American Elephants

A Song of Patriotic Prejudice by The Elephant's Child

The rottenest bits of these islands of ours
We’ve left in the hands of three unfriendly powers.
Examine your Irishman, Welshman or Scot
You’ll find he’s a stinker as likely as not

The English the English are best
I wouldn’t give tuppence for all of the rest

The Scotsman is mean as we’re all well aware
And bony and blotchy and covered with hair,
He eats salty porridge, he works all the day
And he hasn’t got Bishops to show him the way

The English are noble, the English are nice
And worth any other at double the price

And crossing the Channel one cannot say much
For the French or the Spanish. the Danish. or Dutch
The Germans are German, the Russians are Red
And the Greeks and Italians eat garlic in bed

The English are moral, the English are good
And clever and modest and misunderstood

Flanders & Swann


Wildfire In The West by The Elephant's Child


Those of you who are following the dreadful story of the California wildfires might be interested in Norman Maclean’s Young Men and Fire.  Norman Maclean (1902-1990) grew up in the Western Rocky Mountains of Montana. He worked for many years in logging camps and for the U.S. Forest Service before he began his academic career. He is the author of A River Runs Through It and Other Stories which he completed after his retirement from the University of Chicago in 1973.

On August 5, 1949, a crew of fifteen Smoke-jumpers, the U.S. Forest Service’s elite airborne firefighters, stepped into the sky above a remote forest fire in the Montana wilderness. Less than two hours after their jump, all but three of these men were dead or fatally burned. Exactly what happened in Mann Gulch that day has been obscured by years of grief and controversy.

Norman Maclean first saw the Mann Gulch fire as it still burned in mid August 1949, and even then he knew he would one day become part of its story. Maclean spent the last fourteen years of his life studying and reliving the fire.
Young Men and Fire is a story of Montana, of the ways of wildfires, firefighters and fire scientists, and especially of crew, young and proud, who”hadn’t learned to count the odds and to sense they might owe the universe a tragedy”. The story is also Maclean’s own, the story of a writer obsessed by a strange and human horror, unable to let the truth die with these young men.

The smokejumpers in Mann Gulch are trapped by a “blowup” a deadly explosion of flame and wind rarely encountered and little understood at the time.

A River Runs Through It is also very special. Maclean beginsIn our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. We lived at the junction of great trout rivers in western Montana, and our father was a Presbyterian minister and a fly fisherman who tied his own flies and taught others. He told us about Christ’s disciples being fishermen, and we were left to assume, as my brother and I did, that all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman.”

The Intellectual Climate of the Nation Today… by The Elephant's Child


The intellectual climate of the nation today came from the public schools, where almost every one of us was schooled in the work of the mind. We are a people who imagine that we are weighing important issues when we exchange generalizations and well-known opinions. We decide how to vote or what to buy according to whim or fancied self-interest, either of which is easily engendered in us by the manipulation of language, which we have neither the will nor the ability to analyze. We believe that we can reach conclusions without having the faintest idea of the difference between inferences and statements of fact, often without any suspicions that there are such things and that they are different. We are easily persuaded and repersuaded by what seems authoritative, without any notion of those attributes and abilities that characterize authority. We do  not notice elementary fallacies in logic; it doesn’t even occur to us to look for them; few of us are even aware that such things exist. We make no regular distinction between those kinds of things that can be known and objectively verified and those that can only be believed or not. Nor are we likely to examine, when we believe or not, the induced predispositions that may make us do the one or the other. We are easy prey.

—Richard Mitchell: The Graves of Academe

Fake News, Real News, and “Opinion” But What IS Opinion? by The Elephant's Child

The rise of opinion is one of the more striking success stories in the history of ideas. “Opinion” is the name for a belief or conclusion held with confidence but not necessarily substantiated by positive knowledge or proof. Opinions, then are distinguished by the strength with which they are held rather than by the authenticity with which their conclusions are demonstrable. …

In the beginning, “opinion” was a synonym for uncertainty—for a notion grounded in personal preference (rather than fact), and hence was thought likely to be the pathway to error. …

When Opinion went public, there was a crucial change in the prestige of all opinions. An individual’s opinion, naturally enough seemed flimsy and unreliable. For it has all the fallibility of that particular person, and was obviously tainted by that person’s ignorance or prejudice. “Public” Opinion, however had quite a different character, being the opinion of nobody in particular, but of everybody in general, its weaknesses were hard to define and its strength was enveloped in an aura of group wisdom. Did it not include the reasoned conclusions of the learned along with the commonsense intuitions of the untutored? Might it not hold the best of all realms of thought or feeling? …

By the late twentieth century there had come into being in the United States something which I will call “Big Opinion.” Just as large-scale organization, concentration of capital, and new technologies brought into being “Big Science,” so it was with the machinery of making, forming, shaping, testing, assessing, and organizing opinion. A whole new technology of polling and sampling became the basis of  prosperous industry. Opinion pollsters formed themselves into professional societies, they produced learned journals, and trade journals. At the same time the new professions of advertising and public relations (drawing every day on the products of this new industry) enlisted some of the best-educated, brightest, and most sophisticated minds in the nation. When opinion measuring and opinion making had become  big business, the power and prestige of Public Opinion had reached a new stage.

These are selected excerpts from the chapter titled “How Opinion Went Public,” in a book called “Democracy and Its Discontents” Reflections on Everyday America” by Daniel J. Boorstin (October 1, 1914 – February 28, 2004) who was an historian at the University of Chicago, and was appointed the twelfth Librarian of the United States Congress in 1975, and served until 1987. He has written many wonderful books, I especially liked three volumes titled “The Americans:” The Americans: The Colonial Experience, The Americans: The National Experience, and The Americans: The Democratic Experience. Look for him at the Library.

A Warning from Heather MacDonald by The Elephant's Child

macdonald-630x400Heather MacDonald, fearless scholar at the Manhattan Institute,  always does her homework and then some. She has a new book out, The Diversity Delusion, which argues that identity politics has taken over our universities and corrupted them thoroughly.

In a Fox News interview this week, she highlighted recent social justice campus trends.

“From a moment that a student steps on campus, a vast diversity bureaucracy tries to indoctrinate him with the idea that to read Shakespeare or Kant or Plato is to be the victim of life-threatening racism, to hate the monuments of western civilization, and to hate their alleged oppressors.” In December 2016, Breitbart News reported on students at the University of Pennsylvania who rallied to have a large portrait of William Shakespeare removed from the English department because he is a “white male.”

They are being taught to see sexism where none exists. As a female, you are taught to feel like you are the victim of rape culture, as a minority you’re taught to feel like you are the victim of ubiquitous systematic racism.

She argued that the harmful social justice politics of the universities are beginning to make their way out into the real world.

If a politician is denounced as a white supremacist for saying that we can’t ‘monkey around’ with our economic success and that is viewed as a legitimate accusation. When people are fired for challenging the feminist ideology as happened at Google, the identity politics that is poisoning the campus is spreading the world at large.

Wise Businesses Are Intent on Pleasing their Customers by The Elephant's Child

American business used to know that one did not play politics with the business. Businesses were intent on offering good service or good products to a wide variety of customers, all of whom had their own politics. The customers did not bring their political choices into the business, and did not hear about the choices of the business while they were deciding whether or not to make a purchase.

Whether the CEO of the business or the manager of the store donated to or volunteered for a campaign was their own concern. Nobody connected with the business wore campaign buttons or tee-shirts, and they tried not to appear where customers might see them and object. It was just considered the way to do business. What happened?

I’m not quite sure just what Colin Kaepernick was protesting with the “taking a knee” during the national anthem. Some reported that it was opposition to police shooting black citizens accidentally or on purpose, though statistics show clearly that more white men are shot than black men by police. In any case, other black football players followed suit, and there got to be many players kneeling. The NFL took some time to react at all, but soon noticed that the people who paid to watch a game, whether in person or online, didn’t react favorably about a bunch of protesting players. They had paid a hefty sum of money for their tickets, not to watch political posturing, and they were offended by the insult to the national anthem. But you know how that all played out. Kaepernick did not get signed on as a NFL lead quarterback. But these are pampered football players earning millions.

Nike, seller of athletic shoes made in Asian sweatshops, and sold for high prices decided for some unknown reason to build a new advertising campaign  “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything. (Nike swoosh) Just do it.” Uh huh.

A new report from Morning Consult reveals consumer opinions of Nike have shifted rapidly since announcing their new campaign with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Across nearly every demographic, perceptions of Nike’s brand have fallen, including among key consumer groups. 

The report features over 8,000 interviews conducted among American adults, including 1,694 interviews pre-campaign launch (8/26/18 – 9/3/18) and 5,481 interviews post-campaign launch (9/4/18 – 9/5/18). Additionally, Morning Consult conducted a study among 1,168 adults in the U.S. about Nike’s ad and the decision to choose Kaepernick as the face of the campaign.

Nike’s net favorability among consumers declined 34 points. Among younger generations, Nike users, African American and other key demographics favorability declined sharply. Before the announcement, 49 percent of Americans said they were certain or very likely to buy Nike products — dropped by 10 percent.

At Powerline, Steven Hayward did a special “week in pictures” just for Nike.

Of course everyone had a good time making fun of Nike, their business, and their shoes. Not so much their favorable ratings.

But it would seem that playing politics with your business is still not a good idea, perhaps even more so. Levi’s has jumped in with the gun control thing, as has Dick’s Sporting Goods. Silicon Valley is just beginning to grasp the problems they have started as worldwide reactions from governments are suggesting that regulation may well be necessary.

Americans are very touchy about freedom of speech, and freedom to go about their lives without someone else’s politics being shoved down their throats. You don’t attack other people’s patriotism. There are lots of unspoken rules that common sense should detect. Taking care to observe them is the way we manage, for the most part, to get along.

Heather MacDonald Takes on Academe and UCLA by The Elephant's Child

How unbelievably stupid! A major designed to make its participants less knowledgeable, less able to find work, less able to cope with the world, and less useful as a member of the population. I was an English major at a very good small college, with excellent professors who were in love with literature and wanted to pass that on to their students. The professor who taught Shakespeare was a noted Shakespearean scholar.

No wonder college students seem to believe that socialism is a better alternative to freedom. If you have a student headed to UCLA, you had better rethink that. You are wasting their time and your money.Send them to vocational school instead—there they’ll at least learn something.

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