American Elephants


Senate Democrats Block Zika Virus Funding by The Elephant's Child

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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.



My Very First Broken Bone! by The Elephant's Child

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This is the first time, despite my advanced age, that I have ever had a broken bone. Right foot, 5th metatarsal, spiral fracture. I get a fancy ski boot with all sorts of Velcro and canvas and buckles that I apparently have to wear for months and months. It lets me walk on my injured foot, which makes life easier. No cast, for which I am grateful.

I didn’t even break a bone when my horse pitched me off trying to show off her ability as a cutting horse. She was pretty good. I wasn’t all that much as a cutting horse rider.



Sorry about the Erratic Blogging. by The Elephant's Child

Sorry about the light blogging. Dramatic version: I fell down the stairs and broke my foot. Reality: It was just the last step, and I thought it was just a sprain, but it is indeed broken, painful, puffy, and bright purple.

I shall write as soon as possible, cranky as ever, and there’s a remarkable amount to be cranky about.



How Healthy Are Your State’s Finances? by The Elephant's Child

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The Mercatus Center at George Mason University has published a new study on the fiscal condition of the states. They rank each state on their fiscal health based on short-and long-term debt and other key fiscal obligations including unfunded pension liability and  healthcare  benefits. Growing pension obligations and increasing healthcare costs are straining budget planning.

Many states are facing big jumps in insurance premiums. Humana is seeking a 50% ObamaCare price hike in Michigan, deductibles are going up. Silver plan deductibles of $6,000 and $7,000 are not uncommon.

Ranking the 50 states is based on five separate categories.

  • Cash solvency: Does a state have enough cash on hand to cover its short term bills?
  • Budget solvency: Can a state cover its fiscal year spending with current revenues, or does it have a budget shortfall?
  • Long-run solvency: Can a state meet it’s long-term spending commitments? Will there be enough money to cushion it from economic shocks or other long-term fiscal risks?
  • Service-Level solvency: How much “fiscal slack” does a state have to increase spending if citizens demand more services?
  • Trust Fund Solvency: How much debt does a state have? How large are its unfunded pension and healthcare liabilities?

The top five states, Alaska, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota rank in the top five. Pensions and healthcare will be long term challenges, but these states are considered fiscally healthy. The top five have changed since last year. Wyoming moved up and edged Florida out, but Nebraska moved up to second place.

Kentucky, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut are in the bottom five largely owing to low amounts of cash and big debt obligations. That little bright red spot at the bottom is Puerto Rico.



The Mounting List of Obama Administration Scandals: by The Elephant's Child

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— The new head of the Veterans Administration, Robert McDonald, told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast that “When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? Or what’s important?”

“What’s important is what’s your satisfaction with the experience?”

American Legion National Commander Dale Barnett excoriated McDonald: “The American Legion agrees that the VA secretary’s analogy between Disneyland and VA wait times was an unfortunate comparison because people don’t die while waiting to go on Space Mountain.”

“We also disagree with the substance of his comment because wait times are very important to not just the satisfaction quotient, but in some cases the veterans health,” he said in a statement.

Well, clumsy, at best. Then there was the new study that established that between 1012 and 2015, less than 10 percent of new hires were actually physicians. Lots of lawyers and public affairs officials though.

The Wall Street Journal reported that there were 4,201 errors which mistakenly declared living veterans dead — terminating their benefits. A simple paper mistake for the VA, a nightmare for the vet who has to straighten out the mess.

— Congress is currently attempting to impeach IRS Director Koskinen. It seems the IRS is still trying to keep conservative organizations from gaining the tax-free status to which they are entitled. And as well, they were just never able to find the emails and other documentation that was requested under FOIA requests. A lower court had accepted the IRS statement that targeting had stopped, but it seems that no one has been held to account and the targeting continues today.

Kim Strassel notes that the “IRS team claimed that the fault for some of the scandal rests with the conservative groups for not pushing back hard enough.” They smugly claimed the conservative groups had blown their chance for nonprofit approval when they turned down the “fast track” status if they just agreed to give up their political speech rights. (A Treasury Dept idea.)

A new lawsuit asks a federal court to force the IRS to obey the law.

The IRS also improperly paid out $15.6 billion through the Earned Income Tax Credit Program. The OMB notes that this is a “high risk” program for improper payments, but the IRS says they are “taking steps” to reduce error.

— Federal Bureaucrats announced earlier this year they plan to change the way Medicare Part B pays for drugs. The goal is to save money by getting doctors to alter their treatment choices to the cheapest drugs available. More than 300 cancer clinics have closed over the past decade as Medicare has shrunk payments for cancer care. This would seem to be a venture in bad medicine, which is a usual result in socialized medicine. Those who see “single payer” as a desirable outcome should have some real second thoughts.

The Obama administration frames this experiment as a way to stick it to drug companies and save taxpayers money. They believe that doctors are not prescribing the “right” drugs—meaning the least expensive ones, even if they are the least appropriate. They suggest that doctors are motivated by money, and not their patients’ best interests.

Surely you have noticed how often the administration sneers at “Big Pharma.” The object is not to save lives, but to place the blame for getting rid of cancer-ridden patients before they cost too much money.

— Obama is planning to release another 22 or 23 long time Guantanamo detainees to about half a dozen countries. These are the “worst of the worst” and can be expected to return to the battlefield fairly promptly. Obama is motivated by the opinion of the European  Left who always opposed the Iraq War and assume that Gitmo is an American torture chamber, rather than the model prison it actually is. Not all of the foreign destination countries are ready to be identified, Obama wants to empty Guantanamo by this summer.

— Last year, Congress went to considerable trouble in crafting and passing a consensus bull to replace the outdated and unworkable No Child Left Behind. One of the goals was to reduce federal interference in education which remains a state and local issue. Obama is ignoring the law that he signed, and attempting to rewrite the implementation rules that claim powers specifically denied by the statutory language.

The law specifically states that the federal government may not use it to “mandate equalized spending per pupil for a state, local educational educational agency or school.” But that’s what the Education Department is attempting to do. Sen. Lamar Alexander, Chairman, confronted Education Department John King in a hearing telling him”The plain fact of the matter is that the law specifically says you cannot do it.”

This remains a nation of laws, no matter how much Obama tries to arrogate power to himself by simply claiming them. He says his agenda “can’t wait” for Congress to act.

— ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has spent at least $18.5 million to fly “unaccompanied children” caught crossing the border illegally, to locations inside the U.S. The numbers shed light on the extent of a program that concerns lawmakers and the federal courts that the federal government is effectively aiding smugglers. The administration has gone to great lengths to ensure the safety of minors, and claims their actions are appropriate. They are transporting minors to facilities run by HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement. ICE said about 10,000 children have been transported by charter flights.

— Obama’s Big Transgender Restroom Diversion is pure Saul Alinsky, the communist who has directed the Left in how to manipulate the American people. “Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new.” If there is a problem (no GDP growth) for which you have no answer, change the discussion and hit them with something new.

Members of the transgender population, about 0.3% of this nation, have managed to relieve themselves for generations in existing restrooms. Imagine the cost of revamping millions of public restrooms, and for such a tiny slice of the population. Now this has become a national cause, a provocation drummed up to divert attention from far more pressing issues.

— I posted “President Obama’s Legacy in 9 Simple Charts from the Federal Reserve“at the end of September last year. Not much has changed.



It’s Not Really About Transgenderism by The Elephant's Child

The Obama Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services has added a new rule change to the Affordable Care Act. All health providers receiving taxpayer dollars must perform sex-change operations or lose their federal funding.

Can government possibly become any more absurd? Sex-change operations do not change anyone’s sex. That is not possible. Sex is determined by your DNA and cutting off temporarily offending organs does not change sex, but merely mutilates. Transgenderism is a dysphoria, or mental problem. Other dysphorias are Anorexia, whose victims see themselves as fat and essentially starve themselves to death. Bodily dysphoria has led victims to amputate healthy limbs, or if they cannot find a surgeon who will do it, amputate Cat mantheir own. Several cases who identify as cats have been reported.

The new rule sates that under Title IX any hospital receiving funding from HHS must “treat individuals consistent with their gender identity.” The administration sent letters to every school district in the country mandating that they open bathrooms lockers rooms and showers to all students, regardless of their biological sex.

The drive for transgender bathrooms is part of the Cultural Marxist attack on modesty and personal privacy. Children should be taught from an early age that sexual behavior is harmless physical gratification, completely unimportant. There are no consequences of physical gratification that cannot be prevented or “taken care of” by a visit to the doctor. Marriage and the family are only lifestyle choices, and not different from any other. Useless people can be disposed of by physician assisted suicide, minor misbehavior should not mean punishment and things like shoplifting, drug use, petty theft, fraud, or forgery should be misdemeanors.

Cultural Marxism demands a compliant state-dependent population who will vote as they are told, and request ever more comforts from an overpowering government. You can see the results in Venezuela, where a hamburger costs $170, and food is getting desperately short. And there’s Cuba, of course. Lots of examples. The kids are being trained in government controlled schools, or haven’t you noticed the nuttiness going on in our colleges? A generation of progressives went a little crazy in the sixties, and they have never really recovered. They don’t want to be told what to do, they want to protest and man the barricades and really want a real revolution, as long as there isn’t any violence and nobody hurts anyone’s feelings.



Even If You Are Really Tired of Politics, There’s Still Some Humor To Be Found! by The Elephant's Child

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Polls apparently told Hillary that voters, besides finding her untrustworthy, doubted her ability to grow the economy. So, in Kentucky, wooing a crowd, she promised that she and her husband would restore the economic prosperity of the 1990s. She has an assignment for her husband, she said, if they return to the White House. The former president, she told voters, will be “in charge of revitalizing the economy.”

“Because, you know, he knows how to do it,” she said. “Especially in places like coal country and inner-cities and other parts of our country that have really been left out.”

Mrs. Clinton mentioned her idea for her husband while speaking at a rally outside a home in northern Kentucky. Earlier this month, she said she had told Mr. Clinton that he would need to “come out of retirement” to help put people back to work.

It has been 24 (almost) years since the newly elected Clintons moved into the White House, so Hillary can probably be excused a lapse of memory. They came to Washington D.C. with a plan that they would be co-presidents, and the American people would get a wonderful two-for-one deal. The American people wasted no time in letting the Clintons know that they did not elect Hillary to be a co-president, and that simply was not going to happen.

Hillary made a lot of noise about not staying home to bake cookies, and other ‘don’t try to make me the “little woman” comments,’ but she fell in line. First Ladies usually have a cause they support — Laura Bush supported Libraries and reading, Ladybird Johnson espoused highway beautification, and wildflowers, Michelle has attempted to change what school kids have for lunch. I had to consult Google to find out what Hillary’s cause was — silly me, it was HillaryCare! One might consider that as food for thought. Besides, it was a Republican Congress that forced Bill Clinton to go along with their efforts to fix the economy, he just bowed to the inevitable.

Also interesting is that at the same time that Obama is out talking about the success of his tenure in office and his revitalization of the economy, the two Democrat candidates are talking about how awful the economy is and how the American  people have suffered.




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