American Elephants

Is Technology Just Making Us Dumber? Or Is It the Schools? by The Elephant's Child

Michelle Fields of PJTV walks the Washington Mall to discover the deep ignorance of the American people about climate change — and ignorant they are. But they are simply repeating what they have been taught. It is becoming a national disgrace. Reporters with microphones ask ordinary Americans simple questions that people should have learned in grade school, and they have no clue. We laugh, but it is not funny. It is a deep reflection on the state of our schools which claim to be teaching “critical thinking” but this is not the case.

A recent video showed  a man-on-the-beach session with mostly young people on a lovely day. The young people did not know who George Washington was, “the second president after Lincoln?”, or “someone to do with horses.” They did not know who we fought in the Revolutionary War, “France?” The Civil War was as much a mystery, as was World War II, or who bombed Pearl Harbor. What are they learning in school — only gender, race, and political correctness?

Everything has been politicized. Speaking about the Founders, or the Revolution has become a Republican thing, to which Democrats are opposed. You have one house of Congress, the current Democrat controlled Senate, wanting to revise or repeal the First Amendment. The Citizens United decision which allows corporations to donate, under the rules, to political campaigns. Democrats’ goal is winning at all costs, control, being in charge and important, and anything that might give Republicans the slightest advantage must be stopped, especially including free speech.

The world climate is always cooling and warming. It is currently not warming, nor has it warmed at all in 17 years and 9 months. Things like hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, rainstorms are weather, not climate and are not caused by climate.  Climate is a statistic of average temperatures. Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists do not agree that the “crippling consequences of climate change are urgent.” (John Kerry) The assertion that 97% of scientists believe that climate change is a man-made, urgent problem is a fiction, and is not supported by reliable research. And the polar bears are just fine.


Watch Americans’ Trust in Each Other Erode Over The Last Four Decades by The Elephant's Child


This little map was created by Josh Morgan using data from the National Opinion Research Center’s General Social Survey (GSS) from 1972 to 2012. The survey’s simple question each year was: “Generally speaking, would  you say that most people can be trusted or that you can’t be too careful in dealing with people?

The percentage of all respondents who said that most people can be trusted has dropped from about 46 percent in 1972 to about 32 percent in 2012. Morgan makes no attempt to draw conclusions about why we trust less, and there is no single factor that is responsible for such a big societal change, but the ubiquitous reach of television, the Internet and smart phones have caused less direct human interaction.

Morgan’s article is here.

(h/t: Chris Cillizza)

Can the Problems at the VA Be Fixed? An Open Question. by The Elephant's Child

The backlogs at the Veterans Administration Hospitals appear to have resulted from demand from higher-ups to serve more people in less time in order to save money; and I  immediately remembered the scandal in Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), where they were keeping patients in ambulances parked outside the hospital so they wouldn’t have to log them in. Government guidelines  stated  how long patients would have to wait to be seen. If they were parked outside and not logged in, who would know? British reporters are not as politically correct as ours usually are.They reported the facts, and soon the whole world knew about their wait-list scandal.

The British newspapers have been, over time, a great source for following the failings of socialized (single-payer) medicine. The stories, and the failings, get reported.  However, there was a case where the work of our reporters did prompt real change — from former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates new book Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War:

On February 18 and 19, 2007, The Washington Post ran a two-part series by reporters Dana Priest and Anne Hull on the administrative nightmare and squalid living conditions endured by wounded warriors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. …The reporters described, in detail, Building 18, where a number of recuperating soldiers were housed, as rife with mold, filth, leaks, soiled carpets, rodents, cockroaches, and overall shabbiness. There were clearly not enough caseworkers to help outpatients and not enough help for outpatients and families to navigate through the huge hospital complex or the massive and confusing paperwork. I was shocked by the conditions described in the articles. At my morning staff meeting on February 20, I said we had a big problem on our hands, a failure to take proper care of our wounded warriors and their families. That had to be addressed immediately.

The secretary held a press conference 3 days later to announce an outside group to investigate the situation in depth, recommend remedial actions, and he gave them 45 days to report back with their findings. He held a press conference at Walter Reed, said the situation was unacceptable and would not continue. He expressed his gratitude to the reporters for bringing the problem to the attention of the Department of Defense. and said how disappointed he was that they did not discover it themselves. People were fired, military officers retired, but the situation was fixed, and promptly.

Apparently the Congress, successive administrations and the veterans groups relied on wait times as a primary performance measure. This emphasis, according to Yuval Levin who served as a health policy staffer in the Bush White House, was not tied to structural reforms that might make the VA system work more efficiently.

Centrally run, highly bureaucratic, public health-care systems that do not permit meaningful pricing and do not allow for competition among providers of care can really only respond to supply and demand pressures through waiting lines. It happens everywhere, but when it has happened at the VA the response has been to criticize waiting times rather than to reconsider how the system is organized.

The core of the scandal is what seems to be a highly organized effort to cook the books in order to be ale to report shorter wait times for care than were actually achieved. In order to work this system had to involve large numbers of people at each facility, and since it is in many facilities in the system, there had to be some collusion between them. The Obama administration set a goal in 2011 of 14 days between the time a patient asked for an appointment and the time that patient sees a doctor or a nurse. These targets, Levin says, did not account well for the huge differences between different kinds of patients seen by the VA, and they were directly tied to bonuses and salary increases for hospital administrators, creating a huge incentive to game the system and, as happened here, just lie about wait times.

The Phoenix hospital reported that it had managed by last year to get average wait times down to 24 days. The inspector general report found the actual average wait time was 115 days. That’s a lot of cooking the books.

Yuval Levin says the Department of Veterans Affairs is the most poorly managed cabinet department and probably among the most poorly managed agencies in the whole government. The veterans’ disability system has enormous problems as well. It is hard to overstate the political power of the veterans interest groups over the VA. The department is not subject to congressional or administrative oversight in the usual sense. It answers to veterans groups, who are likely to be resistant to fundamental change. Mr. Levin’s article is more informative about what the real problems are than most I have seen. Do read the whole thing.

The current problems at the Phoenix hospital and others are far different than the administrative dysfunction that has been a hallmark of the VA for so long. This is a massive conspiracy to benefit VA employees at the expense of their patients.

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