Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Ebola, and the stupidity of categorical statements from public officials

Today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made a categorical statement about the new case of Ebola in Texas. The CDC Director, Dr. Tom Frieden, made the following statement:

At some point, there was a breach in protocol, and that breach in protocol resulted in this infection. The (Ebola treatment) protocols work. ... But we know that even a single lapse or breach can result in infection.
However, the CDC went on to state that they had spoken with the nurse and could NOT determine what the failure in procedures was. They do not know what, if anything, the nurse or anyone else did wrong.

While it is most likely true that this new case was a result of a failure to observe safety protocols, the CDC should not be making categorical statements. And here's why.

Taken from the President's remarks on September 16, 2014 [the President's remarks are in block quotes, my responses are not]:
First and foremost, I want the American people to know that our experts, here at the CDC and across our government, agree that the chances of an Ebola outbreak here in the United States are extremely low.
Within three days, an asymptomatic infected person was on his way to the USA via plane.  So much for the consensus view of the experts.
We’ve been taking the necessary precautions, including working with countries in West Africa to increase screening at airports so that someone with the virus doesn’t get on a plane for the United States.
Wrong. See previous comment. The methodologies for screening were so rigorous that lying and Ibuprofen could beat them. Given how easily Duncan entered the country, the chances of this happening were not "extremely low."
In the unlikely event that someone with Ebola does reach our shores, we’ve taken new measures so that we’re prepared here at home.  We’re working to help flight crews identify people who are sick, and more labs across our country now have the capacity to quickly test for the virus.
This one appears to be true. Thank God some of it was.
We’re working with hospitals to make sure that they are prepared, and to ensure that our doctors, our nurses and our medical staff are trained, are ready, and are able to deal with a possible case safely.
So prepared that they got an Ebola victim and sent him home with anti-biotics. And so prepared that according to the CDC itself the medical staff at the hospital in Texas were too poorly trained to implement the procedures correctly.

Three out of four sentences wrong, although at least the President's speech writers stuck in a slight qualifier in the first sentence.

This is why the CDC should not have made the categorical statement they made regarding the new case in Texas. By doing so they look arrogant, and look especially stupid in light of the President's comments from September 16th, which were no doubt made after the relevant people from the CDC had made their views known to the President and his staff. As it is, they look like the jerk-off NASA administrators who said that the chance of a shuttle failure resulting in catastrophic loss of life and equipment were one in millions or less. It erodes their credibility, and does not reassure the public.

NOTE: I am not implying the President or his advisers were lying on September 16th or today. Perhaps they are, but that isn't proven and I will give them the benefit of the doubt. But the remarks from September 16th have serious credibility issues, and today's comments left them no wiggle room should the new statement be incorrect. And even if their belief is correct, today's statement projects arrogance, which is off-putting to say the least.
Instead, the CDC should have released a statement worded something like this:
We’re confident that our safety protocols are effective and believe that one or more of these protocols were likely breached resulting in this additional case. We are working with the infected nurse and her coworkers to determine exactly what happened. We will work diligently to insure no further breaches of established best practices, or if we need to revise our protocols.
That would have been reassuring without projecting know-it-all arrogance.

Friday, October 03, 2014

The new jobs numbers

Much is being made of the new jobs report, and how it signals how wonderful the economy is.

Well, that's bullshit. Here are some of the more pertinent facts, as compiled from the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank's FRED database:

On the job front, we’re still approximately 2.6 million full time jobs behind where we were at the prior peak. This after more than five years of ‘recovery’.
 
Also, looking at FRED data I see that people ages 25-54 have over 4.85 million fewer jobs now than at the prior peak. But that population has only dropped by 1.4 million. Overall, the employment percentage for that group has dropped 3% points since the prior peak.

Again, this is after almost five years of 'recovery'. This expansion will not last forever, and it will likely end before we reach the old peaks of full time jobs and jobs of any kind for people in their prime working years. Which hurts those folks immensely, as it will negatively impact everything from total life-time earnings to starting new families. And new household formation has been a classic and strong driver of economy growth in the past. As new household formation falls, that reduces prospects for future growth.

Just try and remember all of this when people state how wonderful a job Obama is doing, and how wonderful the current 'recovery' is. Politeness may force you to have to listen to it, and you may not even be able to object lest you lose your job or other standing, but you don't have to believe it. And if you decide to punch the speaker in the face repeatedly, know that there are several million good reasons to do so. And that's BEFORE looking at the wage numbers, which present their own horror story....

*****

Links to data here:

Employed, Usually Work Full Time

Employment Level - 25 to 54 years

Civilian Noninstitutional Population - 25 to 54 years

 

 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Squirrel of the Week: [Vacant]

For the week of 9/21/2014 to 9/27/2014

No squirrel last week, unless it was Becky.

Squirrel of the Week: It distracted me so much I forgot to blog it.

For the week of 9/14/2014 to 9/20/2014

 I done forgot all about it. Having too much fun cutting stuff down and playing chess.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Squirrel of the Week: Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner

For the week of 9/7/2014 to 9/13/2014

This is disheartening. I'm not sure I've ever seen a dumber media frenzy than this one. People are madder at Goodell for punishing Ray Rice than they are at Ray Rice for knocking out his girlfriend and dragging her around by the hair.

They're mad at Goodell for meting out punishment and have no problem with the fact that the government did NOTHING about this save assign some counseling. Gee, would I rather go to prison, or get counseling? Would I rather pay a fine, or get counseling? Would I rather wear one of those ugly orange jumpers and pick up trash on the side of the road as my community service, or get counseling?

And worst of all, when the public got mad about all this, it was over a video that showed NOTHING that wasn't already known. Months back the story was that Rice hit his then fiancee (and now wife) knocking her out cold, and dragged her around by the hair. This is what the video showed. Nothing new was learned by the publication of the video. But NOW people are getting worked up about this. Unbelievable.

Worse, many other players in the NFL, both current and former, have committed worse acts that aren't getting any play at all. I think Donte Stallworth killing someone while driving drunk is probably more serious than the Ray Rice incident, but you wouldn't know it from the reaction of the public right now. Stallworth was suspended for one season. Rice has been suspended indefinitely.

And it has been particularly revolting to see Ray Lewis and Trent Dilfer comment on the matter. Ray Lewis was charged with two counts of murder many years back. He and two friends were involved in an incident in Buckhead Georgia which resulted in two much smaller men being stabbed to death. Lewis and his friends were all indicted. Lewis eventually plead guilty to obstruction of justice and testified against his friends in order to get the charges dropped. His friends later got off anyway.

Trent Dilfer was Lewis's teammate. Dilfer now talks about how he couldn't play with someone like Rice. Lewis talks about he is a much better person than Rice and wouldn't want to be teammates with him. They're both full of shit.

Ultimately, this is moral outrage as a positional good. People are feeling better about themselves by being more outraged than their neighbors. What a load of horse shit.

I wanted to write something more in depth about this matter, but ultimately I just can't get over the stink of the rank hypocrisy and phony moral outrage that surrounds this and related matters. You know it's all bullshit, because very little outrage is being directed at people who have done worse, but are now lauded for what exemplary human being they are. (Ray Lewis was the face of the NFL his last few seasons in the league, and is now one of ESPN's most notable TV stars.)

Further, you get cases like US District Judge Mike Fuller. Just look that one up for yourself. You will find that the Senators demanding that Goodell be fired for not doing enough to punish Ray Rice are doing nothing about a federal judge who beat the Hell out of his wife. Not only are they not taking care of the import matters of war and economics that fall within their purview, they're not even going after the wife beater that only they, as a constitutional matter, can go after. They won't even mention it. Worst Congress ever.

I just can't write more about this, as it just makes me sick to my stomach, both for the crimes at the heart of the matter, and the way they're being handled and manipulated by the elites of the country in order to distract from small matter like war. Revolting.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Correcting little old ladies

At the time I'm writing this, about 2:20 PM on Thursday September 11, 2014, CNN's top stories include a story about a local police matter in Missouri, TWO about whether or not the NFL saw a video of one of its players KTFOing his girlfriend, a story about an obscure king-maker in South Carolina's Presidential Primary of 2016, another story about a big solar storm headed this way, another account reminiscing what it was like to be with President Bush on 9/11/2001, and only then a story about Obama's proposed new war in Iraq and Syria.

Really, it couldn't be more revolting to follow US news outlets these days. It's not like everything is going well and there's nothing else to talk about.

The old lady was wrong: it's nothing but squirrels all the way down.

[Set to publish much later tonight.]

A new family motto

The old family motto came from a comment by my mother:

We're not crazy; we're just mean.

Too true. But since I've either disowned my family or been disowned by them (and good riddance either way), I want a new motto. Today, in a text to my wife, I may have hit upon it.

If I'm going to be a fluffy pink poodle with purple sequins, I'm going to do it the right way.

Context might help you understand it, but why worry about that? Should probably make it first person plural, though....

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Trent Dilfer is a Tool

Watched the San Diego-Arizona game Monday night. Got to hear Trent Dilfer talk about the Ray Rice situation, and how he tells the children he coaches that they need to win on the field and off.

This from a man who has a Super Bowl ring because he played with a man who admitted that he attempted to help two friends get away with murder. That's what he admitted to - e may well have been the killer himself.

The moral preening around the Ray Rice case is particularly disgusting. More on that later.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

A PSA about PSA Tests....

September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. My wife, Kim, has asked me to broadcast this information. More than a decade ago she lost her father to prostate cancer, so this matter is near and dear to her heart.

So to all the gentleman, and other males, out there, go get a finger shoved up your ass by a professional. It might just save your life. And it might spare your daughters, wives, sons and other loved ones from a feeling of loss due to your absence.

NOTES:

PSA = Public Service Announcement

PSA Test = Prostate-Specific Antigen Test, a blood test to help detect prostate cancer; used in conjunction with Digital Rectal Exams for screening purposes.

More information can be found here and here.

Monday, September 08, 2014

For the corporations and their top managers and owners, everything; for everyone else, nothing.

Same old same old from the Harvard Business School:

Harvard Business School Alumni Temper Pessimism About the U.S.

Sounds good as a headline. But it starts looking grim as one digs deeper:
“Many business leaders see smoother waters ahead, with the promise of stronger and steadier growth in America,” Harvard Business School professors Michael E. Porter and Jan W. Rivkin wrote in a report on the poll.

The country’s recovery, though, is bifurcated, according to the report. Large and mid-size companies have rallied strongly from the worst recession since the Great Depression, while middle- and working-class Americans and small businesses are struggling.

“The U.S. is competitive to the extent that firms operating here do two things: win in global markets and lift the living standards of the average American,” Porter, who is co-chair of Harvard Business School’s U.S. Competitiveness Project, said in a press release. “The U.S. economy is doing the first of these but failing at the second.” 
 Essentially, if you're in the top ten percent, you're golden. If you're in the bottom 90%, you're getting the golden shower from your betters. And THIS makes those folks feel good about themsleves and life in general.

There are two likely endings to this scenario, and neither of them are good.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Squirrel of the Week: Jennifer Lawrence's Butt

For the week of 8/31/2014 to 9/6/2014

Okay, okay, Jennifer Lawrence's butt isn't really the squirrel, but that's click-bait.The real Squirrel of the Week includes Jennifer Lawrence's butt, however. That squirrel you saw flittering around last week was Celebrity Skin. (Which is an album by Courtney Love's band Hole, BTW.)

That included the big iCloud hack that revealed photos that celebrities wanted kept private, and also Joan Rivers, who had died before the week before.

I don't really have much to say about either that hasn't been said over and over again. Regarding the former, people need to not put things into a digital format if they don't want those things all over the internet. Because everything can be hacked. Apple's reputation for security has really been more about the fact that Apple products occupied a much smaller niche of the market than Micro$oft products, and the hackers tend to focus their efforts on the biggest possible returns. But now that Apple has become a much bigger deal, the hackers will rake them over the coals as well.

As for all the Celebrity Skin photos and video, I haven't looked and I don't intend to. Not because I'm some sort of shirking violet, or because I'm respecting their privacy. It's just that I don't think it is worth it. I'm not sure how many people are "on the internet", but it is probably over two billion people. And approximately one billion of those people have put up homemade erotica/porn. There's an awful lot of unknown amateur skin out there, and some of it looks quite good. And that doesn't include the professionals! I'm sure Jennifer Lawrence's butt looks quite nice, but I'm pretty sure I've seen plenty that look just as nice. It's just not worth the effort.

As for Joan Rivers: You either liked her, or you didn't. I actually did, and part of the reason for that was that she was as brutal with herself as she was with the other targets of her wit. That counts for something to me.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Winning on the Internet

The other day we decided to switch my daughter from her five-point harness child seat to a booster seat configuration. This required removing her seat. That proved hard because the LATCH system anchors were synched in tight. So I had to work hard to get it out. Ultimately I had to move the front passenger side seat all the way forward.

(Incidentally, when I'm God-Emperor, I'm going to ban child safety seats for children over the age of 1. Let the little devils sit on their dad's laps while he drives, smokes and drinks beer at the same time. It's how we were all raised and we all survived to adulthood. It'll toughen 'em up!)

This was all well and good until the next morning when we got in the car, and the passenger side seat was stuck in the forward position.

Oops.

We have a 2003 Toyota Camry XLE, and it turns out that running the electric seats all the way forward often causes them to get stuck.

I wish I had known that.

So, the choices became letting the missus sit in the back (which we did for the day), taking it to a dealer to get it fixed (more on that shortly), or trying to fix it myself.

Turns out I just happened to have a Chilton's Manual for this car from the library. Kim read through that while I drove yesterday. No help in the manual. So then she hit the internet.

First she found that this was a common problem. And she also found that many people were being given quotes from their mechanics that the fix (involving removing the seat and replacing the electric motor) in the $1,000 to $1,300 price range. Yowza! Don't have the money, and wouldn't want to spend it anyway.

Bu she also found solutions. The easiest way involved using a hammer. Unfortunately, that didn't work. I suspect that method would work, though, if you stopped fiddling with the seat once it was stuck, which I didn't do.

But that got to the method that DID work. There was even a helpful YouTube video! This worked. The only thing I had to do was get an S2 drill bit. (I may have had one somewhere, but didn't find it.) So yesterday morning, while out on another errand, I stopped in at Sears and picked up an S2 drill bit. (Along with 100 other bits, as this handy Craftsman 100-Pc. Drilling and Driving Kit was on sale for $14.99.) That, and the video, and about five minutes were enough to fix the seat.

And since I needed more masonry drill bits anyway, the big drilling and driving kit was also a win. (It's good to have all those bits in one place anyhow. I have some stuff here, some there, a lot in my main tool boxes, some security Torx bits in my computer repair kit, etc.)

Thus the internet saved me a lot of money AND inconvenience.

But this gets me to an interesting point. This is the kind of issue one could use to test one's mechanic for both knowledge and honesty. Fixing this would cost you some money at the mechanic. The mechanic WOULD be using his time and equipment. But it should come in around $50-$100 if he knows what he's doing AND is honest. If, on the other hand, he comes back and tells you it will cost $1,000+, then you know something is wrong, and perhaps you should get a new mechanic.

Squirrel of the Week: Wait for it ... Wait for it ....

For the week of 8/24/2014 to 8/30/2014

This week I briefly thought the Brangelina marriage wold be the squirrel. But then, Joan River's collapsed! Surely THAT would be the squirrel.

But no, it was not to be. Showing how he dominates the US media (but little else), Obama provided his own squirrel this week:

The tan suit.APTOPIX Obama-Tan Suit
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci, file)

The suit obscured Obama's comments about the wars in Ukraine, Iraq and Syria, possible US involvement in those wars, the threat of terrorism to Americans abroad and at home. It especially obscured the fact that his comments undercut his State Department, Defense Department and his intelligence agencies.

The President also admitted he didn't have a strategy for dealing with ISIS. 

But the only thing that mattered was the tan suit.

What the Hell happened to America?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Over 19 million people live in the state of Florida ...

... and the best we can come up with to run for governor are Rick Scott and Charlie Crist. The amazing thing about this race will be the combination of the negativity, which will be high, and the fact that most of the negative comments about both contenders are true.

Revolting.

But it must be particularly depressing for Democrats. Seriously, the best candidate they can find is the worst governor in living memory, who happened to be a Republican up until he couldn't win Republican primaries?

Even by the current debased and degraded standards, this is awful.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Squirrel of the Week: The Golf Vacation

For the week of 8/17/2014 to 8/23/2014

The issue isn't so much that the President is spending so much time on vacation playing golf. Rather, it's that he's no less effective when doing so than when he's in the White House.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Squirrel of the Week: Tie: Robin Williams suicide and Michael Brown's death

For the week of 8/10/2014 to 8/16/2014

Both events seem to have largely overshadowed events of much greater import elsewhere, such as the evolving Ebola crisis, the continuing crisis with ISIS in Iraq, the slow boil war between Russia and Ukraine, and so on.

This is not to say both stories don't merit some attention. If Robin Williams wasn't widely beloved, he was as close to it as possible without achieving the goal. But the Brown situation, like the Trayvon Martin case or the Casey Anthony case, really merits no more than local attention.

But that's not how things work.

Incidentally, the note how the big story last weekend involved Tony Stewart and the fatal track accident he was involved in. That went away pretty much entirely after Robin Williams death was announced.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Squirrel of the Week, Chess Player Edition: Garry Kasparov

For the week of 8/3/2014 to 8/9/2014

Garry Kasparov has been running for the Presidency of the International Chess Federation, know by its Franch acronym of FIDE. He has been running against the 19 year incumbent, one Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. The incumbent is someone that got rich from running a small semi-antonymous republic in Russia after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Among other things, he is alleged to have had at least one opposition journalist murdered, and has claimed that he was abducted by aliens and taken to the moon for consultations. (This last allegedly happened in 1997, while President of FIDE.)

Kirsan has been an awful President of FIDE. But he has been masterful at buying votes come election time, and has held onto his office for a long time. And he will get another four years as today he crushed Kasparov in the election for FIDE President. He has expressed his interest in being President for life.

But Garry is the squirrel in all of this. In fact, Kirsan is something of a squirrel. The problem is with an international sporting federation that is so poorly designed that someone like Kirsan can come to and maintain power. The election is meaningless, and unless changes are made to FIDE's structure (and they won't be) nothing will change. Chess will continue to be a very marginal sport, with a joke of a governing body.

Squirrel of the Week: Stephen A. Smith

For the week of 7/27/2014 to 8/2/2014

It's very late, but it was Stephen A. Smith for his confused and/or awful comments about domestic violence. Frankly, it is too late to care now, and I didn't care then. Deciphering SAS's thoughts is something not worth the effort.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Squirrel of the Week: The NFL as Social Engineering Device

For the week of 7/20/2014 to 7/26/2014

One hesitates to wade into it. Last week we had Tony Dungy getting blasted for not loving gays enough. We Had Chris Kluwe blasting Dungy at the same time we found out that Kluwe had previously harassed a co-worker by making non-stop child rape jokes.

(Punters should be seen, not heard. Kickers should only very rarely be heard from, namely when and/or if one: makes a clutch game-winning field goal; or produces a great on-side kick, or has a Garo Yeprimian Moment. In that last case, the kicker should be forced to explain himself. Or possibly do a deodorant commercial. "Damn!")

But the real story concerned Ray Rice's suspension for domestic violence. I'm not going to go into all the details of that, you can look it up if you care enough. And I'm certainly not going to talk about the Stephen A. Smith sideline, not at this late date.

What I will say is this: It is ridiculous to expect that the NFL should punish Rice to a greater extent than the law did for this incident, given that the NFL has no contractual reasons to do so. Much has been made of the NFL suspending other players for drug use, especially marijuana. But those guidelines have been drawn out specifically in contract negotiations between the NFL and the NFLPA, the players' union. And they have been negotiated because of the effects drugs have on the game, not because drugs are immoral or bad in-and-of themselves.

Instead, this falls under a kind of "general discretion" set of language. Again, I'm not going to go into the NFL's particular ruling on this case. I will just say that it actually _IS_ in line with many other violent offenses committed by NFL players. In fact, Ray Rice is getting punished more for this than Ray Lewis (also of the Baltimore Ravens) got punished for his participation in a double murder. (Lewis ultimately pled guilty to obstruction of justice in that case.)

Let me reiterate: Rice is getting punished more by the NFL than he is being punished by the legal system. And before I hear another complaint about how rich people get away with all kinds of things because of their money (although they do), this isn't one of those cases. Consider my idiot neighbor.

Idiot neighbor has been arrested and charged with violent crimes 19 times. That would be for a total of 14 felony charges, 12 misdemeanor charges and five unclassified charges. At least 2 of the felony charges and 10 of the misdemeanor charges, as well as all five unclassified charges, have been for domestic violence.

Most likely some of the other violent charges are domestic in nature but I can only get so much from the Orange County Clerk of Courts website. Not all concern domestic violence, however, as he has one "hit and run" charge and a couple for physically assaulting a police officer.

These charges also do not count drug charges, tampering with evidence charges, or a long string of traffic citations that do not include hit and run. And these are only records for one county in Florida. I have reason to suspect he has been in trouble in at least one other Central Florida county. (And yes, I know an awful lot about him. His behavior, both on his own and with his dogs, has forced me to look into his background in order to protect myself.)

He's been in a lot of trouble. He's also skipped bail at least twice, and violated terms of probation on many occasions. He is not a "good person", as demonstrated by a long record.

So when he got arrested on 1 felony count and 2 misdemeanor counts of domestic violence, again, in March of this year, I expected that he would FINALLY get the book thrown at him. After all, he had five felony convictions at that time, as well as 9 misdemeanor convictions, with two of the felonies and all nine of the misdemeanors being for domestic violence. (As well as those five unclassified charges, all of which were for "Domestic Violence with Children [Present]".) And this time there were multiple witnesses who did not seem to be interested in dropping charges.

Instead the two initial misdemeanor charges were dropped, and the felony was reduced to a misdemeanor in exchange for a no contest plea. He got six days time served. And all this happened AFTER he skipped bail again on another charge, skipped the felony trial for that other charge, and eventually was caught and pled guilty to another felony. Six days in jail for his 17th domestic violence conviction.

And my neighbor is dirt poor. He's still trying to pay off a fine from 2004!

So, Ray Rice being put into an interdiction program, especially after his then-fiancee-now-wife pled for leniency, isn't really all that big a stretch, even for someone without money.

Thus, I see no reason for the NFL to punish Ray Rice more than they have. It is NOT their job.

It IS the job of "the authorities", however, and focusing on Ray Rice, Roger Goodell and the NFL let's those who should be responsible off the hook.

The NFL is NOT a social engineering device. It is a sports league dedicated to making money. Expecting it to be more than that is a bunch of promotional hokum, purveyed by various bands of hucksters. (Including the NFL itself, of course.)