American Elephants


San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors Strikes Again. by The Elephant's Child


City councils are an interesting phenomenon.  Some are excellent, taking care of potholes and keeping taxes low.  In other cases, they get grandiose ideas of their purview.  For example, the Seattle City Council famously passed a resolution demanding that the dams on the Columbia River be breached so the river could be free flowing once again — or something like that — at any rate they decided it was a good idea.  This ignored the fact that the Columbia was located across a major mountain range, the Cascades, in a completely different county, and quite clearly none of the city council’s business.

Well, of course, resolutions don’t mean much, and it was not only absurd — but supremely embarrassing.  Come summer, and they happened to venture across the mountains to look at the great river and some of the dams, and were astounded at how big they were.  Back at the start of the Iraq War, they debated a resolution condemning the war, but by the time they finished debating, the march-up to Baghdad was over anyway.  Where do they get such overblown ideas of their own importance?

The Berkeley City Council comes out with frequent bloopers, many so preposterous that they make the national news; and across the bay, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors yields to no other in passing resolutions, banning this and that, and passing silly measures.

Their latest is a legislative endorsement of healthy, eco-conscious  living.  They are asking residents to go without meat on Mondays.  They cannot stop citizens from consuming meat, but it is meant, according to the AP, to call attention to the relationship between diet, health and — climate change. Why Monday is unknown.

The measure passed April 6, urges “all restaurants, grocery stores and schools to offer a greater variety of plant-based options to improve the health of San Francisco residents and visitors and to increase the awareness of the impact a green diet would be on our planet. ”

The measure was accompanied by a resolution praising businesses that use cage-free eggs.  Sigh.

“It seems the supervisors would have better things to do — like deal with the budget” said resident Buzz Bense, 61, as he enjoyed a pork sandwich at Memphis Minnie’s, a lower Haight barbecue joint.

San Francisco is struggling with a $483 million budget hole, according to a recent report by budget analysts.

These things get laughed off, and they are very soon old news, and nobody pays much attention anyway.  But where do they get the idea that they are entitled to tell everyone else how to live?  Manage your own life successfully, and then resist any impulse to instruct others.

ADDENDUM: A $483 million budget hole?  How can this be?  More than 1 in 3 San Francisco city workers earned $100,000 or more last year; when such extras as overtime are included the number of workers jumped to 9,487.  The average city worker salary is $93,000 before benefits.  Salaries are driven by “inflation, a persistent reliance on overtime and generous contracts in a city known for its politically potent unions.”



Amazing Things Are Found in the Most Unlikely Places. by The Elephant's Child

High in the Mackenzie Mountains in Canada’s Northwest Territories, archeologists are finding a treasure trove of ancient hunting tools.  Warming temperatures melt patches of ice that have been in place for thousands of years.

Ice patches are accumulations of annual snow that usually remained frozen all year.   Caribou, looking for relief from summer heat and insects made their way to  ice patches where they bed down until temperatures cool.  Ancient hunters noticed that caribou were clustering on these ice islands and took advantage.

Sheep hunters in the Yukon in 1997 discovered a 4,300-year-old dart shaft in caribou dung that had become exposed as the ice receded.  Scientists who investigated the site found that there were layers of caribou dung buried between annual deposits of ice.  And there they found a repository of well-preserved hunting tools.

Tom Andrews, an archaeologist with the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife and the lead researcher on the International Polar Year Ice Patch Study wondered, when word of the Yukon study leaked out, if they might have the same phenomenon in the Mackenzie Mountains.

In 2000, he cobbled together enough funds for satellite imagery of specific areas in the mountains, and began to look for likely ice patches.  In another five years, he had raised enough to support a four-hour helicopter ride to investigate two ice patches.

They found a willow bow.  That discovery led to a successful application for International Polar Year funds which have allowed an interdisciplinary team to explore eight ice patches for four years.

They have found 2,400 year-old spear-throwing tools, a 1.000 year old ground squirrel snare and bows and arrows dating back 850 years.  Biologists are examining caribou dung for evidence of pollen, plant parts, and caribou pests; others are studying DNA evidence to track the lineage and migration patterns of caribou.  The team is working closely with the Shutaot’ine or Mountain Dene natives drawing on their traditional knowledge.



About Those Lower Insurance Costs We Promised — Never Mind! by The Elephant's Child
April 26, 2010, 9:00 am
Filed under: Economy, Health Care, Law, Politics | Tags: , ,


It was only last month that, among cheers of victory, President Obama signed his health-care reform bill.  He declared that it will “lower costs for families and for businesses, and for the federal government.”  So, if the wheels are not falling off of the bus, why are the Democrats scrambling to pass a new bill that would impose price controls on health insurance?

The idea that Democrats could add all sorts of wonderful benefits, add millions more uninsured, expand coverage for “children” as old as 26, ban co-pays for preventative care and “save money” was always a fantasy.  You put diamond earrings on a pig, and an emerald and pearl collar, and put him in a poke — he remains a pig in a poke.

The Senate health committee debated a bill that would give states the power to reject premium increases that state regulators determine to be “unreasonable.”  The White House proposed this just before the final ObamaCare push, but it violated the procedural rules that Democrats abused in order to pass the bill, and it couldn’t be included.

Over half the states now have some form of rate review in individual and small business  markets, but they usually don’t play politics with it.  Insolvent insurers pose problems and bankruptcies do limit consumer choices.  Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts is an exception, for he is currently is using his regulatory power to create price controls, and challenge the state’s insurers for the soaring costs imposed by the state’s model for ObamaCare.

Democrats know perfectly well how unrealistic their cost-control claims were.  They were anxious to get something passed, and figured they would fix it later before anyone noticed.  This bill will be ready when they need it. Remember, you are not supposed to notice, and particularly not blame the Democrats.

The official who will be in charge of this fiscal foolishness will be Donald Berwick, a Harvard professor and chief of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement who the White House has nominated to run Medicare.  Dr. Berwick explained last year, according to the Wall Street Journal, that the British National Health Service has “developed very good and very disciplined, scientifically grounded, policy-connected models for the evaluation of medical treatments from which we ought to learn.He added that The decision is not whether or not we will ration care — the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open.  And right now, we are doing it blindly.”

Well, tough luck, granny.  I do read the British papers and the stories about the wonderfulness of National Health.  The horror stories don’t mean much to the young and healthy.  It is the folks that really do need medical care that get the proverbial shaft.

I was listening to talk radio today, and heard all sorts of young people who were sure that medical care was now free.  They didn’t need it because they were covered at work, but it was free for everybody else, and the taxpayers were paying for it.  The taxpayers start paying for it now, and it isn’t available until 2014, and it won’t be free then.




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