American Elephants


Bipartisanship! Whatever it is, Obama Plans to Veto It. by The Elephant's Child

Obama walking

President Congeniality has issued new signs of the bipartisanship we can expect with the new Republican led Congress. “We’re calling on the president to ignore the voices of reaction and join us,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said as he and Speaker John Boehner lined up legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and the 20,000 jobs it would bring, make small changes to the health care law they have sworn to repeal, and to delay a key provision of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial regulation law. President Obama threatened to veto them all.

He did stress the opportunity for bipartisanship in the two years ahead, but he didn’t mean it. He meant that Republicans should shut-up and endorse everything he wants to do. Simple.

The public, for the first time, has said that the biggest problem in America is the federal government. The first time ever in Gallup records that dissatisfaction with the government has topped the list of what ticks them off.

Just to emphasize who is boss, the Obama administration has published 300 new regulations in the first seven days of 2015. Federal agencies have published 300 final rules, proposals for new rules and regulatory notices as a 2015 gift to us all.

Rules having to do with energy, environment, public lands and agriculture make up the largest share of new regulations. Included in these new rules are proposed EPA air quality standards for lead, reforming coal and oil leases on Indian lands and adjustments for the total amount of fish people can catch off Alaska’s coast.

One major rule that has not been finalized yet, however, is the EPA’s carbon dioxide emissions limits for new power plants. The rule was set to be finalized by Thursday, but the agency announced Wednesday it would be pushed back until mid-summer 2015.

The EPA is scrambling to protect its carbon rule for new power plants as lawmakers and watchdog groups find problems with EPA reasoning and EPA science. They are desperate to get more of your lives under control in order to save the Earth from non-existent global warming  (18 years and 3 months of no warming at all), and the “polar vortexes” sweep down from the “melting”Arctic. There is no carbon pollution. Carbon dioxide is a natural fertilizer for the world’s plants, and they need more carbon to feed the world.

I wrote a week ago about how John Boehner outfoxed Obama in the 2012 budget negotiations, and made the federal deficit decline for the first time since the cutbacks just after World War II. The sequester  has decreased total federal spending by 1.5%-2.0% in real inflation-adjusted dollars, and it will do that in the 2014 budget as well. In a recent NPR interview, Obama took credit for reducing the deficit. Predictable. President Congeniality is never, never at fault.



A New Antibiotic is a “Game-Changer” in The Fight Against Antimicrobial Resistance by The Elephant's Child


A report from the United Kingdom government estimated that by 2050, antibiotic resistance would cost the world a projected 10 million lives, and $8 trillion a year.

Projections of the future don’t always turn out to be accurate, but the current state of antibiotics is indeed dire. In the U.S alone, antibiotic -resistant bacteria infect more than two million people  year, killing around 23,000 of them. Bacteria evolve to resist our drugs faster than we can discover new ones. Researchers at Northeastern University have discovered a new antibiotic that may buy us some time.

Antibiotics are discovered in a variety of places. Penicillin came from moldy bread. The first member of the cephalosporin class was discovered in a sewer in Sardinia (and you thought your job was bad). Erythromycin comes from a class of bacteria called actinomyces. Tetracycline was originally isolated from a fungus that grows in soil. Many of today’s drugs were first isolated from a wide variety of natural products, such as plants and marine organisms.

It is something that is derived from soil that is all over the news—a novel new antibiotic called Teixobactin—that was is isolated from soil by a clever new method which has implications far beyond this particular drug. It’s being called a “game-changer” which could open up a whole field of natural products research. About 99 percent of soil microbes are “unculturable”— they could not be grown in laboratories. Resistance to Teixobactin is not believed to develop for at least 30 years. It operates by a different mechanism that seems to make the generation of resistant mutants more difficult.

It’s not perfect, it kills only gram positive bacteria, not the tougher gram negative variety, but it offers a lot of new possibilities, and hope for future discoveries.



Today’s $68 Billion Train to Nowhere to Be Finished in 80 Years? Splendid Idea. by The Elephant's Child

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On Monday, Governor Jerry Brown, Democrat, took an oath of government frugality in his fourth inaugural address. The next day he led the groundbreaking ceremony for  California’s $68 billion bullet train in Fresno.

Seven years ago, in 2008, voters approved $9 billion in state bonds to build a 500-mile train connecting San Francisco and Anaheim (current estimates suggest more than $100 billion). The feds have donated a mere $3.3 billion, which by law must be spent by October 2017. California’s high-speed rail authority can’t access the bond proceeds until it gets the right of way from the state courts, which are presiding over numerous legal challenges that may not be settled for several years.

The  authority has so far obtained less than a fifth of the parcels needed to complete the first 29-mile stretch in the Central Valley.

This does not matter to Mr. Brown and the rail authority who are frantically trying to burn through the federal funds to meet the White House’s spending deadline. The LA Times says that  “over the next 1,000 days, the state will have to  spend $3 to $4 million every single day to accomplish their goal.”

Bullet train supporters believe that state judges will be reluctant to block access to bond funds once construction starts. The more schools,  homes and businesses torn down, the better. The goal is to make the bullet train an accomplished fact, in order to convince the judiciary that it is. California’s record of starting and then abandoning freeways, and infrastructure projects meant the Legislature added provisions to ensure the train did not become a “stranded investment.”

Planners picked the flattest, straightest and most desolate stretch for the first segment. It gets more complicated crossing the 7,680′ high Tehachapi range, and tearing up densely populated areas in the Bay Area and Los Angeles Basin.

I have over 40 articles about California High-Speed Rail Authority. They uniformly think it’s nuts. Some estimates are 80 years till completion. Thinking back 80 years, to the changes in technology, population, culture, one must conclude that today’s plans are unlikely to fit 2094 transportation needs at all. And the federal $3.3 billion is all they have to work with at present since a state judge last year barred it from tapping the voter-approved $9 billion in bonds until it satisfies a quantity of requirements in the ballot initiative.

The Governor said that those who don’t support the bullet train are pusillanimous — “lacking in spirit” he said, but the actual definition is not so bland.




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