American Elephants


Trying to Understand Hurricanes by The Elephant's Child

Hurricane Harvey is, I guess, in the mopping-up stage, which will be long and difficult. Someone mentioned that homeowners should not haul stuff out to the curb to be picked up until the insurance adjusters have seen and valued it. I hadn’t thought of that, I imagine one’s first impulses would be to get rid of all the ruined, broken and waterlogged and rotting stuff as quickly as possible.

Irma, following closely on the heels of Harvey has progressed fully into a Category 5 hurricane, prossibly the worst ever seen in the Atlantic,  if not the worst, or that may be an exxageration.  Barbuda is literally just rubble. Britain’s Telegraph has particularly good coverage of Irma in the Caribbean, for islands like Barbuda and Antigua are still British possessions. That’s Irma in the satellite image.

American coverage is more apt to focus on Florida, Georgia and South Carolina that are currently in the path. Winds of 185 mph will do a lot of damage. France also has islands in the Carribean. I’ve been there once on a cruise, but I don’t remember all the islands nor which one belongs to which country. Don’t like cruises, would never do it again.

Here’s an article about “5 Hurricane Charts Climate Alarmists Don’t Want You to See as They Rush to Politicize Harvey.” Surely no one would politicize so much damage and ruin and death, would they? Hurricane Katia is heading for the coast of Mexico, but so far doesn’t involve destroying winds. Irma looks to be heading up the Florida coast, but we won’t know till Friday. José is sitting out in the Atlantic at present. Go to the NOAA Hurricane Center for the official word.

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“Struggle Down In Houston” by The Elephant's Child

Donations for the Houston flooding are pouring in, and Houston people face a massive clean up, and massive grief and expense.  The situation is becoming clearer as people begin to sum up the damages. Hurricane Harvey was a big one. It had nothing to do with “global warming”, though the global warming enthusiasts are just sure that it does. It came after a long respite of nine years. Houston has a long, long record of hurricane and flooding damage. Here are pictures from past disasters.

Engineers have been warning for years that the city is a flood disaster in the making,. A University of Texas at Austin civil engineer, Robert Gilbert, said “Houston is very flat. There’s is no way for the water to drain out.” Texas Governor Greg Abbot suggested that Houston residents who had somewhere to go should think about evacuating, but Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner urged them not to evacuate. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina that hit Louisiana so hard, another hurricane followed and Houston residents were urged to evacuate and caused the traffic jam of the century.

The city’s flood system is supposed to protect the public from a 100-year storm, but that is based on a rainfall total of 13 inches in 24 hours. In an average year, Houston gets 50 inches of rain — as much as Harvey would deliver in some parts of the city. The muddy rivers—the San Jacinto and Buffalo Bayou have dams, but they were built mostly for storage, not flood control. Lake Conroe, a reservoir 43 miles north of the city has a capacity of 430,000 acre feet. The river authority which manages water supplies knew Harvey was coming, but chose not to release water in advance, because it could have caused flooding even before the storm hit, but by Monday they had no choice but to open the flood gates to send another 79.141  cubic feet of water to flooded Houston every second. There have been eight deaths, and the rescue efforts of men with boats have surely prevented many more.

Media coverage has been interesting. Melania Trump was criticized for wearing stiletto heels when she boarded the plane to go to Texas. She changed to trousers and sneakers when they arrived. President Trump was criticized for going to Houston, and even for donating a million dollars of his own money to Houston relief. Some days you just can’t win. The media no longer seems to be quite sane.

After they have drained the city and mopped up, hopefully they will have learned from this disaster and will start to plan seriously for the next one, but there will probably be new people in charge, and funding will be so exhausted that no one will want to think about spending on preparation.

 



Taking Stock of Trumpism by The Elephant's Child

Victor Davis Hanson spoke in May, at Hillsdale College’s Kirby Center in Washington D.C. on “Trumpism.” Where did it come from, where is it going and what has it accomplished? This election was a strange phenomenon, when a political neophyte with no experience in politics at all, won the election over a long term politician, wife of a president, who clearly was owed the opportunity to become the first woman president.

It was impossible. That is surely the source of the Trump Derangement Syndrome. But Democrats operate on talking points, devised and focus group tested words. Surely you have noticed that suddenly all Democrats seem to be speaking the same exact words. It’s an old propaganda technique, if a lie is repeated often enough, people will start to believe it. They’re not getting the response they want fast enough, and yesterday they were trying a new one. Trump is crazy. Mentally deranged. For which he should be encouraged to resign if not be impeached. Let’s see if that one has any staying power.  Dr. Hanson’s speech is a fine remedy. Enjoy.



Conflict, Delusions, Visions, Madness by The Elephant's Child

In Charlottesville, Virginia, a college town, protesters were attempting to tear down a confederate memorial and counter protesters variously described as neo-Nazis, KKK members, white nationalists, with Antifa, and Black Lives Matter.

Leftist news sources immediately  began referring to “white supremacists” to make the whole thing about race. The left has made a great effort to describe President Trump as “a racist president” (he isn’t) though that is simply their defensive cover, always calling any republicans “racist” to disguise their own long history as southern slave holders, Confederates,  opponents of reconstruction, opponents of full citizenship for blacks, and desegregation.

One of the curious things about political opinions is how often the same people line up on opposite sided of different issues. The issues themselves may have no intrinsic connection with each other.They may range from military spending to drug laws to monetary policy to education. Yet the same familiar faces can be found glaring at each other from opposite sides of the political fence, again and again. It happens too often to be coincidence and it is too uncontrolled to be a plot. A closer look at the arguments on both sides often shows that they are reasoning from fundamentally different premises. These different premises—often implicit—are what provide the consistency behind the repeated opposition of individuals and groups on numerous, unrelated issues. They have different visions of how the world works.  (emphasis added)

That’s Thomas Sowell: A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles, 1987.

He goes on to explain that”the ever-changing kaleidoscope of raw reality would defeat the human mind by its complexity, except for the mind’s ability to abstract, to pick out parts and think of them as a whole. This is nowhere more necessary than in social visions and social theory, dealing with the complex and often subconscious interactions of millions of human beings.

We talk of “Trump Derangement Syndrome” to try to explain what is going on, but the thing is better described in a book by Charles Mackay written in 1841: Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds  still available at Amazon. He writes about economic bubbles, the crusades, witch mania, alchemists, the tulip mania, fortune-telling and haunted houses. The book can be downloaded from the Library of Economics and Liberty for free.

An article from the Center for Inquiry contains more recent examples including the Salem Witch Trials, the Orson Welles broadcast of an alien invasion story, and a Seattle Windshield Pitting Epidemic in 1954.

Thursday, Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert) posted an excellent article on his blog “How to Know You’re In a Mass Hysteria Bubble”.

The most visible Mass Hysteria of the moment involves the idea that the United States intentionally elected a racist President. If that statement just triggered you, it might mean you are in the Mass Hysteria bubble. The cool part is that you can’t fact-check my claim you are hallucinating if you are actually hallucinating. But you can read my description of the signs of mass hysteria and see if you check off the boxes.

If you’re in the mass hysteria, recognizing you have all the symptoms of hysteria won’t help you be aware you are in it. That’s not how hallucinations work. Instead, your hallucination will automatically rewrite itself to expel any new data that conflicts with its illusions. …

The reason you can’t easily identify what-the-hell is going on in the country right now is that a powerful mass hysteria is in play. If you see the signs after I point them out, you’re probably not in the hysteria bubble. If you read this and do NOT see the signs, it probably means you’re trapped inside the mass hysteria bubble.

This latter one is probably the most important link, because he is talking about understanding today and today’s bubbles. But Tom Sowell’s A Conflict of Visions belongs in your library.



How to Revise History, With Some Cautions by The Elephant's Child


In Charlottesville, Virginia, we had another case of millennials attempting to fix history. Some wanted to tear down a statue, of Robert E. Lee, and others determined to stop them also turned up, to do violence. This incident apparently got all confused with World War II themes (fascism) which the press wants to connect to Donald Trump because they don’t like him and though they are undoubtedly unclear about what “fascism” means, it’s a bad thing.

The effort to eliminate Confederate monuments seems to be because of slavery, which ended in America with the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. There are approximately 700 remaining monuments left in various locations, mostly in the South, but there are around 1500 places or things that commemorate a Southern hero, so good luck with that. I suppose the illusion is that by tearing down statues, they have in some way changed history, but history remains, immutable and unchanged.

The push to begin the purge of Confederate monuments and memorials began after Dylan Roof shot up a historically black church in South Carolina in 2015. At the time, the debate centered around whether or not state governments should house Confederate flags on public property.

The city government of Baltimore, Maryland quietly removed a series of monuments, and Gainesville, Florida also removed a statue of southern soldiers last week. Additionally, officials in Kentucky and North Carolina announced plans to get rid of their own statues.

The Democrat minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, has suggested removing eight Confederate statues from the capitol’s Statuary Hall, but others out there insist that is not enough. We must remove statues of Washington and Jefferson because they were slave owners. If that is the case, it means the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument and bulldozing our Capitol city. Maybe we could just re-name the city so it doesn’t remind anyone of the father of our country. For the historically ignorant, you should perhaps remember that General Washington won the Revolutionary War— the War for Independence. Does that mean we would have to give it back to England? Just how far do these people want to go?

Perhaps a better solution to changing history that you don’t like would be to wait a bit, as some scientists are suggesting that time travel may indeed be possible. Forbes magazine published a story back in April about the scientific possibilities of time travel. The objectives might be • faster so you could go to the future but stay the same age,  •slower so you could get more done in the same amount of time, or • backwards so you could return to a time in the past and alter it, perhaps changing the future or even the present? Most of us would like to go back just briefly to undo something we know we shouldn’t have done.

A note of caution though. The International Criminal Court, located in the Hague, has found Islamist militant Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi liable for more than $3 million dollars in reparations for ordering the destruction of ancient landmarks in Timbuktu, Mali. He was previously sentenced to serve nine years in prison last September after pleading guilty to destroying historic shrines at a world heritage site in 2002. The court said attacks on historic sites “destroy part of humanity’s shared memory and collective consciousness, and render humanity to transmit its values and knowledge to future generations.

Anybody spotted a blue telephone booth? Probably somewhere in London, but who knows?



Bill Whittle With a Little Historical Fact by The Elephant's Child

On Tuesday, President Trump held an impromptu press conference at Trump Tower. When he was asked about the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia,he branded the members of the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists and Antifa activists as “criminals and thugs.” The leftist media, promptly went ballistic. AP insisted that the antifas were just “protesting” the white supremacists, which is why they arrived with baseball bats, axe handles, and clubs.

The Associated Press wants the public to believe that Trump’s statements were a disaster:

The president’s comments effectively wiped away the more conventional statement he delivered at the White House one day earlier when he branded members of the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists who take part in violence as “criminals and thugs.”

The president’s retorts Tuesday suggested he had been a reluctant participant in that cleanup effort. During an impromptu press conference in the lobby of his Manhattan skyscraper, he praised his original response to Charlottesville and angrily blamed liberal groups in addition to white supremacists for the violence. Some of those protesting the rally to save a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee were “also very violent,” he said.

The leftist media went on to claim that the brave Antifa members were like the young GIs who invaded Normandy on D-Day to fight fascism. We had a strong hunch that the current herd of leftist reporters were more than a little wanting in their knowledge of history. It’s not just Trump Derangement Syndrome extremism, it’s sheer ignorance.



“DIVERSITY: The Invention of a Concept” by The Elephant's Child

Last night I was looking for the next book in a series I’m re-reading, and noticed another book that has long been on my overloaded bookshelves. It is titled simply “DIVERSITY: The invention of a Concept” by Peter Wood. I had forgotten all about it, though I bought it when it first came out fourteen years ago, read it and enjoyed it, which is why I still have it. Here’s a bit from the jacket flap, and remember this was written in 2003:

In just a few years, diversity has become America’s most visible cultural idea. Corporations alter their recruitment and hiring policies in the name of a diverse workforce. Universities institute new admissions procedures in the name of a diverse student body. Presidents choose their major appointees in the name of a diverse cabinet. And what diversity’s proponents have in mind, Peter Wood argues, is not the dictionary meaning of the word—variety and multiplicity—but a new and often narrow kind of conformity.

Whether as prescribed numerical outcomes or as the celebration of cultural “difference,” diversity, according to Wood, is now a deadening force in American life, a cliché that promotes group stereotypes and undermines any real diversity of ideas and individuals. …

But the current cult of diversity is no laughing matter. Wood shows how the elevation of this concept to the highest social good marks a profound change in our cultural life. Diversity as it is practiced today is anti-individualist and at odds with America’s older ideals of liberty and equality.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai believed himself to be defending diversity and opportunity for women in his company. James Damore was trying to point out that cultural taboos cloud corporate thinking about gender diversity. The Liberty Lawsite compared the Google bubble with the University bubble. At Hoover, Richard Epstein discusses the rigid ideological conformity in Silicon Valley, At American Greatness, Boris Zelkin noted that Sundar Pichai said that what Damore did was “Not OK” and suggested that Pichai could have thrown in a “double plus ungood” for good measure.

Meanwhile down in Charlottesville a very diverse meeting between three dramatically opposed groups— white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Antifa got together with the tools of their trade: baseball bats, bullhorns, flags, costumes and Tiki-torches, to protest the Civil War and any leftover remembrances thereof, did a lot of injury and killed two people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. President Trump pointed out that there is blame on both sides for the deadly violence, while the Associated Press went crazy and insisted that the antifas were just “protesting” the white supremacists. The president said they were all thugs and criminals and incited violence, for which he, though correct, was excoriated by the press.

I recommend Peter Wood’s book. There are used copies for only around $2 at Amazon, or you can pay over $100 — but if a good read would start a significant conversation about the deliberate invention of a concept and how it happened, it might be very helpful indeed.




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