Animal’s Daily Schiff For Brains News

Adam “Barney Google” Schiff (Horse’s Ass – CA) is currently in the House of Representatives, is running for the Senate, and is in bed with a lot of defense contractors who contribute heavily to his campaigns in return for fat contracts.

This should come as a surprise to no one.

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, who is running for the Senate in 2024, doled out $10 million through earmarks to defense contractors that donated to his campaigns, according to a report published on Monday by Politico.

Schiff, who is running against fellow Democratic Reps. Katie Porter and Barbara Lee, earmarked over $10 million of taxpayer money to five companies to develop military technologies between 2001 and 2007. These companies were found to have donated tens of thousands of dollars to his campaign, according to a review of earmark records by Politico.

“We were always concerned about the pay-to-play aspects,” wrote Steve Ellis, who runs the group “Taxpayers of Common Sense,” of Schiff’s earmarks, to Politico. “If you’re getting a campaign contribution and getting your earmark for that same company or for a client of that lobbyist, it has that perception.”

Perception, my aging white ass. It’s a payoff, pure and simple. Here are some tidbits:

The largest donor earmarks by Schiff, totaling $6 million, went to Smiths Detection, which was developing chemical weapons sensors for the military, while another $3 million went to Phasebridge, Inc., which was developing a Naval radar system. Both of these groups retained a lobbyist, Paul Magliocchetti, who around the same time donated $8,500 to Schiff’s campaign committees. Magliocchetti was later convicted on federal charges of illegal campaign contributions and served 27 months in prison, Politico reported.

Schiff also earmarked $1 million for Eureka Aerospace, a company that was developing military technology to stop vehicles that evaded checkpoints. Schiff’s campaign received $34,500 from Eureka’s CEO between 2006 and 2020, as well as from others in his household.

Schiff, furthermore, earmarked $1 million to Tanner Research, Inc., which was conducting research on detecting improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which killed many U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq. Tanner’s CEO donated $15,800 to Schiff from 2003 to 2012.

So we have a member of the House of Representatives – who holds the federal government’s checkbook – shoveling fat contracts out in return for fat campaign contributions.  How is this not corruption of the first water?

There’s one good thing about getting Schiff-For-Brains into the Senate; he won’t be helping to craft any spending bills, which by the Constitution, have to originate in the House.  It won’t end his tit-for-tat with contributors, though, and you can bet a fat defense contract that nobody in the Democratic Party will call him on it – they are all, after all, doing the same thing.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

The very first brain cells may have been in evidence as long as 800 million years ago.

Researchers from Spain and Germany have discovered characteristics of specialized secretory cells in simple animals called placozoans which could identify them as a prelude to neurons in other organisms.

Roughly the size of a grain of sand, these basic creatures have no organs, consisting of little more than a colony of different cell types. Much as they still do today, placozoans once hunted microbes and browsed algae in the warm shallows of seas 800 million years ago.

So 800 million years ago we have evidence of emerging brains.  Any guesses as to when we might see evidence of brains in Congress?

And so…

Continue reading Animal’s Hump Day News

Animal’s Daily Xenotransplant News

Before I get into this, check out the latest chapter of License to Kill over at Glibertarians!

Meanwhile: In Maryland, surgeons may well have given a dying man a few more weeks or months of life by replacing his failing heart with the heart of a gene-modified pig.

The 58-year-old Navy veteran was facing near-certain death from heart failure but other health problems meant he wasn’t eligible for a traditional heart transplant, according to doctors at University of Maryland Medicine.

“Nobody knows from this point forward. At least now I have hope and I have a chance,” Lawrence Faucette, from Frederick, Maryland, said in a video recorded by the hospital before Wednesday’s operation. “I will fight tooth and nail for every breath I can take.”

While the next few weeks will be critical, doctors were thrilled at Faucette’s early response to the pig organ.

“You know, I just keep shaking my head – how am I talking to someone who has a pig heart?” Dr. Bartley Griffith, who performed the transplant, told The Associated Press. He said doctors are feeling “a great privilege but, you know, a lot of pressure.”

The same Maryland team last year performed the world’s first transplant of a genetically modified pig heart into another dying man, David Bennett, who survived just two months.

Here’s why the heart wasn’t immediately rejected:

The pig heart, provided by Blacksburg, Virginia-based Revivicor, has 10 genetic modifications – knocking out some pig genes and adding some human ones to make it more acceptable to the human immune system.

While I’m a big fan of right to try, and while this veteran and his family are doubtless glad to get a few more weeks or (hopefully) months of his company, this xenotransplantation issue seems like a stopgap – a good one, but a stopgap.  The ideal answer, of course, is to have a heart grown from the patients’ own stem cells, which would be accepted by the body with no need for immune-suppressants.

But that technology is a long way off yet.

The patient himself has released a statement:

“Nobody knows from this point forward. At least now I have hope and I have a chance,” Lawrence Faucette, from Frederick, Maryland, said in a video recorded by the hospital before Wednesday’s operation. “I will fight tooth and nail for every breath I can take.”

That’s a healthy outlook.  Here’s hoping Mr. Faucette enjoys the gift of extra weeks or (hopefully) months he has with his family, and hopefully the lessons learned in his case will move the science of transplantation forward.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to The Daley Gator, Pirate’s Cove, The Other McCain, Flappr and Bacon Time for the Rule Five links!  As always, if I’ve missed your link, let me know in the comments and I’ll add you to the Monday acknowledgment.

It’s a long way until the 2024 election, but damned if things aren’t starting to get interesting.  President Biden(‘s handlers) prospects are looking pretty bleak.

President Joe Biden’s job approval rating is 19 points underwater, his ratings for handling the economy and immigration are at career lows. A record number of Americans say they’ve become worse off under his presidency, three-quarters say he’s too old for another term and Donald Trump is looking better in retrospect — all severe challenges for Biden in his reelection campaign ahead.

Forty-four percent of Americans in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say they’ve gotten worse off financially under Biden’s presidency, the most for any president in ABC/Post polls since 1986. Just 37% approve of his job performance, while 56% disapprove. Still fewer approve of Biden’s performance on the economy, 30%.

President Trump, currently in the middle of trying to pull off a Grover Cleveland and become the second President to serve two non-consecutive terms, is looking better – at least by comparison.

Trump, for his part, has improved in retrospect. When he reluctantly left office in January 2021, 38% approved of his work as president, essentially the same as Biden’s rating now. But currently, looking back, 48% say they approve of Trump’s performance when he was in office — matching his peak as president. Essentially as many — 49% — now disapprove, down from 60% when he left the White House.

Comparison with Biden may be a factor. Among the 56% of Americans who disapprove of Biden’s work in office, a wide 75% say that, looking back, they approve of Trump.

As for the 2024 election, still over a year out:

Head-to-head in a hypothetical November 2024 matchup, Trump has 51% support while Biden has 42% — numerically up 3 points for Trump and down 2 points for Biden from an ABC/Post poll in February, shifts that are not statistically significant.

There’s even less change from the most recent ABC/Post poll in May, which had the race at 49-42% (again with a different, but comparable, question wording). Still, with Trump inching over 50% — and other polls showing a closer contest — a close look is warranted.

Before anyone gets too worked up over this one set of poll data, keep a couple of things in mind: 1) President Biden is likely to not be the Democrat’s candidate.  His physical and mental deterioration seems to be accelerating there are a number of prominent Democrats who have expressed doubts about his ability; also, he is facing an increasingly-serious primary challenge from Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

As for the Republican side, there’s a big primary field, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been hitting the trail hard, and not one primary election vote has yet been cast.

Still – if national Democrats aren’t worried, they should be.

Rule Five Looming Recession Friday

The other day, The Messenger Business page gave us ten signs that we may be looking at a recession in the near future.  (Wait, aren’t we already in one?)  Here are their ten points, with a few words of each, with my comments; please go read the whole thing, of course.

1. An “uncertain outlook” from leading indicators

Many mainstay economic indicators measure the past. So-called leading indicators reflect what likely lies ahead. The Conference Board’s U.S. Leading Economic Index for July marked its 16th consecutive drop and its longest losing streak since the run-up to the Great Recession in 2007 and 2008.

This is a tad on the arcane side, but it sure doesn’t look good.

2. Consumer confidence is just a hair above recessionary levels

The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index came in at 80.2 in August, hovering just above 80, the level that often signals the U.S. economy is headed for a recession in the coming year.

This I can confirm.  Most everyone I talk to hereabouts is expressing doubt; they are postponing purchases and projects, lots of discretionary spending is on hold.

3. Consumers are foregoing big-ticket purchases

Retailers report that their customers have shifted their purchasing habits, spending less on furniture and other big ticket items in favor of necessities.  They have also been trading down on grocery items, ditching pricier cuts of beef and buying chicken.

Of course! Everything is more expensive, and wages aren’t keeping up with prices, as they never do in inflationary cycles.

4. Credit cards are getting maxed out

U.S. consumers ran up their credit card debt past the $1 trillion mark for the first time last month, according to a report on household debt from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Not ours; we’re paranoid about debt. But household debt is untenable, and has been for some time.

5. Banks are increasingly reluctant to lend

The latest Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey by the Federal Reserve reports tightening credit conditions across the board, from business loans to home mortgages and consumer credit.

Considering that loose, easy credit led in part to the 2008 housing bubble crash, that may not necessarily be a bad thing.

6. Corporate bonds are maturing and refinancing them will be costly

Goldman Sachs estimates that $1.8 trillion in corporate debt is coming due over the next two years and it will have to be refinanced at higher interest rates.

This seems tied to rising interest rates, and the overall reliance on debt.  Whether this lesson sinks in or not remains to be seen.

7. Manufacturing remains in a prolonged post-pandemic slump

Manufacturing has been in decline for 10 consecutive months, as measured by the ISM Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index. Respondents to the ISM survey reported weaker customer demand because of higher prices and interest rates.

This I can confirm, sort of, by anecdote; my son-in-law works for an OEM parts manufacturer that I won’t name, and he informs me orders have been declining for a while now.

8. ‘Cascading crises’ could tip the balance of a slowing global economy

China, a growth engine for the past 40 years, is still struggling to recover from the pandemic, global economic growth has fallen below long-term average, and the ailing world could pull the U.S. economy down with it. 

China’s big problem is demographic, and that’s going to be much harder to recover from; in fact, they are probably past the point of no return.  China as a nation may not exist fifty years from now.

9. The yield curve, a classic recessionary signal, is still inverted

Investors should be paid more for taking a long-term risk than they should for a short-term risk. That’s why the yield on a 10-year Treasury is supposed to pay a higher yield than a 2-year Treasury.

I don’t have much to say about this except “oh, shit.”

This is the big one:

10. Inflation is sticky, and the Fed isn’t done

The soft landing scenario that is  so widely embraced is based on observations that inflation has dropped precipitously as the economy continues to grow at a healthy pace and the labor market is still  holding strong with the unemployment rate at 3.8%

These folks and the Biden(‘s handlers) Administration insist inflation is coming to a halt, but I’m not buying it.  Gasoline prices here in the Great Land have gone up in the last month or so, when at this time of year they are usually dropping off as the tourist season is coming to a close.  Grocery and home improvement costs are still rising.

We’ll see.  The next election has the possibility of making the biggest difference in economic policy since the 1980 election, but I’m not sanguine about how it will all play out.

Animal’s Daily Slip-And-Slide-A-Potty News

A lot of crap comes out of China these days, but now we find that an innovative new device for getting rid of crap has also arisen over there.  Coming soon, to a bathroom near you, the Super-Slippery-Toilet!

Poop that clings to the toilet bowl is not only unpleasant for bathroom visitors and cleaners alike, it actually wastes a significant amount of water as more flushes are required to dislodge the stuff.

It was this problem that the scientists wanted to tackle by making a non-stick toilet bowl. They used a mixture of plastic and hydrophobic sand grains for their material, fused together with laser-based 3D printing techniques, in a design that was around a tenth the size of a standard toilet bowl.

(Image from story)

The abrasion-resistant super-slippery flush toilet, or ARSFT, was shown to repel synthetic feces, as well as multiple substances that the scientists tested. Nothing was able to get a grip on the surface, and everything slid straight down, much like the slippery pitcher plants that inspired the toilet design.

“The as-prepared ARSFT remains clean after contacting with various liquids such as milk, yogurt, highly sticky honey, and starch gel mixed congee, demonstrating excellent repellence to complex fluids,” write the researchers in their published paper.

Well, that’s… interesting.

The issue to be solved by this, of course, is water usage. If there’s one thing we have plenty of here in the Great Land, it’s water, but other places aren’t so fortunate.  I have a buddy that lives in Arizona, and he is known to wax eloquent about the lack of rain and snow there (especially as compared to our own Alaska, where this year we have seen rather more rain that suits us).  But there are a lot of human settlements and even major cities in places where water isn’t exactly abundant; Las Vegas, or Phoenix, or Los Angeles could all profit from the implementation of this kind of tech.

Homeowners would probably be happy to see their water bills reduced, as well.

They key for this, as for all new technologies, will be cost.  How much will the new slippery potties cost?  How soon will the economics of scale kick in to reduce the prices still more?  What’s the break-even point on one of these for, say, a family of four?

At this point the super-slip potty is a neat thing, but at the end of the day just a curiosity.  Unless the economic questions are answered, that’s all it will remain.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

Just overnight, our juncos are gone, headed south for the winter.

Dark-Eyed Junco

One day there were a lot of them about, gleaning seed from under the feeders; the next day they were gone.  Juncos are one of our last summer birds to leave in the fall.  Friday is the first official day of autumn,  but our brief Great Land summer has already given way; we had our first hard frost Monday night, it’s raining more, the leaves on the birches are turning, and the fireweed is all come up in red.

Winter is coming!  Next month we’ll start getting snow, if things go as usual, and that’s fine.  Our winters are every bit as beautiful as our summers.  We have a full heating oil tank and two and a half cords of firewood put away.  We’re ready.

And so…

Continue reading Animal’s Hump Day News

Animal’s Daily Religion and Politics News

Before we start, check out the next episode of License to Kill over at Glibertarians!

Now then: Sure, many Republicans and libertarians are also Christians.  That’s fine; most of both also believe the First Amendment codifies freedom of conscience for a reason.  But, some folks occasionally forget that some of us aren’t Christians.  Townhall’s Jeff Davidson has some thoughts.  So do I.

It happens so often that I am amazed when the contrary occurs. I am at a gathering of Republicans/Conservatives, and someone gives the benediction. This could happen at a luncheon, certainly at a dinner, and other types of gatherings. Usually, these prayers are only a couple of minutes in length. Then, after all has been said, the speaker adds a final sentence, “In Jesus’ name do we pray.”

Messaging Matters

I’m not the first to observe that Republicans and Conservatives have better programs and policies and a firm grasp of what actually helps the nation, but they have lousy messaging. The Democrats have harmful programs and policies but better messaging. They know how to twist and turn a phrase. Consider the difference between the terms “pro-abortion” and “pro-choice.”

When it comes to benedictions, conservatives can enhance their phrasing. Rebel is all you want, but citing the name of Jesus in the benediction is unnecessary. Once you say, “Heavenly Father,” or “God,” or “the Lord,” that is more than enough for a benediction in front of a group. 

I have no idea what Jeff Davidson’s religious convictions are; he doesn’t mention them, and in any case it’s none of my damn business, and sort of irrelevant to the point he’s making.

But my own convictions are well-known.  I’m an atheist, and very upfront about it.  Bear in mind that I’m not a militant atheist; that seems to be the province of leftist atheists, to want to belittle believers or force them to silence.  There is an old saw that says “If a conservative is an atheist, he doesn’t go to church.  If a liberal is an atheist, he tries to get all mention of religion removed from public life.”  My observation is that this is generally accurate.  Furthermore, I’ve never harbored any notions that I was smart enough to tell anyone what to do or think.  Robert Heinlein once wrote that his father had taught him to “…mind my own business, and always cut the cards,” and I think that’s a good general operating principle.

Mr. Davidson is not talking about religion so much as messaging, and making sure to consider the increasing numbers of Hindus, and Buddhists, and other religious groups entering the conservative movement.  It’s not a bad thing to remember, the concept of the non-denominational prayer; military chaplains have been doing it for many years.

Food for thought, certainly.

Deep thoughts, news of the day, totty and the Manly Arts.