American Elephants


Are We All Just Getting Dumber? Or More Informed? by The Elephant's Child

The University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center in an annual survey found that one in every five Americans cannot name a single branch of the government.

The center released its annual Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey on Thursday, and found that about 2 in 5 American adults accurately named the three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial.

  • 39 percent named all three branches
  • 14 percent named two branches
  • 25 percent named one branch
  • 22 percent couldn’t name any branch
  • 1 percent refused to answer

The center notes that the percentage of people who could name all three branches “is the highest in five years, statistically the same as the prior high of 38 percent in 2013 and 2011 and a substantial increase over last year, when 32 percent could do the same.”

According to the center, the survey also found that people who took civics classes in high school, or were regular consumers of news, were more likely to know the answers to the survey questions.

That’s fairly startling, if accurate. National Review noted that the Democrats on stage for their debate Thursday night demonstrated that they are not qualified to hold forth on immigration policy because they have no idea what our immigration policy is. Joe Biden announced proudly that “we didn’t put children in cages” though all the pictures of children in cages come from the Obama administration. Andrew Yang announced that he would return immigration to the level it was during the Obama administration, which is exactly where it is right now. But one should know what the annual level of immigration is within a couple of hundred thousand, and whether it has gone up or down. These are people who supposedly want to be President.

In the past few weeks, Democrats have focused on the chance of a recession (hopefully), but steered clear of any mention of the current economy. You have probably read enough to know why they have.

I suspect that as a society, we are getting dumber. We get our news by surfing through the internet, reading a headline here and there, reading a few words of an article and deciding it’s too long, or not interesting enough, and moving on the the next bright object, as it were. And then we think of ourselves as well informed citizens, but are we actually? Is the nature of the Internet making us shallower and less informed? Scary thought, but plausible.

August reports from the Commerce Department and BLS show excellent economic results that continue to exceed MSM expectations.  Retail sales climbed by 0.4 percent twice what analysts had predicted, and highlight retail sales strength year over year. Employment up for everyone. Need for food stamps dying. Unemployment for all in very low numbers.



Nevada Gov. Sisolak Vetoed a Bill to End The Electoral College by The Elephant's Child

Nevada governor Steve Sisolak (D) today vetoed a bill which would have pledged Nevada’s six electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote for the President of the United States, or in other words nullifying Nevada’s voters and allowing California, Texas. Florida and New York to decide all of our elections. It would really simplify things – the rest of us could just not bother to vote, and candidates would save all sorts of money.

What is appalling is that a legislature would produce such a bill, or that our schools should be so deficient in teaching the basics of what our founders struggled to do when they devised the Constitution.

The origin of the whole thing was, of course, Democrats’ rage that Hillary won the popular vote and lost the general election. But the Left is fairly unfamiliar with the Founders, interested only in whether they owned slaves or not — because they learned their history from Howard Zinn, and assume that this country is evil, and will not be improved until governed entirely by the Left, or something like that. If you need a copy, the Cato Institute has dandy little pocket-sized versions as does Amazon.

Harvard professor and historian Bernard Bailyn, who has likely studied more of the early pamphlets than any other scholar, asserts that “influential in shaping the thought of the Revolutionary generation were the ideas and attitudes associated with the writings of Enlightenment rationalism—writings that expressed not simply the rationalism of liberal reform but that of enlightened conservatism as well.” “In pamphlet after pamphlet the American writers cited Locke on natural rights and on the social and  governmental contract, Montesquieu and later Delolme on the character of British liberty and on the institutional requirements for its attainment.”

That’s from Mark Levin’s new Unfreedom of the Press (which I recommend). I also recommend Wilfrid McClay’s Land of Hope which I haven’t read yet. which is reportedly a refutation of everything Howard Zinn wrote by a highly recommended historian.



Terminally Annoyed by The Left. by The Elephant's Child

In the waiting room at the veterinarian today,  I was reading the new May copy of the Seattle Met magazine. Featured article concerned the tragic people who hailed from the countries affected by Trump’s travel ban, before it was halted by illegal judicial hold. (The order from the Seattle judge was clearly improper, because the president has clear authority under the Constitution to do precisely what he did.) It was, however, upheld by the 9th Circuit, which is so far left that it has become the most overruled circuit in history. Nevertheless, the magazine apparently went to print before this all became apparent, so their article was intended as a pity piece of how these people were suffering under the abusive Trump order, which only lasted for 6 months in any case.

Some abuse. Some of the seven people were students, another was unable to return home to visit because he then would not be able to get back in the U.S. There was no discussion of how long these people had been in this country, whether they were working/applying for citizenship, illegal or what. It was a sad tale of presidential abuse, and a typical leftist trick of attempting to conflate the entire immigration issue.

The Left wants open borders. They believe that immigrants will be more apt to become Democrat voters, particularly when immigration from countries like Cuba has been halted by the Obama administration. Escaping from a Communist country suggests that they might not automatically become Democrats. Obama worked hard at distributing refugees to voting districts where they might alter the future vote, or where increasing  population numbers would shift the vote.

To achieve their ends, Leftists work hard at failing to distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants, ignore drug-dealing, sex-trafficking, and murderous gangs that have accompanied Obama’s lax border controls. Americans who object to illegal immigrants are supposed to be the bad people, not the illegals (“No human is illegal” say the signs). The fact that most countries have far more restrictive immigration laws than we had under the Obama administration is never mentioned. Mexico has a wall on their southern border, with guard towers, I believe. Canada’s immigration laws are more restrictive than ours. “We are a nation of immigrants” they proclaim, as if that had anything to do with anything. Apparently the United States is the only country in the world that is supposed to have completely open borders, and if you don’t believe that — you are a bad person.

This is false. We are quite entitled to admit those who are most apt to be a benefit or can contribute the most to the United States, and those who most want to become Americans. That is only basic common sense.

The Left wants cheap foreign workers to replace high cost Americans. Disney’s forcing high-tech workers to train their cheaper replacements or risk losing any severance pay was a dramatically ugly act. Wealthy Leftists desire for cheap servants isn’t very attractive either. There are real long-term concerns about Muslim immigrants who want to replace the American constitution with Sharia law—we should never admit anyone who arrives wanting to overthrow our government. You are not a bad person to expect such standards.

These are the tactics of the Left, and the reason for all the names we are called— racist, bigot, nativist, etc. etc. etc. If you do not think their way, you are a bad person. How many times lately have you hesitated in something you thought or said, because of what the Left might think of you?

But then, when we welcome the new dishes and foods immigrants bring as they open restaurants, we are accused of “cultural appropriation,”so there you go.



“It’s a Republic If You Can Keep It” by The Elephant's Child

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Over at Powerline, Steven Hayward wrote that he stumbled across a speech that President Reagan gave in 1977 that describes our modern predicament very well:

But how much are we to blame for what has happened? Beginning with the traumatic experience of the Great Depression, we the people have turned more and more to government for answers that government has neither the right nor the capacity to provide. But government, as an institution, always tends to increase in size and power, not just this government—any government. It’s built-in. And so government attempted to provide the answers.

The result is a fourth branch added to the traditional three of executive, legislative, and judicial: a vast federal bureaucracy that’s now being imitated in too many states and too many cities, a bureaucracy of enormous power which determines policy to a greater extent than any of us realize, very possibly to a greater extent than our own elected representatives. And it can’t be removed from office by our votes.

That gets into the problem of the Administrative State which has become an increasingly larger problem under the Obama administration.

We go to hear their speeches and attend their events and vote for them for public office, and they begin to think that they are special, and if we reelect them, it increases, and newsmen call them by their title and print what they say and before you know it they start believing they are essential, and we start talking about term limits, and making rules that say that they cannot move from holding office to becoming highly-paid lobbyists valuable to their employers quite specifically because they know all the senators and representatives with whom they used to work, and thus the ability to influence them.

When they leave office, do they return home—or do they stay on in the nation’s capitol—unable to part with the power they once had? You see what an incestuous and closed circle it all becomes.

It’s easy to propose term limits for people of the other party, but term limits for your own favorites are another question. You may believe in them as wise legislators who advocate for causes you believe in, who are particularly valuable because they know their way around Congress. At what point do you agree to send them back home and elect a fresh new face who may or may not turn out to be as valuable? Hard questions.

If our government is to be, in Lincoln’s words, “a government of the people, by the people and for the people,” then it will be a constant battle and a constant question, but we have to opt for the people and for generations to come.

I can think of a number of members of Congress who have been returned to Congress by their constituents for years and years that are, frankly, just plain dumb. Is that pure party loyalty? No appealing replacement? Why keep sending them back? Term limits would take care of that, but you’d lose your favorite too.

Do you have a copy of the Constitution? Have you read the whole thing? The Cato Institute (Libertarian) sells a dandy little pocket Constitution which includes the Declaration of Independence as well.  Single copies are $4.95 or are cheaper in quantity. There’s a special on 10 copies for $10.00.

Why would you want ten copies? They make nice gifts for high school seniors off to college or off to the work world. No guarantee that they will read it, but everyone should have their own copy, on the off-chance that they might find it useful to refer to from time to time.

It was Ben Franklin who once said: “It’s a republic, madam, if you can keep it.”



Lots of Name-Calling, Not Much Common Sense! by The Elephant's Child

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment
of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,
or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,
and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The establishment of religion bit means that the government shall not establish a state religion nor prefer one religion over another. Seems simple, but there have been continuous arguments over the meaning ever since.

In the current discussions of Moslem immigration, we are enjoined by fear of being called Islamophobic, bigoted, and, of course, racist—or be accused of violating the Constitution. Yet Americans watch what is going on in Europe as they try to cope with the influx of Muslim migrants and are deeply concerned that the numbers of “Syrian refugees” that President Obama is trying to get into the country will lead to similar rashes of killings by adherents of a radical version of Islam.

Most of Europe is more concerned about anti-migrant backlash than of figuring out how to deal with the migrants. The entire issue is deeply confused by fear of seeming not sufficiently compassionate, and leads to an absurd situation where the President of the United States scolded the American people for expecting him to at least  use the phrase ‘radical Islam’ in response to the massacre in Orlando.

“For a while now the main contribution of some of my friends on the other side of the aisle have made in the fight against ISIL is to criticize this Administration and me for not using the phrase ‘radical Islam,’” Mr. Obama said Tuesday, using his preferred acronym for Islamic State. “That’s the key, they tell us. We cannot beat ISIL unless we call them ‘radical Islamists.’ What exactly would using this label accomplish? What exactly would it change?”

Since the President asked, allow us to answer. We’re unaware of any previous American war fought against an enemy it was considered indecorous or counterproductive to name. Dwight Eisenhower routinely spoke of “international Communism” as an enemy. FDR said “Japan” or “Japanese” 15 times in his 506-word declaration of war after Pearl Harbor. If the U.S. is under attack, Americans deserve to hear their President say exactly who is attacking us and why. You cannot effectively wage war, much less gauge an enemy’s strengths, without a clear idea of who you are fighting.

Mr. Obama’s refusal to speak of “radical Islam” also betrays his failure to understand the sources of Islamic State’s legitimacy and thus its allure to young Muslim men. The threat is religious and ideological.

Islamic State sees itself as the vanguard of a religious movement rooted in a literalist interpretation of Islamic scriptures that it considers binding on all Muslims everywhere.

The administration is attempting, as usual, to ignore the standard refugee settlement process in America, and the UN and the administration are scheming to find other ways to boost the number of “Syrian refugees” entering the country, from 10,000 this year to possibly 200.000 a year.

Refugees and government officials are expecting this crisis to last 10 or 15 years. It’s time that we no longer work as business as usual … UNHCR next month [March 2016] is convening a meeting to look at what are being called “alternative safe pathways” for Syrian refugees. Maybe it’s hard for the U.S. to go from 2,000 to 200,000 refugees resettled in a year, but maybe there are ways we can ask our universities to offer scholarships to Syrian students. Maybe we can tweak some of our immigration policies to enable Syrian-Americans who have lived here to bring not only their kids and spouses but their uncles and their grandmothers. There may be ways that we could encourage Syrians to come to the U.S. without going through this laborious, time-consuming process of refugee resettlement.” (Emphasis added.)

“USC has revealed that it is offering five free tuition programs for Syrian refugees, including one in the school’s journalism program.”

It seems to me that some straight talk would help the situation. In the United States, we do not allow “honor killings,” homosexuals are accepted, not killed. and killers go to prison for a very long time or face execution.  Wife-beating or child abuse are against the law as is sexual assault. People are free to change their religion if they choose, and adherents of one religion are not allowed to attack those of a different religion. Our freedom of speech applies to everyone, and people may have differing opinions without fear. It’s not “Islamophobic” to tell people what they can expect, but may be helpful.

Bremen, Germany —”24 cases of migrant sexual assault at Music Festival.”

Zirndorf, Germany — Explosion of suitcase bomb next to migrant reception centre reported Bavarian Radio



The President Has Again Tried to Circumvent the Constitutional System of Lawmaking. by The Elephant's Child
May 12, 2015, 5:06 pm
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , , ,

Among the publications of the Hoover Institution is an online magazine called Peregrine, which includes short pieces by Hoover fellows. This one about Obama’s use of his executive power by William Suter is particularly interesting:

President Obama is not the first President to use his executive power aggressively. President Lincoln used an Executive Order in 1861 to suspend the writ of habeas corpus. The Supreme Court held that his action was unconstitutional. President Franklin D. Roosevelt attempted to change the composition of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1937 in order to gain favorable votes for his New Deal legislation. His “Court packing” plan was rejected by Congress and the voters. President Truman seized steel mills in 1952 to avert a strike because the mills were needed to support the Korean War. The Supreme Court held that his takeovers were unconstitutional. Previously, Truman acted courageously by issuing an Executive Order in 1948 that desegregated the armed forces. In that instance, he was on solid legal ground because the Constitution states that the President is the “commander in chief of the Army and Navy.” President Obama attempted to make three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board in 2012 when the Senate clearly was not in recess. His reason for doing this was that the Senate would not confirm his nominees. He acted as though he was the first President to be treated rudely by the Senate. Not so! His crude attempt was an insult to the Constitution. The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, held that his appointments were void.

Congress also uses its power aggressively. An example is the Senate’s late-night manipulation of rules to pass the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) in 2010. That embarrassing episode rivaled the famous 1972 Olympic Gold Medal basketball game when three seconds were mysteriously added to the clock, enabling the Soviet Union to defeat the United States. …

President Obama, emboldened by his record of changing laws – including provisions of the Affordable Care Act – decided in November 2014 to bring about his vision of immigration reform, not through Congress, but by use of executive fiats. For years, he maintained that he had no legal authority to change immigration laws. The sweeping election wins by Republicans a few weeks earlier apparently caused the President to change his mind. The largest category of people affected by the President’s executive “Presidential memos” is an estimated population of five million illegal immigrants who have been in this country for five or more years and have children who are U.S. citizens or permanent legal citizens. If they pass a background check and pay their taxes, the President offers a 3-year temporary status of “deferred action” regarding deportation along with work permits. The President’s purported legal authority to do this is his power of prosecutorial discretion. Prosecutors have such authority in individual cases, but no one can seriously think that authority is applicable on such a grand scale. What the President is doing is refusing to execute the law. He has no more authority to do this than he would to exempt corporations from paying income taxes. He cannot change the law.

As one writer put it, “This move by President Obama is not a sign of righteous impatience; it is proof that he has failed at that most basic of tasks – working with Congress.” The President has created a constitutional crisis when there was no need to do so. That is regrettable. (emphasis added)



James Madison, 4th President of the United States, Architect of the Constitution. by The Elephant's Child
April 29, 2015, 9:19 pm
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , , ,

Madison-main-2                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 51

This policy of supplying by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives, might be traced through the whole system of human affairs, private as well as public. In private affairs, arranging for ambition to counteract ambition would conduce to prosperity, as the emerging discipline of political economy was arguing. In public affairs it would give mankind a better chance than ever before to overcome the great political difficulty: to “first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself”

In Federalist No. 55, Madison after taking up and attempting to refute hypothetical questions about how the Constitution’s checks and balances might prove too weak to prevent this or that abuse Madison finally throws up his hands. Yes, the “auxiliary precautions’ that make ambition counteract ambition will help sustain a republic But, no, a nation of devils will not form a successful republic, no matter how intelligent they are or how well their state is organized. “As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust” Madison wrote, “so there are other qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence  of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form.

Did we assume too much, presupposing the existence of qualities in human nature that justify esteem and confidence? And they are missing? What then?




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