American Elephants


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.

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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.



Mindless Protests Have Cost Universities Dearly, Now It’s Football’s Turn. by The Elephant's Child


The news today seems to be entirely about professional sports teams protesting the national anthem because—well, that’s where it gets a little confusing.  I’m not a professional sports fan, and usually pay no attention, so forgive me if I get some of this wrong. Apparently it all began with Colin Kaepernick,  formerly a quarterback with the SF 49’rs, who took to “taking a knee” (two knees is religious and bad, but one knee is a protest?) to protest the National Anthem, because of the oppression of blacks?  That didn’t go over very well, but his winning streak for the 49’rs didn’t last and he’s now a “free agent” which seems to be pro-sports speak for out of a job.

This young man is worth some $22 million, and had a salary of  $10,400,000. which doesn’t sound too oppressed.  So he is obviously concerned about other black people.

We just had a black president and first lady,  for two terms. We have had black Supreme Court justices for years beginning with Thurgood Marshall.  Currently Clarence Thomas serves, but he is a conservative, so he doesn’t count. He is regularly called an “Uncle Tom” and not included in the Smithsonian Black American History Museum. The Congressional Black Caucus currently has 45 members, is described by Wikipedia as a”racial organization,” and you have to be black to belong. There are 6 black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and one of them is a woman.  Blacks are very active in the movie industry, and Morgan Freeman not only appears in every movie, but is right there whenever a deep voice is needed.

There are black professors in most universities, black novelists appear on the bestseller lists, black historians, black chefs (I’ve recently been getting Stubbs slow-cooker sauce, and recommend it), black fashion designers, black artists, and our music world would be poverty stricken indeed were it not for the contributions of black musicians. Black economists have added immeasurably to our understanding of how economies work — Tom Sowell has a particular genius for explaining things in an uncomplicated way, without jargon, that quickly makes sense, and Walter Williams brings a libertarian approach, but both are called Uncle Toms. Easier to insult than to emulate.

Some believe the Black Lives Matter claims, but their Marxist propaganda does not stand up to actual statistics. Cops shoot far more white men than black. More blacks are incarcerated because they commit more crimes. In general the police are trying to keep the peace and stop criminals from harming others, at great risk to themselves. There are some bad cops, some unjust court cases, and some wrong people blamed for a crime they did not commit. That is not the norm.

Now if you want to count comparable numbers, maybe it is unfair, I haven’t counted. It seems that there is no field that is not wide open to those who strive. On the other hand, our schools are not doing so well. Some schools that serve black neighborhoods are failing the kids, despite, in many cases, spending much more than other schools per pupil. That’s what Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education is trying to fix by promoting charter schools, school choice, and insisting that schools are responsive to the needs of students and the expectations of parents. Reports from our universities reveal that the kids cannot write coherent sentences and whole papers are beyond them. But that is not black kids but all kids. The schools apparently decided that in an era of keyboards, it was no longer necessary to teach writing—in the case of cursive writing, and in the case of putting words together in a way to actually make sense. The demise of cursive writing is unfortunate, for one of the best tricks for remembering something is writing it down, and writing it down at length is important so that you can go back and look at it later and see where you have been stupid.

Former president Obama clearly made race a feature of his administration. He vowed to make trouble for his successor, remaining in Washington to supervise the efforts of his OFA, which seems to be behind much of the attacks on President Trump. The New York Post explains how Obama is funding the anti-Trump resistance, with some funny business with the mortgage crisis settlements, and an improper, maybe unconstitutional, slush fund. He certainly managed to make race a much more prominent problem during his administration.

I don’t think knowledge, or skills, or education, or ability, or ambition has anything to do with the color of anyone’s skin. To the astonishment of most university students today, America was not the only nation that once had slavery. Slavery was common all over the world since long before recorded history. “Native American” nations were warring with and enslaving one another long before Europeans arrived. In the South there were blacks who owned slaves. Slavers from the Mediterranean raided the British isles to capture slaves. The African slave trade mostly went to the sugar islands and South America. America remains unusual in having fought a civil war to end slavery and in making successive laws to stamp out the remnants. Look to the Islamic countries where slavery is still common.

Sunday was a day for sports team protest. They claimed to be protesting President Trump for suggesting that they should be fired for protesting the National Anthem, when so many have fought and died for our country. It was the anthem they insulted, and the country, and the veterans. Owners and coaches may not realize the animosity that our people feel when their country and their flag is insulted. There’s a reason why the Emmys had the fewest viewers ever. There’s a reason why some stadiums are half empty. How about you? Are you boycotting anyone?



Hollywood Goes All Political, Not Exactly Surprising by The Elephant's Child
January 10, 2017, 7:52 pm
Filed under: Bureaucracy, Entertainment, Humor, Media Bias, Movies, Progressivism, Television

meryl-streep

Meryl Streep was honored at the Golden Globes award ceremony with some sort of lifetime award from the movie industry to which she responded with a lengthy but somewhat incoherent rant against Donald Trump. She seemed to believe that any celebrity who was not born in this country would be subject to deportation under the Trump administration. Nobody, including Mr. Trump, objects to people born in other countries, even Canada and/or Israel. Where did she get that silly idea? There are objections to illegal aliens—that is people who have evaded our laws by entering the country illegally. An alien is someone who’s a citizen of another country and owes allegiance to that country, or people who have illegally overstayed their visas. It’s one of those matters of law.

In his anxiety to create a larger share of Democrat voters in U.S. elections, Mr. Obama has overridden our immigration laws with executive orders, because he assumes that illegals who vote will vote Democratic because they got into this country with his help.

Ms Streep seemed to include reporters, or the press, in her rant, but as far as I know no one has ever suggested deporting reporters. However Ms. Streep gave a plug for the Committee to Protect Journalists. The advocacy director at CPJ said their mission was defending the right of journalists to report the news. (If they would actually do that, they would please everybody). As of yesterday afternoon, the Committee had received about 1.000 donations totaling more than $80,000. How they protect Journalists remains a mystery.

There is no other industry in the entire world that so celebrates itself with award shows, and festivals, and a whole season dedicated to awards they give themselves—from October through February— and each has its own little statuette. The awards for movies are • the Academy Awards • The Golden Globe Awards • the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards (S.A.G.) • the Emmys • the People’s Choice • Hollywood Film Awards • MTV Music Awards •  Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards. There are as many or more music awards. There are other awards for each of the categories of film workers, like makeup artists. Then there are the film festivals which number in the thousands, from Cannes and Sundance across almost every country in the world. Even Turkey has about ten. It’s a wonder they have any time to actually make movies.

Ms Streep’s rant concerned movie actors, reporters, and celebrities in general. Celebrities are people who are famous for being well known. It helps a lot if they are young and pretty, but the young isn’t important if they are well-known. Apparently a lot of actors appear at the awards shows to be seen in the Red Carpet photos which show a lot of often unbecoming gowns in various states of undress. If you show enough boobs in an unusual display, you may eventually become “well known.” Here are 148 shots from the Red Carpet at the Golden Globes. Way more interesting than the awards, or aging actresses rants.

ADDENDUM: The Hollywood Reporter reports that the California Legislature has passed a law requiring reporters to omit or remove age or birth date of actors’ profiles on request. They added that it is probably unconstitutional anyway.



Who Is Donald Trump? The Billionaire New York Businessman? by The Elephant's Child

static2.politico.com

John O’Sullivan is a prominent British conservative political journalist who was once speechwriter for Margaret Thatcher, and is an editor for National Review. Can’t vote here, not a citizen, but a visitor. He remarked “But it’s obvious that this election cycle is about Trump rather than about the other candidates. He has come from nowhere and surged ahead of the pack. My suspicion is that he didn’t originally expect to be a contender for long and was surprised when he established a strong lead. But he overcame his surprise and began to do things candidates do – put out position papers, etc. – while sticking to his unique style of campaigning, namely riffing entertainingly on the day’s news, jabbing opponents with sharp verbal sticks, and treating his audiences like neighborhood friends.” I thought that a particularly sharp observation.

Holman Jenkins said “They say they like Mr. Trump because he tells it like it is, except he doesn’t. They say he is politically incorrect, but he is factually incorrect.”
“The Donald may be as surprised as anybody by the way his campaign has taken fire — his utterances certainly suggest so.”

He likes riding the wave and may be unable or unwilling to get off. He launched this adventure purely to accrue value in his lifelong personal brand-building pursuit.

That doesn’t mean he ever seriously thought about being president, having to do the job. And one way that might become apparent is when, after winning the nomination and celebrating his personal triumph, he turns to the GOP and its donor armies to see what they are willing to do to win him the presidency. If it’s not as much as he would like—if he would actually have to fulfill his promise to finance his own honest-to-goodness presidential campaign, which could cost $1 billion—that’s when things get hinky.

That’s a second observation that Trump was just fooling around with a campaign, and then people took him seriously, so he’s going to see how far it can go.

Have you ever known a real con-man? I have. He was, for a time a new manager in the department where I worked. Everybody liked him because he was so personable. They thought he was great, but one day one of his stories touched on something I actually knew about. It was a complete and deliberate lie, for no reason at all.  It wasn’t much longer before he departed, fired for some irregular problems with his expense accounts. That was my first hustler. It’s not comfortable to have been taken for a fool, even though I wasn’t alone.

From Bloomberg Business: 2/26/2016

Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., the casino operator founded by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, emerged from bankruptcy court protection on Friday and is now a subsidiary of billionaire Carl Icahn’s Icahn Enterprises LP.
Trump opened the Taj Mahal in 1990. The parent company continually struggled with debt, and Trump Entertainment filed for bankruptcy court protection in September 2014. The filing coincided with a protracted downturn in betting in Atlantic City that led four of the city’s 12 casinos to close. It was the Trump casino businesses’ fourth time in bankruptcy.

From Jim Geraghty at National Review: “What if Trump Doesn’t Have Billions?” “There’s a good chance we’ll never see his tax returns.

Trump told Hugh Hewitt on his radio show a year ago that he would release his tax return shortly, as soon as they were completed. A few years ago he refused to release “un-redacted tax returns, even when it could help him win a $5 billion libel lawsuit against a New York Times reporter. Forbes magazine estimated his net worth after 80 interviews and many resources as less than half of what he claimed last year. Others with direct knowledge of his finances think his net worth is closer to $150 -$250 million. Still comfortably wealthy but not a billionaire.

Trump said that was a lie and sued, lost in court, appealed, and lost again. The case dragged on because he would not turn over the tax returns. So the likelihood that they will be released to the public is slim.

Bloomberg Politics, February 24, 2016 “A Look Inside Trump’s Global Deals Exposes Trouble in Many Spots” In Panama, condominium owners are trying to fire him.  In Canada and Turkey, his business partners want to cut him loose. In Scotland and Ireland, he claims to be making millions on his golf courses, but so far is losing money. In Toronto the Toronto Tower Owners want Trump out.

“Donald Trump says his organization is in talks on more than 100 deals, 85 percent of them outside the U.S., and that if elected president he will bring to international relations the savvy he has demonstrated as a global deal maker.”

The article suggests that an examination of his operations shows that while he has made millions selling his name, he has chosen inexperienced or questionable partners, and there are legal conflicts amid claims of broken promises and empty apartments. Trump disputes the claims.

Yahoo Finance 10/19/2014 “12 Donald Trump businesses that no longer exist:” Also see “Donald Trump’s Record of Business Failures and Bluster” 2/16/2016, PJ Media.

  1. Trump Mortgage (announced 2006, closed 2007)
  2. Trump Steaks (2007-?)
  3. Trump Vodka (2006-2011)
  4. Trump: The Game (1989-1990, 2005)
  5. Trump Ice (Shut down 2010)
  6. Go Trump.com (2006-2007)
  7. Trump Magazine
  8. The New Jersey Generals (1983-1985)
  9. Trump Airlines (1989-1992)
  10. Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. 4 bankruptcies (1991, 2004, 2009, 2014)
  11. Trump Tower Tampa (2006-2007)
  12. Trump University (2005 -2011) Current lawsuit for fraud

“Trump and the Rise of the Unprotected” by Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal, 2/25/2016

I don’t know. Donald Trump seems to me to be a hustler. Too many lies, too much Big talk. Everything is going to be Great!, Beautiful! He knows how to do that. He knows how to fix that. But he never tells us how, or who is going to pay for it and how. There are some really big problems in the world and we have no hint about how Trump might address them.



R.I.P. Mr. Spock by The Elephant's Child
February 27, 2015, 5:45 pm
Filed under: Entertainment, Movies, Pop Culture, Television | Tags: , ,

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Leonard Nimoy, who we knew and loved as Mr. Spock, pointy-eared and always logical, died today in his Los Angeles home. He was 83.



Happy Constitution Day! by American Elephant
September 17, 2014, 3:23 pm
Filed under: Conservatism, History, Pop Culture, Television | Tags: , , ,

I’ve known the Preamble of the Constitution by heart since I was a little kid because of Schoolhouse Rocks, which used to come on in between Saturday Morning Cartoons–so they had a captive audience. Great Way to introduce your kids to our founding document. Can you recite the Preamble by heart? If not, you probably didn’t grow up with Schoolhouse rocks. Try learning the chorus. And teach it to your kids.




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