American Elephants


Just What Is The “Office Of The President Of The United States?” by The Elephant's Child

Reposted from 2010.

When George Washington was elected President, there were so many questions. A Republic was something completely new to the Americans.  What they knew was monarchy, and a very opulent monarchy at that.  They definitely didn’t want to go back to the pomp and circumstance of England.  The new office of the President of the United States needed importance, respect, dignity and what exactly? The people did not rebel against a King in order to establish a new monarchy.Congress insisted on a salary of $25,000, a huge sum for the time.  Washington accepted it reluctantly, but he spent nearly $2,000 of it on liquor and wine for entertaining.  He had, of course managed an army and a plantation.  In fact, Mount Vernon had more staff than his presidency did.

“Washington was keenly aware that whatever he did would become a precedent for the future. How often should he meet with the public? How accessible should he be?  Could he have private dinners with friends?  Should he make a tour of the new states?”  He sought advice from those closest to him, including his vice-president, John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, his Secretary of the Treasury.  The only state occasions that any of them were familiar with were those of European monarchies.

“Hamilton thought that most people were ‘prepared for a pretty high tone in the demeanor of the Executive,’ but they probably would not accept as high a tone as was desirable.  “Notions of equality,” he said, were “yet…too general and too strong” for the president to be properly distanced from the other branches of the government.” Gordon Wood tells of the dilemmas.

“When Washington appeared in public, bands sometimes played “God Save the King.” In his public pronouncements the president referred to himself in the third person.  His dozens of state portraits were all modeled on those of European monarchs.”

We can be truly grateful that Washington was so aware that he was establishing precedent, and so careful of what he said and did.  He was setting an example, and everything he did was intended to hold the new nation together, to form a more perfect union.

One simple problem was what to call the president.  John Adams had discussed the problem with his colleagues in Massachusetts.  They called their governor “His Excellency”: should not the president have a higher title?  Adams thought only something like ‘His Highness’ or ‘His Most Benign Highness’ would answer.  Washington was said to have initially favored “His High Mightiness, the President of the United States and Protector of Their Liberties.” The Dutch leaders of the States-General of the United Provinces called themselves “Their High Mightinesses” and they were leaders of a Republic.”  Madison managed to get his fellow congressmen to vote for the simple republican title “President of the United States.” And that was that.

Washington was relieved when the title question was settled.  But “he still was faced with making the institution of the presidency strong and energetic.” In fact, said Gordon Wood, “the presidency is the powerful office it is in large part because of Washington’s initial behavior.”

Gordon S. Wood: Empire of Liberty; A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815



Ten Is A Nice Round Number! by The Elephant's Child
From 2008: The More Things Change The More They Stay the Same

Why are lists of ten popular? Some factoids to keep one sensible.

  1. “Global Warming” hysteria was born and has its entire existence in predictions of future temperatures by computer models; models that have been unable to predict current temperature.
  2. Al Gore and the IPCC were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize, but it was not a science prize, it was the peace prize.
  3. There are no requirements whatsoever to be an ‘environmentalist’. There are more requirements to be a leaf blower or a dishwasher.
  4. Increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere follow increases in temperature, sometimes by as much as 500 or 600 years. Cause must precede the event.
  5. ‘Organic’ is a special term that may be used only for produce that is grown with manure as a fertilizer, and poisonous pyrethrums as a pesticide. It is a marketing ploy, not a guide to health or nutrition.
  6. The rich may get richer, as when Bill Gates or Warren Buffet earn more; but the poor do not get poorer. Zero remains zero.
  7. “The poor”may always be with us, but over time, they are not the same people.
  8. Ignorance of the past leaves one open to complete deception in the present and the future.
  9. The world takes particular notice of the flaws of America because we hang them out in public for all to see and comment on.
  10. History clearly teaches us that individual liberty, the essence of America, must be constantly defended from the encroachment of the state.


Debunking the Palestine Lie! by The Elephant's Child

There Really Was a Little Ice Age, and It Was Very, Very Cold. by The Elephant's Child
January 2, 2010, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Environment, Junk Science | Tags: , ,

Have you ever heard of The Great Frost? In France they called it Le Grande Hiver. On the 6th of January in 1709 people across Europe awoke to find that the temperature had plummeted.  The temperature stayed down for three long weeks, there was a brief thaw, and then the temperature went down again, and stayed there.

From Scandinavia  to Italy, everything turned to ice.  Lakes and rivers froze, the sea froze.  The soil froze to a depth of a meter or more.  Livestock died in their barns from the cold.  Chickens’ combs froze and fell off.  Trees exploded. Travelers froze to death on the roads.

The painting above, by Gabriele Bella (1733-99) is of a portion of a lagoon in Venice, frozen over, with Venetians unsure of how to cope with this remarkable event.

Three months of deadly cold  meant a year of famine and food riots.  In Switzerland hungry wolves came right into the villages.  The Baltic froze so completely that people could walk across the ice as late as April.  In the Mediterranean, sailors died from the cold aboard English men-of-war.

In France,  bread froze so hard it took an axe to cut it.  According to a canon from Beaune in Burgundy, “travelers died in the countryside, livestock in the stables, wild animals in the woods.  Nearly all the birds died, wine froze in barrels and public fires were lit to warm the poor.”

In the spring the cold was replaced by worsening food shortages.  Authorities forced the rich to provide soup kitchens.  By the summer, there were reports of starving people in the fields “eating grass like sheep.”  More than a million died from cold or starvation.

Then there was “eighteen-hundred and froze-to-death.” That was the “year without summer” in America, or 1816.  Severe summer climate abnormalities destroyed crops in Northern Europe, Eastern Canada and the Northeast United States.  It is attributed to low solar activity combined with the a series of volcanic eruptions from 1812 to 1814, capped by a huge eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia. There was widespread famine in China.

In America farmers, wiped out in New England, struck out for the richer soils of the Midwest.  The “Year Without a Summer” accounted for much of the settlement of the Upper Midwest — which was then the Northwest Territory — but the effects of the cold were far more widespread than that.

If you remember Dr. Michael Mann’s “hockey-stick” graph that has caused so much trouble, you will remember that it was given that name because the record of temperatures moved along in a pretty steady state like the handle of a hockey stick before suddenly shooting up in drastic warming in the 20th century.  I say “trouble” because the UN’s IPCC based much of its assessment of the climate on that particular graph.  And that is part of what proved to be so fraudulent in the climate scandal called “ClimateGate.”

The hockey-stick graph had already been completely discredited when mathematician Stephen McIntyre demonstrated that the math didn’t work; but until the exposure of the ClimateGate emails and code fraud no one was admitting that it was hooey.  The culprits at Hadley CRU were trying to eliminate the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age from history, and profiting professionally and monetarily at the expense of science, their peers, the world’s governments and the world’s taxpayers.  Governments have a lot invested in the income that might be incoming from cap-and-trade schemes and fees and taxes.  They will not give up easily.

Science students who spend all their time in the lab, may be unaware of Viking settlements in Greenland — beginning  around 972 AD — or be unfamiliar with the Norse Eddas or Chaucer or the writings of  someone like William Derham, the Rector of Upminster— a short ride north-east of London — who had been checking his thermometer and barometer three times a day since 1687.  Others in Europe  recorded their observations.  Ships captains documented the weather in their logs on a daily basis, and those logs are proving to be an amazing resource for scientists who are looking for more detail of the history of climate.

Al Gore might take note that cold is far, far worse than hot weather.



Wise Words From a Nobel Laureate by The Elephant's Child
July 29, 2009, 7:47 pm
Filed under: Health Care, Progressivism, Statism | Tags: , ,

Economist Greg Mankiw — whose blog I recommend unreservedly — posted this comment by the Nobel laureate Ken Arrow:

Oh, why health costs increase? The basic reason why health costs increased is that health care is a good thing! Because today there is a lot more you can do! Consider all these expenses that are diagnostic. Cat scans, X-rays, MRIs and now the proton-powered whatever-it-is. Something that is the size of a football field, cost $50 million, and has all sorts of diagnostic powers. A lot of these technologies clearly reveal things that would not be revealed otherwise. There’s no question about it. Diagnostics have improved. Technology has improved. You know, sending things through your blood stream to help in operations, instead of cutting you open. It’s incredible. But these things are costly. But for older people longevity is increasing by a month each year. Now, whether that creates other problems with retirement and social security is another question. But, nevertheless, preserving life is a good thing.

The Obama administration seems to have forgotten what health care is all about.  They think it is about power, and getting control of something that voters cannot do without.  It certainly is not about preserving life.  Free abortions are on the list, rationing care for the old folks is on the list, and (Page 354, Section 1177)  Government will RESTRICT enrollment of Special needs people.  I’d sure like to hear them explain that one.



Book notes: What do you read over and over? by The Elephant's Child
April 8, 2009, 8:48 pm
Filed under: Entertainment, Freedom, History, Humor, Literature | Tags: , ,

How could I resist a picture that combines a yellow lab with a book?  I want to talk about books and reading.  In particular, about the kind of book that you get lost in; and the kind of book that you want to read and re-read, over and over.  Those are fairly rare.

There are, of course, thrillers that you cannot put down, speeding through the pages to learn how it turns out.  They can be absorbing and fun, but once you have found out what happens, it is spoiled for a second reading, for the suspense is all that was there. Thrillers often are inflicted with wooden characters, improbable situations and are acceptable only because the author manages his plot and suspense well.

What have you ever read that has it all?  Fully developed characters, fascinating detail, believable situations, and you want to read them over and over.

There are the books that are “should” books, those that conventional wisdom says you should have read.  Many of them you probably read in high school: The Scarlet Letter, Hamlet, Macbeth, Red Badge of Courage and 1984, for example.  And there are lots that you should read to appreciate milestones in literature and the influence that literature has had on people through the ages. But, assuming you went on to become an adult reader, are those books the ones that gave you the most pleasure?

My favorites are Patrick O’Brien’s series of the Royal Navy adventures of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin.  There are 20 books in the series, and I have read them all over and over.  The characters are clearly defined in the first chapter of the first book, and you are hooked. The books are dense with science and action right out of the pages of  the real captain’s logs of the Royal Navy in the early 19th century. I have read them all at least 7 or 8 times.  I loved the movie of Master adn Commander as well, though the movie combines episodes from several books.

Then there is Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles, a story of a classical hero in the age of the Renissance, a series of 5 books, beginning with  The Game of Kings. I also like Anton Myrer’s Once an Eagle, and The Last Convertible, which each stand alone.  And currently, I am enjoying Alan Furst’s atmospheric stories of Europe as the shadow of World War II descends.

There are many books that I admire, that I would recommend to anyone; but not so many that I read over and over.  Do you have any that you return to again and again?



Obama’s Teleprompter Problem. by The Elephant's Child

Has there ever before been a candidate for the Presidency of the United States who ran on a platform of not liking his country much? At least when he’s speaking without a teleprompter. He can’t seem to stop putting his foot into it. On Wednesday in Lynchburg, VA, Democrat Barack Obama scolded Russia again for invading another country’s sovereign territory while stating that “the United States should set a better example on that front”.

The Illinois senator’s initial opposition to the Iraq war is his only claim to fame, and to which he refers whenever possible. (I think he was pathetically and disastrously wrong, but he is entitled to his opinion). He went on to say “We’ve got to send a clear message to Russia and unify our allies. They can’t charge into other countries. Of course it helps if we are leading by example on that point”.

Victor Davis Hanson found that a little much too:

Let me get this straight; getting a Senate and House majority to authorize a bipartisan joint war-resolution, going to the U.N., assembling a coalition, having a national and world debate on the wisdom of such an operation from December 2001 to March 2003, and then attacking a genocidal dictator, and staying on to foster a constitutional democracy are apparently the same “charge” “example” as an autocrcy suddenly invading its democratic neighbor during the Olympics, and staying on to annex some of its territory?

Aside from the silliness of these statements, the problem for Obama, again, is that incrementally they really do start to add up — America’s “tragic history,” the mini-sermon on decline to the 7-year-old, waffling exegesis to Rick Warren about our own evil, the confessions to the cheering Berliners about our transgressions — and these doubts are enhanced rather than ameliorated by Michelle Obama’s various rantings, and the creepy things former associates like Ayers, Wright, and Pfleger have said about America and its culture.

Obama has made it pretty clear that history is not his strong point, nor foreign policy. I still can’t get over his claim that he is especially knowledgeable about foreign policy because he lived abroad from age 6 to age 10.

I am offended by his constant put-downs of the country, and by his insistence that the country is in terrible shape. I suppose that if you are a messiah, and you can convince everyone that things are almost beyond redemption, and that you and you alone can redeem the world; well then, I guess you get a bunch of people sitting around chanting Oh-bah-mah. Seems a little sick-making to me.




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