Perspective

As the panic industry gears up to make its obligatory buck or two off the Ebola epidemic, the bastion of empirical sanity, PopMec, chimes in with some common public health sense:

However, despite its severity, Ebola is an unlikely candidate to cause widespread epidemics. Ebola outbreaks in humans begin with direct contact with an infected animal. In Africa, fruit bats are considered to be natural reservoirs for the disease, but chimps, gorillas, and antelopes are also known to carry the infection. Currently there are no natural reservoirs for Ebola outside of Africa, which means it’s a lot less likely that Ebola could establish itself anywhere else, says epidemiologist Stephen Morse, from Columbia University.

After the initial transmission from animal to person, the disease spreads from person to person through direct contact with the blood, saliva, and other bodily fluids of infected people. Compared to airborne diseases, which have pandemic potential, the spread of Ebola is slow because it relies on direct contact. And because it kills its victims so quickly, there isn’t much time to spread the disease to others.

In developed countries, the spread of Ebola can be thwarted by isolating infected patients and wearing protective clothing. “Standard hospital hygiene goes a long way,” says Matthias Borchert, an epidemiologist at Berlin’s Charité University of Medicine.

The bad news?  US hospitals are bad enough at “hospital hygiene” that 75,000 people a year die of more mundane, less panic-worthy infections – Strep, C-Diff and an array of others deadly but less newsworthy bugs.

Read the whole thing, though, and pass it on to some of your less-informed friends. 

This country is at less risk of a “zombie apocalypse” from any virus than from the news coverage about the virus.

I Vote “Portent”

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

EBT computer system in Louisiana went down for a few hours.  The EBT cards did not show a credit limit.  Shoppers were pissed so Wal-Mart management said “Ignore the limit, honor the cards.”

Shoppers went on a spree, cleaning out the store. You know they’ll never have to pay it back.

Question is: is that a particular cultural thing specific to Wal-Mart shoppers, or a portent of things to come when the US government no longer can pay its debts?

Joe Doakes

There are two iron clad rules of human behavior:

  1. In a crisis, humans will exceed authority’s expectations.  Sometimes.
  2. If it’s not a crisis, but merely entropy setting in?  All bets are off.

OK, so those aren’t so much “iron-clad rules” as they are signs I’m un-thrilled about the prospects.

Justice Is Blind – But Berg’s Law Sees And Knows All

I’ve added a new corollary to “Berg’s Law” – especially in light of events of this past seven months and the doddering, bobbleheaded liberal punditry to which Real Americans have been subjected.

It’s the “Fugelsang Corollary to Berg’s Seventh Law of Liberal Projection” (Berg’s Seventh reads “When a Liberal issues a group defamation or assault on conservatives’ ethics, character or respect for liberty or the truth, they are at best projecting, and at worst drawing attention away from their own misdeeds.”)

It reads as follows:

The Fugelsang Corollary To Berg’s Seventh Law – a liberal who uses “I’m happy with my penis size” as a conclusion to a debate on the Second Amendment doth protest too much.

The thing about Berg’s Laws are that they are, in actual practice, absolute and inviolable.

EMT for the 313

Speramus Meliora; Resurget Cineribus

“We Hope For Better Things; It Shall Rise From the Ashes.” – City of Detroit’s motto.

Those words were written in 1805 to memorialize a Detroit school burned to the ground.  208 years later, Detroit still hopes for divine intervention, this time from the Michigan capitol.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s proclamation of a “financial emergency” in Detroit was the culmination of a decades-long municipal car wreck.  Between 2000 and 2010, the city lost 237,500 inhabitants — an estimated 1/4th of the population.  One in 20 homes were foreclosed upon during the height of the recession.  The city remains $327 million in the red with $14.9 billion in unfunded city pension plans.  By comparison, the entire state of Michigan’s biennial budget is $49 billion.

While Detroit has been slowly crashing into a wall of economic reality, a busload of corrupt and incompetent city officials have rubber-necked their way past the myriad of issues confronting the city.  In the last decade, Detroit saw 131 convictions of government officials, a number defined by the reign of ousted Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.  Even the federal government last year withheld millions in grants from Detroit over concerns of corruption.  The city’s reaction?  We’re not as bad as Chicago when it comes to corruption, so what’s the big deal?

The Roosevelt Warehouse or Detroit School Book Depository. A fire in 1987 did some damage to the building but was abandoned despite most of the inventory being usable. No effort to recover science and sports equipment, scissors, crayons, and books was ever made and now all sit on the floor in ruin

Synder’s appointment of an “emergency manager” to oversee the Detroit budget and pension plans has elicited howls of protests from the usual suspects:

“[Emergency managers] can unilaterally tear up union contracts, take over pension funds, make and repeal laws, sell public assets, the list goes on,” he said in an earlier interview with The Huffington Post. “Imposition of the EM must be understood in the context of the many other methods conservatives are using today to suppress democracy –- especially among people of color and people in poverty.”

But the decision to go the EM route has also gained critics on the Right, with one National Review writer declaring Snyder’s decision, in hyperbolic form, a “uniquely American way to dictatorship.”

The Emergency Manager legislation has gone through a number of iterations over the years, including one version, Public Act 4, that was opposed by the unions and defeated on the ballot last November.  PA 4 would have allowed EMs to effectively run cities, with their authority superseding that of city officials.  Instead, with PA 4 defeated, Snyder is falling back on the format of an older PA – one that while still not allowing EMs to be fired by the city, doesn’t grant them the power to abrogate collective bargaining or dissolve local governments.

The United Artists Theater. The theater is actually part of an 18-story high rise built in 1928. The historic building was such an embarrassment that the exterior was refurbished before the Super Bowl in 2006. The interior remains as seen.

Despite the fact that no one will be declared dictator, or even Pontifex Maximus, Snyder’s decision has prompted Detroit’s City Council to fight tooth-and-nail against any EM, filing an appeal against the state.  One official who isn’t planning on fighting Lansing is surprisingly Detroit’s Mayor Dave Bing.  Like the rest of the city government, Bing isn’t happy about Snyder’s power play, but unlike the rest, Bing is willing to work with any EM.  Speaking at a City Hall press conference, Bing stated that “we need to stop BSing ourselves,” a quote perhaps applicable to more than just an acknowledgment that an emergency manager would be imposed on Detroit whether they liked it or not.

An emergency manager invites micro concerns – with 83 cents of every Detroit police and fire payroll dollar being spent on pensions by 2017, what use is an EM without the ability to unilateral restructure pension and/or contracts?  But the macro concerns of the decision are far more troubling.  How do you save a city that won’t save itself?

The Lee Plaza Hotel lobby. The Lee Plaza is on the United States National Register of Historic Places.

H.L. Menchken famously declared that “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”  Detroit has certainly being getting it “good and hard” for decades, and like an S&M enthusiast whose forgotten their safe-word, doesn’t know how to stop.  Bankruptcy may be an option, but it doesn’t address the billions in underfunded liabilities.  And considering all bankruptcy would do is force Detroit and its creditors to negotiate, there’s not much more that an EM would do for the situation except provide a political scapegoat for the necessary hard choices to come.  It should be little wonder that Mayor Dave Bing isn’t fighting Snyder’s executive decision – he’s probably relieved someone else will being taking the slings and arrows (in Detroit; statewide, the move is very popular).

Yet what happens after the dust settles?  Even if Snyder’s EM hacks Detroit’s budget into the black, will the political machinery or populace live with the decisions?  Or, having avoided any connection to the policies implemented to take Detroit on the long road to fiscal solvency, will the business of City Hall simply revert to usual?

Snyder’s technocrat lean may be well-intended, but in the case of Detroit, is only delaying the city and its voters coming to terms with their decisions.  Although on the plus side, Snyder’s move is the first job created in Detroit in years.

Open Letter To The Entire American People

To:  Everyone in the USA
From: Mitch Berg, Peasant who’s been through it all before
Re:  ”Sequestration”

Hey, everyone,

You may not remember this, but we’ve been through all this before.  Remember the “partial government shutdown”, back in the nineties?  It was a whole big nothing-burger.

Oh, the Clinton Administration tried to make sure that the people felt whatever pain was generated – closing parks, cramping down on the voters.  But as a rule, the whole thing affected nobody.

And here in Minnesota, we had a “complete” shutdown two years ago (which, again, wasn’t – the courts kept most of the government going as “essential”).  It lasted a few weeks.  Then Governor Messinger Dayton abandoned it, when he realized Minnesotans, for all his efforts to squeeze and scare them – shutting down state parks and highway rest areas, threatening to lay off teachers – barely noticed any difference.  While the media did its best to prop up the Messinger Dayton line, the people of Minnesota heard the gales of calumny but saw and felt a big fat nada burrito.  Even Governor Messinger Dayton – as cosseted and isolated from reality as his staff keeps him – noticed; on his trip around the state to whip up support for the DFL budget, he saw tepid crowds of union droogs, and a few professional protesters, and realized he had nothin’ (which may be why Dayton makes so few public appearances these days).

So it’s time for “sequestration” – the “radical” budget cuts that Obama and the super-di-duper commission agreed to as a stick to lead everyone to the “carrot” of an actual federal budget.  We’ve been waiting nearly 1,400 days for a budget from the Democrat-addled Senate, so Washington figured a “stick” was needed.

By the way – how radical and drastic are those cuts?:

Yep. They’re not even cuts.  They’re reductions in the increase.  Indeed, almost completely worthless, if cutting spending is your goal, but really nothing but a fart in the wind; sort of like “dropping HBO” in your family budget, even though your gas bill is rising and your teenage kids are costing more and more.

Obama will try to make “sequestration” hurt; he’ll slow down the TSA lines, he’ll gundeck some ship overhauls and clamp down some military maintenance budgets, he’ll inveigle some big cities to lay off a few cops and teachers, he’ll shut down Yellowstone as the cameras record photos of crestfallen children.  Hell, Joe Biden may even personally try to close the gates at Disney World.

But there is no there, there.  It’s a scare tactic, engineered by Obama and his compliant media.

It needs to be ignored.

That is all.

 

Being Necessary To The Security Of A Free State

New Yorkers, disarmed by generations of nannystate government, are more or less helpless as those who disregarded the city’s gun control laws flow into the vacuum left when the city’s veneer of civilization – cops and “the system” – got blown away last week.

Residents in parts of Queens – where law enforcement is as scarce as power – are trying to “arm” themselves as looters and armed robbers prowl the neigbhorhood:

Thugs have been masquerading as Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) workers, knocking on doors in the dead of night. But locals say the real workers have been nowhere in sight, causing at least one elected official — who fears a descent into anarchy if help doesn’t arrive soon — to call for the city to investigate the utility…

…“We booby-trapped our door and keep a baseball bat beside our bed,” said Danielle Harris, 34, rummaging through donated supplies as children rode scooters along half-block chunk of the boardwalk that had marooned into the middle of Beach 91st St.

“We heard gunshots for three nights in a row,” said Harris, who believed they came from the nearby housing projects.

Carly Ruggieri, 27, who lives in water-damaged house on the block, said she barricades her door with a bed frame. “There have been people in power department uniforms knocking on doors and asking if they’re okay, but at midnight.”

And another local surfer said he has knives, a machete and a bow and arrow on the ready. Gunshots and slow-rolling cars have become a common fixture of the night since Hurricane Sandy.

When owning guns is a crime, only criminals will have guns (and the Department of Homeland Security isn’t wild about people stockpiling food, either).

So demented is Mayor Bloomberg – an Obama-endorsing Quisling pseudo-Republican – that he doesn’t even want the National Guard going into Brooiklyn.  Too many guns.

Mayor Bloomberg has snubbed Borough President Markowitz’s impassioned plea to bring the National Guard to Hurricane Sandy-scarred Brooklyn — arguing that approving the Beep’s request would be a waste of federal manpower and turn the borough into a police state.

“We don’t need it,” Mayor Bloomberg said on Wednesday during a press update on the city’s ongoing Hurricane Sandy cleanup. “The NYPD is the only people we want on the street with guns.”

Markowitz demanded the National Guard’s help just an hour before Bloomberg’s press conference, claiming that the NYPD and FDNY are “brave — but overwhelmed” by all the challenges Sandy brought when it visited the borough on Monday night: flooding, power outages, and looting.

“All of our resources have been stretched to the limit,” Markowitz said. “In the name of public safety we need to send more National Guard personnel into Coney Island, Manhattan Beach, Gerritsen Beach, Red Hook, and any other locations.”

Markowitz hopes that the sight of an armed soldier would deter criminal activity in the still-unaccessible evacuation zones — such as the rash of break-ins that took place in Coney Island hours after Sandy kissed the borough goodbye — but the Mayor said the NYPD was more than capable of handling the job.

“There are plenty of locations upstate and in surrounding states where they don’t have a police department the size of New York and they can use help [from the National Guard],” said Bloomberg.

Markowitz said he was surprised by the Mayor’s response, but was sticking to his guns.

“We stand by our statement 100 percent,” said Markowitz spokesman John Hill. “We hope the governor will listen to our request.”

It might scare the thugs.

Life Imitates My Art

After the 2004 elections, as Democrats whinged and caviled about the ravages of life under George W. Bush, I wrote a long story about life after a breakup of the United States into, broadly, red and blue America.

An epic hurricane strikes the upper Atlantic seaboard.  And the recovery was…:

 Worse? The relief effort – the attempt to bring food, fuel, clothing, even fresh water to the storm’s victims, especially the hundreds of thousands left homeless or without power – was bogged down by a civil and bureaucratic turf war that beggared the imagination.

 

Dennis Kucinich, Minister of Peace, ordered units of the Peace Force to the affected area. But at the edge of the damaged areas in Boston, Providence, New York, Hartford, Philly/Camden and Trenton, the convoys of troops were met by teams of armed agents and lawyers from the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Housing. Under court order, the MODP agents ordered the MOP troops to hand over their weapons; most complied. These weapons – rifles, machine guns and grenade launchers – were handed over to Housing and Labor agents, and hundreds of AFL-CIO, Teamsters and AFSCME members who’d been deputized as “provisional agents”, who proceeded to go door to door serving pre-printed injunctions against homeowners carrying out repairs without union labor on the job. Homeowners who failed to comply were arrested, and their insurance payments attached by the unions as damages by drumhead civil courts issuing summary judgements under the Emergency Law Act of 2008.

Some said the chapter was over the top.

In the wake of Sandy, I’m not sure it went far enough.  An electric line repair crew from Alabama was sent packing in Jersey for being non-union:

Crews from Huntsville, as well as Decatur Utilities and Joe Wheeler out of Trinity headed up there this week, but Derrick Moore, one of the Decatur workers, said they were told by crews in New Jersey that they can’t do any work there since they’re not union employees.

The crews that are in Roanoke, Virginia say they are just watching and waiting even though they originally received a call asking for help from Seaside Heights, New Jersey.

The crews were told to stand down. In fact, Moore said the crew from Trinity is already headed back home.

I really can’t make it up fast enough.

Bread And Circuses

Bloomberg carries on with NYC Marathon:

T]hose urging the city to halt the run believe that the thousands of Marathon volunteers could direct their efforts towards post-Sandy relief and cleanup, “and they also argue that the event will divert thousands of police from important hurricane-related duties.” But despite petitions circulating, work started up again yesterday on the Marathon route.

A tipster, who wishes to remain anonymous, told us there were lots of workers in and out of the park today, who had “started before the storm and then came back starting yesterday.” Trailers are lined up from around 71st to 66th Streets on Central Park West, a food truck was set up today, and “generators have been sitting there at least a week.” The tents that were taken down prior to the storm have also been set back up, and there is a stage set up near 73rd Street.

Considering all the volunteer help and NYPD attention that’s already being diverted to the Marathon, the added sight of generators and food being channeled to the event is probably going to strike some New Yorkers as a little misplaced—we’re thinking of the ones who are currently lined up waiting for the National Guard to ration out MREs and bottles of water.

Can you imagine if a Republican mayor – who’d just endorsed, say, George W. Bush – had done something like this?

Government We Need

I went to the minute clinic at Target the other day for a flu shot.

After I got the shot, I was astounded to see a nurse walk into the room with a bag and a tube.

And then a doctor, at the head of a small surgery team (anaesthesiologist and a couple of nurses) pushing a surgery cart, all scrubbed in and ready to go.

And after that, another small team of doctors and nurses carrying an Eskimo cooler.

And finally  buxom Swedish woman in low-cut set of white scrubs and white short shorts.

“Um, what?” I started speaking.  ”All of this for a flu shot?”

“Oh, heavens no”, said the nurse as she tossed the syringe in a passing child’s backpack.  ”Carrie”, she said, pointing to the nurse with the bag and the tube “is here to give you a colonoscopy.  And Jeff and his team”, she said, pointing to the surgical crew and their gear as they nodded and smiled under their surgical masks” are here to remove your appendix.  And Dr. Stavronakis’ team”, she said, pointing at the people with the cooler, who waved back, “are here to transplant you a new liver.  And Inge is here to give you a massage”.  Inge grinned.

“Er…”, I started, “that’s great – but I’m just here for a flu shot.  I don’t need a colonocopy – not just yet – my appendix and liver are both fine, knock wood, and as to the massage – well…”

“So you believe people don’t need colonocopies, appendectomies, liver transplants and massage?”

“Sure - people do.  Just not me, at this particular visit, knock wood”.  I looked at Inge, who was starting to pout a bit.  ”Well, except for…”

The nurse glared at me sternly.  ”Don’t you believe in medicine?”

“Well, sure, but if it’s medicine I don’t need, why do it?”

The nurse sighed an exaggeraged sigh.  ”Oh, whatever.  That’ll be $400,000″.

“What?  All I got was a flu shot! You charged me for a colonocopy, an appendectomy, a liver transplant and a massage!”

“Oh, shoot.   I’ll fix that.  But…are you sure?  Because medicine is pretty important…”

———-

There are some reasons we have government.  Defending the country, making and enforcing laws (preferably just the ones we need, although that cow left the barn eighty years ago), enforce contracts – nobody really argues about those.

And there are some other functions that all but the most Libertarian among us can tolerate; I think the Centers for Disease Control is a good investment.  While Libertarian cases for privatizing infrastructure are tempting, it’s just a matter of fact that they have been mostly government endeavors – and as such, less useless than most others.  And most people agree that government, in general, should provide some level of support for some social safety net – especially for people in temporary, dire need.

And there is no more temporary, more dire need than an epic natural disaster, one that strains private resources (even those not already overstrained by supporting big government) and mangles infrastructure in a wide area.  Most people agree that the government, in some form, has a place in dealing with huge disasters – coordinating and supporting relief after the fact, and helping with the planning to prevent them by facilitating public and private efforts to mitigate disasters before the fact (see also: virtually every levee, dijk and storm-surge mitigation system ever built).

But there are those – like the (fictional, thank merciful heavens) nurse in my example above and the New York Times (which isn’t fictional – not yet), who believe that you can’t just stop with the government you really, rationally need; it’s all or nothing.  To them, Government is a Cable TV subscription; you want FEMA, the Interstate Highway System and the Navy?  You gotta also take dairy price supports, multigenerational subsidy of poverty, bloated bureaucracy, trillions in entitlement spending, vast federal intervention in credit and property markets – a fiscal colonocopy, to run with my example, and no, muscle relaxants are not  covered under Obamacare.

The lefty chanting point-bots have been chattering like busy little meerkats over Romney’s remarks about FEMA, as if hypothesizing on principle that a huge, inefficient bureacracy might not yield the best disaster-relief bang for the taxpayers’ buck is the same as stating as a matter of policy that the bureaucracy should be shut down in mid-disaster.  It is a fact that FEMA is a huge, costly bureaucracy with a long history of wastefulness and ineffectiveness, home of one waste scandal after another going back to the Carter years (although the left only observes it when Republicans are in office); to make matters worse, it’s been folded into a bigger, even more wasteful and less-effective bureaucracy, the “Department of Homeland Security”.

Apparently if I point out that both bureaucracies – which I support with my tax dollars – are bloated, inefficient and have wide swathes of corruption, I should expect not to ask for help if there is a disaster.

And apparently I’m not supposed to ask “rather than have a permanent sub-cabinet-level bureaucracy with tens of thousands of employees to plan for emergencies that states and individuals are, or should be, planning for, why not simply create regional preparedness forums for state, private and federal groups and resources, and appoint a “Disaster Czar” with proven executive disaster management experience to facilitate the coordination of state, private and federal resources on an ad hoc basis?”, because that’s unpatriotic.

I ask “why can’t we just have the government we need?” – and the only real answer seems to be “because we just don’t do it that way anymore”.

And “This won’t hurt a bit”.