American Elephants


Common Sense Trumps Environmental Overreach by The Elephant's Child

The good news just keeps flowing out of the Trump administration. Today it is the case of a tiny Aleutian village—King Cove, Alaska.  It is a remote fishing village with around 1,000 inhabitants. The town has a clinic, but no doctor and no hospital. Their tiny airport is often locked in by gale-force winds and fog. When there’s a trauma case, childbirth, complications of all sorts, they must get to the all-weather airport in Cold Bay, 22 miles away for transportation for the 600 miles to Anchorage, hospitals and doctors.

King Cove residents have requested of the Interior Department a 22 mile long, one-lane gravel road to Cold Bay which would allow for all weather access to lifesaving medical care. Here’s the rest of the story I wrote back in 2014:

Etta Kuzakin, a 36-year-old King Cove resident who serves as Agdaagux tribal president, needed an emergency Caesarean section in March after going into early labor with her now 9-month-old daughter. Giving birth in King Cove could have killed her and her baby. Medevac flights into King Cove were grounded by ugly weather. Ms. Kuzakin waited in labor for ten hours until a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter flew her out in the afternoon.

“If there had been a road, it would be two hours out,” she said. “I sat there in labor not knowing if I was going to die or my kid was going to die. Pretty traumatic.” Fishing is also hard work, and injuries are common. According to local Aleutian elders, 19 people have died since 1980 because bad weather during emergency evacuations prevented them from getting out.

Sally Jewell, former U.S. Interior Secretary, met with Aleutian citizens in the gymnasium in King Cove, to hear their request for a simple one-lane gravel lifeline to a dependable airport. Ms. Jewell, former head of REI, told her King Cove audience thatI’ve listened to your stories, now I have to listen to the animals. She rejected the road, saying that it would jeopardize waterfowl in the refuge.”

“Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will swap federal land with the Aleut of King Cove AK, on January 22, answering decades of pleas from local officials for a road.”

King Cove residents have pursued building an 11-mile, single-lane, non-commercial road between King Cove and the Cold Bay Airport for the past 35 years. In that time, at least 18 people have died from causes attributable to not having a road between the community and airport, according to documents obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation. …

Since 2013, 68 medevacs have evacuated King Cove residents to the airport for life threatening injuries or other immediate medical needs. Because the community is isolated, each medevac costs U.S. taxpayers as much as $210,000 a trip, TheDCNF has learned.

Environmentalists have argued for the purity and preservation of the Wilderness Act, but exceptions are possible, and Ms. Jewell was out in left field. She was a former head of REI, and, I assume, a city person unfamiliar with driving in the country where herds of sheep can often block the road, but even those can be moved off with a little shooing. This was not exactly a freeway that the Aleuts were asking for. Birds, even large ones, are moveable species, and unlikely to build nests on a road. Traffic was likely to be rare.

Democrats are apt to put great weight on their “compassionate” character. They care. Except when they don’t. But they believe that they do, and castigate Republicans constantly for their uncaring nature. Uh huh. You will notice that their fidelity to Green causes trumps compassion every time, except when you are talking about cleaning up your own mess after a demonstration.

Good for Secretary Zinke, good for President Trump, and I’m delighted that the Aleuts will get their simple one-lane gravel road.

You might enjoy William Voegeli’s 2014 book The Pity Party. The subtitle is “A Mean-Spirited Diatribe Against Liberal Compassion.” The Amazon comment “a scathing and reasoned critique of the politics of liberal compassion—and why liberals’ lack of interest in the results of their policies renders them unfit to govern.” It’s spot on.

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The EPA Is Cleaning Up Superfund Sites, The Most Toxic Sites in the Country. by The Elephant's Child

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has cleaned up in part, or completely, seven of the most toxic Superfund sites in the U.S. in 2017. Of the seven sites designated for cleanup, three have been completely cleansed, while four others still require some work. This is a vast improvement over the prior year when the EPA completely cleaned one Superfund site.

“We have made it a priority to get these sites cleaned up faster and in the right way,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said. “By creating a streamlined task force and making major remedy decisions that hold potentially responsible parties accountable for cleanup, the Superfund program is carrying out the agency’s mission of protecting human health and the environment more every day.”

These gains by the EPA are part of a list of 21 contaminated sites that need “immediate and intense attention” our of more than 1,300 Superfund sites nationwide. The Left has been heavily criticizing Pruitt for rolling back some of Obama’s environmental regulations and reducing the reach of the agency. Pruitt said he is taking more of an environmental  stewardship-focused, rather than a preventative, view of the relationship between the environment and industry. He wants to hear local voices. He said We can be about jobs and growth and still be good stewards of our environment. The last several years have been more adversarial, and there wasn’t much cleanup going on. Surely you remember the bright yellow river.



The Trouble With ObamaCare by The Elephant's Child

The trouble with ObamaCare was, in particular, the regulations. Lots of other problems,of course, but Leftists always think that they know better how anything should be run, and for just that reason, it mostly doesn’t work. The Wall Street Journal today pointed out one of the big reasons which is that ObamaCare mostly meant that small businesses quit providing healthcare for their employees.

Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta is proposing to allow small businesses to band together to provide insurance on an equal footing with corporations and unions. Excellent!

The share of workers at small businesses with employer-sponsored health benefits has dropped by a quarter since 2010 as insurance costs have ballooned, in part due to government mandates. About 11 million workers employed by small businesses are uninsured. Some businesses have dropped their workers onto state insurance exchanges where premiums are subsidized by taxpayers.

Enter President Trump, who last fall directed Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to consider “expanding the conditions that satisfy the commonality-of-interest requirements” for association health plans under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or Erisa.

Large-group plans that are self-insured—i.e., funded by unions or employers—are covered by Erisa. These plans are exempt from ObamaCare’s essential benefits requirements, though they must comply with rules on annual and lifetime limits and pre-existing conditions as well as state solvency regulations.

Mom-and-pop businesses and sole proprietors aren’t so lucky. Most purchase coverage from insurers in the small group or individual marketplaces, which are subject to ObamaCare’s coverage mandates and controls on premium prices. The Obama Administration precluded small employers from forming association plans that are exempt from Erisa by narrowly interpreting the “commonality of interest” membership requirements.

Secretary Acosta on Thursday, proposed a new rule that would define “commonality of interest” among employers to include geographical area, such as a metropolitan area or even a state, as well as an industry, trade or profession. Chambers of commerce or national industry groups could sponsor plans. Sole proprietors could be defined as both employers and employees, which would allow independent contractors to form or join association plans. The Left is, of course, howling about Trump trying to destroy ObamaCare, but millions of small business people and sole proprietors aren’t insured at all because they can’t afford coverage on the exchanges. Sole proprietors who earn too much to qualify for subsidies are squeezed out by soaring premiums.

If they are freed from ObamaCare’s mandates, they can devise plans more suited to their workers, and costs would be reduced by spreading the administrative burden. This is not going to solve the burdens of ObamaCare, but ObamaCare was never a plan to give health care to everyone. It was a plan for government control of health care so that the giver of health care would always be voted back in because of the fear of losing health care. They saw that kind of ‘insurance’ in Britain’s National Health Service (NHS).

Britain’s NHS figures show that 16,893 patients waited more than 30 minutes at Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments in the week at the end of the year. This was a 42% rise over the previous week when only 11,900 waited in the ambulances hoping they wouldn’t die while they waited. Hospital bed occupancy was 91.7 percent—an 85% level is considered safe.

It was announced a day earlier that all non-emergency operations will be cancelled until at least February as the worst NHS winter crisis in 30 years hits. Around 55,000 procedures that were planned will not happen. A senior doctor claimed that patients are being treated in “third world” conditions in some hospitals. In the meantime cases of flu are rising and there are severe respiratory problems. The people generally believe that their health care is free, but forget that they pay for every last bit of it in their taxes and lower standard of living.

The population of Great Britain is 66,387,483, ours is 323.98 million as of 2016. When healthcare is free, people are inclined to run to the doctor at every small symptom. ObamaCare assumed that when all the healthy young people were forced to pay their share, it would cover the sick people. The skyrocketing premiums show how well that all worked. And young people have consistently dropped out. Doctors tell their kids to choose another profession. Those who use up the most medical care are of course, the old folks. The Eskimos solved that by leaving granny out to freeze on an iceberg which is a relatively painless way to go. Some in India leave their grannies in a tiger preserve, I have read. I’m sure we will gradually come up with solutions. Just try to keep the politicians out of it.



Only in The People’s Republic of Seattle by The Elephant's Child

The City of Seattle claims to wish to protect you from the ravages of sugar on your body and well being. They will protect you by discouraging you from purchasing sweetened beverages with a new tax of 1.75 cents per ounce on all sweetened beverages sold in the city. (They do not care about your body fat, your rotting teeth or your potential diabetes. They want the money for their own nefarious purposes) It took effect Monday, on the first  day of the  year.

The prices at an area Costco showed that the tax increases the price of Gatorade by 65 percent and Dr. Pepper by 75 percent. To explain the cost increase, the discount chain posted an explanation of the steep price increase.

(h/t: Jon Gabriel) @ricochet



When it’s Over, It’s Really Over. by The Elephant's Child

In the American political system, the President gets to hold office for either 4 years or 8, and when he or she is done, when a new president is elected, the previous president returns to civilian life. They are no longer a leader, no longer an official, just another past president, and once more a private citizen. Obama seems to be having a hard time accepting that, as do some of the people from his administration. No more titles. No more limelight. You had your turn and it is over.

George W. Bush was most gracious. He worked at rehabilitation for members of the military who were wounded during his administration. He paid honor to them with his paintings. He carefully did not interfere with Barack Obama’s turn. Obama knows that, but doesn’t seem to understand that it is an example for him as well.

The Twenty-second Amendment of the United States Constitution limits the number of times one can be elected to the office of President of the United States. Congress proposed the amendment by two-thirds of both the House and Senate on March 21, 1947. Ratification by the requisite 36 of the then-48 states was completed on February 27, 1951.

Mr. Obama is having a hard time being a private citizen. He was following President Trump in his visits to foreign leaders for a while, turning up for a visit right after Trump’s. Tacky.  It must be hard seeing your successor undo many of your presumed accomplishments, and even worse—see the economy respond in such vigorous approval. Is he hoping for a coup?

But that’s how it works. Americans were so thrilled when George Washington’s army defeated the British and sent them packing, that some wanted General Washington to become an emperor or a king, but Washington would have none of it. That was a most important step in the American presidency, and was recognized as such by other nations. The founders worked carefully to make sure that they were defining the presidency correctly to prevent future emperors or kings.

In many ways, the presidency is something of a thankless job. Things you wanted to do didn’t get done or there was deep resistance, or you were outvoted. You don’t get do-overs, and you don’t get to decide how the historians will think of you, no matter how glorious your presidential library turns out to be. You get to keep the honorific titles as a courtesy. Losing candidates also have a hard time accepting reality. Works better if you understand from the beginning the limits of the office. We probably tell our presidents too often that they are the most important man in the world. They are, but only briefly, then it’s over.



Common Sense is Not Anywhere as Common as Assumed by The Elephant's Child

Mitch Daniels, President of Purdue University, had an excellent article in the Washington Post last Wednesday about GMO foods. The campaign against GMO foods he says, is the kind of foolishness that only rich societies can afford to indulge.

Of the several claims of “anti-science” that clutter our national debates these days, none can be more flagrantly clear than the campaign against modern agricultural technology, most specifically the use of molecular techniques to create genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Here, there are no credibly conflicting studies, no arguments about the validity of computer models, no disruption of an ecosystem nor any adverse human health or even digestive problems, after 5 billion acres have been cultivated cumulatively and trillions of meals consumed.

And yet a concerted, deep-pockets campaign, as relentless as it is baseless, has persuaded a high percentage of Americans and Europeans to avoid GMO products, and to pay premium prices for “non-GMO” or “organic” foods that may in some cases be less safe and less nutritious. Thank goodness the toothpaste makers of the past weren’t cowed so easily; the tubes would have said “No fluoride inside!” and we’d all have many more cavities.

The article is an excellent plea for a little common sense. Mitch Daniels points out that suggesting that the poor in developing countries should fear GMO foods is not just wrong, but immoral. The story of the Green Revolution and the work of Norman Borlaug who should be one of the great heroes of the world should be taught in school.  Golden Rice is a variety of rice (Oryza sativa)  produced through genetic engineering (there are the ‘scary’ words) to biosynthesize beta-carotene in the edible parts of rice. It is intended to produce a fortified food to be grown and consumed in areas where there is a shortage of dietary vitamin A, a deficiency which is estimated to kill 670,000 children under the age of 5 each year.

This is a broad problem of political and scientific ignorance. Ilya Somin of the Volokh Conspiracy added his views on the problem.He links to Reason science writer Ron Bailey and William Saletan of Slate. The basic problem of ignorance is heightened by the very words “genetically engineered” which sound, to the ignorant, really scary. Ilya Somin notes that a 2012 National Science  Foundation survey found that about 25% of Americans don’t know that the Earth revolves around the sun rather than visa versa. There’s a lot about basic knowledge in Ilya Somin’s article that certainly suggests that we have a major problem with our schools. Do read that whole thing too.

I would suggest though, that much of the problem exists because of our grocery stores. Food producers are concerned with their marketing, and inclined to cater to any possible fears of the consumer. Hence you have “low sodium” products, “sugar-free,” “low-fat,” and “No GMO products” among others on every can or carton in the store. If everyone is telling you that GMO is a bad thing, pretty soon you’ll start to believe it.

Another article by Ilya Somin explains the problem of mandatory government warnings where the state of Florida required producers of skim milk that does not contain added vitamins to label it as “imitation milk” which it of course is not. The European Union has imposed mandatory labeling of GMO foods, even though there are no dangers involved. Read the comments on Mitch Daniels’ fine essay. You might wonder if perhaps Leftism is just a cult.



Explaining the Trump Derangement Syndrome: by The Elephant's Child

All is explained. Or at least a goodly part of all. Economist Mark Perry refers us to an article by Jeffrey A. Tucker last May in FEE. All good things eventually become clear, but the path may be a little tangled. Dr. Perry offers a condensed version:

For the center-left crowd, all their hopes and dreams are bound up with particular political processes, outcomes, and institutions. The state is their favorite tool for all the good they aspire to do in this world. It must be protected, guarded, defended, and celebrated. The illusion that the government is not a taker but a giver and the source of all good things must be maintained. The gloss of the democratic process must be constantly refurbished so that the essential sanctity of the public sector can be constantly cited as the highest calling.

The center-left has at least one hundred years of work and resources invested in the state’s health, well-being, reputation, and exalted moral status. Nothing must be allowed to threaten it or take it down a peg or two. Any failures must be deemed as temporary setbacks. The slightest sign of some success must be trumpeted constantly. The population must be subjected to unrelenting homilies on the essential holiness of the public sector.

They believe so strongly that they can make the world a better place through the managerial state that it has become their religion. It’s their very core! The president is supposed to at least pretend to be the high priest of the statist religion. That’s his job, according to this outlook.

Everything seemed to being going so well under the Obama administration, which was so earnest, so decorous, so civil. He was funny, smart, respectful of process, and sincere in his pronouncements. He ran on hope and change but governed as the person who kept hope for a new freedom and any radical change at bay.

Trump has profoundly disturbed the balance(click here for the rest)

We keep wondering just what spurs the Trump Derangement Syndrome. This is not a bad diagnosis.




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