With so many other bad and dangerous things hanging over us like a Damocles sword – an Ebola epidemic in the US, ISIS setting up a new and brutal caliphate in the middle east, the final two lame duck years of the Obama administration, and the anointing of a minimally-talented yet well-connected legacy child like Lena Dunham as the media voice of a generation – and the upcoming marathon of holiday markets and book events in front of me like so many hurdles to be gotten over in a frantic two-month-long dash – where was I?
Oh, yes – amidst all the impending gloom, doom, and Bakersfield (that’s a California joke, son) my daughter and I are coping with the rather minor tragedy of a friend of ours loosing her job. Minor to us, of course – but not to our friend, a vivaciously charming English lady of certain years whom I shall call Kay, whom we met when she managed a thrift shop to benefit a certain well-established local charity, in a preposterously wealthy outlaying town within driving distance from San Antonio.
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This is a cool event that runs concurrently with the big annual Art Basel art show in Miami Beach in early December. (The MSPF is hosted by a gallery in the Wynwood arts district, which is near downtown Miami rather than Miami Beach and is a fun area to visit during Art Basel.)
The street photography festival is a recent event and has been growing by leaps and bounds, perhaps reflecting the renewed popularity of this type of photography and the fact that there are no other events quite like it. There is a lot of great work on display if you are into this kind of thing — check out the 2012 and 2013 finalists galleries for a sample.
Other street-photography links:
Posted by Mrs. Davis on October 19th, 2014 (All posts by Mrs. Davis)
Two viruses are making the news these days. One, Ebola hemorrhagic fever has infected two in the United States with no deaths yet. It has created wide spread concern bordering on panic. The other, Non-Polio Enterovirus D 68, appears to have infected 825 this year and been directly responsible for at least one death and indirectly responsible for many others, primarily among children. It has generated comparatively little media attention and very little panic. Why the difference?
First the victims of D 68 are primarily children, Ebola also strikes adults. As a culture we no longer value children as much as we once did. Children are an option, almost a luxury. They have become more expensive than most luxuries we consume. Perhaps it is because the high cost to rear a child is reflective of the damage we humans are doing to the planet Or because so few of them die at an early age as compared to the past. And I suspect that childlessness is far more prevalent among our media elite opinion makers. In any case, few children vote and so they don’t really matter to policy makers.
Second, D 68 generally kills indirectly by weakening the child so that pneumonia or some other respiratory illness can be the cause of death. Ebola eats you alive! I’ve seen it on TV! And it is a terrible new way to die unlike ways we’ve died before.
Finally, WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE. D 68 is poorly understood and we have no idea how prevalent it is in the population or how many childhood deaths it has contributed to. And it’s non-Polio. But we know Ebola has a 50-70% fatality rate among those who contract it in African third world countries. After all it’s hemorrhagic fever. We’re going to bleed to death. So, if it gets loose here we could have millions of deaths like that! But we actually have all the tools we need in our public health system to prevent it from spreading widely, once we get the Bozos out of power. So it’s highly unlikely that this outbreak will spread among the general population.
It’s a very small probability of a terribly frightening event. And some folks have used the propensity of people to exaggerate the possibility of catastrophic outcomes to further their political goals. I’m thinking of nuclear power, an energy source that has killed no one in the US. Compared to the coal industry, which routinely contributes to the death of both its producers and consumers, nuclear power is harmless. However, some used Three Mile Island to shut down the development of power plants that could have cushioned us from the effects of the OPEC cartel. Or how about the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) fraud? Or the reaction to a terrible but unrepeated terror bombing? The public has been taught to fear by leaders who want to harness public opinion to support their political goals.
Now comes Ebola. True, a threat. But a highly improbable one. Except when the incompetence of our elite leaders is made abundantly clear for all to see. And then those leaders have the audacity to be surprised when a formerly courageous people are reduced to trembling? The chickens are coming home to roost.
I was recently on a plane doodling and thought of some funny / interesting stories from 25+ years of working and traveling. So I decided to write them up as short, random chapters of a non-book with the title of this post. Hope you enjoy them and / or find them interesting. Certainly the value will be at least equal to the marginal cost of the book (zero)…
Champaign, early 1990s
As I graduated from college in the early 1990s, I went through the interview process on campus. About half the companies really liked me and about half the companies hated me. I guess I was a polarizing interviewee but who knows I had little idea about what to expect in an interview or how to behave. I do remember buying a suit with my mother for about $400 which seemed like an astonishing amount of money at the time.
In addition to the on campus recruiters, I also fielded some phone calls. Looking back before the age of cell phones it is amazing that anyone ever got in touch with anyone else – they must have called me in my dingy hellhole of an apartment in the 5 minutes that I happened to be there in between class, prepping for the CPA exam, and going out drinking. I guess we had an answering machine but I’m not even sure about that and my roommates at the time weren’t exactly the most reliable.
I was enamored with the idea of work and getting the heck out of Champaign so I was like a happy puppy when anyone called. The joke is that I would select the last recruiter to call.
One day I did receive a call: Hello. I’d like to talk to you about a job opportunity in the transportation industry, he said. I was interested. I was always interested. Then he said something I’ll never forget.
The job is in Detroit. Don’t hang up!
The recruiter combined both sentences into almost a single thought, with urgency, because he apparently was used to people instantly hanging up as soon as they heard the job opportunity was in Detroit.
I didn’t hang up. But I surely did not pursue that opportunity. Because it was in Detroit, of course. No wonder that city went down the drain…
Cross posted at LITGM
This month marks the 52nd anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the world dangerously close to thermonuclear war.
A couple of years ago, I read Rockets and People, the totally fascinating memoir of Soviet rocket developer Boris Chertok, which I’m still hoping to get around to reviewing one of these days.
Chertok’s career encompassed both military and space-exploration projects, and in late October 1962 he was focused on preparations for launching a Mars probe. On the morning of Oct 27, he was awakened by “a strange uneasiness.” After a quick breakfast, he headed for the missile assembly building, known as the MIK.
At the gatehouse, there was usually a lone soldier on duty who would give my pass a cursory glance. Now suddenly I saw a group of soldiers wielding sub-machine guns, and they thoroughly scrutinized my pass. Finally they admitted me to the facility grounds and there, to my surprise, I again saw sub-machine-gun-wielding soldiers who had climbed up the fire escape to the roof of the MIK. Other groups of soldiers in full combat gear, even wearing gas masks, were running about the periphery of the secure area. When I stopped in at the MIK, I immediately saw that the “duty” R-7A combat missile, which had always been covered and standing up against the wall, which we had always ignored, was uncovered.
Chertok was greeted by his friend Colonel Kirillov, who was in charge of this launch facility. Kirollov did not greet Chertok with his usual genial smile, but with a “somber, melancholy expression.”
Without releasing my hand that I’d extended for our handshake, he quietly said: “Boris Yevseyevich, I have something of urgent importance I must tell you”…We went into his office on the second floor. Here, visibly upset, Kirillov told me: “Last night I was summoned to headquarters to see the chief of the [Tyura-Tam] firing range. The chiefs of the directorates and commanders of the troop units were gathered there. We were told that the firing range must be brought into a state of battle readiness immediately. Due to the events in Cuba, air attacks, bombardment, and even U.S. airborne assaults are possible. All Air Defense Troops assets have already been put into combat readiness. Flights of our transport airplanes are forbidden. All facilities and launch sites have been put under heightened security. Highway transport is drastically restricted. But most important—I received the order to open an envelope that has been stored in a special safe and to act in accordance with its contents. According to the order, I must immediately prepare the duty combat missile at the engineering facility and mate the warhead located in a special depot, roll the missile out to the launch site, position it, test it, fuel it, aim it, and wait for a special launch command. All of this has already been executed at Site No. 31. I have also given all the necessary commands here at Site No. 2. Therefore, the crews have been removed from the Mars shot and shifted over to preparation of the combat missile. The nosecone and warhead will be delivered here in 2 hours.
Chertok, who at this point was apparently viewing the Cuban affair as a flash in the pan that would be resolved short of war, was concerned that moving the Mars rocket would cause them to miss their October 29 launch date, and suggested that the swap of the rockets be delayed for a few hours. Kirillov told him that this was impossible, and that he should go to the “Marshal’s cottage,” where some of his associates wanted to see him. Chertok’s response:
Yes, sir! You’re in charge! But, Anatoliy Semyonovich! Just between you and me—do you have the courage to give the ‘Launch!’ command, knowing full well that this means not just the death of hundreds of thousands from that specific thermonuclear warhead, but perhaps the beginning of the end for everyone? You commanded a battery at the front, and when you shouted ‘Fire!’ that was quite another matter.
There’s no need to torment me. I am a soldier now; I carry out an order just as I did at the front. A missile officer just like me, not a Kirillov, but some Jones or other, is standing at a periscope and waiting for the order to give the ‘Launch!’ command against Moscow or our firing range. Therefore, I advise you to hurry over to the cottage.
At the cottage, four men were seated at a table playing cards while a fifth was trying to glean the latest news from a radio and Lena, the housekeeper, was in the kitchen drying wine glasses. It was suggested that since Chertok didn’t like playing cards, he should help Lena fix the drinks. This involved a watermelon and lots of cognac.
I took the enormous watermelon and two bottles of cognac out of the fridge. When everything was ready, we heard a report that U.N. Secretary General U Thant had sent personal messages to Khrushchev and Kennedy. Once again, Voskresenskiy took the initiative and proposed the first toast: “To the health of U Thant, and may God grant that this not be our last drink!” This time we all drank down our toast in silence and very solemnly, realizing how close we now were to a situation in which this cognac and this watermelon could be our last.
Still hoping to avoid the cancellation of the Mars mission, Chertok went to another cottage and, with considerable difficulty, made a forbidden call to S P Korolev, overall head of the Soviet rocket program, who was then in Moscow. Korolev told him that things were being taken care of and not to worry.
It was already dark when I returned to the Marshal’s cottage. On the road, a Gazik came to an abrupt halt. Kirillov jumped out of it, saw me, swept me up in a hug, and practically screamed: “All clear!” We burst into the cottage and demanded that they pour “not our last drink,” but alas! The bottles were empty. While everyone excitedly discussed the historic significance of the “All clear” command, Lena brought out a bottle of “three star” cognac from some secret stash. Once again the Mars rockets were waiting for us at the launch site and in the MIK.
Reflecting on the crisis many years later, Chertok wrote:
Few had been aware of the actual threat of a potential nuclear missile war at that time. In any event, one did not see the usual lines for salt, matches, and kerosene that form during the threat of war. Life continued with its usual day-to-day joys, woes, and cares. When the world really was on the verge of a nuclear catastrophe, only a very small number of people in the USSR and the United States realized it. Khrushchev and Kennedy exercised restraint and did not give in to their emotions. Moreover, the military leaders of both sides did not display any independent initiative nor did they deviate at all from the orders of their respective heads of state. Very likely, Khrushchev wasn’t just guided by the pursuit of peace “at any cost.” He knew that the U.S. nuclear arsenal was many times greater than ours. The Cubans did not know this and viewed Moscow’s order to call off missile preparation and dismantle the launch sites as a betrayal of Cuba’s interests. President Kennedy had no doubt as to the United States’ nuclear supremacy. The possibility of a single nuclear warhead striking New York kept him from starting a nuclear war. Indeed, this could have been the warhead on the R-7A missile that they didn’t roll out of the MIK to the pad at Site No. 1.
Tributosaurus is a Chicago cover band that has been around over a decade and has covered an astonishing range of songs and artists. When they cover a song they go to great pains to sound as close as possible to the original song – this usually involves multiple guitarists to do overdubs which are tracked in the studio, horns, strings, and an array of drummers, synthesizers and backup singers. Here is their web site and they are a lot of fun. I have seen them do XTC, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, Dire Straits, and most recently the “One Hit Wonders of the ’80s” at Copernicus Hall at Jefferson Park in Chicago (it is a few blocks off the blue line stop; we took the train and walked).
Here they are at the start of the show. Later they bring on the horns, the strings, more backup singers, and more of everything. It was a lot of fun – they played a lot of forgotten songs like “This Beat Goes On / Switching to Glide” by the Kings which got the whole place rocking (it was a huge hit in Chicago) and also Dexy’s Midnight Runners with real banjo players.
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In 2005, I posted about a company called Theranos, as part of the “cool startup story” series at Photon Courier. The company was founded by Elizabeth Holmes, who left Stanford at age 19 in order to pursue her idea for a quantum improvement in blood testing. The original focus was on the detection of adverse drug reactions and the analysis of drug effectiveness on a more-individualized basis.
My, how this little company has grown up. Theranos now has 500 employees and a valuation of about $9 billion. They can currently perform 200 of the most commonly-ordered blood diagnostic tests, and can do it without a syringe–only a few drops of blood are necessary, and these are obtained from a finger prick using “a patented method that minimizes even the minor discomfort involved with that procedure.” (The Fortune writer tried it, and said “to me, it felt more like a tap than a puncture.”) Theranos now has a deal with Walgreens, initially making its service available in stores in California and Arizona and with plans to roll the service out to all 8200 Walgreens stores nationwide.
There are a billion tests done every year in the United States, but too many of them are done in the emergency room. If you were able to do some of those tests before a person gets checked into the ER, you’d start to see problems earlier; you’d have time to intervene before a patient needed to go to the hospital. If you remove the biggest barriers to these tests, you’ll see them used in smarter ways.
Phlebotomy is such a huge inhibitor to people getting tested. Some studies say that a substantive percentage of patients who get a lab requisition don’t follow through, because they’re scared of needles or they’re afraid of worrying, waiting to hear that something is wrong. We wanted to make this service convenient, to bring it to places close to people’s homes, and to offer rapid results.
From a 2005 Daily Duck post about Theranos:
…in how many nations of the world could A TEENAGE GIRL get a serious audience, and then MILLIONS OF DOLLARS in VC funding, to develop her idea ?!?
There are many unpleasant consequences to American society being perpetually adolescent, a bit shallow and thrill-seeking, with an attention deficit and a naive optimism born of ignorance about the odds, but this type of thing is one of the UPSIDES of being that way.
In America, if you can do, the odds are pretty good that you’ll be allowed to do, regardless of your shortcomings and quirks. We’re flexible and goal-driven, not so much wedded to process.
The usual formulation for discussing air travel bans is how many ebola cases making it to the US before President Obama is forced to stop air travel to and from west Africa. But there’s another variant of the question, how many ebola cases in the US before others will stop air or sea travel to and from the this country?
I do not think it likely that we will reach such numbers in this outbreak but it’s an interesting change from the usual breathless journalistic speculation of the US imposing a ban. If we don’t keep our house in order, others will isolate us to keep themselves safe.
Posted by Margaret on October 17th, 2014 (All posts by Margaret)
Last week the West Australian Opera briefly decided to drop a planned performance of Carmen for fear of losing the sponsorship of a state government health promotion agency called Healthway, whose policies prohibit supporting any arts organization that portrays people smoking on stage. Healthway currently subsidizes the opera company to the tune of over $350,000.
Australian politicians have since twisted Healthway’s arm to allow the performance, but it’s not clear whether they’re going to put Carmen back on the schedule.
The episode left me wondering (1) what other operas need to be cleansed of incorrect material, and (2) whether the folks at West Australian Opera have actually listened to the lyrics of any of the operas they perform, and what will be left after they cleanse their repertoire of potentially offensive operas. Given that most opera plots lean heavily on rape, incest, adultery, prostitutes with golden hearts, murder, suicide, and blackmail, the answer would seem to be, “Not much.”
This year’s lineup:
Otello – domestic abuse! Spouse murder! Besides, racism.
The Magic Flute – the child custody case from hell. Besides, anti-feminism.
Il Trovatore – witch hunts, attempted abduction, and throwing the baby into the bonfire… oh well, I suppose that could be written off as post-natal abortion. Pass.
Tosca – torture, blackmail and unassisted suicide. If only Tosca had asked a doctor to throw her off those battlements!
Oh, well. There must be other operas, right? Let’s see:
Don Giovanni – Serial fornication is probably OK, but did the Don obtain affirmative consent every time? Also, the last scene, where he descends into Hell, has to go. That’s forcing religion onto people!
La Fille du Regiment – Bad language alert, illegitimacy; pass.
Madame Butterfly – False marriage, suicide, but the fatal problem is Pinkerton’s failure to pay child support.
The Marriage of Figaro – classic case of workplace sexual harassment.
Pagliacci – The adultery is OK, but, hunchback abuse.
Rosenkavalier – One word: Cougar.
La Traviata – Prostitution is probably OK as long as it’s voluntary, but that song glorifying drinking must be cut.
I’m sure this list is far from complete; feel free to add your own favorites.
Posted by Kevin Villani on October 17th, 2014 (All posts by Kevin Villani)
This year marks a century since the outbreak of WW I and coincidently the initiation of US Federal Reserve System operations. Prior to these events, politics were democratizing, economic growth was booming, economies were liberalizing and global trade and finance were growing, all at a pace not seen again for almost another century. Recognizing that achieving these mutual benefits required an externally imposed political discipline, all of the countries participating in this happy situation voluntarily followed a set of rules governing domestic and international trade and finance for automatic and continuous adjustment to changing economic reality, then provided by the gold standard.
It was during this enlightened period that philosopher George Santayana wrote: “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Hedge fund manager and Brookings Director Liaquat Ahamed set out to remind us why countries failed to recapture this economic dynamism after the Great War with the publication of the Pulitzer Prize winning Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World in 2009. This book took on greater significance when in 2010 Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke recommended only this historical account in response to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission’s request for a book reference explaining the 2008 financial crisis. What history had this most recent financial crisis already repeated and what was Chairman Bernanke determined to avoid repeating in the aftermath?
One of the ways I like to put “disasters” into perspective is to try to understand what the markets, in general, think. This from today’s Bloomberg Municipal Market Brief:
Debt issued for Texas Health Resources is gaining even after the death of a patient from Ebola and the infection of two nurses raised questions about practices at one of its 25 hospitals. Bonds sold through an agency of Tarrant County, Texas, that mature in February 2021 traded Wednesday at an average yield of 0.55 percent, or 0.09 percentage point above benchmark munis, data compiled by Bloomberg show. That’s the smallest yield spread in at least 20 months. Obligations due in 2036 and 2040 changed hands this week with the least extra yield since last month.
Hospital debt has gained 12 percent this year, better than any other investment-grade area of the muni market, Barclays Plc data show. Texas Health has the fourth-highest grade from Moody’s Investors Service, which said in August it could raise the nonprofit’s rank. That was enough to make David Jaderlund of Jaderlund Investments LLC a buyer Wednesday. “I’ve been following them for years and they continue to have
strong debt coverage — I’m really not worried,’’ said Jaderlund. “I’ve been a buyer of that hospital for years and will continue to be. I’m not concerned and the market doesn’t seem to be either.’’
Well, I guess, at least for this company, Ebola doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal, for now anyways.
[Readers needing background may refer to the first member of this series, Don’t Panic: Against the Spirit of the Age, posted last month. This post, unlike that one, was hastily written due to time constraints involving, perhaps ironically, international travel to a Third World country.]
Constructive foreword: suggested case studies in disruption are the Chicago blizzard of 1/13-14/1979 (~3 million commuters immobilized) and the Milwaukee Cryptosporidiosis outbreak of 3/23-4/8/1993 (~400k residents sickened simultaneously).
Thesis: I argue that, at least with Ebola, inept and overwrought responses pose far greater risks to American society than the disease itself. With regard to managing the risks associated with Ebola in the US, it is vital that we identify easily disrupted institutions and design our processes intelligently to avoid creating bottlenecks, mostly by resisting the urge to overreact; likely candidates include …
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Posted in Big Government, Bioethics, Civil Society, Current Events, Ebola, Health Care, Human Behavior, Organizational Analysis, Predictions, Systems Analysis, Tradeoffs, Transportation, USA | 9 Comments »
I was recently on a plane doodling and thought of some funny / interesting stories from 25+ years of working and traveling. So I decided to write them up as short, random chapters of a non-book with the title of this post. Hope you enjoy them and / or find them interesting. Certainly the value will be at least equal to the marginal cost of the book (zero)…
Chicago, the ’90s…
When I first started out as an auditor I had a tiny cube that consisted of just a desk and a chair with a big phone in a giant warren full of other cubes. There was a big bay window that let in the sun and lights far overhead. I didn’t know anything and was happy just to have a place to call my own.
How accounting worked at the time was that you were assigned to clients and were “on the road”. If you were in the office you charged a code for down-time and struggled for something to do. You could take a training class, do research in the library, or more often than not you’d be assigned some sort of drudgery administrative work. Most of the time I ended up photocopying our audit files when clients transitioned to new auditors, which is much more work than it sounds because you had to dis-assemble the work papers, copy them, and then re-assemble the files again. The copier tended to regularly jam and you soon learned how to take that copy machine apart, as well. Not a good use of a master’s degree…
After a while the managers learned who was good and who wasn’t and I was constantly busy as a result. We worked and traveled all the time and often I had overlapping clients, meaning that tasks I couldn’t complete onsite piled up for me at the little cube while I was at a different client. This was before any concept of telecommuting and we didn’t even have our own laptops. The only way to get work done was to show up at the office (on Saturday or Sunday, since I traveled all week) and do the remaining tasks.
One time our office engaged in some sort of ISO process and they decided that having a “clean desk” was mandatory. So the (usually worst) staff that were in the office packed up everyone’s desk and sent it off site so that when the office tour occurred, my little rat cube was completely clear. Thus when I showed up on a Sunday a couple of weeks later to follow up on some annoying task from a parallel client, all of my papers were gone and that was an entirely wasted day. The fact that I still remember this over 20 years later shows how angry I was at this bureaucratic stupidity.
Sweet, simple, American suburb – old-style. (And BTW, Lone Star Sons is now up on Amazon, for your ordering pleasure.)
Sometimes looking at politics, the only explanation that makes sense is a personal identity based mental illness affecting the politicians involved.
So, we see this reported —
Texas Health Presbyterian nurse Briana Aguirre criticizes hospital over Ebola response
Nurse speaks out on TODAY Show
Ashley Fantz, Holly Yan and Catherine E. Shoichet CNN
9:54 AM, Oct 16, 2014
“The federal government is weighing putting those who treated Duncan on a list that would prohibit them from being able to fly, an official familiar with the situation told CNN.
In June 2007, federal agencies developed a public health Do Not Board list, which allowed domestic and international public health officials to request that people with communicable diseases who meet specific criteria and pose a serious threat to the public be restricted from taking commercial flights departing from or arriving in the United States. The CDC and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security manage the Do Not Board list. “
So follow me here.
American citizens who have been in the vicinity of an Ebola patient, particularly healthcare workers, would be considered “a serious threat to the public” even though;
1. They have simply been around people with Ebola but,
2. They are not exhibiting signs of the disease.
These individuals (who demonstrate no symptoms of Ebola) may soon be placed on a “Do Not Board List” by the Center for Disease Control and Department of Homeland Security.
Meanwhile, non-citizens, people from West Africa who are now:
1. Surrounded by an “out of control” Ebola virus outbreak,
2. Who are living in countries saturated with Ebola due to its rampant community spread,
3. Who are not now showing symptoms of the disease yet,
4. Are free to travel to America, plus wherever they like to in America without restrictions after they get here.
A sane Federal government would have put all passengers from Ebola Pandemic affected West African nations on a “Do Not Board List” long past. Yet they are not sane, and it gets worse.
Not only is this “American Citizens With Ebola Only “Do Not Board List” a dumb policy that destroys the credibility of the Federal Government in time of crisis when it is needed most. It is law suit bait on equal protection grounds in Federal court. Yet both Obama and Congressional Democrats, plus a few Republicans, support limiting AMERICAN CITIZENS rights to travel, but not that of WEST AFRICANS.
What we are seeing here is the outstanding symptom of a mental illness called OPEN BORDERS DERANGMENT SYNDROME. A mental illness shared by 99.5% of Democrats and the Republican leadership in the US Senate.
A political identity based mental illness now set to kill lots of Americans by Ebola for the sake of cheap immigrant labor now and future Democratic votes later (like 2016 via voter fraud enabled by Democratic Party opposition to Voter ID laws).
Posted by Mrs. Davis on October 16th, 2014 (All posts by Mrs. Davis)
We know how to combat Ebola effectively as the Firestone Plantation demonstrates. But, in its drive to multiply Ebola has an ally in our decaying culture and its abandonment of personal responsibility and imposition of penalties for violating cultural norms. Not all such actions result in the spread of the disease but the spread depends on a sufficient number of such actions. The question we should be asking is where we will find the will to properly combat this disease.
Let’s start with Patient Zero. He knew he had been exposed to Ebola and I strongly suspect he came to America to obtain the best care he could. Can’t blame him for that at all. I’d spend $3,400 to survive. However, he does not appear to be one of the Liberian 1 percenters, so the question arises, where did he get the sum, which must be an enormous expenditure to one of the 99 percent in a country whose average annual income is $450? Somebody else probably paid to bring him into the country illegally to gain access to our medical system. Who was it? Is anybody investigating to find out? Would any action be taken if we knew whom it was? We all know how unlikely that is. So the person or persons who have paid to import Ebola into the US will not be held accountable.
And Patient Zero was not held accountable by society for his action in deceitfully spreading the disease. He was wanted in Liberia for lying on his exit papers. We could have put him in a Hazmat suit and flown him back to Liberia to face charges. Instead we gave him an entire floor of a major metropolitan hospital. And I doubt he had insurance.
Then there’s Dr. (and I use the title advisedly) Nancy Snyderman. She goes to Liberia with her news crew and returns when one of them is infected with the disease. She agrees to a voluntary quarantine that she soon violates to go get takeout from her local restaurant. If I were in her shoes, the last place I would be is in a confined car with friends in public. I’d find a place to stay, away from my family, alone for three weeks, and eat take out delivered to my door step. But Nancy doesn’t need to do that. She can take the chance that she is exposing the nation to this virus to satisfy her culinary cravings. And what sanctions does she face? A State order of mandatory quarantine and a public apology. No doubt she’ll be back on the air at the end of the 21 days pontificating on the disease she might have spread.
Nurse 2 finds she has a fever. She calls the CDC to get permission to do what she suspects she shouldn’t. And she gets it! Just so she can go home on an airplane potentially exposing hundreds to the disease. Do you want someone who exercises this kind of judgment making literal life and death decisions for you? And who gave her permission to fly? Why is that person still employed at the CDC? Do they not take this outbreak seriously?
Finally there is Dr. Frieden. Clearly his agency failed to prepare the nation’s health care system to deal with this crisis. And now his risible statements about the situation are making him the Baghdad Bob of Ebola. He has become ineffective as a public leader and his continued presence serves to increase panic, not inspire confidence. But he continues in office.
These are all individuals making decisions that they think are in their best interest. And because they anticipate no penalty for violating societal norms.
This prevalence of irresponsibility did not happen overnight. For 80 years we have been creating a culture where the few do not have to bear the burden for their actions or chance events. Instead the burden is spread lightly on the many so that the few can have security. This can work as long as the few are few and the security is provided mainly for chance events. But as more of the few are protected from their actions and more become members of the few, the system creates moral hazard and a resulting decline of personal responsibility. As we have become rich and secure we have become more compassionate, a luxury we can afford as we can do so with other people’s money.
Strauss & Howe posit that each Civic generation must overcome a challenge that threatens the very existence of the nation. Having overcome the challenge, the generation is revered for its courage. However, the Civics are led to success by a Prophetic generation that makes the decisions upon which success depends. Though the Greatest Generation did the fighting and dying in World War II, it was the Missionary Generation that made the decisions to defeat Germany first, demand unconditional surrender, and totally mobilize the economy in support of the war effort. These were not easy decisions and different decisions could have been made with much different costs and consequences.
I have often wondered what challenge my Millennial children, a Civic generation, would face. War in the Middle East is nasty, but ultimately a nuisance, not an existential threat. War with China seems unlikely and would be accidental and tragic like World War I, not existential like World War II. Ebola may be their challenge. And I fear for the leadership they will receive from their Boomer elders. Having lived as a compassionate culture that increasingly prefers not to hold individuals accountable for the actions Boomers may not have the strength to make the unpleasant decisions necessary to defeat Ebola. That seems to be the case so far. Both at the bottom, where individuals make decisions without consideration for their wider effects and at the top where the leaders a majority of us elect behave similarly. Ebola will not be defeated by compassion and selfishness. Perhaps Ebola will be the existential threat the Millenials must overcome. Will the Boomers provide the leadership?
There is a 3rd case of Ebola in Dallas among the 70 health care workers (HCW) that treated Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, AKA “Presby” as it is known here in Dallas This makes it 1 on 35 of the HCW exposed to Ebola getting it using the inadequate “any hospital in American can care for an Ebola patient” Center for Disease Control (CDC ) protective personal equipment (PPE) standards, which were not well implemented at “Presby” in any case, see article In statement, nurses at Presbyterian Dallas describe confused response to Ebola case
Short form, it was SNAFU from the word go at Presby and it is likely that Presby is currently facing huge legal liabilities because the CDC ignored the experience of Doctors Without Borders and the health care systems in West Africa which showed that Ebola must be treated by Ebola specialists in separate healthcare facilities.
The Ebola epidemic isn’t a matter of “Medical infrastructure” or “local cultural practices” — the two phrases being liberal terms of art for racism against West Africans in the Obama Administration public health community — it is a matter of treating a biohazard level four pathogen like a biohazard level four pathogen. Bio-hazard four pathogens require a separate medical system to deal with them, prolonged detention for medical screening, travel controls to support those medical detentions and further involuntary quarantine for a positive diagnosis, in other words, a positively controlled, 100% medical screening and detention, border immigration policy a ‘la Ellis Island.
Only a magical thinking “Open Borders” ideological cultist would do any different in ignoring the experience of the one medical organization that has treated the majority of Ebola cases in human history. Which the head of the CDC Dr Frieden now appears to be, in keeping with Obama Administration Central American minor immigration/Public Health Policies (See also the “Unattended Child Border Crisis” and the outbreak of Central American EVD68 in American public schools).
The Obama Administration is risking further epidemics of Ebola because it has done so already with EVD68, in order to increase the number of future Democratic Party voters.
I predict based upon the above, we will see we are going to see Frieden’s firing and/or the cut off of commercial air travel from West Africa to the USA as President Obama’s “Rumsfeld Replacement Moment,” after Republican’s take over the Senate in November 2014. Just in the way that the 2006 Congressional election results moved President George W. Bush to change Iraq War policy with the public disposal and replacement of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld.
The proximate reason for this is that the “R0″ of the Ebola virus in Dallas is 2.0, even with CDC recommended PPE. “RO” — pronounced “ARRH Awwght” in public health speak — means the rate of infection for each newly infected person getting even more people sick. An “RO of 2.0,” causes the doubling of Ebola cases every three weeks (24 Sept to 15 Oct is exactly 3-weeks). That “RO” in Dallas will be higher, and the doubling time will be shorter, as more HCW who attended Thomas Eric Duncan come down with Ebol…thus keeping Ebola and policy for dealing with it as “front page news” or “attracting a lot of eyeballs” right through the 2014 Congressional election.
Sad, but true, the Obama Administration is not as concerned with controlling the Ebola outbreak in Dallas as much as it is concerned with “Controlling the Narrative” about the Ebola epidemic.
Obscuring the reality of the Ebola in Dallas means far more to them in terms of retaining political power, this close to the November Congressional election, as the policy/people/political contradictions of Obama’s Ebola policies are being shown to the low information voters Democrats count on far better than anything Saul David Alinsky ever thought of. As the news of the CDC scrambling to contract 132 airline passengers in Ebola Case #3′s Cleveland to Dallas flight yesterday makes abundently clear.
Posted by Grurray on October 15th, 2014 (All posts by Grurray)
This year has seen many historical anniversaries, and one that has gotten some recent notoriety is the 90 year anniversary of the planned obsolescence of the light bulb by an industry cartel.
How exactly did the cartel pull off this engineering feat? It wasn’t just a matter of making an inferior or sloppy product; anybody could have done that. But to create one that reliably failed after an agreed-upon 1,000 hours took some doing over a number of years. The household lightbulb in 1924 was already technologically sophisticated: The light yield was considerable; the burning time was easily 2,500 hours or more. By striving for something less, the cartel would systematically reverse decades of progress.
It’s even more notable because last week three pioneers in LED technology just won the Nobel Prize.
We all know about the efficiency standards for light bulbs that are effectively banning incandescent bulbs in slow motion. I’ve noticed during my usual stops at the home improvement stores that the choices for the vintage bulbs are fewer and farther between, and the prices for what’s left are creeping up.
The promise of the new standards is that the new LED lighting is far superior. While it’s much more expensive, the steady drumbeat of the diffusion of technology is supposed to reduce the costs, eventually putting them within reach of the common household.
The costs have indeed dropped exponentially, but that’s undoubtedly been helped by government aid and deliberate shortages of the old technology. Besides the federal standards, every state has some sort of efficient lighting rebate program that artificially decreases the price. Tax breaks and other incentives have encouraged manufacturers like GE to expand production in the US and create a few hundred jobs, which, although nice, don’t quite make up for the thousands they shipped to China during the Great Light Bulb Leap Forward. How much of the price gains can be attributed to Moore’s Law type improvements and how much to government supports is a legitimate concern.
Now there’s some question about how long prices are going to keep falling going forward.
In stark contrast to the promised dynamics that the technology is supposed to follow, LED prices actually rose considerably last month.
In contrast, 40W equiv. LED bulb prices were up 14.3% in the U.S. market. Manufacturers including Cree, Philips, GE and other renowned brands have raised prices for certain products in the U.S. market.
Because of industry consolidation, the top ten LED manufacturers now control 61% of the market. That much control brings pricing power over the market, and they are apparently now using it.
With green energy executive orders on Obama’s agenda and the unelected EPA issuing mandates, the oligopoly is sure to get worse with permanently higher cost per lumens the possible result.
The LED industry, taking a page from the incandescent bulb industry so many years ago, is discovering the key to the rent seekers’ success – competition is for losers, and unfortunately sometimes so is progress.
Don Sensing writes about Fermi’s Paradox:
The universe is many billions of years old. Fermi calculated that an alien species smart enough to become spacefarers could reach any point in the galaxy in five million years. But we we have no scientific evidence that aliens beings have been here…So, Fermi asked, where is everybody?
Standard answers to the Paradox involve emphasizing the vast distances involved, and the fact that “as far as our galaxy is concerned, we are living somewhere in the sticks, far removed from the metropolitan area of the galactic center,” as Edward Teller put it. Another theory is that species which are sufficiently intelligent to achieve interstellar travel have a tendency to blow themselves up long before they reach anywhere in our vicinity. But another possible explanation is suggested by Geoffrey Miller:
I suggest a different, even darker solution to the Paradox. Basically, I think the aliens don’t blow themselves up; they just get addicted to computer games. They forget to send radio signals or colonize space because they’re too busy with runaway consumerism and virtual-reality narcissism. They don’t need Sentinels to enslave them in a Matrix; they do it to themselves, just as we are doing today. Once they turn inwards to chase their shiny pennies of pleasure, they lose the cosmic plot. They become like a self-stimulating rat, pressing a bar to deliver electricity to its brain’s ventral tegmental area, which stimulates its nucleus accumbens to release dopamine, which feels…ever so good.
Reading the above, I was reminded of an old science-fiction story…I couldn’t remember the name or the author, but, amazingly, I was able to locate it online. The story is called “Ambition,” and it was written by William Bade in 1952. The idea is that a scientist working on space travel finds that he has somehow been brought by time-travel to an era hundreds of years in the future. He is thrilled, because he assumes that the people of the future will have developed space travel to a high degree, and that he will actually be able to fulfill his dream of journeying to the planets. ”Somewhere, out there in the night, there must be men who had walked beside the Martian canals and pierced the shining cloud mantle of Venus…Surely, a civilization that had developed time travel could reach the stars!”
And he finds that the future civilization indeed has created vehicles that would easily be capable of such exploration…but they are used only as super-airliners. Nobody has any interest in traveling into space, indeed, they can’t imagine why anyone would want to do such a thing. A sympathetic woman explains to the protagonist that “this is the Age of Man. We are terribly interested in what can be done with people. Our scientists…are studying human rather than nuclear reactions.” There appears to be no thirst for adventure in a form likely to be recognized by a 20th-century man. (Indeed, it seems that the reason the future people chose the protagonist as a research subject is that they found his interest in going to the moon and beyond to be so bizarre as to be worthy of psychological investigation.) The story’s subtitle is:
To the men of the future, the scientific goals of today were as incomprehensible as the ancient quest for the Holy Grail!
So…when a society reaches a certain level of wealth and sophistication, does the desire for adventure tend to die out? I’m reminded of a passage from another SF story, this one by Heinlein, in which a Martian is asked why he and other members of his species just sit around all day, “growing together,” as they called it, never actually doing anything. The Martian’s reply is: ”My fathers have labored, and I am weary.”
Posted by Michael Kennedy on October 14th, 2014 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
A caller to a radio show has described officer Darren Wilson’s version of the attack by Michael Brown. It pretty much follows what we know now.
CNN said it verified with its police department sources that the story Josie told on the radio was the same as Wilson’s version of events. CNN called the stories an exact match.
First, we know that Brown had robbed a convenience store and manhandled the clerk shortly before the shooting.
Second, we know that the Holder DoJ tried to suppress the video.
The crowd was “peaceful and jovial” the Post-Dispatch informs us, and dotted with people who had traveled long distances. “Antonio Cuffee, 30, drove 13 hours from Baltimore with six others to join in the protests,” we are told. “‘We felt we had to come out here to be part of change,’ Cuffee, a policy worker, said. ‘It’s a shame so many black people are getting killed by police,’ he said. ‘Just by the nature of being black we are targeted, we are suspect.’”
This, of course, is nonsense as most murders of black men are by other black men.
The story told by the officer’s friend is as follows.
Wilson said 18-year-old Michael Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson were walking in the middle of the street, so Wilson pulled up in his patrol car and told them, “Come on guys, get out of the street,” but they refused, saying they were almost at their destination.
He kept rolling beside them and they cursed at him. He finally pulled over, at which point Josie said she believes he called for backup.
“He pulled up ahead of them. And he was watching them, and then he got a call-in that there was a strong-arm robbery,” she said. That was the convenience-store robbery shown on surveillance tapes of Brown grabbing a handful of cigars and pushing a clerk away when Brown and Johnson left without paying.
The pair matched the description of the robbers, and also appeared to be holding cigars.
This was the moment when the event began to spin out of control.
“So he goes in reverse back to them. Tries to get out of his car. They slam his door shut violently. I think he said Michael did,” Josie said. “And then he opened his car again. He tries to get out. And as he stands up, Michael just bum-rushes him, just shoves him back into his car, punches him in the face. And then Darren grabs for his gun. Michael grabs the gun, at one point he’s got the gun turned totally against his hip. And Darren shoves it away, and the gun goes off.”
Brown and Johnson then ran, Josie said, and got about 35 feet away.
“Darren’s first protocol is to pursue. So, he stands up and yells, ‘Freeze!’ Michael and his friend turn around. And Michael starts taunting him, ‘Oh, what are you going to do about it? You’re not going to shoot me.’ And then he said all the sudden he just started to bum-rush him. He just started coming at him full speed. And so he just started shooting. And he just kept coming. So, he really thinks he was on something because he just kept coming.”
This sounds reasonable to me. The rest of the story is at the link.
Why the virulent racism and riots by blacks ?
One of the health care workers (HCW) that treated Thomas Eric Duncan on in Dallas during the period of 28th thru 30th of September has tested positive for Ebola after coming down with a fever Friday night. Heath care workers at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital intubated and placed Duncan on dialysis as a part of his palliative treatment schedule. The HCW were in personal protective equipment (PPE) level two or “droplet level” protection at the time.
It is notable that in the laboratory environment that Ebola is treated as a full bio-hazard level four or “inhalation” threat. Especially when you see circular thinking in public by CDC .
“I think the fact that we don’t know of a breach in protocol is concerning because clearly there was a breach in protocol. We have the ability to prevent the spread of Ebola by caring safely for patients.”
The statement said the CDC had NO IDEA how the protocol was breached, but protocol must have been breached because there was a an infection.
There was no mention as to why there was a two tier PPE protection level structure with widely different infection rates by routes other than Ebola virus injection accidents.
There is a huge no confidence vote in the CDc coming. One that will take the form we are seeing in Spain — HCW no-shows for hospitals caring for Ebola outbreaks.
Here’s a video in which various Harvard students assert that the United States is a worse threat to world peace than is the terrorist organization ISIS.
This isn’t a statistically-valid survey, and we don’t really know from it what proportion of Harvard students share these views. But there are certainly a disturbing number of highly-educated (or at least highly-credentialed) Americans who feel this way about their country. I am reminded once againtof an essay that C S Lewis wrote in March 1940. At that time, there was evidently a movement among British youth to “repent” England’s sins (which evidently were thought to include the treaty of Versailles) and to “forgive” England’s enemies.
Young Christians especially..are turning to it in large numbers. They are ready to believe that England bears part of the guilt for the present war, and ready to admit their own share in the guilt of England…Most of these young men were children…when England made many of those decisions to which the present disorders could plausibly be traced. Are they, perhaps, repenting what they have in no sense done?
If they are, it might be supposed that their error is very harmless: men fail so often to repent their real sins that the occasional repentance of an imaginary sin might appear almost desirable. But what actually happens (I have watched it happen) to the youthful national penitent is a little more complicated than that. England is not a natural agent, but a civil society…The young man who is called upon to repent of England’s foreign policy is really being called upon to repent the acts of his neighbor; for a foreign secretary or a cabinet minister is certainly a neighbor…A group of such young penitents will say, “Let us repent our national sins”; what they mean is, “Let us attribute to our neighbor (even our Christian neighbor) in the cabinet, whenever we disagree with him, every abominable motive that Satan can suggest to our fancy.”
Lewis points out that when a man who was raised to be patriotic tries to repent the sins of England, he is attempting something that will be difficult for him.
But an educated man who is now in his twenties usually has no such sentiment to mortify. In art, in literature, in politics, he has been, ever since he can remember, one of an angry minority; he has drunk in almost with his mother’s milk a distrust of English statesmen and a contempt for the manners, pleasures, and enthusiasms of his less-educated fellow countrymen.
It’s hard to believe that this was written more than 50 years ago–it’s such a bulls-eye description of a broad swath of our current “progressives.” (The only difference being that many of them today are a lot older than “in their twenties.”)
But now Lewis comes to the real meat of his argument.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on October 11th, 2014 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Roger L Simon has an interesting column on the consequences of a GOP win this fall.
Barack Obama is a man unaccustomed to losing. Life has been exceptionally kind to him, sailing, as he did, through balmy Oahu sunsets, college, law school and career on into the presidency with scarcely a bump. He has been a protected man beyond any in recent memory, feted and praised virtually everywhere he went until the last couple of years. Even now, despite catastrophe after catastrophe, there are acolytes who continue to celebrate him, paying tens of thousands merely to have their photographs taken with him.
When such cosseted people are forced to confront failure, they typically do not do so with grace.
Obama’s style of governing seems to be quite unusual for modern presidents. He does not have a circle of “Wise Men” as most presidents have done, including Bill Clinton, who had Robert Rubin advising him on economics and the bond market.
Obama, instead, relys on a small circle of advisors with little or no experience in national affairs.
Insider books by Robert Gates, Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta have appeared in rapid succession, implying or directly alleging that the president lives in a bubble, unwilling to listen to advice. He frequently threatens to — and sometimes does — go around the Congress to get his way via, often unconstitutional, executive fiat. We all know that he lies, constantly.
His closest advisor appears to be Valerie Jarrett who has no policy experience and who seems to be a Chicago insider.