The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, October 31, 2014


Many progressives are quick to assert that those who do not adopt their belief system are bumpkins at best and unreconstructed neanderthals at worst. And yet, after many years of observing progressives up close, one can only conclude that their belief system is based on good intentions (forget the results) at best and full-blown fantasy at worse.

Kate Batchelder (read the whole article, although it is behind a pay wall) deconstructs the 10 most widely believed progressive myths. She writes:
A hallmark of progressive politics is the ability to hold fervent beliefs, in defiance of evidence, that explain how the world works—and why liberal solutions must be adopted. Such political superstitions take on a new prominence during campaign seasons as Democratic candidates trot out applause lines to rally their progressive base and as the electorate considers their voting records.
The problem is that these myths are promulgated by a compliant media and are generally believed to be true by otherwise intelligent people who otherwise think critically. Let's take a look at Bachelder's list:
1. Spending more money improves education. The U.S. spent $12,608 per student in 2010—more than double the figure, in inflation-adjusted dollars, spent in 1970—and spending on public elementary and secondary schools has surpassed $600 billion. How’s that working out? Adjusted state SAT scores have declined on average 3% since the 1970s, as the Cato Institute’s Andrew Coulson found in a March report.
There are many reasons why some students (note my use of the word "some" are struggling, but they have nothing to do with money. The list of reasons might include: an unstable family environment, a culture that doesn't honor education, top heavy administrative control, too much standardized testing—to name just a few.
2. Government spending stimulates the economy. Case in point is the $830 billion 2009 stimulus bill, touted by the Obama administration as necessary for keeping unemployment below 8%. Result: four years of average unemployment above 8%. Federal outlays soared in 2009 to $3.5 trillion—a big enough bump to do the Keynesian trick of boosting aggregate demand—but all we got was this lousy 2% growth and a new costume for Army Corps of Engineers mascot Bobber the Water Safety Dog.
The Keynsian model is deeply flawed in an era of global economy. Barack Obama wasted hundreds of billions dolling out political gifts as part of the stimulus and did little to improve our economic plight.
3. Republican candidates always have a big spending advantage over Democrats. Majority Leader Harry Reid took to the Senate floor recently to deride the Koch brothers as “radical billionaires” who are “attempting to buy our democracy.” Yet the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has raked in $127 million this cycle, about $30 million more than the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and Democrats have aired more TV ads than Republicans in several battleground states, according to analysis by the Center for Public Integrity.
It would be a very good idea to remove all money from politics, but those who are in touch with reality understand that there is no practical, enforceable way to do it.
4. Raising the minimum wage helps the poor. The president wants to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 from $7.25, with the tagline “Let’s give America a raise.” The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the hike would cost 500,000 jobs, one blow to the low-wage earners it claims to help. Employment aside, only 18% of the earnings benefits of a $10.10 hike would flow to people living below the poverty line, ...
But numbers and statistics never win when progressives adopt a myth. It "feels" right to champion low wage earners, even if you hurt many other low wage earners in the process. Again, intentions trump results every time.

5. Global warming is causing increasingly violent weather. Tell that to Floridians, who are enjoying the ninth consecutive season without a hurricane landfall. The Atlantic hurricane season in 2013 was the least active in 30 years. Oh, and global temperatures have not increased for 15 years.
It's all about the science. Not!
6. Genetically modified food is dangerous. Farmers have been breeding crop seeds for 10,000 years, but the agricultural innovation known as genetic modification makes liberals shudder. Not a single documented illness has resulted from the trillions of meals containing “genetically modified organisms,” or GMOs, that humans have consumed since the mid-1990s. The technology has been declared safe by every regulatory agency from the Food and Drug Administration to the European Commission.
In some ways, belief in this myth is harmless. If an individual insists on spending between 10 and 200 percent more for "organic, local, sustainable" food, that's fine. Just don't force the rest of us to do so as well.
7. Voter ID laws suppress minority turnout. More than 30 states have voter-ID laws, which the left decries as an attempt to disenfranchise minorities who don’t have identification and can’t pay for it. Yet of the 17 states with the strictest requirements, 16 offer free IDs.
Just this week, there have been four documented cases of voter fraud on a wide scale. A recent study by George Mason university notes that an estimated 1.2 million illegal aliens (or otherwise ineligible non-citizens) voted in the 2008 elections. Guess who the vast majority voted for?
8. ObamaCare is gaining popularity.
President Obama said in a speech earlier this month that fewer Republicans were running against ObamaCare because “it’s working pretty well in the real world.”
Recall that he also said you can keep your doctor and your existing insurance plan. Heh.
9. The Keystone XL pipeline would increase oil spills. Let’s check out what President Obama’s State Department had to say: In 2013 pipelines with a diameter larger than 12 inches spilled 910,000 gallons. Railroad tankers spilled 1.5 million gallons. Yet pipelines carry 25 times the oil that tankers do, as environmental analyst Terry Anderson has noted in these pages. Blocking Keystone and forcing more oil to be shipped by rail guarantees more harm to the environment.
Our most powerful weapon against entities that want to do us harm is oil. Keystone would all but guarantee energy independence.
10. Women are paid 77 cents on the dollar compared with men. The mother of all liberal superstitions, this figure comes from shoddy math that divides the average earnings of all women working full-time by the average earnings of all full-time men, without considering career field, education or personal choices. When those factors are included, the wage gap disappears.
But the "war on women" has worked so well in the past, why not continue to promote the canard?

It is important to note that conservatives also fall into the trap of taking positions based on belief, rather than reality, particularly on social issues.  For example, their ridiculous contention that gay marriage somehow threatens conventional marriage is unsupported by facts or evidence. It's mean-spirited and wrong.

It's important to look at the world as it is, not as we'd wish it to be. It's important to consider not only intentions but results, potential unintended consequences, and costs. It important not to live in a fantasy where words matter more than actions, and beliefs matter more that hard evidence and facts.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Chicken $#%!

Barack Obama and his administration have repeated denigrated the State of Israel, its leaders, and its legitimate right to defend itself from genocidal Islamists on its borders. Because the administration is populated with leftists, it has adopted the leftist canard that Israel is the aggressor, an oppressor, and is an illegitimate member of the international community. And the poor, beleaguered palestinans? You know, the ones who elected the terrorist group Hamas to lead them, the ones who celebrated after 9/11, the ones who teach anti-Semitism as part of the grade-school curriculum. The administration believes they're the victims in all of this.

Today, another chapter in the unending anti-Israel bias exhibited by the Obama administration. Barak Ravid and Jonathan Lis report:
[Israeli Prime Minister] Netanyahu's office earlier Wednesday launched at counter-offensive at the Obama administration, after a senior U.S. official was quoted report by The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg as saying Netanyahu was “a chickenshit prime minister,” who only cares about his political survival.

"Netanyahu will continue to uphold the security interests of Israel and the historical rights of the Jewish people in Jerusalem, and no amount of pressure will change that," Netanyahu's office said in response to the remark, the latest in the ongoing crisis in U.S.-relations.

“The thing about Bibi is, he’s a chickenshit,” the official was cited as saying. According to Goldberg, the Obama administration official said that Netanyahu frustrates the White House and the U.S. State Department the most.

“The good thing about Netanyahu is that he’s scared to launch wars,” the official said. “The bad thing about him is that he won’t do anything to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians or with the Sunni Arab states. The only thing he’s interested in is protecting himself from political defeat. He’s not [Yitzhak] Rabin, he’s not [Ariel] Sharon, he’s certainly no [Menachem] Begin. He’s got no guts.”
Where to begin?

If this statement were one of a kind, it could easily be dismissed as an aberration. But Barack Obama, John Kerry and their Team of 2s have attacked Israel repeatedly during the past six years. That's standard operating procedure for a president who attacks our county's strongest allies and mollifies our most vicious enemies.

But there more to this. Obama thinks that he can salvage the wreckage of a massively failed foreign policy by pressuring Israel into concessions that would result in nation suicide for Israel—all in the name of a "Peace Agreement." The agreement Obama wants would not bring peace and would not be an agreement. The Arabs would violate it as they have violated every agreement they have signed in the last half century. When Israel rightly refuses to go along with this nonsense, Obama and his bumbling Secretary of State, John Kerry, throw a temper tantrum, reflected in disgusting statements like the one reported above. Of course, they use underlings to do the dirty work, but the source is obvious.

I wonder if Obama's trained media hamsters will report this and if they do so how they'll spin it. I wonder how many American Jews will hear about it, and if they do, what percentage will shrug their shoulders and make like it never happened.

After six years of observing an administration that has done almost nothing right—either domestically or internationally; after six years of observing an administration that doesn't learn from it copious mistakes; after six years of watching presidential or administration temper tantrums that even a 10 year old would be punished for, it seems to me that the word "chickenshit" would be much better targeted at the current residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

UPDATE (10/30/14):
Not surprisingly, Obama's trained hamsters in the media (with the notable exception of FoxNews) remain remarkably quiet on the administration's crass attack on a US ally. Zev Chafets summarizes well when he writes:
After the American misreading of the Arab spring, the infamous Obama red-line in Syria, U.S. abandonment of Iraq, the chaos in Libya and the American failure to understand, let along contain, Islamic terrorism, this administration is not seen by Jerusalem as a font of wisdom.
Like virtually everyone on the left, Barack Obama has a fantasy that pivots on suicidal Israel concessions coupled with empty Arab promises that will miraculously lead to peace in the Middle East. They disregard more than a half century of history, the facts on the ground today, the fact that hatreds are deep and long-lasting, and that there is no cohesive leadership with which to negotiate in good faith. But no matter, if people like Barack Obama and John Kerry say it will happen, it will happen. Sort of like the promise that each of us can keep our doctor under Obamacare.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Abused Spouse

Yesterday, I wrote about Sharyl Atkisson's new book that describes the endemic media bias that has done an enormous disservice to Americans over the past six years. Today, The Washington Post reports:
At some point, a compendium of condemnations against the Obama administration’s record of media transparency (actually, opacity) must be assembled. Notable quotations in this vein come from former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, who said, “It is the most secretive White House that I have ever been involved in covering”; New York Times reporter James Risen, who said, “I think Obama hates the press”; and CBS News’s Bob Schieffer, who said, “This administration exercises more control than George W. Bush’s did, and his before that.”

USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page has added a sharper edge to this set of knives. Speaking Saturday at a White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) seminar, Page called the current White House not only “more restrictive” but also “more dangerous” to the press than any other in history, a clear reference to the Obama administration’s leak investigations and its naming of Fox News’s James Rosen as a possible “co-conspirator” in a violation of the Espionage Act.
Like an abused spouse, the main stream media is being terrorized and humiliated by the Obama administration, but instead of fighting back (with truthful investigative reporting on the most corrupt administration in modern history), their love of Obama allows the abuse to continue and escalate. Like any abuser, the Obama administration understands all too well that the ideological bias exhibited by the media doesn't allow it to fight back. As a consequence, the abuse continues and escalates.

It's politically incorrect to ever state that the abused deserves the abuse. In this case, however, the media has brought this abuse on itself and only now has begun to recognize that the 'black eye' it has gotten from Barack Obama is there because it never chose to fight back by reporting dishonesty, incompetence and corruption.

Monday, October 27, 2014


Those who read this blog regularly, know that I'm an admirer of Sharyl Attkisson, a ex-CBS reporter, winner of the Edward R. Morrow award in journalism and five journalism emmys. Over her career, Attkisson has pursued stories on corrupt GOP politicians, corporate malfeasance, and hundreds of other investigative reports. Early on, she even did a few stories on corrupt Democrats and big intrusive government (BIG) programs. But all of the latter stopped with the election of Barack Obama.

Attkisson has written a new book, Stonewalled, in which she presents the unrelenting bias of main stream media over the past six years.

Kyle Smith does an informal review of the book:
Reporters on the ground aren’t necessarily ideological, Attkisson says, but the major network news decisions get made by a handful of New York execs who read the same papers and think the same thoughts.

Often they dream up stories beforehand and turn the reporters into “casting agents,” told “we need to find someone who will say . . .” that a given policy is good or bad. “We’re asked to create a reality that fits their New York image of what they believe,” she writes.

Reporting on the many green-energy firms such as Solyndra that went belly-up after burning through hundreds of millions in Washington handouts, Attkisson ran into increasing difficulty getting her stories on the air. A colleague told her about the following exchange: “[The stories] are pretty significant,” said a news exec. “Maybe we should be airing some of them on the ‘Evening News?’ ” Replied the program’s chief Pat Shevlin, “What’s the matter, don’t you support green energy?”

Says Attkisson: That’s like saying you’re anti-medicine if you point out pharmaceutical company fraud.
Because MSM execs do, in fact, "think the same [progressive] thoughts," they have banished objectivity, context, and often, the truth, in favor of blatant bias for the Obama administration and its BIG agenda. Sometimes this bias is subtle, sometimes in occurs through acts of omission, and sometimes, it's just the words and spin that are used to report the story, but bias is always there. Always.

Again from Kyle Smith:
Attkisson continued her dogged reporting through the launch of ObamaCare: She’s the reporter who brought the public’s attention to the absurdly small number — six — who managed to sign up for it on day one.

“Many in the media,” she writes, “are wrestling with their own souls: They know that ObamaCare is in serious trouble, but they’re conflicted about reporting that. Some worry that the news coverage will hurt a cause that they personally believe in. They’re all too eager to dismiss damaging documentary evidence while embracing, sometimes unquestioningly, the Obama administration’s ever-evolving and unproven explanations.”

One of her bosses had a rule that conservative analysts must always be labeled conservatives, but liberal analysts were simply “analysts.” “And if a conservative analyst’s opinion really rubbed the supervisor the wrong way,” says Attkisson, “she might rewrite the script to label him a ‘right-wing’ analyst.”

In mid-October 2012, with the presidential election coming up, Attkisson says CBS suddenly lost interest in airing her reporting on the Benghazi attacks. “The light switch turns off,” she writes. “Most of my Benghazi stories from that point on would be reported not on television, but on the Web.”
I've ordered the book and will receive a copy when it's published next week. I suspect it will be illuminating and depressing. Over the last six years the media has done an enormous disservice to this country. They now longer deserve to be called a "profession" and they certainly no longer deserve even a modicum of respect.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Indentification Audit

For the past decade, Democrats and their elected representatives have adamantly opposed any suggestion that formal identification be presented prior to an individual submitting a ballot. What seems like simple common sense—that is, verifying that the person voting is in fact the person who he or she claims to be—has been spun by Democrats and their trained media hamsters into a "racist" attempt to "suppress" the vote. How? Exactly.

Is it too much to ask that a person who is interested in voting be certain that he has positive identification? Apparently, it is.

Listening to the absurd justifications against positive identification posited by Democrats, we learn that 11 or 13 or 21 or 25 percent of the electorate is too poor, lacks transportation, or is otherwise incapable (e.g., disabled) of getting an ID. Never mind that poor people use IDs all the time, never mind that mass transit is generally available in urban centers, never mind that special programs can be implemented for the house-bound. It's easier to promote a voting system that is inherently open to abuse, as long as that abuse skews in your favor.

John Fund reports:
Many liberals are adamant there is no threat of voter fraud that justifies efforts to improve the integrity of elections. “There is no real concrete evidence of voter fraud,” tweeted Donna Brazile, former acting chair of the Democratic National Committee, this week. “It’s a big ass lie.”

James O’Keefe, the guerilla filmmaker who brought down the ACORN voter-registration fraudsters in 2010 and forced the resignation of NPR executives, politely disagrees. Today, he is releasing some new undercover footage that raises disturbing questions about ballot integrity in Colorado, the site of fiercely contested races for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House, and the governorship. When he raised the issue of filling out some of the unused ballots that are mailed to every household in the state this month, he was told by Meredith Hicks, the director of Work for Progress, a liberal group funded by Democratic Super PACS.: “That is not even like lying or something, if someone throws out a ballot, like if you want to fill it out you should do it.” She then brazenly offered O’Keefe, disguised as a middle-aged college instructor, a job with her group.

The video of O’Keefe’s encounters with other operatives is equally disturbing. He has a conversation with Greenpeace employee Christina Topping, and suggests he might have access to unused ballots from people who have recently moved out of college fraternity houses. “I mean it is putting the votes to good use,” she responds. “So really, truly, like yeah, that is awesome.”
"Awesome," if you think that our country should become a banana republic where no one trusts election results and representatives are "elected" not by an honest majority, but by the people who are the most dishonest.

Of course, the Dems claim that everyone is honest and that any abuse is miniscule and therefore unworthy of concern. Hence, voter ID laws aren't unnecessary.

Okay, why don't we test that premise. Let's select 5,000 precincts throughout the United States, distributed based on population density. Just as the IRS does a income tax audit on randomly selected individuals, let's do a full "identification audit" on every person who casts a vote in those randomly selected precincts (including absentee ballots cast for that precinct). If an exiting voter presents a valid picture ID, the audit is over. If a formal non-picture ID is presented, a second form of identification is required (credit card, EBT card, utility bill, cell phone bill) before the audit ends. If no second source ID is presented or no ID is available, the person must answer questions about his or her residence, social security number, and other identifying characteristics. These would then be vetted after the fact. No one who participated in the audit would be liable for criminal prosecution, but the data collected would be carefully analyzed to determine the extent of any fraud, the true number of voters without identification and other useful tidbits.

Intrusive and expensive? Sure. But so are IRS audits. The intent of both audits is to collect data and keep people honest. More importantly, the intent is to understand the scope of any problem that does exist.

The Dems should welcome this approach. After all, it will prove once and for all that everyone is honest and there is no voter fraud. Or will it?

UPDATE (10/23/2014)

In the quote above, Donna Brazile noted that election fraud claims are "a big ass lie."

Hmmm. Consider the following excerpt from a Heritage Foundation Report (read the whole thing):
The "Truth About Voter Fraud," according to activ­ist groups like the Brennan Center, is that "many of the claims of voter fraud amount to a great deal of smoke without much fire…. The allegations simply do not pan out."[1]

Chicago, however, is known for its fires, and there was a roaring one there in 1982 that resulted in one of the largest voter fraud prosecutions ever conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice. The telltale smoke arose out of one of the closest governor's races in Illi­nois history; and as for the fire, the U.S. Attorney in Chicago at the time, Daniel Webb, estimated that at least 100,000 fraudulent votes (10 percent of all votes in the city) had been cast.[2] Sixty-five individuals were indicted for federal election crimes, and all but two (one found incompetent to stand trial and another who died) were convicted. [3]

This case of voter fraud is worth studying today be­cause it illustrates the techniques that political machines and organized political groups use to steal elections. Even in the present day, this threat is not hypothetical: Tactics similar to those documented in the Chicago case have come to light in recent elections in Philadel­phia and in the states of Wisconsin and Tennessee. The Daley machine may be legendary in modern times for its election fraud prowess, but these recent cases show that the incentives and opportunities for fraud have not lessened. Guarding against these tac­tics can make the difference between a fair election and a stolen election, particularly where the mar­gins of victory are narrow and just a few fraudulent votes can change the outcome.
Of course, Dems would argue that 1982 is ancient history, but remember a paraphrase of the oft-used Santyana quote: "Those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." I suspect that the history of voter fraud has been and continues to be repeated -- repeatedly.

Consider this. Over the past 15 years, Dan McLaughlin notes:
For whatever reason, when statewide races are decided by less than 1 point, Democrats win almost three-quarters of the time. When the margin opens to 1-2 points, that advantage dissipates, and the Democrats win only half the races
You don't need much voter fraud to effect the outcome of close races. But the Dems have no reason to be concerned. After all, they win close races 75 percent of the time, instead of the 50 percent you'd expect. Ya have to wonder why.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

3s and 2s -- Redux

Those who read this blog regularly are familiar with two phrases that I use now and then: "3s hire 2s" and "Team of 2s." Both are derived from an old management axiom that deserves repeating, based on the events of the past few weeks.

It's possible to rate a manager's or politician's executive and leadership abilities on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being abysmal and 10 being absolutely world class. A good executive might be rated as an 8 or 9 and a bumbling, inexperienced, ineffective executive might get a rating of, say, 2 or 3 (assuming some small redeeming traits that mitigate against a 1 rating).

The management axiom is:  "9s hire 10s, and 3s hire 2s." That is, executives who are highly competent are not afraid to hire people even more competent than they are, and more important, have the ability to choose those people from many candidates. Executives who are incompetent are also insecure and rarely would hire a person that is more competent than they are. In addition, because they do not have the traits of a good executive or leader, they simply don't know what to look for. Like Murphy's law, the axiom "9s hire 10s, and 3s hire 2s" is encountered repeatedly as each of us moves through life.

At best, six years of hard experience have indicated that as an executive and a leader, Barack Obama is a 3. Further, his direct reports—people like Susan Rice (of Benghazi fame) and John Kerry (of no fame whatsoever) to name just two—populate a Team of 2s.

Nothing exemplifies this better that the recent appointment of "Ebola Tzar," Ron Klain. Peggy Noonan comments:
On the appointment of Ron Klain as the president’s so-called Ebola Czar, much is made of the fact that he lacks a medical or scientific background. I’m not sure that’s important.

More significant is that he is a longtime, hard-line Democratic Party operative who is known more for spin and debate prep than high-level management. That suggests the White House sees the Ebola crisis as foremost a political messaging problem. The president certainly seems unafraid of appearing to see the problem as a political messaging one. His primary focus when choosing Klain looks self-indulgent: “Who do I trust and like to work with?” as opposed to “What does the public require and the situation demand?”

Ebola is going to prove spin-resistant: In fact, the more you spin down the deeper you’re going to get in the hole.

A problem with the Klain appointment is that he does not have natural command presence and public authority. The administration blew its initial handling of the crisis. What is needed is a Gen. Schwarzkopf sort of figure who could stand there at the morning briefing and tell you what’s happening and you know he’s telling it to you true. A straight-shooting retired general or admiral, or a civilian—an independent CEO with a public reputation, someone known for getting things done, someone with his own lines of communication to the media and political class. A Mike Bloomberg—someone who doesn’t need you, who can walk away from the job if he doesn’t get the tools and is feared inside because he can walk.

Someone who is not only bigger than Ron Klain but bigger than Barack Obama.
But that would violate the 3s and 2s axiom. So it won't happen. Not with this president in any event.

Supporters of the president suggest that those of us who have criticized the administration's handling of the current situation are "hysterical" or "panicked."

Not really. But I suspect that every one of us is really, really concerned that a weak 3 is making bad decisions, not the least of which is hiring 2s to (no pun intended) stop the bleeding.

UPDATE (10/21/14):

The Wall Street Journal reports:
Up to three Ebola-infected people could embark on overseas flights every month from the three most-affected African countries, according to a new study that projected travel patterns based on infection rates and recent flight schedules.

The findings, published Monday in the journal Lancet, suggest that Ebola cases could be spread overseas by unwitting travelers from the worst-hit countries—Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The World Health Organization has estimated that, by early December, there could be as many as 10,000 new cases a week in west Africa.
So. Those of us who urge a travel ban do so out of panic? Really?

Let's see. With the R-Zero at about 1.71 to 2.0, that means that those 3 people might lead to about 6 cases in Europe, or Asia or the United States. And if detected late, the new cases might lead to 12, then 24, then 48. Obviously, there's no way of knowing whether that would happen, but playing fast and lose with controls on the movement of travelers from West Africa is irresponsible and stupid.

Friday, October 17, 2014


Criticism of the CDC handling of the first Ebola case to come to the United States and the resultant infection of two healthcare workers has reached a crescendo. At the same time, calls for a travel ban from West Africa have become more urgent. But hard-core supporters of Barack Obama seem intent on suggesting that criticism is unjustified, politically motivated, and dishonest. As James Taranto states:
The [Left leaning] New Republic’s Brian Beulter is even more afraid [of the "panic" he suggests has overtaken those of us who are less than thrilled with the handling of this situation to date]. When two American nurses were diagnosed with Ebola, he writes, it moved “the political dialogue surrounding the virus toward an unbridled opportunism”:
This week’s developments provided conservatives the psychological ammunition they needed to justify using the specter of a major Ebola outbreak as an election-year base-mobilization strategy. . . .

The competence argument is appealing because it doesn’t require dabbling in pseudoscience or xenophobia—just healthy skepticism of our governing institutions. Moreover, I’m certain this sort of skepticism does help explain why a large minority of people in the U.S. feels [sic] at risk of contracting Ebola. But they are at no great risk. That the risk is provably infinitesimal underscores
the fact that the issue with Ebola isn’t the virus itself so much as paranoia about it.
Or is the issue paranoia about paranoia about it? “I’m sort of a doom-and-gloom guy,” admits [left-wing] Salon’s Jim Newell. Meaning he’s afraid of Ebola? Nah, only that voters afraid of Ebola will enable Republican Scott Brown to succeed in his challenge against Sen. Jeanne Shaneen of New Hampshire.
But are calls for a travel ban really paranoia? Is it unreasonable to make every attempt to reduce the likelihood of another case or cases, particularly when it turns out that all of the epidemiological details concerning this virulent strain of Ebola are not fully understood?

Jonathan Last provides a few salient and troubling scientific facts that the CDC and the administration are loath to share:
Start with what we know, and don’t know, about the virus. Officials from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other government agencies claim that contracting Ebola is relatively difficult because the virus is only transmittable by direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person who has become symptomatic. Which means that, in theory, you can’t get Ebola by riding in the elevator with someone who is carrying the virus, because Ebola is not airborne.

This sounds reassuring. Except that it might not be true. There are four strains of the Ebola virus that have caused outbreaks in human populations. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the current outbreak (known as Guinean EBOV, because it originated in Meliandou, Guinea, in late November 2013) is a separate clade “in a sister relationship with other known EBOV strains.” Meaning that this Ebola is related to, but genetically distinct from, previous known strains, and thus may have distinct mechanisms of transmission.

Not everyone is convinced that this Ebola isn’t airborne. Last month, the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy published an article arguing that the current Ebola has “unclear modes of transmission” and that “there is scientific and epidemiologic evidence that Ebola virus has the potential to be transmitted via infectious aerosol particles both near and at a distance from infected patients, which means that healthcare workers should be wearing respirators, not facemasks.”

In August, Science magazine published a survey conducted by 58 medical professionals working in African epidemiology. They traced the origin and spread of the virus with remarkable precision—for instance, they discovered that it crossed the border from Guinea into Sierra Leone at the funeral of a “traditional healer” who had treated Ebola victims. In just the first six months of tracking the virus, the team identified more than 100 mutated forms of it.

Yet what’s really scary is how robust the already-established transmission mechanisms are. Have you ever wondered why Ebola protocols call for washing down infected surfaces with chlorine? Because the virus can survive for up to three weeks on a dry surface.
In an earlier post, I discussed the reasons for concern that are associated with a statistical measure called expected value. In essence, as the number of West African infections grows, the likelihood of more cases in the United States also grows even as the probability of infection remains very small. With the Obama administration issuing 100 - 150 entry visas in West Africa each week, the expected value rises. By the time the Science study was published, five of the  58 medical professionals who participated  had died from Ebola.

The key scientific indicator of an epidemic's growth rate is called R0 (R-Zero)—the reproduction number that indicates how many new cases of Ebola an infected person causes. Last provides some frightening data from West Africa:
When R0 is greater than 1, the virus is spreading through a population. When it’s below 1, the contamination is receding. In September the World Health Organization’s Ebola Response Team estimated the R0 to be at 1.71 in Guinea and 2.02 in Sierra Leone. Since then, it seems to have risen so that the average in West Africa is about 2.0. In September the WHO estimated that by October 20, there would be 3,000 total cases in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. As of October 7, the count was 8,376.
It's not scientifically significant, but it is interesting the RO for the first US case is exactly 2.0 (so far). It's also not scientifically significant, but it is troubling that the mechanism for the transmission to those healthcare workers who are now infected is not known.

Those of us who have criticized the administration's inexplicably rigid position on a travel ban from West Africa are not in a panic. We understand the statistical probability of infection and recognize it is very small on an individual level. But we also understand that even a few more infections, coupled with the resultant media frenzy, could have significant impact on our economy and will further weaken trust in government. The expected value for infection is growing every week that R0 stays above 1.0. A travel ban can help reduce the expected value for the United States, and although it isn't a guarantee of zero infections, it's a lot better than what has been implemented to date. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Travel Ban

In it's flailing effort to stay ahead of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the transmission of the disease into the United States, the Obama administration and the CDC seem content to perform perfunctory entry exams at a few gateway U.S airports, telling us that that is the best they can do without "crippling the economy of West African countries."

The problem, of course is that entry exams are NOT the best they can do.  Promises of a well designed protocol for controlling the disease in Western countries seem unreliable after health care workers in Spain and the United States have tested positive after treating Ebola patients. The CDC and WHO  both keep revising their epidemiological estimates upward—surely, not a confidence building fact.

In this milieu, the Obama administration seems far more interested in the political ramifications of any Ebola travel ban decision than on establishing the best mechanism for protecting our country. But with 60 percent of the country demanding a travel ban and with over 100 visa application per day being processed in West Africa, it's hard to see a political upside for this president.

But back to the efficacy of gateway airport checks. Fusion reports:
The Ebola outbreak [in West Africa] continues to spiral out of control. Near the epicenter of the epidemic in West Africa, more than 3,400 people have died and more than 7,000 people have been infected with the virus. Officials are scrambling to contain the outbreak at its source and keep it from spreading.

The World Health Organization is sending doctors to countries where the virus is most prevalent — Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. Fusion’s Jorge Ramos spoke to one of the doctors, Dr. Aileen Marty, who recently returned home to Miami after spending 31 days in Nigeria. She says she was surprised what happened when she arrived at Miami International Airport.

“I get to the kiosk … mark the fact that I’ve been in Nigeria and nobody cares, nobody stopped me,” Marty said.

“Not a single test?” Ramos asked her, surprised.

“Nothing,” Marty answered.

The White House recently announced it would implement additional measures for screening passengers coming into the U.S. from Ebola-stricken countries. New screenings will start at five major airports across the country, including New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C., Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.

Travelers coming from West Africa will be taken to special screening areas to be examined for symptoms and questioned about any possible exposure they might have had to Ebola.
Government agencies do not distinguish themselves with efficiency or competence, and there is no reason to believe that checks for incoming travelers will be effective in spotting someone who may have been exposed to Ebola, say, 10 days earlier. That person would be asymptomatic, would pass through the checkpoint and then be able to inadvertently infect others, possibly, lots of others. Not to mention that more than a few people, anxious to gain entry, would be less than truthful about their travel within West Africa.

As I have noted in a number of posts, the Obama administration should institute a travel ban for all people including US citizens who have been in West Africa within 21 days of their debarkation on a flight to the United States, no matter where the flight originates. Travelers would be identified, not by questioning, but by their passport entry and exit stamps. They would not be allowed to board a flight until 21 days had passed between their exit from West Africa and the time of their flight to the United States.

As the number of Ebola cases skyrockets in West Africa, the expected value associated with other cases entering the United States grows. From those cases, we have now seen that others, even health care professionals, can be infected. The risks are real, and government attempts to minimize them are both dishonest and stupid. Better to inconvenience a relatively small number of travelers from one region of the world than to risk a epidemic that would stress our healthcare system and potentially, lead to the preventable deaths of American citizens.

Only slightly tongue in cheek, Heather Wilhelm comments:
The official, high-level [Obama administration] strategy to combat Ebola—which, it bears repeating, is a contagious virus that can literally liquefy your insides—appears to be the same foolproof strategy that was recently used to not lock the front door of the White House. It is, in other words, completely devoid of common sense.

I was reminded of said strategy this morning, when I wandered into my kitchen, half-asleep, and discovered a live scorpion lounging like Marlon Brando in the garbage disposal of the sink. Let it be noted: I did not panic. What I did was a) rain relentless death upon the scorpion, mercilessly firing the dish hose at full throttle; b) jam the corpse down the disposal using a five-foot broom handle; c) turn on the disposal, chopping the spiky infiltrator into a thousand scorpion pieces; d) pour an entire container of bleach down the drain; e) dump another gallon of water on top of that; f) turn around to see my kids staring at me in wide-eyed awe, as if they had just caught the legendary Grinch attempting to shove their Christmas tree all the way up the chimney.

You know what? I am thorough, and I should probably be running the CDC. If the CDC’s current director, Dr. Tom Frieden, had been in my kitchen—and I say “current” because I sincerely hope he will become “former” very soon—he would scoff, tell me I was seeing things, insist that there was no way a scorpion could possibly climb up a garbage disposal, and then studiously apply poisonous Windex to all of my apples while the scorpion made an elaborate birthing nest in his hair.

Absurdities aside, this is a serious problem, and it is being handled by profoundly unserious people. Literal, irrational panic, of course, is a bad thing. A bit of healthy fear and caution is not. Unfortunately, in their valiant quest to stop silly, benighted Americans from their recurring habits of hysterical public sobbing, randomly firing AK-47s in the air, and running around in circles, shrieking, while pledging allegiance to various wild-eyed, wild-haired street preachers, the government has spent the last two weeks promoting a fairly dangerous message: “Don’t panic! It’s no big deal!” It’s pretty tone-deaf, considering their mind-blowing incompetence on Ebola thus far. It certainly fuels mistrust—and, ironically, it could lead to actual panic.
Unserious people? Nah, it's just another example of how Obama's Team of 2s does its job.

UPDATE (10/17/2014):
Listening to Thomas Frieden, head of the CDC, answer questions about why a travel ban is a bad idea is like listening to someone who knows his position is unsupportable and grasps at straws to justify it. With each excuse, the response seems more and more ridiculous until ultimately, it seems to be either insulting or insane.

Frieden is a medical doctor and is certainly not stupid. The real question is this: Is the untenble position on a travel ban his position or was it defined for him by the Obama White House? If it's the former, then the administration is irresponsible in not replacing him. If it's the latter, then the administration is not doing all it can and should do to contain the spread of Ebola in the United States.

The idiocy of the Frieden/Obama position on a travel ban—and it is idiocy—is best summarized by Peggy Noonan:
The language of government now is word-spew.

Dr. Frieden did not explain his or the government’s thinking on the reasons for opposition to a travel ban. On the other hand, he noted that the government will consider all options in stopping the virus from spreading here, so perhaps that marks the beginning of a possible concession.

It is one thing that Dr. Frieden, and those who are presumably making the big decisions, have been so far incapable of making a believable and compelling case for not instituting a ban. A separate issue is how poor a decision it is. To call it childish would be unfair to children. In fact, if you had a group of 11-year-olds, they would surely have a superior answer to the question: “Sick people are coming through the door of the house, and we are not sure how to make them well. Meanwhile they are starting to make us sick, too. What is the first thing to do?”

The children would reply: “Close the door.” One would add: “Just for a while, while you figure out how to treat everyone getting sick.” Another might say: “And keep going outside the door in protective clothing with medical help.” Eleven-year-olds would get this one right without a lot of struggle.
I have the uneasy feeling that the administration's incalcitrant travel ban position is somehow tied to the mistaken notion that the ban will be perceived as racially motivated and that if it is, it might hurt domestic support from some Democrats during an important election season. I know that sounds crazy, but this president has demonstrated repeatedly that he is driven by politics and ideology to the exclusion of most other considerations.

With each passing day, the American people are puzzled (or infuriated) by resistance to a travel ban decision that would act as an important element in our effort to contain the spread of a serious disease in the United States. The excuses we hear for not making putting the ban into place insult our intelligence and our common sense. I know I'm not alone in thinking that we're now being lead by children not nearly as wise as an eleven year old.


One of the many failings of the progressive world view is the underlying assumption that all existing problems will remain unchanged going forward. That we must spend trillions trying to remedy existing problems when they may be resolved in other ways by changes in culture and/or changes in technology. That BIG (Big Intrusive Government) and its central planning and control hierarchy (ironically, in an increasingly networked world) are necessary to solve these problems and that individual freedoms must be subservient to the dictates of BIG (as long as those dictates dovetail with progressive thought).

Today, Lockheed-Martin announced a breakthrough in energy technology:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lockheed Martin Corp said on Wednesday it had made a technological breakthrough in developing a power source based on nuclear fusion, and the first reactors, small enough to fit on the back of a truck, could be ready for use in a decade.

Tom McGuire, who heads the project, said he and a small team had been working on fusion energy at Lockheed's secretive Skunk Works for about four years, but were now going public to find potential partners in industry and government for their work.

Initial work demonstrated the feasibility of building a 100-megawatt reactor measuring seven feet by 10 feet, which could fit on the back of a large truck, and is about 10 times smaller than current reactors, McGuire told reporters.

In a statement, the company, the Pentagon's largest supplier, said it would build and test a compact fusion reactor in less than a year, and build a prototype in five years.
If this nuclear fusion technology pans out, it changes almost everything. First, it demonstrates for the millionth time, that the private sector (driven by—the horror!—profit) is far more competent in changing the world than BIG. But more important, it demonstrates that the progressive hysteria over climate change (global warming) is based on the assumption that nothing would change, that fossil fuels would dominate for the next 100 years. If Lockheed-Martin's fusion reactor goes mainstream, that won't happen. In fact, dominance of oil might begin to wane within a decade or two.

In addition to the petrochemical industry and the Middle Eastern countries that have been hotbeds of Islamist terrorism funded by oil money, the biggest losers will be those who have preached the climate change narrative. They'll be faced with clean, abundant, cheap fusion energy—no nuclear waste to worry about, and no significant environmental impact (although I'm certain the greenies will come up with something).

Richard Fernandez comments on all of this when he writes:
While most of the attention will be focused on the “non-fossil fuel” aspect of fusion development, Lockheed Martin appears to understand its most revolutionary aspect. It’s small and empowering. A glance at the diagram shows that the associated inputs still have to come from substantial auxiliary structures. It needs “neutral beam injectors” and some way to power and cool its superconducting magnets and carry away the resulting energy from the reaction.

All the same, if its promise is fulfilled, mankind will have its first sci-fi, dilithium-crystal modulated, flying-car capable, fusion engine. That spells f-r-e-e-d-o-m. All we need now is robots, a 3-D printing manufacturing machine, a ray gun and off we go. It basically recreates everything central planners hate: the modern equivalent of a horse, six-gun and a wide-open frontier. Even your own robotic sidekick. “I’m back in the saddle agin’.” The stars, my destination.

As I’ve written elsewhere, the 21st century promises to raise the curtain on the affinity group. The individual, the small, interest focused group will be viable in the age of disintermediated knowledge and productivity. The giant, bureaucratic Marxist hive of the 20th century is not the wave of the future.
BIG is so 20th century. But then again, most progressive thought draws heavily on ideas that are rooted in the 1960s. Hopefully, BIG is not the wave of the future, but it won't go down without a fight.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


The Democrats are becoming increasingly desperate as poll after poll indicates that their chances of holding the Senate are tenuous at best. They've exhausted their tendentious class warfare narrative and beaten the "war on women" meme to death. So now it's time to tap into the public's legitimate concern that federal government  agencies (you know, the same federal government that the Democrats tell us can solve all problems) has repeatedly dropped to ball in the Ebola outbreak in Texas.

And what narrative will they use? It should be obvious. The evil GOP cut some CDC funding over the past decade and that's why the CDC seems unable to handle the Ebola outbreak. This claim is so ludicrous that laughter seems appropriate. But too many low information voters reflexively believe that if we just spent even more money, all Ebola-related problems would evaporate.

Eric Boehm shows us how the Dems spun out their new narrative:
“NIH has been working on Ebola vaccines since 2001. It’s not like we suddenly woke up and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, we should have something ready here,’” Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the NIH, told the Huffington Post last week.

He said the agency would “probably” have developed a vaccine by now if it hadn’t seen a “10 year slide” in support for research.The same day, the Huffington Post argued that the CDC and NIH had been “hobbled” by more than $600 million in funding cuts over the past five years.

“There’s no doubt that the deep health care cuts that we’ve seen have made it more difficult to respond in a rapid and comprehensive way to the Ebola outbreak,” U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, said on CNN.

Even once-and-future presidential candidate Hilary Clinton got into the act, arguing in an op-ed that spending cuts created by the congressional sequestration “were really starting to hurt” the CDC and other public health agencies.

And by the middle of this week, the issue had turned entirely political.

A new ad from the Agenda Project Action Fund, left-leaning super PAC, outright blamed Republicans for budget cuts that allowed Ebola to become a threat in the American homeland.

The whole thing is meant to reduce public debate over government spending to a single, obvious point: budget cuts can literally kill people.
Boehm goes on to indicate how millions have been wasted by programs within the NIH/CDC, and how the agency spent additional tens of millions on a new headquarters (with a $30,000 sauna) and visitor's center. But it gets worse. Boehm writes:
Though the agency spent more than $2.6 billion on grants for HIV and AIDS research over five years, the CDC acknowledged that many of those grants “have no objectives” or were otherwise useless. They kept funding them anyway.

“Many times the answer is to spend more money instead of redirecting the money or eliminating the waste,” Thomas Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, a nonprofit that tracks poor spending decisions by Congress and the federal bureaucracy, told this week. “Programs that are completely ineffective might get cut by a few percentage points or something, but the wasteful spending still exists.”
Prominent Democrats wring their hands that funding is not as high as they would like, and Ebola is, by implication, the fault of those who think that maybe some fiscal responsibility might be in order. Meanwhile the CDC continues to de-focus from it's primary mission of fighting infectious diseases. Again from Boehm:
The agency has received more than $3 billion from a new research fund created by the Affordable Care Act, but has spent only $180 million of that bounty on researching dangerous diseases.

Instead, it has budgeted millions of dollars each year for community grants aimed at convincing Americans to make smart choices about their health — essentially, taxpayer-funded advertising telling you to put down that giant soda and eat more salad.
Yeah, if we just don't drink that coke and eat more lettuce, Ebola will be vanquished in our time.

It isn't money that's problem, it a political party that thinks that money-is-the-only-way-to-solve-problems that's the problem. Vote the bums out!


I'm not generally a big fan of Texas Governor, Rick Perry. But in a recent speech in London on the global threat of Islamic terrorism, he said something that I think is very important:
But to every extremist, it has to be made clear: We will not allow you to exploit our tolerance, so that you can import your intolerance. We will not let you destroy our peace with your violent ideas. If you expect to live among us and yet plan against us to receive the protections and comforts of a free society while showing none of its virtues or graces then you can have our answer now: No, not on our watch! You will live by exactly the standards that the rest of us live by. And if that comes as jarring news then welcome to civilization.
Given the recent atrocities perpetrated in the name of Islam by ISIS, given the threats against the homeland espoused by Islamists in general, given the many hotbeds of Islamist support in the West in Mosques and among Islamic advocacy groups (e.g., CAIR), and given that Barack Obama and his leftist supporters espouse "tolerance" above all else, why is it that a governor from Texas is saying these things, but the president is largely silent? For that matter, why haven't the many Muslim "moderates"  that we are told represent the vast majority within Islam said the same thing—loudly, publicly, and frequently?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


It may be naive, but most Americans have historically trusted the federal government to act responsibly and ethically in most matters. Sure, politics is always in the background and inefficiency and sometimes, outright incompetence, are not unknown, but we've all trusted the feds to be generally responsible and ethical. Until now.

Over the past six years, responsibility and ethics have dissipated. This president and his direct reports have lied and stonewalled repeatedly on matters of major concern—healthcare legislation, the IRS, the threat of terrorism, the attack on the embassy in Libya, gun-running operations in Mexico, the economy. the Secret Service scandals, and dozens of other instances. In every case, politics trumps transparency, spin trumps the truth, and partisan positions trump ethical behavior.

Is it any wonder that the public is skittish, very skittish, about the Ebola threat, because even the CDC is now perceived as a partisan mouthpiece for a hyperpartisan administration? Is it the least surprising that virtully no one believes the administrations claims that the "air campaign" against ISIS is showing meaningful results?

The IRS, CDC, and even the military were once perceived as above politics. Now their reputations have been sullied by what many believe is administration pressure to put a positive spin on bad news. It's uncomfortable to watch military flag officers squirm as they try to defend a "strategy" (crafted by political hacks in the Obama administration) that is obviously flawed. It's concerning to watch CDC officials work hard to suppress public anxiety, but then have to change their story on a daily basis.

For example, reports have surfaced that the final report on Bowe Bergdahl, the alleged army deserter who Obama traded for five Taliban commanders, has been suppressed at the request of the White House. The real tragedy is that no one is surprised—this is SOP for this administration. But the problem is, it dirties the military and erodes trust.

Mathew Continetti writes about the Ebola threat but actually finds a core truth with respect to the federal government in the age of Obama:
It is not Ebola I am afraid of. It is our government’s ability to deal with Ebola.

Over the last few years the divergence between what the government promises and what it delivers, between what it says is happening or will happen and what actually is happening and does happen, between what it determines to be important and what the public wishes to be important—this gap has become abysmal, unavoidable, inescapable. We hear of “lone-wolf” terrorism, of “workplace violence,” that if you like your plan you can keep your plan. We are told that Benghazi was a spontaneous demonstration, that al Qaeda is on the run, that the border is secure as it has ever been, that Assad must go, that I didn’t draw a red line, the world drew a red line, that the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups involved not a smidgen of corruption, that the Islamic State is not Islamic. We see the government spend billions on websites that do not function, and the VA consign patients to death by waiting list and then cover it up. We are assured that Putin won’t invade; that the Islamic State is the jayvee team of terrorism; that Bowe Bergdahl served with honor and distinction; that there is a ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia.
Lies. Spin. Opaqueness. Incompetence.

Every problem we face can be managed, or solved, or avoided in the first place. I'm not afraid of any of the problems Continetti notes, but I am afraid, very afraid, of "our government’s ability to deal with" any of them.


As if to emphasize the politicization of everything under this administration, the Obamacare website will not publish new insurance rates until after the November elections, even though those rates are known today. The Washington Times reports:
Those planning to purchase health insurance on the Obamacare exchange will soon find out how much rates have increased — after the Nov. 4 election.

Enrollment on the website begins Nov. 15, or 11 days after the midterm vote, and critics who worry about rising premium hikes in 2015 say that’s no coincidence. Last year’s inaugural enrollment period on the health-care exchange began Oct. 1.
It appears that insurance premiums in battleground states will rise significantly (double digit percentage increases). It also appears that the Democrats would prefer to keep the electorate in the dark, until after the electorate casts their votes. Trust.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Stupid Stuff

In golf, instructors warn that as you are about to hit the ball, never, ever think: Don't hit it right, or Don't pull it left. With a smile, the instructor will always tell you that your brain pays no attention to the word Don't and as a consequence, whatever you tell yourself not to do, you will do. Turns out, they're very often correct.

In a pathetic attempt to enunciate a coherent governing principle for his administration, Barack Obama came up with "Don't do stupid stuff." Sadly, his administration, like most amateur golfers, pays no attention to the word Don't. As a consequence, it repeatedly does stupid stuff.

In recent months. stupid stuff has been exemplified by Obama's conduct of an effort to "destroy" the Islamic State (ISIS). After telling these Islamic barbarians that no U.S troops will enter the fray, Obama has done nothing to support the only true fighters in the region—fighters who can defeat ISIS, who are U.S allies (or at least were U.S allies), and who have boots on the ground.

U.S. Bureaucratic red tape and Iraqi government corruption have stopped much needed heavy arms from reaching the Kurds. Unlike the Free Syrian Army (who Obama tells us can be "boots on the ground" at some far distant date and who have unvetted Islamist elements, the Kurds are ready now, are bravely fighting ISIS now, and only need our military equipment. Obama has done nothing to eliminate the roadblocks, allowing the Kurds to twist slowly in the wind.

David Tafuri reports:
In a letter sent on Oct. 2 to U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that until now has not been made public, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Minister of Peshmerga Affairs Mustafa Sayid Qadir pleaded for help, saying that his forces still carry “outdated AK-47s, Soviet Dragunov rifles and other light arms.”

The letter, which I was given access to by the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs, tabulated the surprisingly small amount of equipment received from international allies. In addition to AK-47s, the U.S. has provided fewer than 100 mortars and just a few hundred rocket-propelled grenades, or RPGs. The Peshmerga haven’t received a single tank or armored vehicle from coalition countries. The problem is compounded by the fact that Iraqi security forces denied the Peshmerga access to the thousands of tanks and armored vehicles the U.S. left behind for Iraq when the military pulled out in 2011. Meanwhile, ISIS fighters have commandeered U.S.-provided tanks and Humvees abandoned by Iraqi forces fleeing from battle.
There is no reason for this—none! The Obama administration can strong-arm the Iraqis and send equipment directly to the Kurds. This should have been done months ago, and lacking that, it should be done today.

Tafuri suggests a workable approach:
The U.S. can change this situation by: (1) supplying the Kurds with heavier weapons and needed defensive equipment, in particular armored Humvees, tanks and anti-armor rockets; (2) refusing to let Baghdad delay or block such shipments; (3) changing State Department regulations to permit issuance of end-user certificates by the Kurdistan Regional Government; and, (4) transferring to the Kurds some excess U.S. military equipment (including armored vehicles) stored on U.S. bases in the region.

In his Sept. 16 testimony to Congress, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey suggested that American ground troops may eventually be needed to fight ISIS. His message was met with criticism by those who oppose sending U.S. troops into combat in Iraq again. To reduce the chances of Washington having to confront that choice, the U.S. should make good on its promises and ensure that the Peshmerga are no longer outgunned by ISIS.
Doing stupid stuff seems to be the hallmark of the Obama administration, and nothing is more stupid than not assisting the Kurds. You'd almost think that Obama doesn't want to win.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Three Claims. All False.

I grew up in Bridgeport, CT, a mill town that had its heyday in the 1930s and 1940s and has struggled as manufacturing companies left and its middle class shrunk. Today, it is a sad shell of what it once was. Even back in the day, our school system was poor—torn books, 36 baby-boom children in a classroom, split classes with two different grade levels and one teacher, buildings built at the turn of the 20th century, no gym, no school lunch, ... the list of educational failings is long. Our teachers tried their best, and some kids excelled academically while others didn't. Some kids went on to become successful professionals or tradespeople and others went to jail. It's an old, old story.

When I went to school in Bridgeport, educational decisions were made locally. The state did establish broad standards, but control was in the hands of a local Board of Education, elected by parents. As. It. Should. Be.

There were few state grants, fewer federal programs, and expenditures per student, when measured in 2014 dollars, we so low that it's a wonder that we learned anything at all. Or is it?

Those who believe that big, intrusive government (BIG) at the federal level should control education throughout the United States, make three claims:
  1. that we don't have sufficiently high standards (as dictated from Washington), and therefore the federal government must establish a common core of learning objectives,
  2. that we don't use standardized testing enough or collect sufficient testing metrics to improve education, and
  3. that we clearly don't spend enough money on the education of K-12 students.  
These claims are dead wrong and, if you are to believe educators at the local level, attempts at implementing programs based on these claims are ruining education and the educational experience throughout the country.

Let's take each separately.

Standards.  The common core is a typical example of BIG's efforts to insert itself into K-12 education at the local level. Nancy Strauss suggests six reasons why common core should be rejected:
  • Many of the Kindergarten – 3rd Grade CCSS are developmentally inappropriate, and are not based on well-researched child development knowledge about how young children learn.
  • Many of the skills mandated by the CCSS erroneously assume that all children develop and learn skills at the same rate and in the same way.
  • Early childhood educators did not participate in the development of the standards.
  • There is a lack of research to support the current early childhood CCSS. The standards were not pilot tested and there is no provision for ongoing research or review of their impact on children and on early childhood education.
  • The standards do not take into account what young children today need when they get to school. Children need play in school now more than ever. They need teachers who are skilled facilitators of play so the solid foundations can be laid in the early school years for optimal learning in the later years.
  • The adoption of CCSS falsely implies that making children learn these standards will combat the impact of poverty on development and learning, and create equal educational opportunity for all children.
Edward Miller and Nancy Carlsson-Paige reinforce Strauss' comments:
Recent critiques of the Common Core Standards ... have noted that the process for creating the new K-12 standards involved too little research, public dialogue, or input from educators.
Nowhere was this more startlingly true than in the case of the early childhood standards—those imposed on kindergarten through grade 3. We reviewed the makeup of the committees that wrote and reviewed the Common Core Standards. In all, there were 135 people on those panels. Not a single one of them was a K-3 classroom teacher or early childhood professional.
It appears that early childhood teachers and child development experts were excluded from the K-3 standards-writing process.
BIG does this all the time. It passes regulations (that's what common core will become) without input from those most intimately affected and without controlled test cases to determine the efficacy of the regulations before they are rolled out nationally.

Standardized Testing. Both conservatives and progressives have been led into this swamp. Here BIG suggests that if only we test, and test, and test some more (using standardized tests designed, of course, by BIG), we can imporve educational results. The problem is obvious (but not to BIG): when tests are used to measure educational achievement, teachers teach to the tests, regardless of how effectively that teaching is to overall achievement.

FairTest provides a lengthy critique of standardized testing. They write:
High-stakes testing often results in a narrow focus on teaching just the tested material (test preparation). Other content in that subject as well as untested subjects such as social studies, art and music are cut back or eliminated. High-stakes testing also produces score inflation: scores go up, but students have not learned more. Their scores are lower even on a different standardized test. This undermines the meaning of test results as well as education.
Spending. A recent study by the conservative Cato Institute indicates something that most clear thinking people know intuitively. Spending more and more money on education does NOT lead to better educational results. Andrew Coulson comments:
For the past few years I have charted the trends in American education spending and performance (see below). The goal is to see what the national data suggest about the productivity of our education system over time. Clearly, these data suggest that our educational productivity has collapsed: the inflation-adjusted cost of sending a student all the way through the K-12 system has almost tripled while test scores near the end of high-school remain largely unchanged. Put another way, per-pupil spending and achievement are not obviously correlated.
When the data for 1970 to 2012 are graphed, the message is stark:

And yet, proponents of BIG seem hell-bent on demanding that more and more money be spent, even though the results are simply not there.

Three Claims. All False.

Another triumph for proponents of BIG.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Untouchable. Unaskable. Unpublishable.

In a media environment dominated by leftist thought, some subjects are untouchable, some questions are unaskable, and some narratives are unpublishable. The media is no longer about reporting the news, it's far more likely about suppressing or spinning to the news to fit a specific narrative. Three recent cases come to mind:

The first instance comes from entertainment. Bill Maher, a left-leaning social commentator who has a show on HBO, shocked the progressive establishment by calling out liberals who are all too ready to crucify anyone who denigrates a gay person verbally (e.g., Jonah Hill's anti-gay comments) or brutalizes a woman (e.g., the current NFL scandal), but look the other way when Islam actively and aggressively promotes both. In what has become a cause celeb, Maher spoke the truth about Islam and the left's reaction to its atrocities, and temporarily jolted his fellow liberals into reality. The consequences were interesting and hilarious. Mahar was vilified as "Islamophobic" or "racist" for questioning the narrative that only a "tiny percentage" of Muslims support Jihad (as exemplified by any of the many, many Islamist groups, e.g., ISIS or Hamas). Another guest on the same program, Sam Harris was demonized for stating, "Islam is the motherload of bad ideas." Rather than objectively exploring Maher's and Harris' arguments, the media piled on, telling us all about the 'debate,' but never examining the questions that rose out of the debate.

The second instance begins in West Africa. It appears that the Obama administration is doing everything possible not to impose a necessary travel ban for anyone who has been in a West African country. There's an underlying notion that a travel ban would (1) somehow be racist and (2) would  reflect poorly on this administration's push to change the nation's approach to (illegal) immigration. So, instead of aggressive actions to reduce the likelihood of other Ebola infected visitors by stopping them before they get on a plane to the USA, we create fever checks when they land—an approach that is both ridiculous and ineffective at the same time. The hesitancy to impose a travel ban smacks of political correctness—in this case PC can get us killed. The media avoids this issue, afraid that discussion of it might precipitate public pressure to put the ban into effect.

The third instance has to do with the rather frightening outbreak of Enterovirus EV-D68, a polio-like illness that has already killed five young children across the country. The media is reporting the story, but they are not asking key questions because they are, I suspect, afraid that the answers might energize the public again the Obama administration's immigration efforts. Sharyl Attkisson, one of the very fewer modern left-leaning journalists who deserve to be called a professional, has not been afraid to ask the questions. She writes:
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 CDC hasn’t suggested reasons for the current uptick or its origin. Without that answer, some question whether the disease is being spread by the presence of tens of thousands of illegal immigrant children from Central America admitted to the U.S. in the past year.

The origin could be entirely unrelated.

However, a study published in Virology Journal, found EV-D68 among some of the 3,375 young, ill people tested in eight Latin American countries, including the Central American nations of El Salvador and Nicaragua, in 2013. (See Fig. 3)

Though the U.S. government is keeping secret the locations of the illegal immigrant children, there are significant numbers of them in both cities in which the current outbreak was first identified, Kansas City, Missouri and Chicago, Illinois, according to local advocates and press reports.
You'd think that other media outlets would actively investigate the potential link. You'd be wrong. There has been almost no reporting on the possibility of a link between immigrant children and EV-D68. Silence.

If, in fact, a link does exist, if immigrant children brought EV-D68 in the country, and if the Obama administration distributed those immigrant children throughout the country without proper quarantine and health checks, they have inadvertently helped the disease to spread. That's a very big story that demonstrates one of many unintended consequences of an open borders policy championed by this president. It could be used to inform upcoming immigration decisions, and that's something that the trained hamsters in the media must silence.

Untouchable. Unaskable. Unpublishable. That's the montra for a discredited media that over the past six years has failed miserably in doing its job.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014


As unabashed champions of BIG (Big Intrusive Government), Barack Obama and his Democratic supporters believe that the federal government can efficiently and competently solve virtually all problems. In case after case we see that the opposite occurs, but that never changes their position. They are, despite claims to the contrary, proponents of large bureaucracies that are created to solve one problem, but rapidly expand to address many problems, most considerably outside their original charter and all outside their limited competency. Glen Reynolds addresses this when he writes:
"You had one job!" is the punchline on a popular Internet meme involving organizational screw-ups. Now critics are saying something similar about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in response the agency's handling of the Ebola outbreak. Unfortunately, it's not true. While we'd be better off if the CDC only had one job — you know, controlling disease— the CDC has taken on all sorts of jobs unrelated to that task. Jobs that seem to have distracted its management and led to a performance that even the establishment calls "rocky." Going forward, we need to learn this lesson, for the CDC, for other agencies, and for the government as a whole.
The problem is that BIG has only one primary goal—to grow even bigger. That's why the federal government is heavily involved in everything from defining what should be taught to our school age children to who is talking to whom on the phone. Worse, during the Obama years, BIG has become malevolent, passing thousands of intrusive regulations that have little effect except to lead to the hire of more people to enforce them, and worse, targeting those who oppose BIG and the political class that supports it (e.g., the IRS scandal).

I'm hoping that the CDC response to Ebola will be the exception the proves the rule, but early indicators are not particularly encouraging.

Over the past few days, we've heard government spokespeople assure us repeatedly that the Ebola threat is virtually non-existent. That it "impossible" to effect a travel ban for vistors from West Africa, and that there's no reason to do so. These spokespeople have a smug reassurance that is simply not justified by either their recent bumbling actions or the facts. Richard Fernandez comments:
In early August 2014 “Ken Isaacs, a vice president with Samaritan’s Purse, a North Carolina-based Christian humanitarian organization,” warned that WHO was low-balling the [Ebola] figures. What’s the harm in a little delay? As it turns out, a great deal of harm, because when diseases expand at a nonlinear rate “too late” comes very quickly. Scott Gottlieb, writing in Forbes, says it must now be accepted that it can break out of West Africa. “The decisive risk to the U.S. will emerge in a few months. If the virus continues to spread in West Africa at its current pace, much larger global outbreaks will become likely.”

And if Ebola does decisively break out of West Africa, we may be unable to control the spread of the disease solely by conventional public-health tools of infection controls, tracking and tracing sick contacts, and isolating the ill. If this happens, we may face a global pandemic early next year.

[CDC Director] Tom Friedan asked, ‘how did Ebola spin out of control’? In the usual way, with the block being a second behind the arrival of the punch. In the time honored way. The collapse of a complacent bureaucracy in the face of an emergent threat usually goes through 3 phases. Denial. Confident half-measures. Panic. These psychological phases are remarkably constant throughout history.
"Denial. Confident half-measures. Panic."

That's the standard operating procedures for BIG agencies, no matter the situation or the people involved. The first order of business is to preserve the BIG agency—to show it is blameless and has things under control. But then, as the curtain begins to slip, we get half-measures (a la the current CDC and White House approach to Ebola) in which we're told that the authorities have everything well in hand and that an epidemic can't happen here. In a interview that can only be characterized as arrogant, the CDC's Dr.Anthony Fauci commented on the Ebola scare (summarized by
But Fauci emphasizes that the United States is different from African nations whose fragile health care systems have been overwhelmed by Ebola. Scientists know how to stop the virus from spreading with adequate resources, he says.

In the U.S., Fauci maintains, “We won’t have an outbreak.”

That’s not to say the first Ebola case diagnosed within the United States — a traveler from Liberia who began feeling the effects after arriving in Dallas — will be the only one.

The government took measures this past week to ensure hospitals are ready and is considering what more should be done.

Despite some initial missteps in Dallas, tried-and-true methods are underway: tracking everyone who came into contact with the infected man and isolating anyone who shows symptoms.
There's no doubt that we're "different" than African nations, and one of those differences is that we dedicate significant human and technical resources to every Ebola patient. We track down contacts, we quarantine as required. All of that takes people, lots of people, and it will work, unless the Ebola expected value rises to a level where more and more cases pop-up, causing the need for more and more people to manage those cases, until the BIG "system" for handling the disease is overwhelmed. Then, panic!

When pressed on the matter, Fauci stated that a travel ban for visitors from West Africa (whether citizens or non-citizens) was not in the nation's best interest. Really, not in our best interest? Exactly how is limiting the potential for additional Ebola cases not in our best interest? Because BIG spokespeople like Fauci tell us so?


Tammy Bruce comments further:
On Sept. 16, President Obama had a news conference about Ebola at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta. After the president noted, “We have to act fast. We can’t dawdle on this one” (So, he’s dawdled on some other crises involving life and death?), he declared the Ebola situation in West Africa was “spiraling out of control” and then assured us the chances of Ebola coming to America was “extremely low.”

Well, apparently not so extremely low. On Sept. 20, Liberian Ebola carrier Thomas Eric Duncan arrived in the United States, just four days after the president’s comments that it would likely not happen.

Being honest with the American people includes admitting when there may be a problem in the future that is unavoidable. Mr. Obama’s refusal to suspend flights into the United States from Ebola-infected countries also made it likely the virus would arrive here.

Delivering platitudes and patronizing reassurances about life-and-death issues reveals a systemic culture that prefers to treat the average citizen as an infant, and certainly not worth treating as an equal.
It's not enough to "suspend flights." The administration must institute a travel ban for anyone who has visited West Africa (including US citizens) as well as anyone carrying a passport from a West African country. The ban doesn't care where you are now. If you have been in West Africa in the last 21 days (check entry and exist stamps on each passport), you are not allowed on any flight from any place that is headed to the USA until you have been quarantined in place for an additional 21 days. It's the only way to control occurrences of the disease in our country as the  the expected value of grows by the day. Using "it isn't a perfect solution" as an excuse not to do it is idiotic in the extreme. With Ebola, there are no "perfect" options, only good ones. A travel ban is a good one.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Expected Value

Now and then, Barack Obama suggests that "Climate Change is the most important challenge of our time." When he does this, he and the alarmists who make up one of his major political constituencies invoke the Precautionary Principle. Wikipedia defines this principle in the following manner:
... if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is not harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking an action.

The principle is used by policy makers to justify discretionary decisions in situations where there is the possibility of harm from taking a particular course or making a certain decision when extensive scientific knowledge on the matter is lacking.
It's fascinating that the Obama administration is anxious to apply the Precautionary Principle to a threat that by their own admission is 100 years out. But it's even more fascinating that they resist applying a variant of the Precautionary Principle when faced with a potential Ebola epidemic. They argue that the probability of the Ebola threat in the US is very small; therefore, there no need to take "extreme" measure that might otherwise be dictated by the precautionary principle.

In an in-depth discussion of the difference between the probability of an Ebola outbreak in the US and the expected value associated an with an outbreak, Richard Fernandez makes the following comment:
Parenthetically, what is really interesting is where the “Precautionary Principle” has gone to. The administration used to be really worried about the long shot odds that Michael Mann’s climate model might be right. But it [the administration] doesn’t worry about Ebola odds. Maybe we should apply the Precautionary Principle all of the time or none of the time. But it’s altogether too confusing to apply it in this uneven manner.
In his piece, Fernandez explains that the probability of an Ebola outbreak is quite small. This is the argument made by the CDC and the administration. But the expected value of an outbreak grows dramatically as the number of West African cases of Ebola grows. Unfortunately, it's the expected value that matters.Without getting overly mathematical, Fernandez provides a layman's discussion:
When the CDC says the probability of a diseased person reaching the US is “very small” they are talking about the betting odds, which in our hypothetical example was 12/10,000 or .0012. But remember that expected value has a second term: the stake at the table. If there is one Ebola patient with a .0012 chance of reaching America that is one thing, but if there 10,000 people each with a .0012 chance of getting through that is another. The CDC is saying that they have a revolver with thousands of chambers and only one of them has a cartridge in it. Mobley [a doctor] is saying that’s true but if you keep playing Russian Roulette long enough you’ll eventually hit upon a loaded chamber.

Spin the wheel enough times and eventually Ebola gets lucky. The more Ebola patients there are worldwide the more times you spin the wheel. Dr. Mobley is saying that if the disease keeps exploding in West Africa the wheel will get spun too often. Someone will get through, because even though the chance of arriving is individually small, there are just too many individuals who might potentially try to get through.
As the expected value grows (and it is growing) the only rational approach is to cut off pathways for each potentially infected person from arriving at our borders. That does not mean "isolation"—a strawman that the Obama administration has created. Rather it does mean that every person with a passport from a West African country and every person with an entry/exist stamp from West Africa should undergo the restricted entry protocol I proposed in yesterday's post:
The passport checks ... are a relatively easy first step, followed by in-depth questioning of anyone who has visited West African countries, an in situ medical exam if warranted, and in the extreme, a quarantine period for anyone from West Africa who desires entry into the United States. This would last only as long as the Ebola epidemic rages in West Africa.
Over the past five weeks, WHO and the CDC (and related agencies) have upped their prediction of the total number of Ebola cases in West Africa from 20,000 to 200,000 and now to 1.5 million by January, 2015. The expected value of an outbreak in the US increases with every new estimate.

It is unconscionable that this president and his health agencies have not acted to reduce the expected value of an Ebola outbreak in the US by cutting off the pathways of entry for those who might be potentially infected with the disease.  It's unclear whether politics or political correctness or both are guiding the administration's approach, but one this is certain—they are not being guided by either statistics, or common sense, or reality.

Saturday, October 04, 2014


This week Glen Reynolds reports that the book How to Prepare for Ebola skyrocketed on the Amazon bestseller list to #70. At the same time, the 3m N95 Mask used to protect the wearer from inhaled particles [even though Ebola is not (yet) airborne] is currently the #3 bestselling product on the site. It's not hard to conclude that people are skittish about the continuing (bad) news about the often-fatal hemorrhagic fever and that an Ebola-infected individual has entered the U.S and has had direct and indirect contact with about 100 people—some of whom have been quarantined. Others are now being "watched."

The CDC and the NIH tell us there no cause for wide-spread concern, and the Obama administration echos that sentiment. But over the past few years we've seen government agencies lie to the American people. We've also seem multiple instances of an administration that makes decisions based solely on ideology rather than what is best for the nation. The media is reporting the Ebola story, but seems remarkably sanguine given that they would normally be hysterical over the however-remote prospect of a fatal epidemic.

J. Christian Adams discusses a topic that I suspect is on the minds of many people. He writes:
As the Ebola epidemic has spread through West Africa over the last several months, President Obama has not used legal powers he possesses to help prevent the deadly virus from entering the United States.

Federal law gives the president the power to issue a proclamation to seal the borders to any class of aliens who pose a threat to the United States. The law is broad enough that Obama could have issued a proclamation months ago denying entry to any foreign national from the countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria or Liberia. Under the law, such a proclamation could have also included any passport holder who visited those countries as evidenced by visas or entry/exit stamps on the passport.

Section 1182 (f) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act gives the president this power, which the Obama administration has refused to use even as Ebola threatens Americans. The law states:
Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or non-immigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.
This means that Obama could, in the time it takes to write out a few paragraphs, stop the flow of people into American communities who have been exposed to Ebola in West Africa.

As I previously reported, four direct flights from Ebola ravaged nations fly into the United States. Passport checks could be conducted prior to boarding aircraft bound for the United States from foreign destinations.
The administration tells us that is is impossible to seal our borders, and that is true. But it is possible to reduce the probability of additional foreign nationals (or even US citizens) entering the country with Ebola. Yet, with the upcoming push to grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, I suspect that the administration looks at any news that might mitigate against their position as poison.

The passport checks suggested by Adams are a relatively easy first step, followed by in-depth questioning of anyone who has visited West African countries, an in situ medical exam if warranted, and in the extreme, a quarantine period for anyone from West Africa who desires entry into the United States. This would last only as long as the Ebola epidemic rages in West Africa.

The President of the United States is sworn to protect the American people. To do this, he must jettison his perception of political correctness or his desire for political advantage. It's bad enough that he refuses to secure our borders from illegal immigrants, but it is unconscionable that he has done little to protect the citizens of this country from those legal or illegal visitors who may be very sick.

There is no reason to panic, but there is a compelling reason to exercise caution. It appears that the Obama administration, in what has become its modus operandi, is late in acting decisively and effectively and then has to clean up the mess that its inaction has caused. In the case of Ebola, the mess could be very, very bad.

We're told there is no cause for alarm and that the chances of an epidemic are vanishingly small. That's probably true, but we were also told by the same administration that we could keep our existing insurance plans and our doctors as Obamacare kicked in. For many Americans, trust in government is at an all-time low, and the early actions of the Obama administration with respect to Ebola and our borders do not provide any reason for that trust to grow.

The inimitable Peggy Noonan nails it when she writes:
The other day, during the big Centers for Disease Control news conference on the Dallas Ebola case, a man from one of the health agencies insisted in burly (and somehow self-satisfied) tones that the nation’s health is his group’s No. 1 priority. And I thought, just like a normal person, “No, your No. 1 priority is to forestall a sense of panic. To do that you’ll say what you need to say. Your second priority, connected to the first, is to assert the excellence and competence of the agency with which you are associated. Your third priority is to keep the public safe.”
Everyone who spoke was very smooth. “I think ‘handful’ is the right characterization,” said the CDC director to a Wall Street Journal reporter who asked if the sick man had contact with others before he was hospitalized. (That became “up to 100” the next day.) The officials were relentlessly modern-bureaucratic in their language. They have involved all “stakeholders.”
Was the sick man an American or a foreign national? “The individual was here to visit family.” Oh. The speaker’s tone implied he’ll tell us more down the road if he decides we can handle it.
What about those who traveled on the same plane as the man, and which flight was it? “Ebola is a virus. It’s easy to kill if you wash your hands,” said CDC chief Thomas Frieden . You are only infectious once you are sick, not before.
Ebola will not, all agreed, produce a full-fledged American epidemic. “We are stopping it in its tracks in this country,” Dr. Frieden said.
That may be true. But nobody thinks it because government doctors and professionals said it. Americans do not have confidence in what The Officials tell them anymore.
This is not only because we live in a cynical age. In this case it’s because people know the truth always contains uncomfortable elements, and in the CDC news conference very few uncomfortable elements were allowed.
They say the only thing you have to fear is personal contact, but they shy away from clearly defining personal contact. They suggest it has to do with bodily fluids, so you immediately think of the man sneezing next to you on the train. They do not want to discuss the man sneezing next to you on the train.
They did not want to discuss who the sick man was, his nationality, exactly what flight he came in on. They are good to their global masters! Sorry, just reacting like a normal person. There was a persistent sense the professionals had agreed to be chary with information that might alarm America’s peasants and make them violent. 
Of all the  damage that has occurred as a result on the Obama presidency, nothing is more serious than a pervasive feeling by many that the government and it spokespeople can no longer be trusted.