American Elephants


Just How Gullible Are You? Just Wondering. by The Elephant's Child
June 29, 2009, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Freedom, Progressivism | Tags: , ,


“Since when do we call it a “town hall” meeting when a bunch of pre-screened experts ask the president a bunch of pre-approved questions in the East Wing of the White House?
” Michael Cannon asked in the Corner at National Review Online.   Good question!

The president held a so-called “town hall” meeting with a pre-selected audience last Wednesday under the benevolent auspices of ABC.  Critics, other opinions, and disagreement were not included.  Republicans formally requested a chance to participate or time to respond, but those who were not fully in the Obama tank were not invited.

Health Care experts from the Cato Institute respond, in the video above, with some of the information you need.  Much of the ObamaCare plan is based on the idea that there is a best treatment for any situation, and with a modern Internet technology approach, and with all your health records online, the government can choose the best care for everyone, and by “incentivising” [fining the doctors who don't follow the rules] best care, they think they will improve care and reduce costs.  “One size fits all” says Michael Cannon.

But it doesn’t work that way.  My next-door neighbor can take only very small amounts of medicine. A full dose knocks her out.  I need the full dose and then some.  And as far as government management is concerned, a couple of notes.  When the car czar and his czarettes made the decision to close a large number of Chrysler dealerships [a very odd decision, since the dealerships were not owned by Chrysler, but were independent businesses privately owned, who bought their stock of vehicles from Chrysler], Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) immediately went to Chrysler to make sure that the dealer in his district, who was on the closure list, stayed in business.  This is only a tiny sample of how government control works.

These people are politicians and bureaucrats. What do they know about running the health care of 300 million people?  Canada has 33 million people and cannot manage their health care.  Great Britain has 66 million people, and theirs is a mess.  Even Massachusetts, population about 6.5 million, has a new health care plan that is a flop.  But the Great and Wonderful Obama —who has never run as much as a candy store — is perfectly sure that he can manage the whole system, cover the uninsured, reduce costs and insure a healthier, happier America.

The one thing that you most need to know about the “Kennedy Health Care Bill” working its way through the Senate, is that members of Congress, and the Administration and whoever else is currently on the admirable health care plan that they all love are excused from ever participating in the Health Care Plan they stick the rest of us with. And Obama has excused his friends in the Unions from any tax on their benefits.



So You Want The Folks Who Handled the Auto Bailouts to Take Charge of Your Health? Are You Nuts? by The Elephant's Child

President Obama has made it clear that reforming the American health care system is one of his top priorities. Unfortunately, it is not the public’s top priority.  The public’s top priority is reducing the deficit.  To say that the two are not compatible, is simply a truism.  Obama does not plan to give up.

Progressive groups plan to spend $82 million to push government-run health care. This is to be “the crowning achievement of a new era of progressive politics.” The issue is not about health care, it is about power. If  they can get control of your health care, then you become dependent on them for your life and health, and you must always vote to return them to power, lest they take it away.

They are rounding up all the “Progressive” groups to lobby, demonstrate, push and demand that their health care ideas are passed quickly, before you can object.  What is the rush?  Why not take time to figure out the best remedies for health care flaws, and improve the system?

  • You are being told that 46 million people in America are uninsured. That is not true.  The actual number is closer to 8 to 10 million.
  • You are being told that government-run health care will be free. That does not pass the smell test. The government has no money except your taxes and it will be far more expensive. 
  • You are being told that a government-run health insurance plan will compete with private plans. It is being designed to eliminate private insurance plans so that everyone is forced into the government plan (undoubtedly excepting members of Congress and the administration — they like their coverage).
  • You are being told that  taxpayer-financed health care will save money. This is not true.
  • You are being told that electronic medical records will save vast sums of money.  This is not true. And under current technology your private medical records would be open to pretty much anybody, and you would be wide open to identity theft.
  • You are being told that health care organizations have promised to reduce their costs by 1.5 % every year. This is not true. They said they would try to reduce costs by 1.5% by 2015.
  • You are being told that health care reform is entitlement reform. This is not true.  The idea that Congress can cover the uninsured and use the same measures that pay for the health reform to fix the broader budget problems is simply false.
  • You are not being told that voters put more emphasis on deficit cutting over health care reform. But it is true.

A group named “Conservatives for Patients’ Rights” recently bought time on Washington D.C.’s NBC Channel 4 to air a 30-minute broadcast on Sunday after “Meet the Press.” The group described it as a documentary in the style of “60 Minutes” that would “let people see the real consequences of letting the government take over their health care decisions.”

The program has run on other channels, and focuses on the “stalling, wait lists, rationing and withholding of care because of red tape, politics, and bureaucratic foot-dragging that are typical of government-run health care everywhere, especially in Britain and Canada.

Most Americans are unaware of the rationing and other factors that lead to poor health, and even fatalities in socialist health care systems. SEIU (the Service Employees International Union) quickly contacted NBC, claiming that CPR’s program “will be false, deceitful and a distortion” and asked the station to refuse to run the program.

The administration that promised “transparency” is hiding their real intent behind platitudes and promises that don’t stand exposure to the clear light of day.  They are playing politics with your life and your health, and excellent care for you and yours is not what this is about.  It is about power — not yours — but theirs.

Republicans have many ideas for reducing the cost of health care and making it more efficient, but like tort reform, the ideas sometimes are not favorable to groups like trial attorneys that are core Democrat supporters.  The Obama administration is not receptive to Republican ideas.

People who are healthy don’t have much contact with the health care system, nor readily grasp its problems.  It is the people in need who encounter the rationing, the doctors who are leaving medicine, the denial of service, the dirty hospitals, the too-expensive machine, the inability to get a drug or treatment that is too new, too expensive in spite of its promise.  And the one who decides what is too expensive, unneeded, not useful is not you and your doctor, but some bureaucrat in Washington.

Your choice.  You can be passive and let the bureaucrats decide, or make yourself heard.



The H1N1 flu strain by The Elephant's Child

The Swine, Mexican, H1N1 flu, will be relatively mild scientists say, according to genetic data, and won’t be as deadly as even the average winter flu. Scientists are working on a new vaccine, but it won’t be ready until around December.  Because of  Hillary Clinton’s insistence on removing the profit motive from vaccine manufacture, there is now only one company that makes vaccines in the United States.

The World Health Organization says that only 7 8 people worldwide have died from the H1N1 flu.

Janet Napolitano warned youngsters released from schools closed in fear of the flu, that school closure didn’t mean they should go the the mall, but that they should stay home.

Somebody or other announced that the flu was caused by a virus — as the flu always is — and you cannot get it by eating pork chops or bacon.

According to the media, this flu is closely related to Seattle’s own winter storm watches.  All panic, few flakes.



Daniel Hannan warns us about universal health care. by The Elephant's Child
April 8, 2009, 6:09 pm
Filed under: Freedom, History, Socialism, United Kingdom | Tags: , , ,

(h/t Bookworm Room)



“A New Era of Responsibility.” by The Elephant's Child

President Obama is annoyed by criticism that he is trying to take on too many issues at once.  Suggestions that a $3.6 trillion budget that seeks to rescue the economy from the worst crisis since the Great Depression, while also trying to overhaul health care, change our energy infrastructure, change our energy use, end our dependence on foreign oil, overhaul education, finish up the War in Iraq while fighting the War in Afghanistan, and reset our relationships with the rest of the world are a little much, are annoying.

Obama told the leaders of the congressional budget committees:

To kick these problems down the road for another four years or another eight years would be to continue the same irresponsibility that led us to this point.  That’s not why I ran for this office.  I didn’t come here to pass on our problems to the next generation.

It’s Bush’s fault.  He was too laissez-faire and irresponsible.

President Obama was responding sharply to the idea that he should be focusing on fixing the banking crisis first.  Real economic recovery he said, requires many actions at once.

Obama was asked whether his domestic policies suggested that he was a socialist.  “It wasn’t under me that we started buying a bunch of shares of banks”, Mr. Obama said, “And it wasn’t on my watch that we passed a massive new entitlement, the prescription drug plan, without a source of funding.”

Oh.  It’s Bush’s fault.  He’s the socialist, not me.  Got it.

Mr. Obama pushed back against the characterization:

By the time we got here, there already had been an enormous infusion of taxpayer money into the financial system.  The fact that we’ve had to take these extraordinary measures and intervene is not an indication of my ideological preference, but an indication of the degree to which lax regulation and extravagant risk taking has precipitated a crisis.

There’s a point at which “Bush made me do it” isn’t going to work any more.



The “Massachusetts Miracle” has gone Poof! by The Elephant's Child
March 17, 2009, 1:38 am
Filed under: Domestic Policy, Freedom, Politics, Taxes | Tags: , ,

Almost everyone knew that it was only a matter of time.  The story appeared yesterday in the New York Times and was summarized by James C. Capretta in the Corner today:

Having promised lavish subsidies for expansive health insurance, it seems state officials in Massachusetts have finally begun to admit that their health-care reform program, passed in 2006, is unaffordable for the state’s taxpayers.

It was really clear from the beginning that the plan would overwhelm the state’s budget.  It was only a matter of time. The state forced hundreds of thousands of residents into heavily regulated insurance plans by shuffling around some existing money and raising taxes.  They didn’t construct a marketplace with cost-conscious consumers, nor did they pursue the heavy-handed kind of government-imposed cost controls that Democrats love.  There was no reason to expect health-care costs to suddenly stop increasing rapidly after the “reforms” than there was before the plan was adopted.

Now it is really hard to turn back and start over, since hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts households are now enrolled in subsidized insurance. Surprise, surprise.  The state now wants to impose cost-controls.  Bureaucrats will now develop wonderful new systems for paying doctors and hospitals, which will reward “more efficient” ways of delivering care.  Inevitably, when the government tries to micro-manage payments, prices and protocols, the result is a mish-mash of cuts in quality, service and satisfaction, and disincentives throughout the system.  Doctors are moving out of state, fewer physicians are willing to practice in the state.  All predictable.   Democratic Governor Deval Patrick has already spoken of state-imposed caps on private health insurance premiums.

Mr. Capretta adds:

The Obama team is essentially pursuing the Massachusetts political strategy — cover everybody first with a massive new entitlement program and worry about imposing cost-controls later.  In fact, Sen. Ted Kennedy’s top lieutenant assigned to pulling together a health-care bill was a principal architect of the Massachusetts approach.  And on costs, the Obama administration keeps touting the same benign-sounding initiatives— like expanded use of health information technology — that Massachusetts officials used to cite, even though the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has already said these kinds of steps won’t come close to solving the cost problem.  It is obvious that the administration is hoping it can get a bill passed without endorsing the kinds of measures which would rightly be attacked as rationing care.

Oh, they won’t mention rationing right off the bat, but in a year or two, when it is too complicated to go back, the financial future of the country will depend on government-imposed cost constraints.

Even the Times story hints at what is really at stake here.  If we don’t rely on market principles to allocate health-care resources, the country will inevitably turn to the government to keep premiums in line with income.

The thing you really need to remember is that members of Congress have no intention of giving up their highly satisfactory health care plan, and joining whatever government controlled program they can gin up.  That little fact alone should tell you everything you need to know.



Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste! by The Elephant's Child
March 16, 2009, 9:24 pm
Filed under: Democrat Corruption, Domestic Policy, Global Warming | Tags: , , ,

Here’s British columnist Janet Daley writing in The Telegraph, exposing the effort to make an “opportunity” out of the present financial crisis:

Meanwhile, Mr. Obama — who gives the impression of being considerably out of his depth in the economic maelstrom — talks of an “opportunity” to “reorganize our priorities.” He gave a major speech last week in which he actually seemed to suggest that the present crisis had been caused by America’s failure to develop a universal health care system and to attend to the impending environmental disaster of global warming (“we made the wrong choices”), and that by focusig on these matters a way can be found out of the country’s economic problems.

Is he quite mad?  Does he really believe that the banking crisis and the recession were some kind of divine retribution for the absence of universal health care, and excessive carbon emissions?

You can read the whole article here, and another from the same author.



The furore over stem cells represents bad science, bad ethics, and bad politics. by The Elephant's Child

President Obama has yesterday released an Executive Order “Removing Barriers to Responsible Scientific Research Involving Human Stem Cells.”This was a blatantly political decision, as the misleading headline makes clear.

There is probably no issue around which swirls so much hype, falsehood, false hope, pure emotion, politics and misunderstanding.  The liberal theme seems to be that the evil President Bush, because of his fundamentalist crackpot religion, has banned stem cell research from embryos which would let paralyzed people walk and cure most of society’s major diseases.  Others point to three decades of outstanding success with adult stem cell research, and wonder why investing taxpayer money in experimentation that has never had even one success is a good idea.

President Bush did not ban embryonic stem cell research, much as liberals like to claim that he did.  He limited federal funding to existing lines of embryonic cells.  This seemed a reasonable solution since the problems of embryonic stem cells did not offer much hope.  Unfortunately, the propaganda mills went to work.  Venture capitalists have refused to back embryonic stem cell research, which explains the need for government support.   Embryonic stem cell experimentation  has not only never produced a success, but it has a tendency to produce terrible teratoma tumors and cancers, as well as plain rejection.

It is hard to find unbiased information.  There are patents involved in embryonic stem cell research  that will enrich the patent holders if such research is allowed and is promising. University science departments are eager for funding.  Some states have hopes of  major medical centers as an important source of income, and they are anxious to encourage or invest in stem cell research.

People with paralysis or with degenerative diseases desperately want a cure, or improvement or real hope.  It is a very emotional issue.

Adult stem cell research has been going on for over three decades, and has shown many encouraging results: conditions improved, feelings returned to the paralyzed, cures, all kinds of successes.  Adult stem cells can come from bone marrow, skin, nasal tissue, fat tissue and other body parts. They are multipotent, used to regenerate many, but not all tissues in the body.

In 2007 scientists were able to tease adult skin cells into becoming pluripotent. These are called induced pluripotent cells and are not yet safe for treatment, because the process of making them includes the addition of cancer-causing agents. But just last week Canadian and Scottish researchers announced a new and safer way to create iPS cells.  In general, adult stem cells cancel the other big problem, rejection of donor cells, because they come from the patient’s own body and are safe. Venture capital firms are supporting this research with their own money.

Embryonic stem cell research has had many problems.  Because the cells come from a donor, rejection is a problem, as is the tendency to cause cancer and multiple tumors. It is not known if these problems can be overcome

Polls show that a majority of Americans believe it’s more important to conduct stem cell research that might lead to new cures than to avoid destroying human embryos.  I object.  This is not a subject that should be determined by polls of people who have no idea of what science has to say about the subject.  I firmly believe that we are doing way too much polling, too casually, and representing the results of polls as somehow authoritative, when they are not.  Political parties are anxious to grasp on to any issue that might give them an advantage, and democrats are anxious to capitalize on this one.

I found the following articles helpful, here, here, here and here There are several good articles at http://www.usnews.com/blogs/heart-to-heart/  For some reason I was unable to link to them.  Obviously some believe that  Embryonic stem cells will yield miracles.  Others believe that to be false hope and think  progress with adult cells  indicates the correct path.

I do not pretend to be an expert nor even particularly well-informed.  But I find the vast amount of information online to be biased, poorly researched and emotion-charged. Google ‘stem cells’ and see the hype in the headlines.

Only days after Obama’s inauguration the FDA approved its first-ever embryonic stem cell study in humans.  The biotech company Geron plans to inject highly purified human embryonic cells into eight to ten patients with acute spinal cord injuries.  The cells are from a Bush approved line.  I wish them well. It is an enormously risky undertaking.

And I surely wish we could get the politics out of it.



President Obama spoke to Congress tonight, trying to stir up some optimism. by The Elephant's Child
February 24, 2009, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Domestic Policy, Economy, Energy, Health Care, Progressivism, Taxes | Tags: , ,

I watched President Obama’s speech to the Congress tonight, and I thought it was surprisingly ineffective.  This was to be the optimistic speech, celebrating America and the way forward. An upbeat speech instead of his usual gloom and doom trying to scare Americans into accepting his policies for the economy.

AP’s Ron Fournier’s pre-written article on Obama’s speech said:

Barack Obama is giving America the audacity to hope again.  After describing the U.S. economy in the grimmest of terms for weeks, a rhetorical device that helped propel his $787 billion stimulus plan through Congress, the president used a joint address to Congress to tap the deep well of American optimism — the never-say-die national spirit that every president tries to capture.  And great presidents embody.  “We will rebuild.  We will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before,” Obama says in an address echoing Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan.

We are in the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, and there is no doubt that we will triumph.  Just as soon as the stimulus and the new lending fund, and the housing plan to help the folks who can’t pay their mortgages kick in, and we bailout the banks, American ingenuity will make all well again, because we cannot saddle our grandchildren with our debts which were all caused by that nasty previous administration anyway.  Or something like that.

I am troubled about the policies on which he is placing so much expectation. He promises to double the energy we get from renewables.  We now get about 3.1% of our energy from all renewables.  If we double that we will get 6.1%, which is not going to make a big dent in the foreign oil we import, nor will it cut down the energy we get from coal.  In Europe even the Greens are turning to nuclear. Russia’s turning off the gas spigots enlightened a few minds.

He promises vast savings from computerizing medical records, but studies show that Veterans Administration computerization is actually endangering patients, and elsewhere medical records are completely open to identity theft. The expected savings have not materialized.

He seems to believe that nationalizing health care will create vast savings in the cost of medicine in spite of the evidence of every other country, many of which are trying to find ways out of nationalized care.  It doesn’t work, in spite of every effort, and the savings come from rationing, cutting out the use of new and innovative (and expensive) drugs and treatments.  I would feel more comfortable about this if Congress did not exclude themselves from whatever plan results.

Obama announced that he plans “soak the rich” class-warfare economics, to loud cheers from the Democrat side of the aisle.  Repeating the same old failed policies of the past are not a road to an economic Utopia.  Been there, done that, and it still doesn’t work.

I would be delighted to be proved wrong, but I find little about which to be optimistic.



In the “Office of the President-elect”, Oddities Abound. by The Elephant's Child

The Office of the President-elect  has announced that his first efforts when he takes office will be to undo many of George W. Bush’s executive orders and replace them with his own.  This seems to me to be an unusually classless announcement, for someone who claimed that he would bring unity to Washington.

Most important, it seems, is to block any drilling on lands in Utah where new oil leases were approved by the Department of Interior.  Following close behind is allowing federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research.

There are some strange things going on here that seem puzzling. Apparently, Obama believes all the rude things he said about the Bush administration during the campaign.  Bush Derangement Syndrome lives.  My guess is that Liberals believe that — the evil Bush, because of his fundamentalist religion, and his antipathy to science, has prevented all the wonderful cures that might come from exploiting the promise of embryonic stem cell treatments — or something like that. They seem not to have noticed that adult stem cells are delivering on all that promise.

Embryonic stem cells, as I understand it, have monumental problems with rejection and with turning rapidly into cancer cells, problems that may not be able to be overcome.  Venture capital funds are not readily available because there are so many problems and so little proof of potential.  Adult stem cells are taken from the patient’s own body, so there is no problem with rejection.  They can be teased into becoming pluripotent, that is adapting to any cell in the body.  Scientists have been working with adult stem cells for decades and have had many, many successes.  Embryonic stem cells have not yet been used for even one therapy.

The astonishing advances that have helped to restore bladder and muscle control to patients with paralysis, heart patients that have been helped, hope for people with Parkinson’s, remission for patients with multiple sclerosis are not of interest to liberals.  They believe that only religious extremism stands in the way of vast advances with stem cell treatment.  And they are sure that as soon as embryonic stem-cell treatment is funded by the taxpayers there will be help for patients with paralysis, help for heart patients , hope for people with Parkinson’s and remission for patients with multiple sclerosis.  Oh, do I repeat myself? They do not care that we are well under way for finding cures for these conditions, or they don’t know, or it’s just the “wrong” cure.

Isn’t this odd? Never mind the bird in the hand, go for the one in the bush — quick, quick, before he gets away.



The wonders of socialized medicine… by The Elephant's Child

Oregon is the only state that both allows assisted suicide and attempts to ration health care. Barbara Wagner, a 64 year old woman who had recovered from lung cancer found that it had recurred. Her oncologist prescribed a cancer drug that would cost $4,000 a month.

The Oregon Health Plan said that it wouldn’t cover the treatment, but it would cover palliative care, including, if she chose, doctor-assisted suicide. That’s what happens when the state has the tough job of rationing government-paid health care.

The Oregonian editorial was apparently troubled by the “appearance” of ethical conflict when the state makes the offer, but is untroubled by the actual ethical conflict presented by the assisted suicide policy.

The Pharmaceutical company is stepping in to help Barbara Wagner. Thanks to James Taranto at WSJ’s “Best of the Web” for the story. It certainly bears thinking about.



Why Socialized Medicine Goes Bust…Every Time! by The Elephant's Child

Socialized Healthcare

Both Democrat candidates are extolling their plans for “universal health care”, otherwise known as socialized medicine. Apparently many young voters have no idea what the term ‘socialized medicine’ means. Certainly the idea of freedom from worry over how to pay for health insurance is enticing.

The basic idea of all insurance is that a large group of insured will pay a modest amount to be protected from risk. If the pool of insured people is large enough, when disaster falls upon one person, the amount to be paid out takes only a small amount from each of the others. Disasters seldom fall upon many at the same time (you immediately thought of Katrina and 9/11, didn’t you?) if there is wide geographic dispersion among the insured.

The case of health insurance is somewhat different. Catastrophic insurance is much the same — auto accidents, strokes and cancer are all examples of the need for catastrophic coverage. Examples that involve long hospital stays and very large bills.

The problems arise with coverage for ordinary doctor’s visits. Medicine has become much more complicated than it used to be. I don’t suppose that my parents saw a doctor more than a couple of dozen times in their lives, and my mother was a doctor’s daughter. Now with patent medicines touted for everything from sore feet to weight loss on radio commercials daily, and ads for prescription and over-the-counter medicines in every magazine, we are far more conscious of every discomfort. The media covers every advance in medicine, and every lawsuit. Dramatic stories of dire medical situations are a popular genre for movies and paperback thrillers. It is hardly surprising that we are a nation of, at least modestly, hypochondriacs.

When treatment, or at least comforting attention, from a physician is available, free, the natural tendency is to seek that attention more often. Young mothers rush their children off to the doctor at the slightest sign of fever or cold, when if they had to pay for it they might wait to see if the kid was really sick, and even then might recognize that colds usually last about seven days or if it’s bad — a week.

Legislators who pass laws about what will be included in medical coverage, are easily seduced by lobbyists and friends who want their particular need covered. So basic health care gradually expands to cover acupuncturists, birth-control pills, homeopathic medicine, massage therapy, for example, and worst of all, mental health care. I say worst of all, because it is extremely difficult to separate the merely unhappy from the mentally ill. So you have a constantly expanding definition of medical care, and a constantly expanding population of people needing (or at least demanding) that care.

This is a recipe for disaster, and disaster is what has been the inevitable result. Of course it is all right for a while, but all too soon costs exceed the original plan. Please remember that “free” is a misnomer. It is not free — you will pay for every bit of care with your taxes. The government does not have any money of its own — it can only give you things by taking your money to pay for it. So the squee-eezing begins. Taxes go up, doctors’ reimbursement goes down, hospitals and nurses are paid less. Doctors are urged to squeeze more patients in, prescribe only generic medicines, cut down on expensive tests, and so on and so on. It is inevitable.

To understand what happens, visit any of the British newspapers : The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, The Scotsman. They all have a search function. Enter National Health Service or NHS and read about the terrible problems the British face — dirty hospitals, superbugs that have killed hundreds, patients traveling to hospitals in other countries to avoid the NHS, and patients who die waiting to be treated.

Investors Business Daily reports that Quebec’s former health minister is admitting that “the system he helped create is not sustainable. It has, as Claude Castonguay has succinctly noted, reached a crisis point.” Castonguay is known as the father of the public health system that was copied by the rest of Canada. He recognizes that the element of freedom of choice which Canadians exercise in the rest of their lives is missing in the most important area of all — their health.

There are plenty of examples in the real world. Perhaps you remember the 15,000 elderly who died in French hospitals a few years ago. Or did you read about the problems Sweden is facing? I know, I know, this time it will be different.

The demagogues promise free health care, freedom from fear and freedom from financial worries. They lie.




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