American Elephants


Staying Off the Golf Course Would Be Good Public Relations. by The Elephant's Child

President Obama’s weekly address was meant to be a calming message about the threat of Ebola. Didn’t work. Mr. Obama seems to think we are in a state of panic about Ebola, and think we are in the midst of an epidemic. We’re not. We are worried because our elected officials, including our president, and appointed officials can’t seem to talk straight about the disease. Reminding us that “our public health experts point out, every year thousands of Americans die from the flu,” is not particularly helpful. Thousands of Africans die from Malaria because they are not allowed to spray their huts with DDT. That’s not helpful either. It has no bearing on this particular disease.

“Ebola is actually a difficult disease to catch. It’s not transmitted through the air like the flu. You cannot get it from just riding on a plane or a bus.” Well, no, it’s not difficult to catch. We have two nurses who have contracted it while they believed they were following the proper protocols. The hospital just hadn’t figured them out. It is transmitted through the air. Sneezing or coughing transmit bodily fluids in very tiny droplets that can remain in the air.  It can be transmitted through sweat left on airplane armrests, lavatory faucets or bus seats.

That was Obama’s second point. “Third,” he said, “we know how to fight this disease. We know the protocols.”Well, no. We’re learning all the time. 21 days may not be a long enough isolation period. Temperature checks at the airport are probably useless. Teaching people about the protocols may not be enough to overcome natural human carelessness. U.S standards for protecting healthcare workers from Ebola are weaker than those widely used in West Africa, according to the vice president of the aid group Samaritan’s Purse.

When Samaritan’s Purse health workers treat patients in Liberia, they wear two pairs of gloves and spray themselves with disinfectant twice before leaving the isolation ward. They have a three-foot “no touch” policy and hold safety meetings every day.

In U.S. hospitals — such as Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, which has had three cases of Ebola — workers don’t have to hose down their gear and are told it’s OK for gloves to expose their wrists.

“If you slip, and you touch your skin on the wrist, you’re going to get Ebola,” said Isaacs, who has worked on-the-ground disaster relief in countries like Haiti, the Philippines and Bosnia. “Can we trust CDC? They said they were going to stop it in its tracks, but I don’t know.”

Does that sound like Ebola is “actually a difficult disease to catch?” Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the CDC, has said “any hospital with an intensive care unit” can stop the disease from spreading. The CDC still does not know how the two nurses became infected. Frieden seems torn between trying to pacify politicians and pacifying the people. He must be the source for Obama’s confusion.

The Nurses union, National Nurses United, has been fiercely critical of the hospital this week, saying that the disease spread because of poor training and incompetent management. One nurse said she watched people at her hospital violate basic principles of nursing and medical care. Potentially exposed nurses would go into other patients rooms without disinfectants. All nurses should have been constantly monitored for 21 days because of exposure to Duncan.

President Obama’s Weekly Address is here. What is clear is that he takes as gospel the information he is given, and does not do any further inquiry on his own. Dr. Frieden  is not keeping up with the toilers in the fields of Ebola Central. The next post that pops up after the one about Samaritan’s Purse is from the CDC: “Airborne Ebola possible but unlikely.” Perhaps I misunderstand the meaning of airborne contagion. If it is not sneezes and coughs — what is airborne?

President Obama is so concerned that he spent only five hours on the golf course today, and held a nighttime Ebola meeting, the second in the last few days. His new appointee as Ebola Response Coordinator, Ron Klain, didn’t attend either meeting. Neither did the Ebola Czar, Dr. Nicole Lurie, who remains invisible.

The meeting included members of his national security and public health teams to update him on the response to the domestic Ebola cases. Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Kent Sepkowitz called the selection of Ron Klain as “stagecraft and politics.” He said it was disappointing that this was becoming, not a public health issue, but an optics “how are we going to look?’ issue, and ‘what’s it going to mean to the Senate races? issue.” Dr. Sepkowitz is, at least, clear on the priorities.



You Only Had One Job! by The Elephant's Child

josh-earnest-focused-ap“At the White House today, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest explained that the American people should continue to be confident in the Obama administration’s response to the Ebola crisis, reminding reporters that they were “guided by science” as they continued to react to the disease.
This administration has been guided by the science, by our medical experts that have experienced with dealing with Ebola (sic).
Earnest did not seem open to appointing an “Ebola czar.” adding that more government officials would be appointed if the administration found it necessary.”

Screen-Shot-2014-10-14-at-1.56.57-AM-998x736“The federal government not ten years ago created and funded a brand new office in the Health and Human Services Department specifically to coordinate preparation for and response to public health threats like Ebola. …[P]erhaps the media could at least look at the roles that waste, fraud, mismanagement, and general incompetence play in the repeated failures to solve the problems the feds unrealistically claim they will address.” Dr. Nicole Lurie, the Ebola Czar, “says her major priority is to help the country prepare for emergencies and to ‘have the countermeasures—the medicines or vaccines that people might need to use in a public health emergency.'”

CDC-director-Dr-Tom-Frieden-More-US-cases-of-Ebola-not-impossible Tom Frieden, “the director of CDC first erred by leaving the impression that it was the healthcare worker’s fault. That explanation only angered many who believed the CDC was just shifting the blame. The explanation was later ‘explained.’ Now the CDC wasn’t sure how the individual got infected. Instead, the CDC would have to examine the protocols for patient care and update them if need be. But that “explanation” just triggered more headlines suggesting the CDC didn’t know hat it was doing.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????“Nearly 60 percent of Americans want the government to shut down flights to the U.S. from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, sources of the Ebola virus. Why isn’t the White House playing ball?… President Obama is refusing to cancel flights to the United States from the most stricken nations. Other nations’ airlines starting banning flights to and from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea in August. …Instead of banning the flights, the White House has TSA workers taking the temperatures of passengers arriving at five U.S. airports. The fact that people may carry the virus for as much as 21 days before displaying any symptoms —including fever—renders this effort half baked at best.

MDG : Canada ending bilateral aid : CIDA :  Canadian flag on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on “Canada fights the war on Ebola without boots on the ground, develops vaccine. A made-in-Canada Ebola vaccine is ready for human trials, Health Minister Rona Ambrose announced Monday.

Forty healthy volunteers in the United States will undergo testing in Maryland to determine any side-effects associated with the VSV-EBOV vaccine. “This is promising and hopeful news,” Ambrose said. “It provides hope because, if it’s shown to be safe and effective, it can stop an outbreak.”



Pipelines, Fundraisers and Campaign Cash. Canada’s Had Enough. by The Elephant's Child

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The Obama administration has been holding up for six long years, any real decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline that would bring oil from the oil sands of Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries. Approving the project would have provided 20,000 well-paying  construction jobs, boosted the economy and helped to lower the price of oil on the world market, and reduce the influence of Russia and OPEC  in world affairs. The whole project was a huge win-win for both the United States and Canada.

Well, Canada has had just about enough. They are in the process of developing alternatives —one of which is a 2,900 mile pipeline that would carry a million barrels of oil a day from the oil sands region to the ice-free port of St. John, New Brunswick on the Bay of Fundy. There it would be refined and then shipped to customers around the world on supertankers. The Energy East Pipeline is a $10+billion (US dollar)project where an existing oil superport and refinery could export that oil to world markets, including India which is hungry for more energy.

Canada has already approved their Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline to Kitimaat British Columbia, a 1177 kilometer pipeline. That one is waiting approval from the many First Nation tribes that it would cross. There is also a 710 mi long Trans Mountain pipeline system operated by Kinder Morgan Energy Partners running from Edmonton, Alberta to terminals and refineries in British Columbia, Vancouver and the Puget Sound region in Washington. Kinder Morgan says expanding the existing pipeline, which they want to do by twelve times, is cheaper than Northern Gateway.

It is hard to over emphasize how annoyed the Canadians are over our failure to proceed on a mutually beneficial project because Obama wants campaign money from wealthy ideologues. Reuters says Canadian crude exports to the United States topped three million barrels per day last week. Much of this oil is moving by rail. Without a pipeline to a refinery and supertanker port, the U.S. is virtually Canada’s only buyer. Canadians are subject to price discounts of as much as $43 a barrel that cost Canada something like $20 billion a year.

The White House’s blockade of the Keystone XL hasn’t stopped domestic Fracking or development of Alberta oil sands. Instead, the industry transports oil and natural gas with 19th century technology — rail. Seven out of every ten barrels from North Dakota’s Baaken shale move by rail, and total carloads of crude have increased 4000% since 2008.

So naturally the president’s regulators are looking at the dangers of trains. The 2003 Lac-Mégantic oil explosion killed 47 people and destroyed parts of the Quebec town, an agency called the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is imposing new rail tank car design standards. Within three years, most of the 334,869 cars in the North American fleet must be retrofitted with thicker steel jackets, heat shields, better brakes and so on. Regulators, of course, claim to be acting in the name of rail safety, but according to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) 99.9977% of potentially dangerous cargo arrives without incident.

Hardening of tank cars might prevent 0.0023% of accidents. Most (88%) of derailments are the result of cracked, split or washed-out tracks and welding. The need is for more track maintenance and inspection. The other major cause of derailment is human error. The real motive seems to be to force tens of thousands of tanker rail cars off the rails and slow the oil and gas development to which the enviros object.

Bloomberg has a long and fascinating article on Canada’s efforts to solve Obama’s intransigence over the Keystone XL, and their own need to bring their mother lode of crude oil to market. With one project, Energy East will give Alberta’s oil sands not only an outlet to eastern Canadian markets, but to global markets. Canadian oil and government interests feel they’re being played by Obama as he sweeps aside a long understood “special relationship” between the world’s two biggest trading partners to score political points with environmental supporters at home. (The Bloomberg piece includes maps that explain the pipelines).

It’s clear that his will be a huge benefit for Canada. The projects span the whole country, uniting Western oilfields with coastal shipping. The Keystone XL may still be built sometime, but failure to deal with our close friend and neighbor to the north in a timely and honest manner has deeply damaged a longstanding relationship and we missed out on jobs and economic growth for the sake of Democrat politics.



Liberal Dark Money Group Tries to Blame GOP for Ebola Deaths. by The Elephant's Child

When the Democrats get desperate, they get pretty disgusting. The Agenda Project, a 501(c)4 organization and liberal dark money group is placing ads in various battleground states is attempting to blame Ebola on the Republicans. According to an email signed by the group’s founder, one Erica Payne, and titled “if you die, blame them,” the group is starting:

a multi-pronged blitzkrieg attack tat lays blame for the Ebola crisis exactly where it belongs — at the feet of the Republican lawmakers. Like rabid dogs in a butcher shop, Republicans have indiscriminately shredded everything in their path, including critical programs that could have dealt with the Ebola crisis before it reached our country.

Their internal polls must really be suggesting a Republican sweep. File this under “Guttersnipes.” Erica Payne has established a reputation for absurd attack broadsides against conservatives and Republicans. In 2010, she was responsible for an ad that accused Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) of killing senior citizens and a campaign to mock  Tea Party Americans who engaged in grassroots political activism called “Fuck-Tea.”

The Free Beacon notes that aside from the stupidity of the Ebola ad, it’s simply false. The U.S. Global Health Program budget has increased more than six-fold since 2001 and the Republican-controlled House overwhelmingly approved a budget measure to increase funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by $567 million, an 8.2 percent increase over the previous year.

Ten years ago the federal government created and funded a brand new office in the HHS department specifically to coordinate preparation for and response to public health threats like Ebola. As the Ebola Czar, Dr. Nicole Lurie’s job is to help the country prepare for emergencies and to have the countermeasures , the medicines or vaccines needed for a public health emergency.

Heard of her? Perhaps she is avoiding the public eye because there was a scandal a few years back. In November 2011, a front page expose in the Los Angeles Times described how a company controlled by a longtime political donor got a no-bid contract to supply an experimental remedy for a threat that may not exist. The donor was Ron Pearlman, a controlling shareholder of Siga. The award was controversial in every way, including disputes about need, efficacy and extremely high costs. Even Democrats in tight election races were calling for investigations.

Last month Siga filed for bankruptcy after it was found liable for breaching a licensing contract. The company that fought the no-bid contract was Chimerix, which argued that their drug had far more promise than Siga’s. Chimerix’ Brincidofovir is antiviral medication being developed for smallpox, but also Ebola and adenovirus. Preliminary tests show some promise against Ebola, and the FDA authorized its use on Oct. 6 for use against some Ebola patients. It was given to Thomas Eric Duncan who died from Ebola.

The supposedly underfunded NIH has granted $702,558 for a study on the impact of televisions and gas generators on villages in Vietnam, $175,587 to the University of Kentucky to study the impact of cocaine on the sex drive of Japanese quail. $44.382 to study hookah smoking in Jordan and $592,527 to study why chimpanzees throw objects. Last year there were news reports about a $509,840 grant from NIH for a study that would send text messages in “gay lingo” to meth-heads. Preparation for an Ebola epidemic? Not so much.

And Erica Payne, and her Agenda Project? They have close ties to the Democracy Alliance, the Democrat’s billionaire donor club. Payne is a DA co-founder, and the Agenda Project is one of the groups to which Alliance donors can steer money to satisfy their annual $200,000 giving requirements.

We have had one Ebola death of a man who knew he had been exposed to Ebola, and lied to catch a flight to America. There are so many issues, important issues, facing the country that serious discussions would help to allay fears and to help the public understand why we are doing what we are doing, and if the administration is competent to manage our problems. Instead we get this, and a game of kick-the-can down the road till after the election, so maybe the people won’t find out.



So We Are Fighting A Politically Correct War? by The Elephant's Child

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This last week,  Bill Gertz reported that “The Obama administration is failing to wage ideological war against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS or ISIS) terrorists over fears that attacking its religious philosophy will violate the constitutional divide between church and state, according to an in-depth inquiry by the Washington Free Beacon.”

“While the government has tried to counter terrorist propaganda, it cannot directly address the warped religious interpretations of groups like ISIL because of the constitutional separation of church and state,” said Quintan Wiktorowicz, a former White House counterterrorism strategist for the Obama administration.

“U.S. officials are prohibited from engaging in debates about Islam, and as a result will need to rely on partners in the Muslim world for this part of the ideological struggle,” he said in an email interview.

In his speech to the UN on September 24, President Obama asked the world body to come up with a plan over the next year designed to counter ISIS and al Qaeda’s ideology. He said ending religious wars through an ideological campaign in the Middle East will be “generational” and led by those who live in the region. No external power, he said, can change “hears and minds,” and as a result the U.S. would support others in the unspecified program of “counter extremist ideology.”

Because officials cannot engage in debates about Islam, it makes it a little difficult to clearly define the religious doctrine you’re talking about. And there seems to be a problem there. Statements by the president and administration spokesmen indicate that they don’t understand ISIS ideology, which would be a needed first step.

Most senior administration officials hold “post modern” or “secular” views, and as a result have almost no ability to understand the religious views of violent terrorists. If you don’t take religion seriously yourself, it is impossible to understand the philosophy of a suicide bomber or someone who cuts off peoples’ heads in the name of jihad.

Senior State Department officials have expressed the idea that ideology does not play a role in Islamist terror which comes from endemic causes like poverty and economic privation or social injustice.

The latest issue of the ISIS English-language magazine Dabiq reveals a bit of their logic. “The Islamic State has long maintained an initiative that sees it waging jihad alongside a dawah [proselytizing campaign] that actively tends to the needs of its people.” The magazine added that the group “fights to defend the Muslims, liberate their lands, and bring an end to tawaghit [the evil corrupt system]. It also sought to legitimize its mass executions, beheadings, and other atrocities as religiously justified responses to all opponents who refuse to submit to its ideology.

President Obama claimed in his September 20 anti ISIS strategy speech that the group is “not Islamic” because it kills Muslims and innocents, something he said no religion condones. A claim disputed by most experts on Islam.

The Obama administration, under pressure from domestic Muslim advocacy organizations, has adopted a politically correct approach toward Islam and terrorism that has removed talk of Islam from current policies and programs — instead they are carrying out policies under the less-specific and DHS-approved title of “countering violent extremism.” If you can’t even call something by its name, you’re not going to have much luck defeating it in the field.

The word Islam has mostly been eliminated from policies and programs, and discussing Islam has been placed out-of-bounds — which means that Islamist ideology cannot be addressed in a significant way. This leads to claims that the U.S. and the West are at war with Islam, which leaves our officialdom tongue-tied. How they have managed to conflate cutting off the heads of American journalists and aid workers with First Amendment constitutional religious issues shown nothing so much as the triumph of either fuzzy thought or no thought at all.

The terrorists, says James Glassman, former undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, have constructed a phony ideology and are trying to take over a whole region. The president must address that. “It is very late in the game, and he needs to devote resources, not just words, to the war of ideas.”

The administration’s point man for propaganda is Rick Stengel, a former Time magazine reporter who is now undersecretary for public diplomacy said in a recent speech “I wold say that there is no battle of ideas with ISIL. ISIL if bereft of ideas, they’re bankrupt of ideas. It’s not an organization that is animated by ideas. It’s a criminal, savage, barbaric organization.” But, oddly, recruits are flowing to ISIS, moved to join in jihad because they are inspired by their ideas.

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Armed vehicles are mostly Toyota pickups with guns mounted in the back. Not so much on ISIS bases or fighters. I don’t know if Obama is approving each strike,  as he said he might do. But we cannot say “war of ideas” and we cannot do anything to “prohibit the free exercise of religion.” Talk about fuzzy thinking!



Too Much Politics, Too Little Strategy and Determination. by The Elephant's Child

obama-1Iraqi officials have issued a desperate plea for America to bring U.S. ground troops back to Iraq. Islamic State fighters have advanced as far as Abu Ghraib, a town that is  within eight miles of the Iraqi capital. A senior governor claimed there are up to 10,000 fighters from the movement now poised to assault the capital. The warning came from the president of the provisional council of Anbar Province, the vast desert province west of Baghdad that has largely fallen to the jihadists.

If Anbar is fully controlled by ISIS, it gives their ground forces a springboard to mount an all-out assault on Baghdad, the nation’s capital. A team of 1,500 U.S. troops are in Baghdad acting as mentors to the Iraqi army.

International attention has been focused on the Syrian border town of Kobane, where Kurdish fighters are battling to keep the ISIS fighters at bay, but Anbar is barely holding their own. A senior U.S. defence official said it’s fragile there.”They are being resupplied and the are holding their own, but it’s tough and challenging.”

Obama made bringing American troops home from the Middle East a cornerstone of his administration’s policy. Some suggest he just wants to hold ISIS back with airstrikes until after the election, at which point he’ll just let ISIS have it. With no troops on the ground to identify targets, the airstrikes are having limited effect. They are also much less than we are capable of.

Obama came to the White House with a flawed view of the world, sure that conflict was simply a matter of Republican warmongers and Republican intransigence. Problems could be solved with constructive talks. A “why can’t we all get along” view, which suffers from a failure to recognize human nature and real intent. He’s tried  all sorts of outreach and talks and offers, and promises of peace and understanding — and the world has decided that he is a weak doormat, and they had best charge ahead and take what they can while the taking is good.



The President is Seriously Not Involved. A Case of “Whatever.” by The Elephant's Child

Several articles today have questioned the commitment of this administration to the war on ISIS. Jimmy Carter said that Obama has been too slow to act against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and gives his current strategy only “a possibility of success,” provided it involves some ground troops. And there have been many discussions of former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’ new book in which he suggests that the fight against terrorism will be a 30-year war.

Rich Lowry called it  “A War for Show.” He said:

When you are too passive for Jimmy Carter, it’s time for some soul-searching in the Situation Room. The late-1970s are calling and want their foreign policy back.

The war against ISIL so far is desultory and occasional, a campaign of underwhelming force. ISIL has still been on the verge of taking the Syrian town of Khobani abutting the Turkish border and on the offensive in Iraq. The erstwhile JV team is defying all the military might that the world’s lone superpower is willing to muster.

I thought I should check into how that war is going from an official source, so I went to the Department of Defense website. >100 U.S. Marines are in Liberia to handle refueling and supply support for the international response to contain an Ebola outbreak in the country. >Hagel is going to a meeting in South America. >Kendall is encouraged about Defense trade progress with India. And then > Airstrikes target ISIL in Syria and Iraq. And >Troops Support Breast Cancer Awareness.

If you prowl around a little, you can find where all the attack, fighters, bombers and remotely piloted aircraft conducted nine airstrikes. They got two airstrikes on ISIL training facilities, two ISIL vehicles, struck two small units and damaged a tank. There’s far more information there on everything under the purview of the Department of Defense. The War on Ebola ranks higher than the War on ISIS for whatever reason. That will not change until ISIS hits us hard here at home, and Homeland Security is quite certain that no ISIS fighters have crossed the border, though others have counted significant numbers.

The President clearly does not want to be involved in Iraq in any way. His number one concern, as always, is Democratic Party politics — which trumps anything else. He has no experience with anything military other than his grandfather serving in Patton’s army, which he mentions now and then. When even Jimmy Carter is criticizing you, you have some soul-searching to do. But Jimmy Carter was a submariner if I remember correctly.

There are some photo essays with pictures of airplanes, or military activities, but the overall impression is that there’s nothing particularly serious going on. Political correctness, gender awareness, or breast cancer awareness are as important as military lives at risk, and destroying one of the trucks we left for the Iraqi army is about as big a deal as anything else.  Not serious.




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