American Elephants

The Vets Are Still Waiting, Mr. President! Lots of Talk, Not Much Action. by The Elephant's Child


A year ago, the Veterans Administration scandal broke. Wait times were extreme, vets got sicker or died waiting for appointments for care. The VA was covering up, cooking the books and hiding their lack of performance. President Obama was outraged and pledged “urgent reforms.” Congress gave him billions to fix the problem. Would you be surprised to find that nothing has changed. Nothing at all.

On April 9, 2014, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs announced its findings that several veterans have died waiting for treatment at the Phoenix VA Health Care System, and the organization had kept two sets of books to conceal the problems. The scandal spread, it became clear that other VA facilities were involved, and attempts to hide the problems multiplied. By August, the head of the VA was dismissed, and Congress wrote a $16.3 billion bill to fix the disgraceful problem.

Obama quickly signed the bill into law, and spoke of how his administration was” moving ahead with urgent reforms’ and “instituting a critical culture of accountability. They were, he said getting 215,000 vets off wait lists, and the new law would let vets who could not get timely care through the VA get the care they need someplace else.

The press, and Obama moved on to more interesting things. But the Associated Press decided to follow up and see how much things had improved.They haven’t. 894,000 medical appointments completed between Aug. 1 and Feb. 28 failed to meet the VA’s timeliness goal which calls for patients to be seen within 30 days. The number of vets waiting more than 30 or 60 days for non-emergency care has stayed flat. The number of appointments that take longer than 90 days has nearly doubled.

Most were clustered at VA facilities in a handful of Southern states where there is a strong military presence, and growth in numbers of patients that has outpaced the bureaucratic planning process. Of the 75 clinics and hospitals with the highest percentage of patients waiting more than 30 days for care,12 are in Tennessee or Kentucky, 11 are in eastern North Carolina and the Hampton Roads of Virginia and Georgia, Southern Alabama and north Florida. Total enrollees have grown from 6.8 million in 2002 to 8.9 million in 2013.

This is how bureaucracies work, especially government bureaucracies. Somebody has to be in charge with the authority to make things happen. There are rules and regulations that must be followed at every step,and approvals from layers of supervisors, who are also obligated to follow the rules. That’s just for doing things. If you are building a new clinic or expanding or remodeling an old one, it can take years.

Confronted with this kind of situation, the Left usually wants to add another layer of supervisory control to take charge and speed things up. That’s what created the problems in the first place. Somebody up the line made a decision about what was a reasonable time for a vet to wait for an appointment for care, and did not ask the facilities if they could meet that timing. They couldn’t, and didn’t want t admit it and get fired, so they covered up, and of course the cover-up didn’t fix anything and matters only grew worse. Republicans want smaller government, partly because multiple layers of supervision only make things worse, because nobody is in charge with the ability to make things happen.

That goes for Presidents too. Mr. Obama fired General Shinseki and appointed Robert McDonald as the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs. He signed the $16.5 billion bill, made a lot of promises, but follow up was limited to a speech at the American Legion a few weeks after signing the bill. He said “We are going to fix what is wrong. We’re going to what is right by you.” Long wait time.

Political Correctness Run Amok! by The Elephant's Child


The image at center top is the remains of a PopTart after 7-year-old Josh tried to chew it into the shape of a mountain, just for fun, at Park Elementary School in the Baltimore area. His teacher spotted it, with tiny bits of red strawberry filling oozing out, and recognized it instantly as a dangerous weapon.

Josh’s dad was surprised to receive a telephone call from the school saying that Josh had  been suspended from school for two days because he chewed his breakfast pastry into — the shape of a gun? He was astounded at the harsh punishment for his seven-year-old.

The school made sure that counseling is available for any students traumatized by the frightening toaster strudel ordeal.

The school sent home a letter to parents saying, “During breakfast this morning, one of our students used food to make inappropriate gestures that disrupted the class. While no physical threats were made and no one was harmed, the student had to be removed from the classroom.”

Parents should talk to their children if they’re troubled by the incident, the school said, and the school counselor will be available for any student who needs to talk.

If any students were traumatized, it was probably from observing that their teacher and their principal were stark raving loons, and in charge of their destiny.

The letter that went home with students described the incident:

Dear Parents and Guardians:

I am writing to let you know about an incident that occurred this morning in one of our classrooms and encourage you to discuss this matter with your child in a manner you deem most appropriate.

During breakfast this morning, one of our students used food to make inappropriate gestures that disrupted the class. While no physical threats were made and no one [was] harmed, the student had to be removed from the classroom.

As you are aware, the … Code of Student Conduct and appropriate consequences related to violations of the code are clearly spelled out in the Student Handbook, which was sent home during the first week of school and can be found on our website,….

If your children express that they are troubled by today’s incident, please talk with them and help them share their feelings. Our school counselor is available to meet with any students who have the need to do so next week. In general, please remind them of the importance of making good choices.

Economist Daniel Mitchell is appalled by these examples of behavior by adults who work in government schools. He offers these contestants for  the Stupid Official  of the Year Award:

ADDENDUM: From Instapundit today:

IT’S COME TO THIS: ‘Toaster Pastry Gun Freedom Act’ proposed in Maryland. “A Maryland state senator has crafted a bill to curb the zeal of public school officials who are tempted to suspend students as young as kindergarten for having things — or talking about things, or eating things — that represent guns, but aren’t actually anything like real guns.”

And I love this: “The bill also includes a section mandating counseling for school officials who fail to distinguish between guns and things that resemble guns.” Seems fair. We’re always told that public education is important because it fosters critical thinking, but critical thinking seems to be in short supply among public educators.


Bureaucracy At Work, Nobody In Charge. by The Elephant's Child

Hurricane SandyIIBureaucracy is alive and at work on the other side of the country. Homeowners in an exclusive waterfront neighborhood in Brooklyn thought it was as bad as it could get when the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy hit. Many have yet to return to their damaged homes. Others have spent thousands repairing the damage to their homes.

The city, obeying a New York state approved capped five-year formula for setting assessment levels has hiked the assessed valuations on their homes significantly. Their property-value notices, pre-dated January 15, didn’t arrive until the first week of February informing homeowners that they had until Feb. 1 to apply for assistance through the Finance Department’s new Hurricane  Sandy Property Tax Relief program. Finance Department spokesman Owen Stone said the deadline had  been pushed back to Feb. 15, but the program has been in operation since late November.

This is what happens in a bureaucracy. The rules say the houses have appreciated in value. It occurs to no one that that neighborhood was the one they’ve been watching on television with all the storm damage. If damaged  home valuations did occur to anyone, who has the authority to order a change to the state mandated appraisal increases? It is all just so complicated, and fines are waiting to be levied on those who don’t respond quickly enough.

One oceanfront home still had its windows and doors boarded up, and the owner has yet to return because the home was so badly damaged by Sandy. Common sense would dictate their property values have fallen, but the city says the home’s market value has jumped by $473,000 during the past year to $3.1 million.

Well, good luck to them all.  Spokesman Owen Stone said his agency is reviewing 2,900 applications citywide, and that sounds like it doesn’t include all those folks who just got their notices.

Life Is Uncertain. Don’t Be Afraid to Take Charge. by The Elephant's Child
March 2, 2012, 6:33 pm
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , ,

This was a post from Small Dead Animals, a Canadian blog.

Reported in the U.K. Daily Mail:

41-year-old Simon Burgess was feeding swans in a shallow pond in Walpole Park in Gosport, England last year when he suffered an epileptic seizure and fell unconscious into the water. Twenty-five emergency personnel arrived on scene but Burgess remained floating face down, twenty-five feet from shore, for over half an hour after the first responders arrived.

Even though they could all swim, the first fire crew to arrive hadn’t been ‘trained’ to enter water higher than ankle-deep. Instead they waited for ‘specialists’ to arrive to retrieve his body. They had decided Mr Burgess must surely be dead because he had been in the water for ten minutes. When a policeman decided to go in anyway, he was ordered not to. A paramedic was also told not to enter the water because he didn’t have the right ‘protective’ clothing and might be in breach of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992.

The tragic incident made headlines around the world, held up as a shocking example of ludicrously risk-averse Britain. And it prompted a coroner to demand that fire, police and ambulance services improve training to prevent a repeat.

The paper discovered that:

  • The ‘ankle-deep’ rule was meant for fast-flowing water and is taken from guidelines drawn up to deal with floods.
  • Other rescue agencies believe people can survive submerged for much longer than ten minutes – some will still try resuscitation at 90 minutes.
  • The incident happened despite  a previous reassurance from the Health and Safety Executive that firefighters would not face prosecution if they performed acts of heroism that break rules.
  • Mr Burgess could have been reached within two minutes of emergency crews arriving at the scene – as proved by our reporter who went into the lake and waded 25ft to the spot where his body had been floating.
Political correctness is a blight on western nations. You must not offend anyone, you must obey the rules and regulations down to the last comma. The most remarkable thing is that we don’t seem to know what to do about it. We mostly recognize it as a great mistake, we snort and cluck over the stupidity, but what do we do? Nothing. It infects all bureaucracies, large or small. Human Resource departments are a source and are boosters. It involves “Don’t blame me,” and “It’s not my fault,” and “I followed the rules.”

We need a big dose of taking responsibility. The world does not end if you say “I made a mistake.”

In Britain, the NHS is Starving its Patients. Are We Next? by The Elephant's Child

We frequently include stories here about Britain’s National Health Service.  Britain has had socialized medicine since just after World War II. Some call them “scare stories” and so they are. Many Britons like their National Health Service, and feel that they get good treatment.  The scare stories are compelling.  Why do we include them?  Britons hate it when we use their NHS as a bad example; and they, in turn, use their idea of American medicine as a bad example.

Much of health care is routine and minor. You can’t judge health care by the occasional broken arm or deep cut.  Most anyone can fix it. You have to judge health care by the very sick,  the elderly in failing health, the difficult diseases, and the chronic disease. The well don’t need health care. So the real customers for health care are probably in poor health.  And the question of quality becomes how do we care for those in poor health?

The goal of socialized medicine is to give good health care to the poor — those who cannot pay the usual cost of good health care.  The theory is that they will save enough money elsewhere to afford to give good care to the poor.  But are we talking about routine care for healthy poor people, or the care for poor people in poor health?

There is an assumption that “preventative care” will prevent people from getting any condition that is expensive.  This is nonsense. Diagnostic medicine is expensive.  A single blood draw may result in a whole battery of tests.  Machines like MRIs and C–T scanners cost a fortune.  A diagnosis usually begins with a symptom and the attempt to discover the cause of the symptom. Running tests on people who have no symptoms is not usually cost-effective.

What about the modern epidemic of obesity?  A few years ago, they changed the standards for what was called obesity to include more of those people who had never been called obese before.  Voilá, and “epidemic” of obesity.  The same thing happened with diabetes.  They lowered the standards sharply to include more people, and there was suddenly an “epidemic” of diabetes.  The intent was to get more people treated early, but the idea that everybody had better stop eating Big Macs or anything that tasted good was probably misguided.

The Wall Street Journal today has a postcard from the NHS. In 2007, 230 patients died of malnutrition in British hospitals, the latest year for which figures are available.  Age UK, a monitoring charity, says “the true figure may be much higher” due to under-reporting.  In 2007-2008, 148,946 Britons entered hospitals suffering from malnutrition and 157,175 left in that state, meaning that hospitals released 8,220 people worse-off nutritionally than when they entered.  In 2008-2009, that worse-off figure was up to 10,443.

The problem is not insufficient food.  It is individualized mealtime assistance.  The constant scarcities created by socialized medicine, and the constant drive to cut costs leaves nurses with more responsibilities and less time.  It is not, the Journal points out, a Labour problem or a Tory problem.  It is a single-payer health-care problem.

It is a problem of bureaucracy. Anyone who has worked in an organization of any size recognizes that the bigger the bureaucracy, the greater the problems.  Group think doesn’t work. And the more remote the bureaucrats from the actual sick person, the worse the system will be.   Examine this chart (click where noted to enlarge) and note the stubby yellowish star in the lower right-hand corner.  That represents you the sick person.  All the rest of the bubbles and squares and rectangles represent not individual people, but bureaus, who are making decisions about what treatment you get and whether their decisions will allow you to live or die. Not you.  Not your doctor.  Hundreds and hundreds of faceless bureaucrats.

Democrats are facing a nationwide backlash.  Democratic congressional candidates have a new message for voters.  We know you don’t like ObamaCare, so we will fix it.  Do not believe them. Endless tinkering does not fix anything.  It is a single-payer health-care problem.  It does not work. The inevitable result is the NHS — which is what the ObamaCare people want.  They have said so.

The Onion Strikes Again: Are Tests Biased Against Students Who Don’t Give a Sh*T? by The Elephant's Child
August 29, 2010, 8:35 am
Filed under: Education, Entertainment, Humor, Politics, Statism | Tags: , ,

When the folks at The Onion do a parody, there is often a germ of truth that makes the whole thing so hysterical.  This almost seems as if they could have sat in on this very earnest discussion or possibly even the education department study.  They have the nuances of the conversation just right, and so convincing.  This is quite delicious.  Don’t miss it.  (Language alert!  It’s The Onion)

The Same People Who Claim Obamacare Will Make Your Healthcare More Efficient and More Affordable?… by American Elephant

…are the same people who need 26 pages to write a recipe for brownies: Nuts, walnuts, shelled. Shelled walnut pieces shall be of the small piece size classification, shall be of a light color, and shall be U.S. No. 1 of the U.S. Standards for Shelled English Walnuts. A minimum of 90 percent, by weight, of the pieces shall pass through a 4/16-inch diameter round hole screen and not more than 1 percent, by weight, shall pass through a 2/16-inch diameter round hole screen. the shelled walnuts shall be coated with an approved food grade antioxidant and shall be of the latest season’s crop….[read the whole recipe (if you’re a glutton for punishment)]

Which is why even the CBO has stopped pretending that Obamacare is going to be anything but vastly less efficient and vastly more expensive — as everything that government does always is.

The good news? Americans’ overwhelming opposition to Obamacare is not abating, and a whopping 63% of likely voters favor repeal.

(h/t Reason)


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