American Elephants


There Are Some Conversations That Shake Up Your Ideas. This Is One of Them. by The Elephant's Child

You probably remember Charles Murray’s speech at Middlebury College back in March last year, that essentially turned into a riot. This video was made about a week after the embarrassing incident. I had never seen it before, and found it to be not only fascinating but a little frightening.

We had lots of similar embarrassing occasions on college campuses across the country since, but the events all have a similarity. Students have no understanding of the meaning of the free speech clause in the Constitution,  and are unprepared to hear speech with which they do not agree, Dr. Murray, a noted political scientist, was invited to speak at the campus by Middlebury Professor and Political Scientist Allison Stanger.

One of the first sources to report on the melee was The American Interest should you need a reminder of what transpired. The involved students should have been disciplined, suspended, or just sent home, because there was no excuse for such behavior. Of course, that didn’t happen, with the confused situation on campus discourse today.As the National Interest story says: “If students (and especially professors…) want to criticize an author, they should read what he has written first.” Clearly, academic rigor has deteriorated, along with majors in things like English and History.

This video was made about a week after the events at Middlebury, but I had not seen it before. The comments by Jonathan Haidt, a Professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business, and Frank Bruni, an op-ed columnist at the New York Times, are a fascinating discussion about the Middlebury Melee and the problems of higher education that brought it about, and the implications of the event. It’s the implications that are important.

Clearly, students had no idea what a political scientist does, nor what Dr. Murray had written about, nor why his writings should be read, nor why his studies are important. How many (mostly conservative) speakers can you think of who have been similarly badly treated on today’s college campuses or banned from speaking in the time since that event?

A college campus is not a “community” it is a campus. The reigning meme seems to be “diversity” but diversity of thought and ideas just doesn’t enter into it at all. The acceptable ideas are that diversity is about race, sex, ethnicity, and representation of groups deemed marginalized, but there are “norms” that exclude all sorts of people. Elite businesses and universities assume that diversity and inclusion (D&I) is not only a means to excellence, but an end in itself. No one should be allowed to question that  evident truth. Community should not be disturbed by disagreement. Richard Epstein remarks:

Having chosen its members, D&I champions next embrace a message of “fairness and protection to all regardless of gender, race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation.” But rarely do they face up to the conceptual ambiguities and practical tradeoffs that this grandiose statement conceals.

And here is Thomas Sowell:

Nothing so epitomizes the politically correct gullibility of our times as the magic word “diversity.” The wonders of diversity are proclaimed from the media, extolled in the academy and confirmed in the august chambers of the Supreme Court of the United States. But have you ever seen one speck of hard evidence to support the lofty claims?

Although diversity has become one of the leading buzzwords of our time, it has a history that goes back several generations. In the early twentieth century, the principle of geographic diversity was used to conceal bias against Jews in the admission of students to Harvard and other leading academic institutions.

“Diversity” oddly, does not include diversity of thought or belief. Since there is little diversity among the administration and faculty of most universities, it should not be surprising that both campus and workplace are now considered “communities”, and since communities are supposed to be peaceful places where everyone is truly communal, the observation that they are becoming communes is obviously true, but unacceptable as a comment.

The tech industry, in particular, seems to be a source for much of the groupthink. Businesses seem to believe that they can become advocates for correct political thought, since as Hillary says so often, the places that did not vote for her were clearly ignorant deplorables who did not recognize correct enlightened ideas. Is this all a result of the idea that everyone should get a medal or a gold star and no one should be excluded? Of supervised play, and computers and social media where those who have improper thoughts or words can be blocked or unfriended? If you think about that process, it bears a striking similarity to what is happening on college campuses and in the workplace.

Our public schools are anxious to get all the kids computerized, as that seems to be the necessary element in education for the future. But maybe it isn’t. Maybe that’s why thoughtful people tell college students to avoid any class that has “studies” after its name. Maybe the idea of reducing or eliminating competition is faulty. Maybe everyone shouldn’t get a gold star. Maybe Nancy Pelosi’s call for open borders as opposed to any ideal of  “merit” in admission of immigrants is totally haywire. Canada and Australia admit immigrants by considering what skills or benefits they bring to their new country, much like the most selective schools do, or used to do. The video isn’t very long, but there’s a lot of food for thought there.

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Hollywood Celebrates Hollywood by The Elephant's Child

There was an award show last night, one of those things where Hollywood celebrates itself and gives itself little statues to brag about. The female celebrities, who are famous because some people know their names or faces, wear borrowed gowns to preen on the “red carpet” in varying states of undress, dresses that aren’t all that becoming.

In any case, I didn’t watch. I wasn’t interested. I haven’t seen any of the shows that were on last year, so I don’t care who wins what. I’ve pretty much given up on Hollywood movies. I read a lot, and there are all sorts of good stories out there, but they don’t seem interested in good stories, but only in ones they made before, that made money last time. Who needs that? Turns out a lot of people agreed with me, at least they weren’t interested either. Lowest interest in the Oscars in history. Nobody watched.  This might be the reason:



February 22 is George Washington’s Real Birthday, Not Some Ginned Up “President’s Day” by The Elephant's Child

Imagine, you just turned 43 years old, and suddenly you find yourself Commander in Chief of a ragtag American army, such as it was. The battles of Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill had already been fought when Washington arrived in Massachusetts, and had established that the British could not break out of Boston. Once Washington placed the captured British cannon on Dorchester Heights, the British evacuated by sea.

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Washington had been named Commander in Chief by the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia in June 1775. He was forty-three years old. There was not yet any American army for him to command, only the militias ringing Boston, but the delegates of the increasingly rebellious colonies were seized by fury for action and for war. “Oh that I was a soldier,” wrote John Adams, a radical lawyer from Massachusetts. “I will be. I am reading military books. Everybody must and will, and shall be a soldier.”

Adams never became a soldier, but Washington had already been one. He had served in the Virginia militia during the French and Indian War twenty years earlier, rising to the rank of colonel. In his old age, Adams would describe Washington’s selection as a political compromise—a southern commander, to lead what would at first be a mostly New England force—engineered by congressional wise-men, including Adams. But Congress did not have many other officers to choose from, Israel Putnam, of the Connecticut militia, was, at 57, too old. Artemas Ward, the commander of the Massachusetts militia, was incompetent and suffering from the stone.
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The state begins in violence. However lofty the ideals of a new country or a new regime, it encounters opposition, as most new regimes and countries do, it must fight. If it loses, its ideals join the long catalogue of unfulfilled aspirations.

At six o’clock on the evening of July 9, 1776, the soldiers of the main American army, stationed in New York, were paraded and read the Declaration of Independence. General George Washington, Commander in Chief, hoped this “important event” would inspire them, though when some soldiers joined a mob in pulling down a statue of George III, he deplored their “want of order.” Over the next two months the American army and its commander, orderly or not, were unable to offer much in defense of the Declaration’s sentiments. …

During the summer, the British assembled, on Staten Island and in the harbor, the largest expeditionary force of the eighteenth century: ten ships of the line, twenty frigates, and 32,000 regular troops. On August 22, most of those troops began moving to Gravesend Bay on Long Island, in what is now southwest Brooklyn. Anticipating a possible landing there, Washington had posted more than a third of his own force of 19,000 men on Brooklyn Heights, and on a line of hills to the south. But he expected the British to attack him on the harbor side of his position, where they could bring the guns of their ships into play. On the morning of the 27th, the British slipped a force through the hills five miles away in the opposite direction and hit the American front line from before and behind.
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These are excerpts from Richard Brookheiser’s Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington, which he calls a moral biography, which has two purposes: to explain its subject, and to shape the minds and hearts of those who read it—by showing how a great man navigated politics and a life as a public figure. Brookheiser says “If Washington’s contemporaries were too willing to be awed, we are not willing enough. …We have lost the conviction that ideas require men to bring them to earth, and that great statesmen must be great men. Great statesmen are rare enough in their world. We believe they are mythical, like unicorns.” They are not.

According to recent studies, our kids don’t know anything about George Washington, nor do most adults. There is some speculation that the problem is big fat books. People are more apt to read thin books that don’t scare them about the time involved. Answering that need is a new biography by the great British historian Paul Johnson. The paperback is only $8.71, and a hardback is available.

ADDENDUM: The picture above is a forensic reconstruction of Washington as a General, and Commander in Chief. Getting a likeness is hard. You get one thing just a little off, and you have lost the resemblance. Washington’s skin was pale, we are told, and he burned in the sun. I don’t think the tricorn hat gives even as much protection as a baseball cap, so I’m sure he appeared much more weathered, with squint lines (no sunglasses). His real hair was reddish. But nasty Stuart Gilbert did him real dirt down through the ages by overemphasizing the distortions of false teeth, and getting a poor likeness. Remember that, every time you look at a one dollar bill. It was deliberate.



Today is the Real George Washington’s Birthday by The Elephant's Child
February 22, 2018, 1:19 am
Filed under: Art, History, Military, Politics | Tags: , ,

That’s why we left the header up for the last two days. The picture at the top is a great deal more what George Washington looked like than the familiar image on the dollar bill. That was a dirty trick played by portrait artist Gilbert Stuart. In the days before photography, we had to rely on portraits of varying expertise done by those who chose to be artists, not all were particularly successful at it.

Portraits are hard. if you have ever had a portrait taken at a photo studio, you received a sheet of proofs from which  to choose the one that pleased you most. The you that you are most familiar with is the one in the mirror. Unless you make a lot of faces at yourself, there are a lot of expressions that you do that you are unaware of. Others may look at the proofs and choose a completely different one, and they are all you. In Washington’s day you were entirely dependent on the artist, and for the most part most people didn’t have a bunch of mirrors. And different people will see different things. A face is mobile and expressive. I post the following piece every year on Washington’s birthday, because I really hate the Gilbert Stuart portrait and believe, with a great deal of justification, that it was a dirty trick. I want you all to believe in the George Washington shown here, and in the header. Believe in the life mask by Jean Antoine Houdon, which is the most likely correct.



Alienating Young Men: Jordan Peterson by The Elephant's Child

This one is important, and short. All this gender nonsense has been growing and is purely evil. It’s all trying to tear our society apart in the name of politics: feminism, white supremacy, race, diversity, and so on. I don’t understand what they are trying to do. We’ve had a celebration of gender dysphoria, which is a mental illness related to other kinds of dysphorias. They are teaching little children that changing genders is normal and real. There are even people who have come to believe that one of their limbs is bad and must be removed. Some few attempt the removal themselves, with unfortunate results.

The American people come in a wide variety of colors. The majority are more or less white, but that does not become “white supremacy.” Feminism had some reality when women wanted to be recognized as individuals and to have the right to vote. Congress passed the law in 1919 and it became a reality in 1920. Do we have to have some kind of young men’s liberation movement to get the trendy people to stop beating up on them?

There is something deeply, oddly, wrong in our country at present. In universities we have young people demanding that they should not have to hear ideas with which they do not agree—and what is a university and why are you there? Women are marching around with vulgar signs in vagina costumes. A teacher in public school announces that any young men who go into the military are dummies, lacking in intelligence and ability. Female teachers are having sex with their young male students, and getting sent to prison for it. Think about the protests and demonstrations you can remember from the past year or so. They make no sense. Where does this come from?



There are Some Serious Objections to Obama’s Presidential Center. by The Elephant's Child

Back in mid-October, I posted a picture of former President Obama’s proposed presidential library in Chicago. It was to be built on the South Side of Chicago, and to do some neighborhood revitalization as well as be a park, a hub for artists like Springsteen, Chance, and Spike Lee. A lagoon would have paddle boats and skating in the winter, and Michelle wants a sledding hill, something she always wanted as a kid.

It is apparently not going to be a presidential library, but a celebration of Obama, and the papers and records will be somewhere else. The tall building looks like a takeout bag for a Chinese dinner, but I don’t know who the architect is. It has morphed from  a library into a 20 acre “private center.” The supposition is that the city will quickly approve it, since Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel used to be Obama’s Chief of Staff.

Well, not so fast. Behind the scenes, a heated battle is taking place.

Here’s our bottom line. If the Obama Foundation wishes to construct this center on Chicago’s South Side, that’s fine, but not on parkland held in public trust. The University of Chicago, which orchestrated the winning bid for the project, has plenty of land on the South Side that they could and should use. Instead, they’ve been adamant since day one that they must have historic public parkland for the purpose,” Charles Birnbaum, president and founder of D.C.- based nonprofit, the Cultural Landscape Foundation, told the Washington Examiner in a written statement Saturday.

There are other groups: Friends of the Parks, Jackson Park Watch, Openlands, National Association for Olmsted Parks, Save the Midway, Landmarks Illinois, and Preservation Chicago, all of whom have raised serious concerns about the project. Also 200 faculty members from Obama’s former employer, the University of Chicago, issued a formal letter stating its opposition to the presidential center being built at this location.

The Obama Foundation Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. will have to get approval from the Environmental Protection Agency under the National Environmental Policy Act and this is now the Trump administration’s EPA.

The problem is that this is historic parkland, originally designed by Fredrick Law Olmsted, Sr., and Calvert Vaux (New York’s Central Park fame), designed in 1871 and Olmsted wrote in 1895 that the Museum of Science and Industry was intended to be the only “dominating object of interest in the park. There was another Section 106 compliance review in 2012, and officials decided it should not be touched. They said the remaining defining characteristics such as the overall plan depicted on the 1905 map must be respected.

The Obama Foundation has made dozens of changes including road closures within the park, a revamping of the landscaping, and a redesign of the main building which is now 23 stories tall. Since the presidential papers are to go somewhere else, the 23 story building must have some other purpose, like classrooms for teaching community organizing or for instruction on the effort to ‘fundamentally transform the United States of America’. That one didn’t work out so well.

If this seems like a continuation of the theme of power and how it corrupts, you are correct.



“Speaking Facts in Polite Company” Scandalized the Left by The Elephant's Child

Ahhh! The Agony of the Left. President Trump accurately described some of the troubled countries of the world, though apparently not in the words claimed, and the Left erupted in fury, attempting to attach the probably crude designation of a country to the citizens thereof and thereby make a moderate insult into a racist one. Or something like that. Anyway it was enough to occupy the media’s hours, because they don’t seem to know enough about the real world to do actual news. What do they teach in journalism schools these days anyway?

The most accurate and effective riposte came from Andrew Klavan, which is great fun as well as being completely accurate.

Nothing scandalizes a leftist like the truth. Point out that women and men are different, that black Americans commit a disproportionate amount of violent crime, that most terrorist acts are committed by Muslims, and the Left leaps to its collective feet in openmouthed shock, like Margaret Dumont after a Groucho Marx wisecrack. This is racism! This is sexism! This is some sort of phobia! I’m shocked, shocked to find facts being spoken in polite company!

No one is really shocked, of course. This is simply a form of bullying. The Left has co-opted our good manners and our good will in order to silence our opposition to their bad policies. The idea is to make it seem impolite and immoral to mention the obvious. …

Here in the states, the First Amendment has so far allowed old-fashioned American loudmouths to fight the system whenever they could find ways around our monolithic corporate media. But the Empire of Lies is quick to strike back. Google/YouTube now stands charged by multiple accusers of singling out conservative voices for censorship, “fact-checking,” and demonetization. Hidden-camera videos released by Project Veritas this week show Twitter employees conspiring to “shadow ban” conservatives on their system. On campus, intelligent conservative speakers of good will like Ben Shapiro, Charles Murray, and Cristina Hoff-Somers have faced violent protests meant to shut them up.

No person of importance on the right seeks to silence anyone on the left. The Left, on the other hand, is broadly committed to ostracizing, blacklisting, and even criminalizing right-wing speech.

The Manhattan Contrarian takes on the same general problem—the utter insanity of the Left, quite effectively. And calls out the “Yale psychiatrist” who in contraindication to the rules of her supposed profession feels free to diagnose  someone she has never met, or goofy columnists who don’t even need any qualifications whatsoever.

Scott Adams. creator of Dilbert sums it all up nicely by noting that President Trump has earned the “Highest Presidential Approval Level of all Time.” The most important Presidential Approval Poll is the Small Business Optimism Index, which has hit an all-time high.

The lesson of 2017 is that better policies make for better economic results,said Duggan. “The evidence is overwhelming that small business owners pay close attention to Washington, and that federal policies affect their decisions on whether to hire, whether to invest, whether to grow inventory, and whether to seek capital.”




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