October 2014, Part 2
Jim Miller on Politics
The NYT Has Pictures Of Three Sets Of Gear Hospital Workers Wear to protect themselves from Ebola. As you can see, "Level 2" is more protective than the original CDC outfits, and "Level 3" more protective than "Level 2".
And for the really curious (or hospital workers), four videos showing how workers remove the gloves, face shield, gown, and mask, when wearing the original CDC outfits. Obviously, the process would be longer, and more difficult for workers using the "Level 2" or "Level 3" outfits.
- 3:03 PM, 16 October 2014 [link]
Would UCLA Hold Up An Unrepentant Nazi As A Role Model? Almost certainly not.
But UCLA is holding up an unrepentant Communist as a role model.
Look whose photo graces the campus of UCLA, meant to be an inspiration to incoming students. The woman in the photo is standing above the slogan: “We Question.” On the right-hand side, in small letters, students are informed that they are “the optimists.”And doing it sneakily, by using her picture without identifying her.
Journalists often covered for Davis. She might call herself a Communist, might even run on the Communist ticket, but they would soften their descriptions of her to "activist", or even "civil rights leader".
(This Wikipedia biography, reminded me that Davis was a star in the "History of Consciousness and the Feminist Studies Departments" at the Santa Cruz branch of the University of California, and that, although she ran on the Communist Party ticket, "she urged urged radicals to amass support for the Democratic Party".)
- 2:08 PM, 16 October 2014 [link]
Michael Bloomberg's Doctor: The series of blunders by the Director of the Center for Disease Control, Tom Frieden, made me wonder why he was making those mistakes.
There are, as I said yesterday, experts at the CDC who could have given him good advice on Ebola, but for some reason he wasn't listening to them.
I have two tentative, non-conflicting explanations for his mistakes. The first is obvious: The "no-drama" Obama administration didn't want drastic actions taken, especially not before the November elections. Frieden has been a "political" doctor for years now, working for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg beginning in 2002, and then moving to work for President Obama beginning in 2009.
As far as I can tell, Frieden has been able to satisfy the political needs of both patrons.
Second, it is likely that his priorities have stayed the same during those twelve years, likely that he took those priorities from Michael Bloomberg, likely that he was hired by President Obama because Obama shares those priorities. And what are those priorities? They are, I suspect, the threats that would worry Michael Bloomberg.
Almost all of those threats would be what are usually called "life style" diseases, diseases that we get from smoking, from eating too much, or the wrong things, and so on. Bloomberg is wealthy enough so that he can, if necessary, isolate himself from almost every infectious disease, so it is natural that he — and his doctor — would not worry much about them, would not take them as seriously as poorer people would.
If Dr. Frieden does have Bloomberg's priorities, then he would shift the CDC away from infectious diseases, and toward life style diseases, toward, to use a famous example, a study of why lesbians tend to be obese, and away from obscure infectious diseases like Ebola.
And that would, I think, leave Frieden less able to react to infectious diseases such as Ebola and Enterovirus 68. They aren't the kind of threats that Michael Bloomberg has to worry about. They aren't the kind of threats that Michael Bloomberg's doctor has spent much time worrying about over the last twelve years.
(For the record: Life style diseases are now greater threats to most Americans than infectious diseases. We worry more about heart disease than tuberculosis, and for good reason. But I am not persuaded that the CDC — or any other medical organization — has a clear understanding of how to reduce life style diseases. For example, though we know many important things about nutrition, we still — in my opinion — are not ready to prescribe, with complete confidence, healthy diets for everyone. Nor do we know, completely, how to persuade people to give up unhealthy choices.)
- 8:44 AM, 16 October 2014 [link]
"Operation Inherent Resolve" The air attacks on ISIS now have a name.
Robin Wright is not impressed by the choice.
Two months after its first airstrikes against Islamic State, Washington has finally named its latest military operation in the Middle East. The delay was curious. Maybe it was hard to come up with a title that embraced the massive but amorphous nature of this novel intervention against Islamic State, an extremist movement (also known as ISIS or ISIL) that has gobbled up vast chunks of Iraq and Syria.Which is not an emotion you want to inspire with the name of your military operation, though, it is only fair to add, that Wright may be reading too much into the name.
What disturbs me more than the name is the delay. Just as parents are almost always prepared with names before a baby arrives, so war planners are almost always prepared with operation names long before the operation starts. Dithering in either case makes us suspect a lack of commitment by the parents, or the planners.
(Some unkind critics have suggested that the operation is mostly intended to get Democrats past the November elections. If that were true — and I am not ready to say that it is — then names like "Operation Kick the Can Down the Road" or "Operation Punt" might be appropriate.)
- 6:38 AM, 16 October 2014 [link]
Samaritan's Purse Knows How To Prevent Ebola Infections: As their record in Liberia shows.
Since May, Samaritan’s Purse has had hundreds of workers caring for thousands of patients in the Ebola hotspot that is Liberia. It is a country awash in the lethal virus, and because the vast majority of Samaritan’s staff there are Liberians, they are not only surrounded by Ebola as they do their jobs. Every night, they go home to neighborhoods where illness and death are omnipresent.(And it is possible that he was infected, not while he was inside treating patients, but by contact with "a vomiting pregnant woman outside a treatment unit".)
The "protocols" they have adopted are not easy to follow. For example, it can take a half hour to remove all the protective gear, safely. But that record shows that their protocols are sufficient to prevent infection.
In contrast, the Center for Disease Control and the Dallas hospital do not seem to know how to prevent Ebola infections.
Public-health authorities announced Thursday that a second Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital health care worker had tested positive for Ebola, raising more questions about whether American hospitals and their staffs are adequately prepared to contain the virus.As far as I can tell, the nurses are right, and are doing the right thing in raising this alarm.
(Oh, there are, I am sure, people within the CDC who know what should be done, people who are familiar with the protocols used by Samaritan's Purse, but they don't seem to be in charge.)
No doubt, the CDC will learn from its mistakes, though that learning may require the resignation of Director Dr. Tom Frieden.
We can only hope that their education does not cost lives here, and abroad.
(Here's Samaritan's Purse.)
- 9:48 AM, 15 October 2014 [link]
Life Expectancy in The US Continues To Increase: The Center for Disease Control has finished collecting statistics from 2012, and has made this report on the gains between 2011 and 2012.
The researchers highlight these four "key findings":
But there is another pattern in the data that I find fascinating: They give "age-adjusted" death rates for six groups, white men, white women, black men, black women, Hispanic men, and Hispanic women. Now let me put those six groups in order from high to low: black men, white men, black women, white women and Hispanic men, and Hispanic women.
You may find the Hispanic advantage in life expectancy hard to believe, so I'll give you another official source. Hispanics live about three to four years longer than the rest of the population.
Any politically correct college professor can tell you that white men have advantages over the other five groups — and they do in some ways, higher incomes, for instance. But those ways do not include life expectancy, except over black men. (Much of the difference in life expectancies between whites and blacks can be explained by higher crime rates in black communities.)
For these kinds of gains, we must be doing something right; in fact, we must be doing many things right to produce these kinds of consistent gains.
(This Wikipedia article will give you some historical and international comparisons.)
- 1:12 PM, 14 October 2014 [link]
We Smell With Our Noses: And with our skins, hearts, lungs, livers, brains, colons, et cetera, et cetera.
We have, it turns out, olfactory receptors almost everywhere.
And they do things, sometimes very useful things. For example:
Now, a team of biologists at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany has found that our skin is bristling with olfactory receptors. “More than 15 of the olfactory receptors that exist in the nose are also found in human skin cells,” said the lead researcher, Dr. Hanns Hatt. Not only that, but exposing one of these receptors (colorfully named OR2AT4) to a synthetic sandalwood odor known as Sandalore sets off a cascade of molecular signals that appears to induce healing in injured tissue.There's much more in the article; there's even a simple way to understand why those olfactory receptors are all over; we just need to think of them "as specialized chemical detectors, instead of as receptors in your nose that detect smell".
- 12:28 PM, 14 October 2014 [link]
"Good Buddy, Bad Buddy" Mike Stanton lists good points and bad points of former (and future?) Providence mayor Buddy Cianci.
Stories of the Good Buddy and the Bad Buddy are legion, and legend. He moved rivers. He took bribes. He built a mall. He was accused of raping a woman at gunpoint in law school. He championed WaterFire, the festive floating bonfires on downtown rivers. He assaulted a guy and tried to jab a lit cigarette in his eye while a police bodyguard stood by. He raised a city’s self-esteem. He turned City Hall into a cesspool. The judge who sentenced him to five years in prison, for running City Hall as a criminal enterprise, called him Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. (The ever witty Buddy cracked, “He didn’t give me two [expletive] paychecks.”)Occasionally, I have said that many voters seem to see corruption as just one issue among many, and that they are willing to overlook corruption if a candidate is satisfactory in other ways. Off hand, I can't think of a more vivid example for that argument than Cianci — who is running for mayor again, and currently leading in the polls.
Few politicians are as corrupt as he has been, but it is also true that few are as good "retail" politicians, or as effective executives, when they want to be.
You may think, as I did, that this Northeastern urban politician must be a Democrat. In fact, he began in politics as a Republican, and originally ran for office on an anti-corruption platform. He later became an independent, much to the relief, I suspect, of the Republican Party.
(Professor Jacobson, who is from Rhode Island, has more.
Here's Mike Stanton's biography of Cianci, and here's the Wikipedia biography.)
- 7:44 AM, 14 October 2014 [link]
Thomas Eric Duncan Was Untruthful Three Times: And the last two times may have cost him his life. You probably have heard that, according to Liberian authorities, he did not tell the truth at the airport, when leaving Liberia.
According to the Dallas hospital, he did not tell the truth on his first visit to the hospital.
Duncan began experiencing symptoms on September 24, 2014, and went to the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital emergency room late in the evening of September 25, 2014. During his emergency room visit, his fever reached 103 °F (39 °C) and he rated his pain as 8 on a scale of 1 to 10 according to his medical records released to the press by his nephew. However, the hospital officially stated that during this visit, his reported symptoms were a 100.1 °F (37.8 °C) fever, abdominal pain for two days, a headache, and decreased urination; and that he did not report that he had vomiting, diarrhea, or nausea at that time. The ER nurse asked about his travel history and recorded that he had come from Liberia, but according to hospital staff Duncan denied having been around anyone who was sick.(Emphasis added.)
That last, all by itself, would make an make an Ebola diagnosis exceedingly improbable. Human-to-human transmission appears to occur almost entirely when the original patient is very sick.
Nor did he tell the truth on his second visit.
Among the medical records released to AP is a set of notes from his second arrival at the hospital by Duncan’s attending physician, Dr. Otto Javier Marquez-Kerguelen, indicating the doctor didn’t have all the information he needed to make an immediate diagnosis: “Pt states he has not been to any rural areas or funerals recently,” wrote Marquez-Kerguelen. “Pt denies any sick contacts. Pt denies chills. The pt does not do (sic) any other associated signs of sx (symptoms) at this time.” Duncan had failed to tell Texas Health Presbyterian the whole story, either by mistake or otherwise, just as he had failed to inform airport screeners before coming into the United States.(Again, emphasis added.)
We can guess why he didn't tell the truth at the airport, but it is hard to explain why he didn't when he visited the hospital those two times.
But we should recognizes that the delay in diagnosis was at least as much his fault, as the fault of the hospital.
And, although we are still learning much about the disease, it seems likely that prompt supportive medical treatment improves a patient's chances of survival, significantly.
- 6:29 PM, 13 October 2014 [link]
You Expect Nation Magazine To Run Tours Like This: But not the New York Times.
For the price of $6,995, the New York Times is offering 13-day tours of Iran guided by Times journalist Elaine Sciolino. Promotional material for the tour on the Times website promises "luxurious hotels" and describes Tehran as a city where "the young and fashionable adopt a new trendy joie de vivre." Also on the itinerary: "a pleasant evening stroll around the colorful bazaars," along with insights into the "accomplishments" of the late Ayatollah Khomeini.At least not until recently.
As you would expect, the Times does not mention some of the less pleasant aspects of Iran, or describe the terrorist attacks on Americans Iran has made or assisted.
- 5:31 PM, 13 October 2014 [link]
Mitt Romney Tells A Pretty Good Joke on Obama.
- 1:45 PM, 13 October 2014 [link]
The Dallas Nurse Who Caught Ebola From Thomas Eric Duncan is Nina Pham.
The 26-year-old, from Fort Worth, Texas, was one of the team of medical staff who treated Mr Duncan at the Dallas Presbyterian Hospital before he died from the dreaded virus last week.She sounds like a good person, and a fine nurse. We can all hope that she recovers, and soon.
From what I can tell, her chances are better than 50-50. There is some reason to believe that those who have contracted Ebola, and are treated in Western hospitals have much better chances of recovering than those treated in Africa. If you can keep the patient alive for a couple of weeks, the immune system finally catches up with the virus, and defeats it.
(I am linking to this story in a British newspaper, even though our own news organizations have not been giving her name, because her family released it.
There is much speculation about how she might have caught the disease, despite protective equipment. I'll wait for an official investigation, before offering any speculations of my own.)
- 1:26 PM, 13 October 2014 [link]
Happy Columbus Day! (Or, if you are living in Seattle, Happy Indigenous People's Day.)
I was going to suggest you read this wonderful Columbus biography to celebrate the day, but then found that the Instapundit had beaten me to it.
(But I can add that there are many different editions of the biography, and that some have advantages that might be important to some readers. This two-volume set is, I believe, a copy of the original, and thus would include material not found in the one-volume editions. This 1942 edition is "Illustrated by Folding maps", which for some readers would be a big plus.)
Here's a post I wrote last year on what Columbus got right, and got wrong.
- 12:55 PM, 13 October 2014 [link]
New York Mayor Bill De Blasio Is A Leftist: Which everyone who has paid any attention to him knew. (Though some journalists tried to disguise his ideology by calling him a "progressive".)
But not many people knew before his election how tolerant he is of crooks, even crooks with close connections to his top appointees. Here's a story that should embarrass him, but may not.
Another day, another embarrassing revelation about top City Hall aide Rachel Noerdlinger.If you go through the whole story, you'll find a number of infractions.
There may be legal problems for her, since she "failed to disclose her relationship with McFarlan on a city Department of Investigation background check form".
(Hiring an aide to Al Sharpton doesn't sound prudent, to me.)
For some general thoughts on Mayor de Blasio's links to crime, you may want to read this column.
- 6:53 PM, 12 October 2014 [link]
Congratulations to President Obama.
President Obama today played golf for the 200th time of his presidency, a milestone that for many is emblematic of a president who has frequently seemed detached from his job, his colleagues in Washington, and the American people.You might think that this show phone call wouldn't fool journalists, or that self-respecting journalists wouldn't cooperate in such an obvious stunt, but I can tell you that at least one journalist, Cecilia Vega, played the story exactly the way Obama's team wanted it played. At the beginning of ABC's nightly news program, she described how serious the Ebola scare had become, what with it infecting that Dallas nurse, and then, to prove how serious it is, showed Obama looking serious and talking on the phone, presumably to Burwell.
Vega did not tell us that Obama, immediately after that call, went out to play golf.
I can't recall ever having seen Vega before, so I don't have no idea whether she was fooled, or whether she was supporting Obama, and trying to fool us.
(As I have said before, on the whole I prefer that Obama spend his time on the golf course, rather than in the Oval Office, though I have had second thoughts, recently.)
- 5:55 PM, 12 October 2014 [link]
Is The Turkish Army Any Good, Now? Those who are fighting ISIS have been urging Turkey to join in, in particular to save the Kurds at Kobani.
Turkey has a large army, with relatively good equipment, and the Turks are famous fighters. But I can't help wondering just how good that army is, now.
The army hasn't had much large-scale experience in recent decades, and you have to suspect that the purges of the officers engineered by now-President Tayyip Erdogan damaged it.
(If you haven't followed such things, here's a very brief summary: The army in Turkey was the guardian of secularism. When Erdogan's Islamic party came to power, it began a series of prosecutions against many of the top officers, claiming they were planning a coup. Whether or not they were, it seems nearly certain that the current officers are not as experienced, and may not be as motivated, as the men they replaced.)
- 2:43 PM, 10 October 2014 [link]
Worth Buying And Studying: Judith Curry's op-ed summarizing the latest scientific findings on global warming.
The IPCC’s latest report (published in 2013) concluded that the actual change in 70 years if carbon-dioxide concentrations double, called the transient climate response, is likely in the range of 1 to 2.5 degrees Celsius. Most climate models have transient climate response values exceeding 1.8 degrees Celsius. But the IPCC report notes the substantial discrepancy between recent observation-based estimates of climate sensitivity and estimates from climate models.Let me put that last more bluntly: We don't have climate models that predict future climates accurately enough to guide policy makers. (Unfortunately, because models that were accurate enough would be extremely useful.)
(It is not clear to me why these big simulations, the global climate models, are relatively consistent with each other, but inconsistent with the data. I don't have any direct evidence for why they fail in the same way, and the hypotheses I have considered are unflattering, so, at least for today, I won't speculate on why they agree with each other, but not with the data.)
- 1:37 PM, 10 October 2014 [link]
Oregon's "First Lady" Has An Interesting Past: A past, we now learn, that includes significant law breaking.
A few years ago, Oregon’s first lady, Cylvia Hayes, shared her rags-to-riches journey — from her dilapidated childhood home in Washington state, to a tent on government land in Oregon, to the governor’s mansion, where she now lives with Gov. John Kitzhaber (D).(It didn't "seep out"; it was discovered by an alternative newspaper, the Willamette Week, which has dug up more than one big scandal.)
And an interesting present; she's been running a consulting business out of the governor's office.
Public records and dozens of interviews with people who have worked with Hayes paint a complex picture. Hayes emerges as a strong, high-profile leader who moves effortlessly between her position as a public official and the work she performs as a private consultant.Which looks like a conflict of interest to me.
Kitzhaber favor "evidence-based" policies in government, or says he does. It looks as if some of those "advocacy groups" did not think it prudent to rely only on evidence when dealing with his administration.
(Those who support traditional marriage will be pleased to learn that she and John Kitzhaber became engaged in August. They didn't rush into this decision; she's been living with him in the governor's mansion since 2011, and they were "life partners" before then.)
- 8:15 AM, 10 October 2014 [link]
What Effect Does Tightening Voting Rules Have On Participation? As states have tightened their rules (many after having loosened them earlier), people, especially on the left, have worried that those new rules will reduce participation.
The biggest, best-covered fights have been over requiring photo IDs for voting, but there have been fights over many related issues.
Supporters of these rule changes have argued that they are necessary to prevent vote fraud — which opponents assert is almost non-existent, or even "mythical".
Political scientist Michael McDonald studied the gross effects of those rules changes.
In the last decade, 34 states—including nearly a dozen since 2011—have enacted new or stricter voter-identification laws. Critics say the requirements have prevented a significant number of people from voting, but research indicates turnout in recent years has been strong.So we have had a tightening of rules — and an increase in participation.
Now, here's something fascinating: Professor McDonald doesn't believe his own research:
So, if turnout has risen, is it possible that voter-ID laws haven’t disenfranchised eligible voters after all?So Professor McDonald believes that the rules do reduce participation, but not by enough for his method to measure.  (It is, as almost everyone knows, unusual for a researcher to reject his own findings.)
As far as I can tell, Professor McDonald has not studied the other side of the question, the prevalence of vote fraud.
Which, I suspect, he would see as a less serious problem than I do.
(For the record: Neither is an easy research problem, especially with kinds of resources political scientists typically have. There would be legal objections to doing most obvious experiments with voting laws. (For example, I don't think courts would allow a state to set different rules for half of the state's precincts, chosen, of course, randomly. I can understand those objections, even agree with them, while still regretting our inability to use such experiments to settle these difficult questions.)
Illegal activities are always hard to research. I can think of some approaches that would give us useful data on the prevalence of vote fraud — for example, a massive survey with promises of confidentiality — but I can't think of any inexpensive ways to study this problem.)
- 3:52 PM, 9 October 2014 [link]
Is Enterovirus D68 Being Spread By Illegal Immigrant Children? That's the question being asked by, among others, Sharyl Attkisson.
Enteroviruses commonly circulate in the U.S. during summer and fall. EV-D68 was first identified in California in 1962. Over the past thirty years, only small numbers were reported in the U.S.The evidence that illegal immigrant children are spreading the virus is, so far, circumstantial. But that theory would explain why this rare disease suddenly popped up all over the United States, after President Obama decided to admit tens of thousands of illegal children, and then spread them all over the United States.
Five American children have died already, and others have been paralyzed.
In most infected people, even most children, the disease is like an ordinary cold. As far as I can tell, we don't know whether it spreads as easily as colds do, which would make it far more dangerous.
(Terminology: From this Wikipedia article, I learned that the virus has more than one name: Enterovirus 68, EV68, EV-D68, HEV68, and Human rhinovirus 87. The last appears to be a mistake; the virus was originally thought by some researchers to be in the cold family, The others are easy enough to decode once you know that researchers label this family of viruses in the order of their discoveries, and that the species name is "Enterovirus D". The number 68 identifies the "subtype".)
- 8:17 AM, 9 October 2014 [link]
"Purple Penguins" As far as I can tell, this is not a joke.
Nebraska school district has instructed its teachers to stop referring to students by “gendered expressions” such as “boys and girls,” and use “gender inclusive” ones such as “purple penguins” instead.Not an intentional joke, anyway.
(I couldn't find anything in this Wikipedia article on Lincoln that would explain this. For example, Lincoln does not have a large mental hospital.)
- 6:16 AM, 9 October 2014 [link]