Thursday, April 30, 2009

An Early Post-Mortem on the Mexican Swine Flu

I've done quite a bit of reading on the recent swine flu, and I've come to some educated but unscientific conclusions. I share them with you because I think they run counter to the general coverage right now but I also think they are accurate.

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

Absurdity Reaches New Levels

Yeah, ya know that ugly recession that's restricting our spending power? It's making y'all fat:
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, 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.

Having a Child in Uncertain Times

I think having your first child is nerve wracking for any responsible father-to-be, but when was the last time it was this nerve wracking? The economic sky is falling and there is a flu nobody can predict erupting all around us. As a soon-to-be-dad, there is this giant protective bubble I want to put over my family, but there are so many things that I can't control for. It's maddening.

Choking the Golden Goose

Oh my.
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.

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.

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.

Pandemic Thought

We are currently in a situation where we have a flu virus that is rapidly spreading through the population and we have no clue what so ever about how serious the illness is. Is it a very deadly strain, as the initial Mexico evidence would indicate, or is that Mexican evidence somehow bad, giving us a skewed view of the lethality of this virus? Either way, we don't know, so shouldn't we be looking at taking some common sense precautions like shutting down sporting events and closing schools en masse while we figure it out? Because once we figure it out, it is going to be too late to do anything.

Or are we already past the point where any of that matters?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

No Mas, Brett, No Mas!


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.

An Auto Thought

If I were Toyota or Honda, and I could find a way to swing it in this economy, I'd buy Pontiac, or at least the brand. Keep the brands but re-engineer the models from scratch and re-introduce them in about five years. They've both already made huge inroads into the American market, but this just might buy them the goodwill of more loyal customers of the formerly Big Three.

Arlen Specter Turns Democrat

Interesting. I didn't know he was still a Republican.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Never Waste A Good Crisis

As we look at a potentially deadly flu pandemic, am I the only one filtering everything the Obama administration does through that quote by Rahm Emanuel?

The Tone Deaf Obama Administration

I know that the nation is still mostly in worship stage, but how insensitive and tone deaf is this administration that it decided it was Kosher to fly a commercial jet and an F-16 low over lower Manhattan with out giving the public a warning? This administration is looking frighteningly lightweight.

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

Now is the time to get concerned

I've been a huge critic of the new and old media for their panic mongering over the avian flu. It did nobody any good to be excessively worried about that potential threat to global health. This flu in Mexico, a bizarre swine, avian, and human flu combo, is something to be legitimately concerned about. Panicked, no, but concerned, yes.

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

Braden Looper for Cy Young

Seriously. The only other bright spot on this Brewers roster so far is Todd Coffey.

Happy Earth Day

The title to this post makes me giggle, because when was the last time you met a happy environmentalist? But anyway, do have a happy Earth Day. If you are celebrating Gaia by forsaking electricity or water for the day, I'll know by your slightly rank scent or mismatched clothes, so please don't be offended if I give you a wide berth for the day. As for me, I'm going to celebrate a little differently. I'm going to celebrate the bounties of this planet by taking an extra long, extra hot shower in the morning. Hell, I may sleep with the lights on tonight just to honor the powers we've discovered on this spinning ball of mud.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

California Cows Must Not Be Happy

Remember those commercials about California's happy cows? They must be as neurotic as their state's citizens can be, because they apparently aren't happy now:

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.

Huge Fraud Potential in Bailout

Huh. Thank goodness government let us know about that. I don't who would have ever predicted that.

Oh wait, that's right. I did. And I'm no seer. It should have been painfully obvious to all of us.

Monday, April 20, 2009

They Said if We Elected George W. Bush...

...political opponents would be castigated as terrorists. I guess they were right. It just took President Obama to realize the "hope" of the Bush administration. (Apologies to Glen Reynolds and his now defunct "They Said" series).

Mythbusters Wisconsin

Pay attention Badger Kari Byron geeks. Mythbusters was in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, the geek club couldn't form a Byron worship service because, the best to my knowledge, their presence wasn't announced in advance. However, if you want to see Kari Byron et al in Wisconsin, look for the "Alaska Special 2." Bonus points to anyone that can name where they did the snow plow test.

Oh, by the way, if I didn't say so already, Kari Byron.

New Detroit Lions Logo

Not surprisingly, it is even lamer than the old one. I see that and think Detroit Cowardly Lions.

Wisconsin Prediction

To my Wisconsin reader: Do you remember 2006? At the beginning of that year, there was a real question as to who would be the best Republican candidate for governor. If you were within Southeastern Wisconsin proper, you were most likely a Scott Walker supporter. If you were outside of that region of the state, you were most likely a Mark Green supporter. Scott Walker removed himself from the race, but Green never really stirred the passions of former Walker supporters, nor did he garner outsized support "outstate".

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.

Go DOW Go!

Go DOW Go!
Originally uploaded by Jibby7
I was in Madison on Saturday when I saw this license plate. Someone is apparently long in the market, or damn close to retirement.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

And Fuel Economy Will Continue to Deteriorate

The gas mileage your car gets will probably drop in the future. Is it that dastardly American auto industry's fault for making shoddy cars? Nope, it'll be your government's fault:
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.

John Madden, NFL Broadcaster, Retires at 73

Am I the only one who saw headlines like that today and initially thought he'd died?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

No More Czars. No Mas!

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.

The new Homeland Security post 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?

Wherein I Agree With Fidel Castro (But For Different Reasons)

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.

Happy Tea Partying

I feel deficient for not being able to attend tomorrow's tea party in Madison, especially considering the fact that I do not work all that far away. But that's kind of the point...I have to work. Take pictures for me, everyone.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Cult Lives On

Sigh. I saw several examples this weekend of Obamessiah syndrome. I was hoping that more people had come to their senses, but it seems that many still think that he can walk on the water he turns into wine.

Volcano on Galpagos Islands Erupts, Threatens Exotic Species

Nature at its finest.
Ecuador officials say a volcano is erupting in the Galapagos Islands and could harm unique wildlife.

The Galapagos National Park says La Cumbre volcano began spewing lava, gas and smoke on uninhabited Fernandina Island 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

Blogger, Commentor Engaged. So Fracking What?

I've only been casually following da blogs in recent week, but I did notice the kerfuffle over UW law prof & blogger Ann Althouse's pending nuptials with a man she met through her comment section. I'm not understanding what the big deal is here. Who gives a rat's patoot? People meet the ones they love in any number of places, and the comment section of a blog seems much more sane than one of the most common places, the tavern.

A New Career?

I was in Borders the other night and I saw a book on the Chicago Cubs. I began to think about how boys and their fathers are about sports. Most times, the boy will cheer along with his father for the same teams, but some boys will intentionally choose the rivals to their dad's favorite team, if only to spice things up. My boy's grandfather is like that, as are more than one of his great-uncles to be.

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

Geithner Plays the Fool, Again

I declare shenanigans against the Obama administration:
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.

Earning the Digits

If she didn't give this guy her phone number after this, a crime occurred.

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

Dumb Headlines

Today's edition of Dumb Headlines features Time via Yahoo:

Unemployment Rise Shows Recession Far from Over

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.

Bonus Classic TV Intro

I'm not sure how many out there remember this one, but I used to watch Grizzly Adams re-runs on weekend mornings all the time. Fortunately, I had enough common sense to realize that bears aren't any man's best friend.

The Weekend's Classic TV Intro

I've been AWOL, but I haven't forgotten my new feature. Enjoy one that always makes me feel better, the intro to Cheers.

Friday, April 03, 2009

A Thought on this Economy

We are in a deep recession, no doubt about it. And it has been a long time since we've experienced something like this. It used to be that recessions were deep, painful, and relatively frequent. Because they were frequent, people knew what to expect, and they didn't panic. But now we've gone 25 plus years since our last deep recession, and even those amongst who were productive members of the economy at that time have been partially numbed to the pain.

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.