birthday by going skydiving.

Rest in Peace.


A Day of Thanksgiving, Then And Now. by The Elephant's Child

First published in 2008

On March 22, 1621, an official Native American delegation walked through what is now southern New England to negotiate with a group of foreigners who had taken over a recently deserted Indian settlement.  At the head of the party was an uneasy triumvirate: Massasoit, the sachem (political-military leader) of the Wampanoag confederation, a loose coalition of several dozen villages that controlled most of southeastern Massachusetts; Samoset, sachem of an allied group to the north; and Tisquantum, a distrusted captive, whom Massasoit had reluctantly brought along as an interpreter.

Massasoit was an adroit politician, but the dilemma he faced would have tested Machiavelli.  About five years before, most of his subjects had fallen before a terrible calamity.  Whole villages had been depopulated—indeed, the foreigners ahead now occupied one of the empty sites.  It was all he could do to hold together the remnants of his people.  Adding to his problems, the disaster had not touched the Wampanoag’s longtime enemies, the Narragansett alliance to the west.  Soon, Massasoit feared, they would take advantage of the Wampanoag’s weakness and overrun them.

Desperate threats require desperate countermeasures.  In a gamble, Massasoit intended to abandon, even reverse, a long-standing policy.  Europeans had been visiting New England for at least a century.  Shorter than the natives, oddly dressed, and often unbearably dirty, the pallid foreigners had peculiar blue eyes that peeped out of the masks of bristly, animal-like hair that encased their faces.  They were irritatingly garrulous, prone to fits of chicanery, and often surprisingly incompetent at what seemed to Indians like basic tasks.  But they also made useful and beautiful goods—copper kettles, glittering colored glass, and steel knives and hatchets—unlike anything else in New England.  Moreover, they would exchange these valuable items for cheap furs of the sort used by Indians as blankets.  It was like happening upon a dingy kiosk that would swap fancy electronic goods for customers’ used socks—almost anyone would be willing to overlook the shopkeeper’s peculiarities.

This is how author Charles C. Mann describes the first contact between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans, in his fascinating book 1491, which alters our view of the Americas before the arrival of the Europeans in 1492.  He goes on to say: “British fishing vessels may have reached Newfoundland as early as the 1480s and areas to the south soon after.  In 1501, just nine years after Columbus’s first voyage, the Portugese adventurer Gaspar Corte-Real abducted fifty-odd Indians from Maine.  Examining the captives, Corte-Real found to his astonishment that two were wearing items from Venice: a broken sword and two silver rings.”

As for the Indians, evidence suggests that they tended to view Europeans with disdain as soon as they got to know them.  The Huron in Ontario, a chagrined missionary reported, thought the French possessed “little intelligence in comparison to themselves.”  Europeans, Indians told other Indians, were physically weak, sexually untrustworthy, atrociously ugly, and just plain smelly. (the British and French, many of whom had not taken a bath in their entire lives, were amazed by the Indian interest in personal cleanliness.)…The Micmac in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia scoffed at the notion of European superiority.  If Christian civilization was so wonderful, why were its inhabitants all trying to settle somewhere else?

The Wall Street Journal has two editorials that it has been publishing on this day ever since 1961 : “The Desolate Wilderness”, and “And the Fair Land.” This year they have another piece by Ira Stoll on the first national Thanksgiving holiday, “A Day of Thanksgiving”, on Thursday, Dec. 18, 1777.  You will want to read all three.

We wish you and yours a most Happy Thanksgiving.  We all have much to be thankful for.

Color-Blind People Seeing Color for the First Time by The Elephant's Child

Approximately 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women have some degree of color blindness. There are different types of color blindness, but the most common is called red/green color blindness. Some people are completely colorblind to all colors and the glasses can’t help them, but that is very rade condition. That they have accomplished this is deeply encouraging. Purple seems to be the most astonishing color, it looked the same as blue before.

Here’s A Very Special Video for Veterans’s Day by The Elephant's Child

Thanks to Maggie’s Farm and Bruce Kessler for finding this video. It’s memorable and very special.

Words to Remember About Equality and Freedom by The Elephant's Child


Here’s another of those things well said, that need to be remembered. It comes from William Voegeli’s book The Pity Party: A Mean-Spirited Diatribe Against Liberal Compassion.

Economist Dierdre McCloskey calculates that in “the countries that most enthusiastically embraced capitalism” some two hundred years ago, real, per capita economic growth has increased by 1 .5 percent annually. Owing to the miracle of compound interest, this increase has meant a 19-fold increase in living standards over the past two centuries, which, she contends, is a “change in the human condition” that “ranks with the first domestications of plants and animals and the building of the first towns” McCloskey argues that this enormous economic result had a cause that was cultural rather than economic. Humans did not suddenly become more acquisitive or creative. Rather, “when people  treat the marketers and inventors as having some dignity and liberty, innovation takes hold. The new respectability of bourgeois life, the belief that the creativity of capitalism’s creative destruction more than offset its destruction, was the decisive attitudinal change that rendered human life in the past two centuries decisively different from what it had been throughout the preceding millennia.”

And from the late Russia scholar Richard Pipes: Property and Freedom

The trend of modern times appears to indicate that citizens of democracies are willing heedlessly to surrender their freedoms to purchase social equality (along with economic security) apparently oblivious of the consequences. And the consequences are that their ability to hold onto and use what they earn and own, to hire and fire at will, to enter freely into contracts, and even to speak their mind is steadily being eroded by government  bent on redistributing private assets and subordinating individual rights to group rights.

One more from Milton Friedman:

A society that puts equality – in the sense of equality of outcome – ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality or freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom, and the force, introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests.

A Belief in the Inevitability of Our Particular Institutions by The Elephant's Child

“Hidden History” by Daniel Boorstin

“The United States was born in a colonial rebellion. Our national birth certificate is a Declaration of Independence. not a Declaration of the “Rights of Man.”

The position of the best theorists of the Revolution was that the British, by their treatment of the American colonies were being untrue to the ancient spirit of their own institutions. The slogan “Taxation Without Representation is Tyranny” was clearly formed on a British assumption. They were fighting not so much to establish new rights as to preserve old ones. From the colonists point of view, until 1776 it was Parliament that had been revolutionary  by exercising a power for which there was no warrant in English constitutional precedent. Second, the American Revolution was not the product of a nationalistic philosophy.

The original creation of a United States was the work of doubly reluctant citizens – because of their local loyalties and their imperial loyalties. The story of the critical period of the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution tells of a gradual overcoming of their reluctance – it was overcome not by any widespread conversion to a nationalist theory – but by a gradual realization of the need for effective union.

Our revolution was successful at the first try. The political objective – independence from British rule, was achieved by one relatively short continuous effort. 1776 has no sequel – and needed none.

If we understand the “conservatism” of the Revolution, we begin to see that it represents the continuity of American History – and has engraved on our national consciousness a belief in the inevitability of our particular institutions.”


Daniel J. Boorstin was an historian at the University of Chicago and became the Librarian of Congress in 1975 and served until 1987. Here’s a link to the Boorstin pages at Amazon. He was a prolific author, and you can’t go wrong with any of his books, and they will enrich your life.

The Booming Economy Creates Confidence, And Black Business Ownership Has Jumped by 400 Percent. by The Elephant's Child

Black Small Business ownership under President Trump’s booming economy has jumped by 400 Percent in just one year. President Trump’s approval rating among African Americans has hit 31 percent. The Left, unsurprisingly, is outraged, or possibly anxious. Their constant accusations of “racism” don’t seem to be working. It’s very good news that they are opening businesses, and we certainly wish them all success.

Just a heartening reminder that Capitalism works.

inforgraphic of 2018's small business trends specifically in the African American demographiccWith the Trump administration’s growing, healthy economy, small business is growing and prospering, and among the small business owners are healthy numbers of young, black entrepreneurs. Here’s an explanatory graph from Guidant Financial on the very encouraging phenomenon:

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