American Elephants


Fake News and the Hunger for Information by The Elephant's Child

Johannes Gutenberg is widely credited with the invention of the first printing press in 1455. However Chinese monks had been using block prints even earlier, by A.D, 600, and there were attempts to create type as a means of conveying information. Too many characters in the Chinese language, and conveying important messages with blockprints didn’t really go anywhere.

The first newspaper in America was Public Occurrences, Both Foreign and Domestic, and the first (and last) issue was published in 1690. The 1st Amendment to the Constitution says “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom…of the press.” The Constitution establishes a government with three branches, but it does not establish a press or a media. What it does do is try to prohibit the government from trying to control what people say in the press or outside the press. Free speech.

It’s more useful to think about the way news was disseminated before there were a wide range of newspapers and subscriptions. Try to imagine a town crier, shouting out news of marriages, births and big events as he strolls around the town. People depended on riders to convey the news from one town to another. News of war and the battlefield had to wait until a rider could be sent back to town, and farmers and small communities were out of luck until someone happened by.

Illustrated news came to be long before photographs were invented, and depended on artists who could make reproducible engravings or blockprints. Americans yearned for news of the old country, but had to wait until a ship came in. Gold was discovered in California in January of 1848, but it wasn’t until December that the first rumors reached New York. Sailing ship going around the horn — the Panama Canal did not yet exist.

Samuel Morse invented the telegraph in 1844, and Morse code, but it wasn’t until 1860 that a bill was passed in Congress to authorize the telegraph to be built across the continent. They built from each coast with fascinating stories of Indians, the pony express, and the trans-continental line was completed on October 24th, 1862, linking the continent.

So here we are with “Fake News” and a profession is disrepute. The telegraph was followed by the telephone, the Atlantic Cable, photography, radio, movies, recordings, sailing ships were replaced by steam, the Panama Canal was built. Wars intervened, and news from the battlefield, but the front lines had to communicate with Division headquarters, and the medics, so there were runners. Then there were walkie-talkies. Each improvement in communication meant changes in the way things were done. Lives were saved.

With the advent of television, everyone said it was a great step forward, the American people would watch symphonies, the best of the New York stage, lectures, history. Uh huh.  They thought the same thing when we first got computers. You can watch porn online, and pretend comedians holding up an efigy of the head of a newly elected president. A goodly percentage of the people do not pay any attention to the news, and are open to the most partisan claims because they don’t understand what is happening. Cell phones, and people get mowed down on the street because they are paying attention to their phone instead of where they are going, and ditto for cars.

Victor Davis Hanson writes on the Media Meltdown between 2008 and 2016 at the Hoover Institution’s ‘Defining Ideas,’ and how it all happened. We are being manipulated by a partisan media, and the Left is capitalizing on focus-tested vocabulary and pictures to influence the unwitting—and unfortunately all of us are unwitting at least part of the time. I emphasize “the Left,” but of course the Right tries to do it too, but is not as skilled at manipulation, and more inclined to explanation.

So now we have reached a point telephone calls are made by robots, we have the immensely annoying telephone trees when you just want to shriek “I want to speak to a human.” We can turn on the air-conditioning or close the shades at home—from the office. Ordering anything online is killing the retail industry and you no longer have to go out to get dinner, you can have it delivered, as a kit to produce your own, or as a fully prepared meal. There’s a lot going on in that sector, and we can probably look forward to a time when we don’t have to cook at all.

What is becoming very clear is that new inventions will not develop in the way we assume. Our schools are making us dumber, and human nature being what it is, we probably won’t become wise consumers, very well-informed, or lifelong learners striving to know as much as we possibly can. After all, we’re still watching movies about comic book characters and playing silly games on our computers—rather than listening to symphonies and the finest Broadway productions.

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The Despicable Fraud Perpetrated on The American People: by The Elephant's Child

Democrats have clearly demonstrated their desire to whip people into better order with a raft of government regulations, directives and plain old force. We focus on the regulation and the directives, but let’s face it. The problem is the people.

We are talking about millions of human beings, individuals with their own ideas, their own likes, their own prejudices, their own desires, their own sensitivities, their own knowledge, their own beliefs and their own general resistance to doing what they are told to do. That’s simple human nature. In repressive societies people learn to fear the government and hide their resistance lest they face punishing reprisal.We all know about the societies with the gulags, concentration camps, slave labor camps, where the choice is between facing punishment or facing death.

Democrats have long regarded free health care for the people as the biggest, most wonderful thing they could give to the people, which would endear their party to the people permanently. The problem, of course, was how to pay for it.

Well, nevermind, that can be figured out as we go along. Rich people will just have to pay more. That’s how it all started and bureaucrats started writing rules and regulations, and although there were pages and pages of them, they had three and a half years to finish it up.

Phase One was the big rollout, and the technical failure. It might have been avoided had there been some competence in the management, but it was never tested, the basic code for the back-end was never written, and there was no security for the customer at all. The rollout was a disaster and a great embarrassment for the administration. So they said they would postpone it till the first of December when it would all be fixed. Uh huh. The President ordered up a tech surge to get everything working, but that is apparently only 6 people. Experts say the security is worse than ever.

And it seems that that part for which the code has never been written was the part that told the insurance company that you had signed up and transferred the first payment. They are advising those who think they have signed up successfully to call the insurance company and see if they have confirmed your enrollment and received your payment.

Phase Two was the revelation that the entire ObamaCare enterprise is the largest deliberate fraud ever inflicted on an unsuspecting American public.  The promises of “if you like your plan you can keep it” have turned out to be not an accident, but a phony sales pitch that was deliberately deceptive. On top of that ObamaCare forces insurance companies to engage in dishonest practices like selling maternity coverage to men and postmenopausal women, and pediatric insurance to the childless. The worst case scenario could turn up on January 1, as insurance companies begin dropping people who formerly had their insurance through their employers, and there will be a lot of them.

Obama promised insurance that would cost $2,500 less that our previous policies. Another part of the fraud. Medical insurance comes in two kinds: there is indemnification against risk, which is true insurance; and there is pre-payment for expected costs. Risk is a heart attack, or a stroke, a broken arm or broken back. Insurance company actuaries are very well paid because they are very good at math. They get reports on the numbers of heart attacks or strokes in a year, and determine mathematically how many they are going to have to pay off on. The trouble arises when Democrats want to have lots of benefits for everyone, and want everyone to pay for it. Health insurance is usually age related, because the risks are different at different ages, but when everybody has to pay for maternity care, and pediatric vision care, Alzheimers and shingles, it gets very, very expensive.

That bit about people with pre-existing conditions was nice, but the President made it sound like there were thousands of them. Part of the sales pitch. Those who signed up in the first three years for this desperately needed insurance that they’d been denied 107,000 people out of a population of 330,000,000.  Looks like 10 million people will lose their employer-provided health insurance. The governments’ goal for next year is to sign up about 7 million people. It was the government that made sure that most insurance policies would get cancelled, not the insurance companies. It is written right into the law.

Everybody knew this, except for ordinary folks. And they’re just stuck. How will this play out? Will the whole thing collapse on its own? Will the people get their backs up and demand that it be repealed? The administration played the insurance companies, promising them many more customers in exchange for their cooperation. The health care industry? Scared? Unorganized? I don’t know. With the president spinning dramatic tales of the blessings of health care for all, and the media completely willing to play along with whatever he said, the evidence of industries destroyed, companies brought to heel, there was certainly in America a real fear of the government.

I think it will come close to collapse but they will tinker and lie and try to keep it afloat, and in the end try to enlist Republicans into saving it for the good of the country. It would be a lot simpler if they would just recognize it as a mistake that cannot be fixed.



The Office of the President of the United States of America. by The Elephant's Child

The office of the President of the United States has a long and complex history.  Over the past 220 years, it has been occupied by just 44 different men.  George Washington was the first and undoubtedly will remain the last to be elected unanimously.  He came to the office reluctantly.

He had been Commander-in-Chief long before he was elected President.  He was elected to that position by the Continental Congress in 1775 when he was forty-three years old.  There was not yet an army for him to command, only the militias surrounding Boston. And when he said he farewell to his troops in 1783, he was fifty-one. He had only a few years as a civilian before his country called upon him again.  His prudence and restraint set the country on a firm basis, and in his farewell address he said:

In the discharge of this trust, I will only say, that I have, with good intentions, contributed towards the organization and administration of the government the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable. Not unconscious, in the outset, of the inferiority of my qualifications, experience in my own eyes, perhaps still more in the eyes of others, has strengthened the motives to diffidence of myself; and every day the increasing weight of years admonishes me more and more, that the shade of retirement is as necessary to me as it will be welcome. Satisfied that, if any circumstances have given peculiar value to my services, they were temporary, I have the consolation to believe, that while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it.

The office of the presidency, with its obligations of duty and commitment, takes a toll on the men who temporarily occupy the position.  They owe a debt to those who have held the office before them, and to the history left to them by previous occupants. Treaties and alliances have been laboriously created, relations with other countries, whether in trade or good will, carefully nurtured.  A knowledge and awareness of that history is essential.

Thomas Jefferson said:

Most bad government has grown out of too much government.  [and]
Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have…The course of history shows that as government grows, liberty decreases.

President James Polk remarked:

No President who performs his duties faithfully and conscientiously can have any leisure.

President Harry Truman:

I have tried my best to give the nation everything I had in me.  There are probably a million people who could have done the job better than I did, but I had the job, and I always quote an epitaph on a tombstone in a cemetery in Tombstone, Arizona.  “here lies Jack Williams, He done his damnest.”

Dwight Eisenhower said:

Throughout America’s adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations.  To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people.  Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict on us grievous hurt both at home and abroad.

Conservatives, independents, pundits and even many Democrats are trying to understand President Barack Obama.  There are so many questions.

He is clearly not the centrist that he portrayed during the campaign.  Is he a radical leftist? He has described himself as a communitarian, for whatever that is worth.

Barack Obama has never, we have been told, had much interest in history.  A knowledge of and respect for history are essential to the presidency. Without that you repeat the mistakes and failures of those who have gone before.  Depression, inflation, stagflation, debt, unpreparedness or trust in the wrong adversaries.  The demands of the office require humility, not hubris.

Nations have interests. Relations with other nations are not popularity contests.  Years of  carefully nurtured relationships based on fair dealing and fair trade are being discarded in the hope of deals with long-term antagonists who wish our destruction. Speeches, however charmingly delivered and meetings are unlikely to sway them from their purposes.

When a new president temporarily takes on the most important office in the world, he becomes the president of all Americans, not just the unions who supported his campaign.  He must suffer criticism and mockery in the understanding that it is the right of the American people and his role to bear it.

He takes on an obligation to preserve, protect and defend the nation.  The savings that represent the life’s work of its citizens cannot be spent wildly in some misguided attempt to achieve progressive goals that have been proven over and over not to work.  The American people, 38 percent, want the budget deficit cut in half in the next four years.  Only 23 percent think health care reform should be a top priority.

I just don’t think that Barack Obama understands the office of the presidency. Oh, he gets the prestige, and he clearly likes the perks and trappings, some of which he adopted before he was elected.  He keeps reminding us that “I won!” Yet he seems not to have understood the obligation, the duty, the sacrifice of the office and the weight of the burden that a president must bear. He and Michelle keep complaining about how hard he has to work.

There’s a lot more to it than being surrounded by admirers and sycophants attending to every need, than having AirForce One at one’s beck and call. I just don’t think he gets it.

(Reposted from 2009. Seemed appropriate in view of the debate tomorrow night)




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