December 2013 Archives
Another Christmas. This is the 30th-ish that I remember. I miss my dad and my family around the country, but I'm thankful for the family I've got with me tonight.
Here are a few poems that illustrate the absurdity of our language. My favorite is "Our Strange Lingo" by Lord Cromer.
Our Strange Lingo
When the English tongue we speak.
Why is break not rhymed with freak?
Will you tell me why it's true
We say sew but likewise few?
And the maker of the verse,
Cannot rhyme his horse with worse?
Beard is not the same as heard
Cord is different from word.
Cow is cow but low is low
Shoe is never rhymed with foe.
Think of hose, dose,and lose
And think of goose and yet with choose
Think of comb, tomb and bomb,
Doll and roll or home and some.
Since pay is rhymed with say
Why not paid with said I pray?
Think of blood, food and good.
Mould is not pronounced like could.
Wherefore done, but gone and lone -
Is there any reason known?
To sum up all, it seems to me
Sound and letters don't agree.
Since the early 20th century we've lived in the miraculous age of antibiotics: almost every bacterial infection that had previously killed or crippled millions of people could be cured with a simple pill. However, recent trends indicate that the age of antibiotics may be waning, and that civilization itself may be crippled if we don't discover some new strategies to combat our ancient foe.
Indeed, a deadly form of MRSA had sprung from nowhere, picking off otherwise healthy people. The cases thrust Iqbal and his colleagues to the front lines of modern medicine''s struggle against antibiotic resistant bacteria - perhaps the nation's most daunting public health threat. No drug-defying bug has proved more persistent than MRSA, none has caused more frustration and none has spread more widely. In recent years, new MRSA strains have emerged to strike in community settings, reaching far beyond hospitals to infect schoolchildren, soldiers, prison inmates, even NFL players.
A USA TODAY examination finds that MRSA infections, particularly outside of health care facilities, are much more common than government statistics suggest. They sicken hundreds of thousands of Americans each year in various ways, from minor skin boils to deadly pneumonia, claiming upward of 20,000 lives. The inability to detect or track cases is confounding efforts by public health officials to develop prevention strategies and keep the bacteria from threatening vast new swaths of the population.
(HT: Paul Hsieh.)
The Christmas season is often a time of charitable giving, but sometimes it can be hard to figure out the best way to give. Fortunately, a twelfth-century Torah scholar named Maimonides developed guidelines describing eight differing levels of charity that seem pretty reasonable to me.
There are eight levels of charity, each greater than the next.
 The greatest level, above which there is no greater, is to support a fellow Jew by endowing him with a gift or loan, or entering into a partnership with him, or finding employment for him, in order to strengthen his hand until he need no longer be dependent upon others . . .
 A lesser level of charity than this is to give to the poor without knowing to whom one gives, and without the recipient knowing from who he received. For this is performing a mitzvah solely for the sake of Heaven. This is like the "anonymous fund" that was in the Holy Temple [in Jerusalem]. There the righteous gave in secret, and the good poor profited in secret. Giving to a charity fund is similar to this mode of charity, though one should not contribute to a charity fund unless one knows that the person appointed over the fund is trustworthy and wise and a proper administrator, like Rabbi Chananyah ben Teradyon.
 A lesser level of charity than this is when one knows to whom one gives, but the recipient does not know his benefactor. The greatest sages used to walk about in secret and put coins in the doors of the poor. It is worthy and truly good to do this, if those who are responsible for distributing charity are not trustworthy.
 A lesser level of charity than this is when one does not know to whom one gives, but the poor person does know his benefactor. The greatest sages used to tie coins into their robes and throw them behind their backs, and the poor would come up and pick the coins out of their robes, so that they would not be ashamed.
 A lesser level than this is when one gives to the poor person directly into his hand, but gives before being asked.
 A lesser level than this is when one gives to the poor person after being asked.
 A lesser level than this is when one gives inadequately, but gives gladly and with a smile.
 A lesser level than this is when one gives unwillingly.
Will aircraft carriers go the way of battleships? It's particularly hard to protect aircraft carriers from large numbers of long-range missiles/drones. If aircraft carriers are becoming obsolete, what will air dominance look like in 20 years?
They will have some use in particular situations and environments, he said, but a carrier will never deploy anywhere it does not have absolute air domination and in some cases it would simply not have that.
"It won't be a useful weapon in the Taiwan Straits, and it may not be one 15 years from now, depending on how many nations have hypersonic missiles," he said.
President Obama has refused to enforce parts of the law merely because he dislikes them, so it's hard for leftists to complain if sheriffs refuse to enforce gun restrictions on Constitutional grounds. I think it's legit for every American citizen who happens to hold a government position to personally ensure that their official behavior is in line with the Constitution.
Side note: just as we are wary of the federal government strangling the sovereignty of the states, we should push for state governments that respect the liberty of counties and municipalities.
When Sheriff John Cooke of Weld County explains in speeches why he is not enforcing the state's new gun laws, he holds up two 30-round magazines. One, he says, he had before July 1, when the law banning the possession, sale or transfer of the large-capacity magazines went into effect. The other, he "maybe" obtained afterward.
He shuffles the magazines, which look identical, and then challenges the audience to tell the difference.
"How is a deputy or an officer supposed to know which is which?" he asks.
Colorado's package of gun laws, enacted this year after mass shootings in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., has been hailed as a victory by advocates of gun control. But if Sheriff Cooke and a majority of the other county sheriffs in Colorado offer any indication, the new laws -- which mandate background checks for private gun transfers and outlaw magazines over 15 rounds -- may prove nearly irrelevant across much of the state's rural regions.
The Obama administration is deploying a fog of useless statistics to obscure the true state of Obamacare. They're hiding the real information and releasing big numbers that don't mean anything. It doesn't matter how many people "selected a plan" -- it matters how many people wrote a check. It doesn't matter how many people visited the website, or called a call center, or "liked" Obamacare on Facebook. None of those numbers speaks to the crucial issue: will enough young, healthy people sign up and overpay? Or will the system collapse under the weight of new Medicare recipients, the poor, the old, and the sick?
A charitable reading suggests that ObamaCare's net enrollment stands at about negative four million. That's the estimated four million to five and a half million people who had their individual health plans liquidated as ObamaCare-noncompliant--offset by the 364,682 who have signed up for a plan on a state or federal exchange and the 803,077 who have been found eligible to receive Medicaid.
HHS is boasting of enrollment for November that was four times as high as October, yet 62% of the total was in the state exchanges, some of which are marginally less prone to crashing than the federal version. Then again, 41 states posted sign-ups only in the three or four figures, including eight states that run their own exchanges. Oregon managed to scrape up 44 people. Among the 137,204 federal sign-ups, no state is reaching the critical mass necessary for stable insurance prices.
The larger problem is that none of these represent true enrollments. HHS is reporting how many people "selected" a plan on the exchange, not how many people have actually enrolled in a plan with an insurance company by paying the first month's premium, which is how the private insurance industry defines enrollment. HHS has made up its own standard. ...
HHS is trying to conjure the appearance of progress and specificity even as it conceals everything that is relevant to ObamaCare's performance. The bureaucracy will tell you it fielded 3,495,276 inquiries at the federal call centers and that 28,412,684 people visited Healthcare.gov. But it will not tell you the demographics and health status of new beneficiaries, or what type of plans they're selecting, or HHS's enrollment goals over time.
Onyango Obama has been granted legal residency, which is perfectly routine except for the fact that he's President Obama's uncle. In 2011 the President said that he and his uncle had never met. This past week the uncle revealed in his immigration hearing that the future-president had lived with him for almost a month and that they were in in periodic contact while Barack was living in Cambridge.
I'm not sure if it's news anymore when President Obama lies.
President Obama acknowledged Thursday that he lived with his Kenyan uncle for a brief period in the 1980s while preparing to attend Harvard Law School, contradicting a statement more than two years ago that the White House had no record of the two ever meeting.
Their relationship came into question Tuesday at the deportation hearing of the president's uncle, Onyango Obama, in Boston immigration court. His uncle had lived in the United States illegally since the 1970s and revealed for the first time in testimony that his famous nephew had stayed at his Cambridge apartment for about three weeks. At the time, Onyango Obama was here illegally and fighting deportation.
On Thursday, a White House official said the press office had not fully researched the relationship between the president and his uncle before telling the Globe in 2011 that it had no record of the two meeting. This time, press office staff members asked the president directly, which they said they had not done in 2011.
According to the poll, 57 percent of millennials disapprove of Obamacare, with 40 percent saying it will worsen their quality of care and a majority believing it will drive up costs. Only 18 percent say Obamacare will improve their care. Among 18-to-29-year-olds currently without health insurance, less than one-third say they're likely to enroll in the Obamacare exchanges.
More than two-thirds of millennials said they heard about the ACA through the media. That's a bad omen for Obamacare, given the intensive coverage of the law's botched rollout. Just one of every four young Americans said they discussed the law with a friend or through social media. Harvard's John Della Volpe, who conducted the poll, said the president has done a poor job explaining the ACA to young Americans.
An unknown quantity of cobalt-60 has been stolen in Mexico. It would be foolish to believe that it wasn't stolen for use in a dirty bomb. A cobalt-60 dirty bomb could be used to prevent access to the release location for years and would be devastating if used to contaminate, e.g., fresh water infrastructure.
Mexico has informed the IAEA's Incident and Emergency Centre (IEC) of the theft of a truck carrying a dangerous radioactive source used in medical treatment.
Mexico's "Comisión Nacional de Seguridad Nuclear y Salvaguardias (CNSNS)" said the truck, which was transporting the cobalt-60 teletherapy source from a hospital in the northern city of Tijuana to a radioactive waste storage centre, was stolen in Tepojaco near Mexico City at around 08:00 UTC on 2 December 2013.
Wow, I didn't know that Amazon has a free tier for their web services! 750 hours free per month let's you run a single image 24/7 all month. That's pretty cool. Now I just have to figure out what I want to run.
"Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world," Francis wrote in the papal statement. "This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system."
Greg Mankiw defends capitalism:
A few reactions:
First, throughout history, free-market capitalism has been a great driver of economic growth, and as my colleague Ben Friedman has written, economic growth has been a great driver of a more moral society.
Second, "trickle-down" is not a theory but a pejorative used by those on the left to describe a viewpoint they oppose. It is equivalent to those on the right referring to the "soak-the-rich" theories of the left. It is sad to see the pope using a pejorative, rather than encouraging an open-minded discussion of opposing perspectives.
And then sticks in the shiv:
Third, as far as I know, the pope did not address the tax-exempt status of the church. I would be eager to hear his views on that issue. Maybe he thinks the tax benefits the church receives do some good when they trickle down.
Glenn Reynolds points out that Pope Francis may not be familiar with real free markets:
I think the key factor here is that he's from crony-capitalism-capital Argentina, and that he has mistaken what goes on there for the operation of free markets.
This observation is likely correct, given some of the Pope's following remarks:
"This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system."
"Meanwhile," he added, "the excluded are still waiting."
In free markets no one is excluded. When people are excluded it is almost always the result of government action, justified as being "for the good of the people".