American Elephants


Senate Democrats Block Zika Virus Funding

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Most of the news about the Zika Virus is bad. Babies are born with malformed brains, adults who suffer the progressive paralysis of Guillaine-Barré syndrome, Americans diagnosed after travel to the topics, active transmission of the disease in U.S. territories, but primarily because of regulatory requirements no vaccine is likely to become available before the end of the decade.

The FDA is “blocking real progress on a vital tool to control the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that carry and transmit Zika and the viruses that cause dengue fever, chikungunya and yellow fever.”

Using genetic engineering techniques, the British company Oxitec (a subsidiary of American-owned Intrexon) has created male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes with a specific mutation that causes them to need a certain chemical (the antibiotic tetracycline) to survive. Without it, they die—and their offspring die before reaching maturity. Releasing the males over several months causes a marked reduction in the mosquito population. Because male mosquitoes don’t bite, they present no health risk, and, because their progeny die, no genetically engineered mosquitoes persist in the environment.

Turf battle: the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which has the authority and expertise to oversee genetically engineered insects vs. the USDA (budgetary concerns and anti-genetic engineering among senior USDA people) who sent it over to the FDA which is unqualified to review the mosquito and unwilling to move it along. If all this sounds nuts, it is.

Brain damage in Zika babies is far worse than doctors expected. The virus attacks lobes of the fetal brain that control thought, vision and movement.

The Senate voted to approve a $1.1 billion bill to fight Zika by a 52 to 48 margin, with funds to go to help develop a vaccine. (Not enough to get the bill to the floor). It was slightly less than what Obama requested, but his budget request earmarked over half a billion for Zika programs in other countries and shortchanged public health here at home. (ObamaCare has a 2 billion slush fund for public health).

Harry Reid called the bill “nothing more than a goodie bag for the fringes of the Republican Party” and said they had no choice but to block it. Their real complaint was that Planned Parenthood wouldn’t be able to get a portion of the funds directed to public health departments and hospitals that are reimbursed by public health. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) claimed that the Republican bill “limits access to birth control services needed to help curb the spread of the virus and prevent terrible birth defects.”

The Democrat’s idea was that the mainstream press would blame the GOP for the bill’s demise, but even the liberal media wouldn’t buy this mess of pottage. The headlines for CNN, NBC, CBS and even the NY Times were uniformly something in the line of “Senate Democrats block Zika funding.”

Scientists are getting closer to understanding how Zika causes Microcephaly, but they’re not there yet. The Senate’s stupid move makes it impossible for Congress to send legislation to the president before July 4. This means the bill is dead, and a new bill will have to be written and submitted. Both chambers are back in session for just one week before leaving for summer vacation July 15 and not returning till after Sept 5.



Well, Yes. And Then There Was Waterloo!

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It May Take a Bit of Time for the Panic to Subside

Britain’s stock market had erased all of its BREXIT panic losses, fueled by as surge in energy and financial shares. It had slumped 8.7% after the vote to leave the EU. May be more ups and downs as investors absorb the uncertainty about how it will all turn out. Markets don’t like uncertainty.

The President of the E.U. Parliament, Martin Schultz, got all huffy. “The British have violated the rules. It is not the #EU philosophy that the crowd can decide it’s fate.”

Europeans have never understood and never liked Democracy. They have been ruled by Kings and Queens and Dictators and the Church— and allowing the people to decide is mostly unthinkable. I have particularly liked Matt Ridley’s suggestion that when the individual is free to think and create and experiment, you get ideas having sex. Ideas build on other ideas. A new picture, someone else’s new idea may spark something completely different. “Having sex” is as good a way to describe it as any. What kills creation is regulation. The more stoppers a government erects, the less innovation.

Did you wonder why we never seemed to recover from the 2008 recession? The growth of government and the proliferation of regulation, especially on small business, which is where much innovation is hatched.

Few other countries have ever had the free markets and free people that  have traditionally been found in America. And then there is Switzerland. (click to enlarge)

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I Am Henry the Eighth I Am.

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To Help You Understand About BREXIT and

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The Private Sector Fires Incompetents. The Feds Reward Them!

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It was only a day or two ago that I wrote “The federal government has too many people working for the government, and there isn’t enough work for them to do. Government workers make 78%  more for comparable jobs, according to Cato. They call themselves “public servants,” but they don’t mean it. When they start to think of the U.S. Constitution as an impediment rather than a guarantee that the government belongs to the people and the public servants are there to work for us, not the other way around, we’re in trouble. So here we are.”

Federal workers make on average nearly twice as much as those in the private sector, but government employee unions want a pay increase more than three times larger than President Barack Obama proposed.
The American Federation of Government Employees, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, American Postal Workers’ Union and 20 other unions representing federal workers sent a letter to Congress seeking a 5.3 percent pay hike next year. President Obama proposed a 1.6 percent raise.

How about a 10% pay cut to bring them more into line with the rest of the country?  If you include benefits, the average federal employee earns about $119,000 annually, including salary and benefits compared to the private sector average of $67,000. (an October 2015 study by the Cato Institute) If you add in health care and pensions, it’s even a bigger gap.

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All the workers in the federal government are, according to the federal government — above average. This rating of worker performance is clearly absurd, as anyone who has ever had contact with a federal bureaucrat can attest. But a review of federal worker performance ratings by the GAO found that 99.5% of them got a “fully successful” rating or above. More than a third were given the highest rating of “outstanding.” At the other end of the ratings only 0.4% were rated as “minimally successful” and 0.1% as “unacceptable.”

Don’t everybody rush to get a government job at once. These “fully successful” workers “blew $2 billion on a botch Healthcare.gov website, made more than $100 billion in overpayments to go to government beneficiaries, run the TSA, fired veterans unto deadly wait lists for care, allowed their databases to be hacked, spent over 10 years and $1 billion trying to digitize 100 immigration forms only to get just one done.” And the list goes on — and on.

It is not just hard to fire a federal employee, but nearly impossible to rate them as anything less than “fully successful.” A manager who does must spend significant time developing performance improvement plans. Workers who don’t get a gold star can and do appeal their ratings by filing a union grievance with the Merit Systems Protection Board. That may be another agency we could do without.

The private sector has a direct financial interest in weeding out bad apples, and accurately assessing worker performance. Those incentives just don’t exist in the government. Failure usually results in bigger budgets and more money.

Republicans talk a lot about reducing the size and scope of the federal government. You haven’t been paying attention. They mean it, but they need encouragement, lots of it, because it is very hard to do. And needs doing very badly.

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Hee, Hee, Hee!

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(From Mark J. Perry at AEI)




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