Thursday, April 30, 2009
First, the way this story evolved, this particular flu strain looked terrifying. We were getting reports of deaths from Mexico that were growing at a high rate to the number of confirmed cases that were being reported. It has seemed terrifying at times. Almost too terrifying to be believable. The death rate appeared to be incredibly high compared to even the 1918 influenza. But what we were probably seeing was an anomaly in the data collection. This flu has probably been spreading for over a month, possibly well over a month, but it wasn't being identified as anything other than a typical flu virus.
At some point, deaths in Mexico lead to the actual virus being identified. The new and unique nature of the virus led to a natural alarm, and attention immediately went to the cases where death occurred. Because of that increased attention to the cases where flu deaths occurred, those numbers began to rise at a faster rate than reported cases where recovery happened. As the focus shifted to containment because of the fear generated by the increases in deaths, we naturally began identifying more and more cases of this flu. Most of these cases appeared to be serious, so as this number has expanded, it has seemed to confirm suspicions that we were facing a deadly pandemic. But that may have neglected another part of this picture, and that is that many, many more people have probably been infected but the infection has been so mild that they A) Never sought treatment, B) May not have even thought it was the flu, perhaps even confusing their symptoms for that of a bad cold, and C) May have even been asymptomatic.
Two important pieces of information have appeared in the past couple of days, and as the tidal wave of this story has rolled on, I think they have been under reported. The first is reports that the confirmed death toll in Mexico may actually be lower than what we've been hearing. The second is reports from the scientific field that this virus appears to be no more deadly than the typical seasonal flu virus. If true, both of these pieces of data would indicate this panic was created by data collection that started with the most serious instance, cases that resulted in death, and worked backwards to the least serious, which would be cases so mild as to go unreported.
In all likelihood, this flu virus will be out of the news loop in two weeks. Many of us will be asking the question "how the hell did this virus become a panic," and I think it is going to be some variation of the above.
One other thing on the news coverage of this. I've been seeing more and more reporting that holds up the example of the 1918 flu that started mild in the spring and became deadly that fall as what we have to look forward to. This is lazy, fear mongering journalism that relies on the false belief that history repeats itself exactly. Could this flu come back more deadly in the fall? Perhaps, but it will likely be worked into next winter's flu shots. Unless it makes a radical genetic change, that vaccine will likely go a long way to tempering any increase in lethality. And remember, in 1918, we did not have the benefit of a vaccination routine. Additionally, the 'history repeats itself' model is incredibly irresponsible as the likelihood that this virus would follow the exact route of the 1918 virus is more remote than you buying a Powerball ticket and winning this weekend.
So, long story short, you can probably direct your worries in other directions. This flu is going to be looked back upon as much ado about nothing.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
The recession that is shrinking workers' paychecks may also be expanding their waistlines, a survey showed on Wednesday.
One in 10 U.S. workers said they are snacking more during the day due to concerns over the economic situation, and nearly half complained of gaining weight in their jobs, according to a survey by CareerBuilder.com, an online jobs site.
It said 43 percent of employees surveyed reported they have gained weight while in their present jobs. A quarter said they gained more than 10 pounds and a sixth gained more than 20 pounds.
C'mon now. This defies all logic. If this survey is at all accurate, then this is the first time in history that dire economic straits has led to increased obesity. And if that's the case, then we really aren't in that dire of economic straits.
The United Auto Workers union’s retiree health-care fund will own 55 percent of Chrysler LLC in exchange for cutting in half the automaker’s $10.6 billion cash obligation to the trust, people familiar with the matter said.One of two things will result from this. The 'new' Chrysler will be bled dry, or a certain union is going to get an up close and personal look at how unrealistic their demands on business are. I'm putting a larger wager on the former.
Under the terms of the contract, the trust would get representation on the company’s board of directors, said two people briefed on the deal, who asked not to be named because the matter is private.
Or are we already past the point where any of that matters?
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Brett Favre was released from the reserve-retired list by the New York Jets on Tuesday night, making the quarterback a free agent if he decides to again come out of retirement.
The 39-year-old Favre, who spent one disappointing season with New York, had requested the move several weeks ago through agent Bus Cook, but insisted he has no plans to come out of retirement for a 19th season.
No plans to come back? Co-bullshit-ugh. Yeah, I'm sure he has no plans to come back, especially not with the only team in the division without a QB, the Vikings. Because most guys ask to be released after they retire.
Monday, April 27, 2009
And speaking of lightweight, I know that Democrats are pointing out that Republicans fought pandemic funding in the stimulus, but what kind of an administration drags its feet on appointing people to the Treasury during a financial crisis and faces a potential flu pandemic without a Secretary of Health & Human Services or even a Surgeon General?
Saturday, April 25, 2009
At this point, it looks like this flu responds well to treatment with Tamiflu. There are also indications, based off of limited U.S. cases, that it may not be as lethal as some past flu pandemics. But it pays to take precautions. Now is probably a good time to swear off hand shakes and/or greeting kisses, to step up basic sanitization, and maybe even to stock up on some masks and gloves. It certainly would pay to have emergency stocks of basics. I don't think we'll need them, but this is a time where it is better to be safe than sorry.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
California, the nation’s top milk producer, had a 3.8 percent drop in its March output.
The Golden State’s dairy herd dropped by about 20,000 cows, while Wisconsin added 5,000 cows in March.
The production per cow also grew in Wisconsin by about 25 pounds, while it dropped 55 pounds in California.
Maybe if those Cali dairy farmers get their cows some counseling and a good prescription, they'll start making happy milk again.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Oh, by the way, if I didn't say so already, Kari Byron.
Well, I see a similar scenario on our horizon. There is early support crystallizing around former U.S. Congressman Mark Neumann. Now, if you've read this blog or the Badger Blog Alliance at all, you know that I am a Scott Walker supporter, but this isn't about who I think is the better candidate. What this is about is what I see as a continued schism in this state's Republican party. While both Neumann and Walker are SE Wisconsin Republicans, I can see a similar split developing in the party where supporters of the loser never fully get on board with the winner. And if that happens, this state will concede another election to Jim "Ponzi Scheme" Doyle.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
The U.S. government will eventually allow higher levels of ethanol to be blended into gasoline, Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen said on Tuesday.
Ethanol is currently approved to make up 10 percent of gasoline, but producers have lobbied the government to increase the blend level.
The science is pretty clear on what ethanol does to gas mileage. I can only shake my head at the stupidity.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
A former Justice Department official has been picked to be the Southwest border czar — a new position created by the Obama administration to handle illegal immigration and border issues, according to an administration official.
Thepost will be responsible for issues related to drug-cartel violence along the U.S.-Mexico border and the hundreds of thousands of people there who try to enter the U.S. illegally.
If there ever was a term that needed be taken out back, have its legs broken, and dropped into the Hudson River, it was 'Czar'. It was cool for 45 minutes in the 1980's, but it is about one of the most un-American terms imaginable. And when was the last time you remember an American "czar" accomplishing jack?
Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro on Tuesday praised the Obama administration for lifting U.S. restrictions on family travel to Cuba, but said more changes were needed in U.S. policy toward the island.
"The measure of easing the restrictions on trips is positive although minimal. Many others are needed," Castro wrote in a column published on a Cuban government website.
The surest way to end the Castro & Castro regime is to throw the doors open to Cuba and flood the island with capitalism. I'd go so far as to say that we are 20-25 years overdue on this change. The Cuban American community, particularly the older generation, still has some heft in American politics, so any changes along this line will come incrementally.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Ecuador officials say a volcano is erupting in theand could harm unique wildlife.
Thesays La Cumbre volcano began spewing lava, gas and smoke on uninhabited on Saturday after four years of inactivity.
Word is the the UN will convene to condemn the environment for the environmental damage it is doing to the environment.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
So I started to mull over ways to encourage my boy to cheer on my favorite teams, besides the obvious immersion technique of swamping him with Packers, Brewers, Badgers, and Bucks. I think I hit on something that would work. I'm going to write a series of children's books. The first book in the series is going to be called "Why the Chicago Cubs...Eat Children." I plan to follow that up with "Why the Chicago Bears...Hate Your Mommy" (Or maybe "The Monsters of the Midway Under Your Bed") and "The Lost Kids and The Purple People Eaters."
I know, the titles sound horrible, and they will give kids bad dreams. But remember, nightmares fade, but the indignity of being a Cubs, Bears, or Vikings fan lives on forever.
Sunday, April 05, 2009
U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner denied on Sunday the Obama administration was crafting bailout initiatives to allow companies to evade limits on executive pay and other restrictions imposed by Congress.
"No, that's not true," Geithner said when asked about a report in Saturday's Washington Post that the White House was trying to allow some exceptions.
They tread a fine line. They want power and control over over the financial and other industries, but they also know that those individuals will fund their re-election effort in three years. Look for the loopholes to abound. Geithner doesn't realize it yet, but he'll be the fall guy when the public figures out that these executives have work-arounds that allow them to still make their money. And Obama will get his donations in '11-'12. In a way, I feel sorry for the dumb bastard.
I say let's be honest and transparent about this. Don't limit their pay. If they fail and make huge money, then they will be open to the judgement of their stockholders. All this administration is doing right now is making executive compensation more difficult to track.
It doesn't look like he tried to capitalize on the opportunity, though.
I showed the lovely Mrs. Jib this video. She had two thoughts. #1: Digits would have been called for if he gave her the ball. #2: In the interest of Darwinism, he should have let the ball hit her for being oblivious to a Major League game while sunbathing beyond the left-center field wall.
Saturday, April 04, 2009
Perhaps the recession is far from over, but the unemployment rise isn't what shows it. Unemployment is a lagging economic indicator. It shows what employers were facing, not what they are facing. Yes, last month's increase in unemployment could mean less consumer spending for this month. Employers tend to cut jobs beyond the point at which an economy starts to turn around, though, so deciphering where we are right now from it is a foggy art at best.
Friday, April 03, 2009
So here we are, terrified that we are looking at the abyss, standing on the ledge of a new Great Depression. I won't lie-we could very well be in that position. Something is nagging at me, though. Yes, leveraged (homes, cars, luxury goods) spending is way off. Yes, business spending is down as companies batten down the hatches. Yes, consumer spending is taking a beating because of unemployment and over-indebtedness. Yet I still see a lot of people, as nervous and as stressed as they are about the economy, spending money like they always have. For instance, I know of 7 people who have (or will be) taken expensive trips outside of this country in the period between December and this coming May. None of them are filthy rich-they are in the lower to upper middle class range.
A contraction in this economy is necessary. We got ourselves into an over-leveraged, over-priced situation across the board, and that has to be corrected. And if we just get out of the way, we'd find that the pain, while bad, doesn't hurt as much as we'd feared. Yet for the last 6 months, our government has acted out of that fear, and just as we start to claw our way out of this, we may very well get slapped in the face by worse problems that we've allowed our government to create.