American Elephants

No Unflattering Pictures Of Obama Will Be Allowed. by The Elephant's Child

The White House has decreed  that photographs of the president and his family will be the work of the White House photographers, and then distributed to the media. Ron Fournier wrote in the National Journal on November 21, 2013:

The fast-moving trend is hampering reporters and videographers who cover the White House, but Mills’s profession has probably been hardest hit. “As surely as if they were placing a hand over a journalist’s camera lens, officials in this administration are blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the Executive Branch of government,” reads a letter delivered today to Carney by the WHCA and several member news organizations including The Associated Press and The New York Times.

The letter includes examples of important news events that were not covered by media photographers, and yet pictures were taken by the White House image team and widely distributed via social media. This happens almost daily. …

Again, this is propaganda–utterly lacking a skeptical eye. The irony is that Obama is using technology that democratized and flattened the media to centralize and strengthen the powers an institution, The Presidency.

Today, I noticed that the Washington Times is striking back! Here is the caption under a White House distributed photo of the president visiting Walter Reed:

President Barack Obama autographs a banner while visiting a wounded service member at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., June 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

President Obama clearly doesn’t like unflattering pictures. He doesn’t like being photoshopped, and if you use his picture in a commercial or political way, expect a SWAT team to break down your door first thing in the morning when you are expected to be asleep. You have been warned.

Obama Was Warned About VA Hospitals 5 Years Ago! by The Elephant's Child


Investors and the Washington Times both reported that Obama was warned about the Veterans Administration’s wait time and treatment schedule five years ago, contrary to Jay Carney’s claim that they just learned about it.

On April 9, 2009, with his Secretary of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Eric Shinseki by his side, President Obama said, “As long as I’m commander-in-chief, I promise that we will work tirelessly to meet that mission and make sure that all those who wear this nation’s uniform, know this when you come home to America, America will be there for you.”

True, he has significantly increased VA funding on his watch. This upcoming fiscal year Obama requested a 3% boost for the Veterans Affairs budget. Obama’s fiscal 2015 budget request points out he has increased the VA discretionary budget by 35.2% since 2009. The question amid this scandal is just how this taxpayer money was spent.

Just months before the president made his pledge to veterans, VA officials warned the Obama transition team that the wait-times reported by VA hospitals were not to be trusted, and that bureaucrats might be cooking the books to make performance look better— and bonuses more likely.

According to records reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon, the VA has spent $489 million to upgrade conference rooms, buy drapes and purchase office furniture during the past 4½ years. Though it doesn’t seem to be a matter of the budget.

On Fox & Friends, Monday, Dr. Margaret Moxness who was employed at the Huntington VA Medical Center in Charleston, W.VA. from 2008 to 2010, said she was told by superiors to put patients off for months on end, even after she told them her patients needed immediate care. At least two of her patients committed suicide while the waited for care between appointments. She left the VA after memos she sent to superiors were ignored.

In Dayton, a Daily News report said its investigation of a database of claims paid by the VA showed that the words “delay in treatment” were used 167 times.

The notable firing of the second-in command person in the VA doesn’t really impress anybody when it is learned that he had already announced his retirement this summer. They tried that trick before, and it didn’t work.

This is very odd.  It seems to be a system-wide — slowdown, lack of personnel, what? and long term. It has been going on for years, and whistle-blowing doctors complain of orders from “superiors.” We have a remarkable lot of corruption in government agencies, and no one seems to care—until it is made public that people are dying for lack of care.

Cover-ups sometimes work for a while, but policies become more scandalous when the cover-up falls apart. Better to fess-up in the first place, and face the music.

ADDENDUM: The White House responded to the Washington Times report on VA wait times.  They acknowledged Monday that President Obama was warned of problems in the VA years ago and said “that was why he asked Congress repeatedly for more money to try to improve care for veterans” Uh huh.

Press secretary Jay Carney said the problems extended back before Mr. Obama’s term. (He hasn’t gotten over trying to blame everything on Bush). Full investigation. Critics should wait. President right on top of everything. This isn’t what I meant by fessing-up. Has Obama ever been to blame for anything? Didn’t think so.

Ex-NSA Chief Says the Risk of Terrorist Attack Is Growing by The Elephant's Child

Barack Obama came to office with a particular view of the world. Much of it was based on the idea that the Iraq War was based on a Bush lie, that it was “a dumb war” and everything the Bush administration did was wrong. It would be hard for even the most partisan Democrats to disagree, for the president was careful to blame every problem he faced as Bush’s fault. That’s on the record.

The War in Iraq was to be ended as swiftly as possible. The War in Afghanistan was viewed as a pursuit of Osama bin Laden to “bring him to Justice.” After bin Laden was located in Pakistan, Obama dithered for months before authorizing the raid. The extent of the delusion about radical Islam is demonstrated by the presidential promise to shut down Guantanamo. The president and his advisers were quite sure that most of the inmates were innocent, improperly imprisoned.

From the Cairo speech on, Obama has tried for a completely different approach to he Muslim world. He viewed America as a world bully, and he was going to be a friend to Islam instead. The word apparently went out to all in the administration that words such as  “terrorism,” “Islamist,” and “Jihad” were no longer to be used. Hillary explicitly directed that Boko Haram was not to be identified as a terrorist group, nor to mention that it was affiliated with al Qaeda—though Boko Haram attacks had been going on for years. Typically, when the organization came to public attention, the response was #hashtag signs, with pictures of the celebrity holding the signs.

The extent of the delusion about radical Islam is demonstrated by the presidential promise to shut down Guantanamo. The president and his advisers were quite sure that most of the inmates were innocent, and improperly imprisoned. They were astonished to find that not to be so.

After Bin Laden was killed, the administration assumed that al Qaeda was defeated and no longer a real threat. “GM is alive and OBL is dead” they crowed.

The man who knows better and more than anyone else says “the threat of attacks are growing, there are a lot more coming our way.” General Alexander, who directed the National Security Agency for eight years, also served as commander of U.S. Cyber Command and chief of the Pentagon’s Central Security Service said that high-tech surveillance has foiled numerous plots, but “we are at greater risk.”

“Look at the way al-Qaida networks from al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaida in the Islamic Magreb, and now in Syria, the al-Nusra front.”

Explicitly contradicting the White House line that a more diffuse al-Qaida is good news, Alexander cautioned, “you can say those are distant countries, but a lot of these groups are looking to attack the United States.”

Obama boasted to the General Assembly that “al Qaeda has splintered into regional networks and militias, which has not carried out an attack like 9/11,” downplaying current threats as being “to governments, diplomats, businesses and civilians across the globe.” But the new, less centralized al Qaeda grows in the absence of U.S. global power. The premature pullout  from Iraq and Afghanistan have encouraged the convulsions in the Middle East.

Thomas Joscelyn of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in his testimony to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade said:

The emergence of al Qaeda’s affiliates is no accident. Al Qaeda has always sought to push forward its agenda by working with, co-opting, or otherwise directing like-minded jihadist groups….As part of this Islamic army, bin Laden “enlisted groups from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Oman, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Somalia, and Eritrea.” The burgeoning al Qaeda network” also established cooperative but less formal relationships with other extremist groups from these same countries, from the African states of Chad, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Uganda, and from the Southeast Asian states of Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Al Qaeda also supported efforts in the Balkans, Central Asia, Chechnya, and the Philippines. …Al Qaeda pursued a”pattern of expansion through building alliances” and had laid the “groundwork for a true global terrorist network.”

Not exactly a confidence-building list. Our borders are more open, our actions more restrained, our language is more carefully moderate, and our response is immediate—we will all hold up little signs asking them to stop. That should keep us safe.

Monday Morning Cute. Her Name is Sydney. by The Elephant's Child

This little female joey is an eight-month old Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat who has just begun venturing outside of Mom’s pouch. The Taronga Zoo is Australia is celebrating the arrival of the second joey in three years, a breeding success story that could also help the Critically Endangered  Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat. Her name is Sydney.
They are notoriously difficult to breed. Compatibility and timing seem to be crucial, for the female in only receptive to the male for a 12-hour window. Other than that, forget about it.

I have read about wombats, but never seen pictures of one. Our only marsupial in the United States is the possum, an unpleasant animal that we see occasionally here. They hiss, and they are definitely not cute.

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