Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Press Has Failed

If nothing else had already done it, the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis gave The Press all the opportunity it needed to fall on its face, and it did. If not for the video provided by a civilian, there would be nothing about the reporting of the act that we could trust. And when it comes to video online, you can't even trust that.

We have heard about police brutality, and Floyd's background, and the result has been "protests" and rioting and looting around the country. But we have heard very little about the destruction of businesses, property, and lives, by the rioters.

That there is a complete disconnection between the death of Floyd and burning buildings around the United States is a fact almost universally absent from broadcast news reports and commentary. In fact, there are frequent attempts to legitimize the violence as an understandable response that is to be expected. But it's not.

Protests are understandable. Riots and vandalism are not.

This isn't the first police-caused death in Minneapolis. It isn't even the second, but you wouldn't know that from most of the reporting. In July of 2017, a white woman, Justine Damond, was killed by a black Minneapolis police officer, Mohammed Noor, after she had called police for help outside her home. The unarmed woman was shot as she approached the driver's side of the police cruiser.

It was nearly two years later that Noor was convicted of third-degree murder and manslaughter and sentenced to 12.5 years in prison, the exact charges that are being pressed in the current case. Her family also won a $20 million settlement from the city. "The Somali-American Police Association issued a statement after the verdict claiming that racial bias contributed to Noor's conviction."(ABC News)

Very little publicity accompanied the trial, but some facts did come out, including three complaints against Noor, a separate lawsuit against him for assault against a woman while on duty, and according to the Star Tribune, "Two months before the shooting, Noor pointed a gun at the head of a driver he had pulled over for a minor traffic violation."

Here is a description of the aftermath of the shooting, from Wikipedia. There is no mention of rioting or looting. In fact, the only death was Damond's, and the only violation of property was when Minneapolis police obtained a controversial search warrant for Damond's home, in what appears to be an attempt to establish some culpability on her part for her own death:

"The day after the killing, a vigil in Damond's honor was held at the site of her death in the alleyway entrance located on the north side of West 51st Street between Xerxes Avenue South and Washburn Avenue South in Minneapolis. Several days after the killing, hundreds marched to Beard's Plaisance Park in Minneapolis, in honor of Damond. A memorial service for Damond was held on 11 August 2017, on the shore of Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. The service was at the bandshell and there was a silent walk around the lake afterwards. It was attended by Damond's family and fiancé, and about 1000 mourners." (various sources)

There were two further consequences of the event. The Chief of Police lost her job within a week, and the Mayor lost her re-election bid the following year. But no looting, and no rioting.

But I said there was another case. One month before the Damond shooting, a trial ended in the acquittal of a St. Anthony, MN, police officer in the death of Philando Castile. That shooting had occurred in July, 2016. Although the officer was acquitted of manslaughter and two other firearms violations, the statement by the prosecutor was damning. The families involved received a $3.8 million settlement for wrongful death.

Instead of providing any of this context, The Press has been giving us pictures of burning buildings and of public officials making pious statements, none of which mentions the lives and livelihoods destroyed by those fires. There is plenty to be angry about today, and the fact that cities across the country are unable to protect the lives and property of their citizens from rioters is a close second to the outrage of deaths of other citizens at the hands of police officers.

Some commentators have asked if Floyd or Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia would have been killed if they had not been black. No one knows, but the Damond case shows that it can happen to almost anybody, at least in Minnesota. I don't meant to make light of that. Minnesota has a serious problem that they have had ample opportunities to address. Three police officers charged in the shooting deaths of civilians in the span of four years.

The questions now become, Is it peculiar to Minnesota, and why does it seem insoluble?

O'Reilly has a suggestion.…/-675708398980295057.html

Here's another one.…/us/derek-chauvin-george-floyd.html

Thursday, April 9, 2020

The Cure is Already Available

"We have nothing to fear but fear itself."

"We can't let The Cure be worse than the disease."


On January 31, 2020, in an attempt to keep the Wuhan SARS-CoV-2 Virus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, out of the United States, President Trump ordered most flights from China stopped, and eventually those from other parts of the world as well. With little else to go on, he took the first steps to try to keep the virus out of the country. At about the same time, the US Center for Disease Control issued guidelines for people to follow to slow down the spread of the virus. Essentially, they amounted to "Stay away from other people as much as possible (by at least six feet), and Keep your hands clean and away from your face." Also, "Stay out of gatherings of ten or more people." This was given the name, "Social Distancing." And, "Be especially careful around the elderly or those with conditions known to make them susceptible to the worst ravages of the disease."

The outcome was a good part of society hunkered down in its homes, venturing out only to get food and medical treatment. Oh, and to carry out "essential" business, which some states eventually got around to defining. Many businesses (deemed unessential) stopped altogether, and others had to cut way back. The economy staggered to a crawl.

The US government has passed legislation promising to spend money on anything they could think of in order to keep citizens afloat, because this part of The Cure we've taken (reasonably) as a stop-gap measure has created a huge hole in the economy. Not knowing much about the virus or the disease, it was the logical thing to do. That's where we are today. We took that "cure," and we're suffering from the economic side effects.

The Cure I want to propose is aimed at more than the virus. It's aimed at getting us through and out of the pandemic of COVID-19 while avoiding the deep recession or depression that looks imminent if we continue to slam the brakes on the economy while pushing the gas pedal down on mitigation.

Prevention by separation

Without a vaccine to prevent people from catching the virus and coming down with COVID, the only strategy available in January was to try to separate people from each other. That was especially true because with COVID-19, people are contagious before they start to exhibit any symptoms, and in fact it's possible to acquire the virus and NEVER show symptoms.

The first separation action was to stop flights from China (or at least most people coming from China were stopped). If nobody carrying the virus were able to come in, we would be protected. Obviously, complete exclusion wasn't going to be possible, but the goal was really to reduce the number of carriers so the invasion would be smaller. The goal was always to keep it manageable. That was separation at the highest level, the national level.

Next, the CDC guidelines came into play. Keep individuals or family units separated from others. Again, impossible to do for everybody, but it has proven to cut down on the spread of the disease. "Keep six feet away." That separation helps prevent person to person transmission via coughing, sneezing, touching, and even breathing.

The same goes for "Keep gatherings small," but that also is an attempt to cut down on the NUMBER of people who might get infected if one of the group happens to be contagious. Instead of infecting one hundred people, he only infects nine. The 91 others have been separated out of that group.

Even "Wash your hands and keep them away from your face" is an attempt at separation on the personal level. The virus can be picked up on your hands or clothing without a high probability of infecting you if that's where the germs stay, or if you wash them away. They can't really go through your skin, unless you have an open wound. But they can easily enter if you carry them to your eyes, nose, or mouth, so "Keep your hands and face separated."

Even the use of masks is a form of physical separation. The mask prevents germs from spreading further away from the source and to some extent keeps the wearer from breathing them in if they're in the air. In effect, it extends your distance from the people around you.

All those levels of separation seem to have helped to "flatten the curve," which means they've helped prevent excess demand for hospital beds, ICU beds, and even ventilators. But they don't help us to get back to work. All except the masks and personal hygiene instructions actually make it harder to do that.

Notice that none of these actions do anything to the virus itself. They just attempt to keep it outside the body. They attempt to keep people from catching COVID-19, and they work very hard to succeed. The virus and the disease are their only targets.

Internal separation

Vaccines work by keeping a virus separated from what it wants to do--make us sick. They prevent it from successfully attacking cells, whether they be organ cells or blood cells, by creating antibodies in the blood to fight the virus off once the virus has been "caught." Our problem is that we don't have a vaccine. This is a new, a "novel" virus, as they call it. But we do have a medicine that works almost as well as a vaccine, only not by creating antibodies. We need to pull out all the stops to make that medicine available and in use by almost everybody. It is already in general use for this purpose in Europe.


Hydroxychloroquine has been approved for daily use since 1955 for prevention of malaria, to treat rheumatoid arthritis, and for lupus. Patients take it twice daily for many years. Harmful side effects are practically non-existent. One study shows that it fights the SARS-CoV-2 virus the same way it wards off malaria. A summary of the ideas in that study are here. If it's accurate (and there are other studies being conducted to determine if hydroxychloroquine actually works), it could be a practical, available, and inexpensive Cure for the entire problem. The summary says about hydroxychloroquine,

The same mechanism that stops malaria from getting its hands on hemoglobin and gobbling it up seems to do the same to COVID-19 (essentially little snippets of DNA in an envelope) from binding to it. On top of that, Hydroxychloroquine (an advanced descendant of regular old chloroquine) lowers the pH which can interfere with the replication of the virus. Again, while the full details are not known, the entire premise of this potentially ‘game changing’ treatment is to prevent hemoglobin from being interfered with, whether due to malaria or COVID-19.

If correct (and although the studies aren't all complete, observations are all positive; hydroxychloroquine indicates it can both prevent and reduce the effects of COVID-19), this means it could be the key to solving both parts of the puzzle problem: the pandemic and our attempts to mitigate it. Our targeted policy priority must very soon change from attacking the virus and the disease to restoring our economy to health.

The Cure that isn't worse than the disease

The steps aren't exactly easy, but they're conceptually simple.

First, modify standard hospital treatment.

  • Hydroxychloroquine, with or without additional medicines attached, should be administered to every hospitalized COVID patient. It has been shown to shorten their hospital stay and lessen the severity of their symptoms. Obviously, this will reduce the capacity pressure on hospitals.
Second, modify outpatient treatment.
  • Hydroxychloroquine has already been approved for "compassionate use," which really means that any doctor can prescribe it for off-label use if he wants to. Doctors should be encouraged to prescribe it for anybody who asks for it, whether they have symptoms or not. This should result in fewer of them needing hospital care. 
  • They should at the same time be tested for the disease or for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in their blood. Both tests are relatively quick and easy, and they will, we are assured, help us greatly by increasing our knowledge of how the virus behaves. The first test is the Abbott Labs test for the virus. The second test for antibodies is already available. Both should be our top priority to manufacture enough to meet our needs.
Third, modify public health procedures.
  • Allow everyone who wants to go back to work to be tested for COVID and antibodies. For those who don't show antibody-driven immunity, give them prescriptions for hydroxychloroquine or one of its spinoffs. These tests and prescriptions should be made available by doctors or at city and county health departments, with tests available at pharmacies.
Those are all medical attacks on the virus, but a bigger problem we have now is the economic one which we created in trying to slow the spread of the disease. Still, the disease must be brought down to an as yet unknown "acceptable" level before it will be politically viable to turn to concentrate on the economy. Fortunately, the first modification can be accomplished by a top-down push and completed in a matter of days or weeks, not months. It can turn the numbers that we look at first (deaths and hospitalizations) to acceptable ones very quickly. Controlled tests of step one have already started in some New York hospitals.

Also fortunately, the second and third modifications help the process of putting people back to work, safely. They have the effect of a vaccine without being a vaccine, protecting the non-hospitalized worker. The major problem in accomplishing them is the logistics of getting the medicine and the tests distributed to doctors and health centers all around the country, quickly. But when they get under way, they prepare us to return to work.

Return to work

Fourth, approve a return to work for all, even if it must come in stages.
  • Allow those who have been tested and are not contagious to go back to work. Allow businesses that want to, to re-open without being designated as "essential," if they can comply with new procedures to minimize the possibility of viral spread, even without continuous six-foot separation of people. This could include temperatures being taken at the beginning and middle of the work day, wearing masks, having hand sanitizer readily available, regular disinfecting of shared work surfaces, and physical separation of workers when possible. Whatever procedures are adopted, it would be up to the business to determine how long to keep them in place and how to enforce them.
  • Some situations are special and will face special challenges. Elevators. Mass transit. But those are both still in use, so whatever was done to mitigate proliferation in these places may simply stay in place, with alterations to fit the increased usage resultant from return to work. Spectator sports may be the toughest to bring back.
Fifth, protect businesses that re-open from lawsuits related to the disease.
  • Pass national legislation to hold businesses harmless in relation to the virus, the disease, and workplace accommodations made to allow people to work while preventing viral spread. Protect them and their employees and customers from lawsuits resulting from employees or customers catching the virus.
The key to all of this is that hydroxychloroquine or an equivalent works as expected. Something like this series of actions MUST happen to start the return to normal, and it MUST start soon. I have to believe that such plans are already underway, waiting only for enough improvement in the outlook for COVID in the US, and for some kind of breakthrough in the acceptance of hydroxychloroquine by the President's medical advisors. Since it already exists, is inexpensive, is already proven to be safe under prescription, and continues to perform well in all the current trials, all the arguments that have been mounted against it fail to persuade. Still, our top-level medical advisors appear to be waiting for some kind of proof of efficacy that no other medicine is close to attaining.

The process has to start very soon. There is really no time to waste.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

New England Patriots vs. NFL Wells Report. Compare and contrast

The biggest sports story of the 2014 and 2015 NFL seasons looks to be the accusation of the New England Patriots for cheating during the AFC Championship game (The Game), and its subsequent investigation, determination, and punishment meted out by the League and its agents. The conclusions of the investigators and the punishment are still under appeal, but the process is what we're interested in today.

It's tempting to call the incident "Much Ado About Nothing" because it revolves around changes in football internal air pressure that seems to be insignificant, but it's really closer to the Ray Donovan corruption case of the 1980's, because it's really about integrity--of the game, of the NFL, and of Tom Brady. After he was acquitted, Donovan asked, "what office do I go to to get my reputation back?" Only, so far the Patriots and Brady have been convicted.

Breaking news:  The Patriots have decided not to appeal the team penalties; Brady has filed an appeal with the NFL Players' Association.

Dueling Reports

The NFL hired a law firm (Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP, a firm for whom the NFL is already an important and frequent client) to investigate the charges. Mr. Theodore (Ted) Wells, Jr., was the individual who conducted the investigation, reported on his findings, and made the determination that cheating had "more [probably] than not" occurred, perpetrated by two low-level employees of the Patriots (Jim McNally and John Jastremski, "ball handlers") and that it is "more probable than not" that Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady "was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls." This is what is called the "Wells Report."

The NFL Commissioner accepted those findings, and meted out significant penalties against the Patriots in the form of a $1 million fine and forfeited future draft picks, and against quarterback Tom Brady in the form of suspension without pay (resulting in loss of income of about $2.5 million) and a severe hit to his personal reputation.

In response, the Patriots prepared a website with its own report, called "The Wells Report in Context," attempting to debunk the assertions of the Wells Report. My own conclusion is that the Patriots' report is by far the more convincing of the two. Maybe that's because it's easier to write a rebuttal for the defense than to describe the investigation, lay out the indictment, and justify the conviction.

I don't intend to list every point of contention beyond saying that the Wells investigation did uncover some curious text messages between the two ball handlers but not Brady. Those messages are not only ambiguous, they aren't nearly as damning as the League claims because of their timing.

Instead, let's look at the logic of the situation.

The League's scenario (Skip this part if you already know the details)

The NFL says that we should believe that one of the two best quarterbacks in the League, a sure future Hall of Fame selection, intentionally risked his reputation in order to gain an insignificant advantage in the championship game. By implication, they also say he had the two ball handlers tamper with the balls for him for throughout the season.

We are to believe this because of text messages between the ball handlers sent in May, October, and November of 2014, months before The Game played on January 18, 2015. To support this conspiracy theory, the Wells Report cites the texts and gifts of autographed footballs and the like, given by Brady to McNally, via Jastremski, and they cite an "implausible number of communications" as being proof of the conspiracy, but it's unclear whether they mean communications between the ball handlers or phone calls and text messages in the days after The Game between Jastremski and Brady.

We are also told to believe that McNally was able to carry two large ball bags into the tunnel restroom (this isn't in dispute), and in less than 1 minute and 52 seconds (estimated downward by the League to 1:40) he was able to take 12 (or perhaps 13) footballs out one of the two bags, release an uncontrolled amount of air from each of them, put them back and re-zip the bag, then to compose himself after committing an offense for which he could be fired and walk calmly from the restroom out to the field, where he placed the ball bags exactly where they always went.

From that point on, there is no claim that any more tampering was done.

D'Qwell Jackson intercepted a pass, then gave it to a Colts official who noticed it felt "soft" and that led to the Colts themselves checking the football with their own pressure gauge to discover it was at 11 psi. This set in motion the attempts to check the pressure in the rest of the footballs at halftime.

Tom Brady would not provide information from his personal cell phone to the investigators.

My take on the Patriots' rebuttal (Skip this part if you already know the details)

The League report offers no evidence at all to show the ball handlers tampered with football pressures earlier in the season (beyond some ambiguous text messages between the two), nor do they suggest any way the two could have tampered with inflation pressures in any prior game, but they imply that it was done. In fact, the testimony of officials supports the contrary position: no tampering at all occurred before the day of The Game. Yet the text messages they rely on to "prove" a deflation conspiracy were sent months before the only game they claim to have any actual evidence that deflation occurred, and those texts are ambiguous if you start with an assumption of innocence rather than of guilt.

None of those pre-Championship text messages quoted by the Report are either from or to Tom Brady.

By implication, the League asks us to believe that the deflation process either happened several times during the season; that is, the Wells Report cites evidence that deflation of footballs was going on as early as October, or as early as after the Jets game, or during the previous Patriots-Colts game, or even during spring practices, yet it cites contrary evidence that McNally was never known to use that tunnel restroom before other games (even though McNally said he had used it before). This is supposed to prove that something happened just before The Game, but it's not clear how it proves it. The story of the D'Qwell Jackson interception and its aftermath supports the idea that the Colts at least thought Patriot footballs were under-inflated at their previous meeting.

We are also expected to believe that the ball handlers knew that Brady wanted the balls deflated to less than League specifications, even though there's no evidence that Brady ever said that was his preference to anybody, and that the ball handlers concocted a complicated plot to provide that for him without actually knowing he wanted it.

Exponent, the external test company hired by Wells, conducted tests to show that 13 footballs could be easily deflated by about one-half to one psi in one minute and forty seconds. (The report from Exponent didn't suggest how long an inflation needle would have to be left in a football to do that, but if one assumes it was done, one could also assume that the miscreant practiced his moves.) Anyway, it isn't impossible.

Brady had no obligation to provide information from his cell phone to the investigators, and doing so would set a precedent that the Players' Association urged him to avoid. All of his texts and calls to the ball handlers were already available from their phones.

Problems not noted by either side (This is the important part)

1.  The first problem is that the entire issue grew out of the application of a logical fallacy, "post hoc ergo propter hoc," or at least a variation of it. The assumption that because the footballs were measured at halftime below the pressure they were measured at before the game, somebody must have tampered with them, was immediately accepted as true. Therefore, the investigation looked for how tampering had been accomplished, rather than anything that might have caused the measurements to be lower at halftime than they were before the game. Natural causes were prejudicially rejected. After conducting the investigation, the Wells team found one occasion that could have been used to slightly deflate the balls, so therefore that must have been what happened.

2.  Next problem:  How likely is that scenario? It requires two relatively unsophisticated (based on their text messages) ball handlers to anticipate what Tom Brady wanted done, to figure out a way to do it without his direction, and to actually tamper with footballs in a way that if discovered would cause them to lose jobs they obviously considered highly valuable. It requires them to successfully deflate footballs during the season (remember, the Colts were "suspicious" of inflation pressures days or weeks before The Game, supposedly because they or another team had observed low-pressure footballs during the season), and then "cool as the other side of the pillow" to do it again before The Game.

It requires Tom Brady, who seems to be intelligent, at least smart enough to frequently pick the best NFL defenses apart, to decide that he would encourage or at least condone cheating by two ball handlers, and the cheating would be of a kind that is essentially insignificant in game play. Although people do many things that don't make sense, nothing in that scenario makes any sense at all.

Why do I say "insignificant?" Because even after the League was alerted, even after the game officials were alerted, no League prescribed procedure was put in place to guarantee the integrity of the balls used in The Game. The game official failed to keep track of the balls after they were tested, and one must assume it was because he didn't consider it to be a high priority. In other words, the pressure of game balls was considered to be "insignificant" by the League. This assumption is further supported by the fact that the game balls for the Patriots-Jets game were inflated by game officials to 16 psi, far over the upper limit allowed and far more over-inflated than balls from The Game were allegedly under-inflated.

3.  Which brings me to the biggest error in this whole sequence of events:  Both the NFL and Anderson originally treated the situation as if it was not important, allowing what was either a minor incident or no incident at all to grow into a big deal. The League basically told the game officials, "Watch out for tampering with the balls," but no particular plan of action was specified. Just, "Watch the footballs."

Still, the game official, Walt Anderson, could have prevented the entire fiasco. If he had kept track of the balls, either he would have known immediately that something had happened to the balls, or he would have known that nothing had happened to them because THEY WOULD HAVE BEEN UNDER HIS CONTROL FOR THE ENTIRE TIME FROM MEASUREMENT TO KICKOFF. Read that again. Had Walt Anderson done his job, there would be NO cloud over The Game, the Patriots, and Brady, because we'd know that properly inflated balls had gone into the game, OR he would have reported to the League that the balls HAD BEEN TAMPERED WITH by somebody before game time, and the alternate balls could have been used (or the balls in the bag could have been checked and inflated as necessary).

Either way, the League would have saved both face and millions of dollars, and if tampering did occur the punishment would be accepted by everybody as being appropriate. As it was, it seems a conclusion had been reached that cheating took place in the tunnel restroom because they had pre-determined that somebody cheated somehow, and that restroom was the only possible place it could have happened; but that's not proof, it's only suspicion.

If the closest thing to "guilty" Wells can say is, "We nevertheless believebased on the totality of the evidencethat it is more probable than not that Brady was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls," that is a very low-confidence type of conclusion. It contains no less than five equivocating words or phrases. When the investigators chose to give credence only to incriminating evidence and to disregard all exculpatory evidence, it becomes even weaker. 

4.  Next problem:  One of the teams is known to have had a needle that could deflate a football on the field during The Game. That team was the Colts. Nobody on the Patriots has been shown to have had a football inflation needle on them before or during the game. 

5. Next problem:  The only people who handled the balls who thought they were "soft" were Colts personnel. The game officials, who handle the ball between every play noticed nothing. Even D'Qwell Jackson, who intercepted the Brady pass and started the sequence rolling said later that he noticed nothing odd about the ball, even though the original story fed to the sporting press claimed that he was the one who raised the red flag. This suggests that the Colts may have been involved as more than innocent bystanders. It also suggests that a small difference in inflation pressure really is insignificant, undetectable unless measured with a gauge.

6. Next problem:  The League leaked, or allowed the Colts to leak, much of the story before any investigation at all was done. Many of the leaks contained inaccurate information. The fact that was allowed indicates to a suspicious person that the Patriots may have been set up, or at least that the League intended to make sure they were labelled "guilty" about something. The leaks certainly turned public sentiment against the Patriots--verdict first, trial later.

7. Next problem:  The Report references the NFL rule that requires the balls to be inflated between 12.5 psi and 13.5 psi before the game. It does not reference any rule as to what the footballs must be during the game. Perhaps a minor point, but in fact no footballs have EVER been checked for inflation pressure during a game before. It is certainly possible, even more probable than not, that some deflation occurs in every game. In fact, on cold days the Ideal Gas Law demands it, and if the ball starts out at 12.5 psi as the Patriots footballs did (the low end of acceptable), on a very cold day they might lose even more than 1 to 2 psi and register 11.5 or 10.5 psi by the end of the game.

This becomes important only because it's apparent that the Colts were very invested in having the Patriots' game balls checked during the game. An email from the Colts' General Manager Ryan Grigson and Colts' Equipment Manager Sean Sullivan to NFL officials is quoted on page 45 of the Wells Report:
As far as the gameballs are concerned it is well known around the league that
after the Patriots gameballs are checked by the officials and brought out for game
usage the ballboys for the patriots will let out some air with a ball needle because
their quarterback likes a smaller football so he can grip it better, it would be great
if someone would be able to check the air in the game balls as the game goes on

so that they don't get an illegal advantage

Footnote 25 of the Wells Reports then reads:
Because Sullivan‟s email did not provide specific factual support for the Colts‟ concerns, NFL officials
determined that it was not necessary to ask the game officials preemptively to check the air pressure in the
Patriots game balls during the game, as Sullivan had requested. They reported during interviews that, without
 additional specific information that might raise further concern, they believed that the referee‟s standard pregame
inspection of the game balls would be sufficient, and that a change in the standard inspection protocols
was not necessary. In particular, prior to the game, there was no plan to check the air pressure of the balls at
halftime or any other time during the game. Ther e was no “sting” operation, no plan for a  “sting” operation and
no discussion of a  “sting” operation.
Combine that with Problems 4 and 5 above, and it becomes plausible to think that the Colts were prepared and waiting for their first opportunity to handle a Patriot football, and that opportunity came when Jackson intercepted a pass. It would only be speculation to think that the Colts were ready to use their own needle and gauge to deflate that intercepted football to a point that the referee would be obligated to test the Patriot footballs ASAP, but it wouldn't be wild speculation.

Why would they do that? Maybe just to embarrass the Patriots, or the make Brady mad enough to throw his game off, that is, psychological gamesmanship. We could even go a step further. 

Andrew Luck was an engineering student at Stanford, graduating with a degree in Architectural Design. He undoubtedly understood the Ideal Gas Law, something that isn't an everyday topic of conversation among most NFL players. He could easily have concocted the idea of using the natural tendency of footballs to lose some pressure during a cold game to embarrass and/or distract the Patriots enough to throw them off their game plan. This conjecture is no less plausible than the complicated story of intrigue the NFL says is "more probable than not," and it's neither against the rules nor unethical, unless the Colts actually deflated that one football before handing it to the official staff. (Using a gauge to measure its air pressure apparently was a violation of the rules, though.)

8. Next problem:  The fact that ball pressures were found to be lower became itself "proof" that there had been tampering, when it really only proved that the pressures were lower. Other causal factors were essentially ignored.

The totality of the evidence would include the testimony of the "friend" of Jastremski, indicating that the incriminating text messages meant something entirely different than what the investigators claimed they meant. The Wells Report rejects this out of hand. It would recognize that text messages sent months before an event can be made to seem like they're related to an event when they may not be, and probably are not, related to it. It would recognize that cheap pressure gauges may not be accurate down to one-tenth psi.

It would include the scientific opinion, contrary to the League's expert, that atmospheric and game conditions could account for all of the pressure-reading "anomalies." Once that opinion is given credence, it is no longer "more probable than not" that human intervention reduced the air pressure in the footballs. It really is more probable that natural forces were at play than that Two Stooges and a quarterback carried out a season-long conspiracy to cheat on an insignificant detail which was very high risk and literally no reward.

Summary (All you need to know)

There is no direct evidence that anyone tampered with the footballs, ever. McNally was not observed tampering, and he wasn't searched for an inflation needle. None of the communications discussed circumventing League rules and deflating game footballs. Most of them were ambiguous at best. What evidence exists is very weak circumstantial evidence based on actions that would be considered completely normal and/or trivial had the game footballs not lost some pressure before halftime.

Credible scientific opinion exists that temperature conditions alone could account for the change in football inflation pressure. The Wells Report disagrees, but to support the disagreement it has to make some odd assumptions. The records that were kept of pressure readings after the game, combined with the referee's BEST recollections of his pre-game procedures confirm the temperature hypothesis as being reasonable.

A change in temperature is the simplest explanation for the pressure change, which satisfies the Occam's Razor test:  The simplest explanation is the "most probably correct" explanation.

It is therefore more probable than not that no tampering occurred, no ethical violation was committed, and no punishment is warranted.


I am not a Patriots fan; I've rooted for the Chiefs since their first year in Kansas City. In the Brady vs. Peyton Manning debate, Manning has been my preference.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A Ted Cruz victory isn't all that far-fetched

George Will recently published an interesting critique of Republican Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz. In it, he writes that Cruz can't win without going after what Cruz has called the "mushy middle" (based on a piece from Politico). Will says, 
"The Republican nominee must crack the ice that has frozen the electoral map. Cruz cannot do that by getting more votes from traditional Republican constituencies."
While I would say that the people quoted by Politico don't have things quite right, they could win in spite of themselves, depending on just what the "mushy middle" turns out to be. They say he will target tea party and evangelical voters, as if he intends to ignore everybody else. That would likely be a recipe for disaster. But could he really mean to do that? I don't think so.

Two goals

From Will,
"Henry Olsen of the Ethics and Public Policy Center identifies “four faces of the Republican Party” — evangelical Christians, very conservative but secular voters, somewhat conservative voters and moderates. He says the largest group, about 35 percent to 40 percent of the national party, are the somewhat conservatives. And in presidential years, moderates are the second-largest (25 percent to 30 percent). The somewhat conservatives “are found in similar proportions in every state” and “always back the winner.”"  [emphasis added]
There are two objectives of any campaign. (1) Convince people you are the best person for the job, and (2) get them to actually vote for you. The interview in Politico was primarily about the strategy to achieve the second goal, specifically among conservative voters who didn't vote for Romney in 2012. But it's possible to attack both goals at the same time. The common knowledge that he's too far right to win because he can't achieve the first objective can be challenged. 
First, he is already in position to bring back those conservatives who failed to support Romney. They are believed to be evangelicals and the very conservative "tea party faithful." And they are professed to be the primary target of goal number 2.
Second, somewhat conservative center-right and many moderate Republicans would not have a problem with his philosophy of government and principles, and they could accept his tactics, given that Republican senior tacticians have failed miserably for about 10 years. Most of them would be enthusiastic about it. He can succeed with both groups.
It seems to me that Cruz is uniquely situated in the coming primary and Presidential campaigns. Compared to many other candidates, current and prior, he can run with the same messages in both of them. He doesn't need to run to the right in the primaries and to the center in the general. He can campaign "as is" to achieve the goal of convincing voters that he has the right ideas for the country. 
Using Olsen's four categories, Cruz's advisors seem to believe he needs to get the evangelicals and very conservative secular voters to the polling place, rather than to convince them. Still, all four of those categories of Republican voters are the ones he needs to convince to nominate him. If Olsen is right, the somewhat conservatives must be addressed during the primaries, but they will support whomever is the eventual candidate.

So the remaining moderates and left-centrists, whether Republicans or not, are the additional constituency he really needs to get on his side in both campaigns, and as Reagan showed, they CAN be got. But how?

Voters compare candidates. Give them substance, style, and performance, and you can convince them to choose you. They compared their experience with Carter to the promise of Reagan, and they chose Reagan on all three criteria. They effectively did the same with McCain and Obama, with substance almost being a non-factor. IMHO, Romney simply came up too short on campaign performance to outweigh Obama's style and incumbency, even though he was way ahead on substance.
If I'm right, what is there about Cruz (or any Republican) to convince centrist Reagan Democrats and even other frequently left-of-center voters, to pick the Republican? These voters recognize that politicians from both sides pander to them, so phony promises and posing doesn't work. If we call our general target "uncommitted voters," what might they be looking for?


Appearance counts, but not much can be done to spruce up an already presentable candidate. Cruz, Rubio, and Walker are all a bit ahead of the rest in this area, probably not least because they're younger. It's part of style, which of course includes demeanor, presence, speaking ability and apparent competence, and personal behavior during the campaign and during debates. Cruz holds up well in the style criterion. Edge: Cruz.


Performance means "performance during the campaign." We've seen Cruz can win competitive elections, which is more than his known likely Presidential competition can say. It definitely includes the instinct to recognize and attack Democrat weaknesses, which our last two candidates have been loath to do. Even his critics say Cruz does a fine job of laying out his ideas understandably and debating the shortcomings of opponents effectively. Edge: Cruz.


That brings us to substance, which is also where the Wills of the central-right punditry find him wanting. "Too extreme. He shut down the government. Too uncompromising. Poor tactician. Too smart for his own good."
But what if many of the uncommitted voters are that way because they've been given nothing to commit to? Shifting positions, unclear positions, hidden agendas (once exposed), are what make commitment impossible. Voters will even opt for imaginary positions if they think they mean something. Hope and Change, anybody? 
Cruz has been laying down a consistent record of upholding his professed conservative principles, even in the face of adverse publicity and resistance from establishment Republicans. Voters can appreciate courage and firmness, even if they differ with the direction. While this may or may not give Cruz an advantage over a given Democrat, his substance may be nowhere near the impediment Will and others presume.
It also seems that Reagan Democrats can agree with his principles and may prefer them to the failings of the current Progressive Democrat administration, as they did with Reagan v. Carter. There are more conservative-leaning voters than there are progressives, and they will appreciate what his positions are. Edge: That's the question, isn't it? Cruz.

Will it work?

Reagan was elected in a different era, but there is evidence that American voters still honor, respect, and will vote for a candidate who can convince them he says what he means and means what he says, even if they disagree with him on some details. If so, Cruz doesn't have to target anybody. He just has to continue being himself.

If Will is right, and Cruz addresses only evangelicals and very conservative Republicans, his candidacy is probably doomed from the start. But if Cruz presents himself reasonably to the somewhat conservative and moderate voters (including Democrats), the list of five big competitive states that Will described (Ohio, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and Virginia) can be made to grow, and what is considered by common knowledge to be his certain failure can be averted.

We've been exploring whether Cruz can attract enough somewhat conservative and moderate voters to win. A question that hasn't been covered:  Can any other Republican candidate win without bringing evangelicals and very conservative Republicans out to the polls? Can they win without having firm conservative positions on the major issues?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Beginning the Decline of the United States?

British standing in world politics had already weakened by the end of WWII, but it had fallen out of "leading power" status by only twenty years later, partly by its own choices, and partly by circumstance. One of those choices was a change of leadership. Is the United States at an earlier point in our own decline, not just as a world power, but as a great nation?
Our current leader has made the word "feckless" part of everyday conversations. Our military has been (perhaps) stretched beyond the point at which we can do anything about the Russian invasion of Ukraine alone, and our erstwhile allies judge there is too much risk in joining us in any military action, even if thousands of lives (including theirs) may be at risk, and they are completely uninterested in preventive military measures, partly because they have good reason to mistrust our leader and our commitment to our word. Among our enemies, the previous accepted belief that we would defend ourselves and our allies if threatened has been replaced by the near certainty that will will do neither. A strident claim that we will "follow [our enemies] to the gates of Hell" is ratcheted back by statements of what we will NOT do, as if a war could be won by half measures. The threat to destroy them is modified into a promise to make their threat "manageable," which is like promising nothing at all.
Economically, we are fading away. We have only slightly more people employed today than we had at the depths of the recent recession; on average they are being paid less and working fewer hours, and there are millions more who have dropped out of the work force. Those people are dependent on an economy supported by (and taxes paid by) the remainder who are still at work. The Labor Participation Rate is significantly lower than it was six years ago.  Regulatory excess exacerbates the problem, often handcuffing business innovation unnecessarily. Overreach by the EPA has become legendary.
We have turned our health care system over to a Rube Goldberg set of often contradictory rules that on the face of it can't work, and which is based on the European health model that has already proven to be a failure in large, heterogeneous populations. It institutionalizes one of the very evils it was supposed to eliminate, "free riding."
We face real enemies with the money and ability to do real damage if they can get close enough to attack us, yet the government refuses to secure a 2000 mile long border through which millions of unknown aliens have already entered, and through which millions more will inevitably come. Ordinary citizens who recognize that the first order of immigration business should be to get that border under control are derided as xenophobes, while politicians argue about what level of amnesty should be granted to those people already in the US illegally.
Our tax system is designed to drive multi-national corporations offshore, to penalize thrift and investment, and to support non-producers. Tax revenues are spent on speculative ventures for dubious goals, which often further enrich the already rich at the county's expense. Solyndra comes to mind.
Our President has taken actions which either skirt or outright trample the Constitution, modifying laws without Congressional participation; and the government watchdog, the Constitutionally protected free press, has decided it's more comfortable being a government lap dog instead.
Court decisions boggle the mind. We are told to believe that the plain words of the Fifth Amendment, "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation," include selling the property to another private entity as a meaning of "public use." And that we all can be Constitutionally forced by law to buy a commercial product because the penalty for failure to do so is a "tax," and for no other reason. That is, without the penalty, the mandate would be unconstitutional, but with it, it is. And that people can Constitutionally be forced against their will to work for other people.
We have a citizenry that knows exponentially more about pop culture figures--singers, actors, 'personalities'--than about the people they elect to represent them and to lead them. They don't notice that their freedoms are being taken away from them, and when it's pointed out they don't see any problem with it. They seem to accept the lies of political leaders as a fact of life, partly because of the complicity of the previously mentioned 'free press.' They have no clue that the same press is being used to minimize important issues and to distract them with shiny objects. Benghazi is blamed on a video, a transparently false claim. When questioned about it, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton exclaimed, "What difference, at this point, does it make?" as if the passage of time had turned official dishonesty into irrelevance. Presidential promises, lies, are passed off as simple inaccuracies, when they were clearly told to get legislation passed that would not pass if the truth were told.
And all too frequently, free expression of unpopular, contrary, or otherwise 'politically incorrect' speech is suppressed, even to the point a sports announcer was recently suspended by his employer for observing that a battered girlfriend who marries her batterer is not acting rationally. Meanwhile, the Justice Department is threatening to investigate a sports league (for what?) because of public outcry by pressure groups with an agenda, yet it can't bring itself to honestly investigate the IRS for illegal official behavior, because the offense was committed on behalf of Democrats against ordinary citizens who opposed them.
This is not an optimistic view of today's United States, but it is a realistic one. I don't claim that further and precipitous decline is inevitable, but it's already begun.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Brief and Direct: Public Program vs. Private Product

A thought experiment.

What would have happened a few weeks ago had Obamacare been a product offered for sale by a private company, rather than by the government? I don't mean 'who would be fired,' although we could ask that, too. I mean, what would the company have done in the face of an obviously disastrous rollout? And how does it differ from what the Obama administration has done?

First difference: It would not have been rolled out with so many known problems. That's one reason companies don't announce big new product introductions or upgrades months in advance. They announce them officially as they roll them out. The Obama administration in contrast continued headlong over the cliff.

Second, had major problems been discovered after rollout, the product would have been pulled back immediately, and the website access to it would have been closed for remodeling. Obama chose to keep it open and insist it just has a few "glitches."

Third, the questions being asked would not have stopped with "Whose fault is it," but would have included "Why has so much gone wrong so fast? What do we have to CHANGE to fix the problems? Are the factors behind the problems incidental, or intrinsic to the product?" The Obama administration's response has been to assume they are incidental problems that can be solved by 'more of the same' and working harder and longer. No thought has been given to intrinsic problems with the underlying product. 

Finally, there would be an all-out attempt to fix what went wrong, no matter what it was, and a decision would be made to make small changes, big changes, or to scrap the product.  With Obamacare, the only object of attention has been the website and its developers and the Secretary of HHS.  No attention has been directed at whether the program itself is ever going to be workable, or whether it even can be workable.

Think back to the introduction of New Coke, and the Edsel, and bacon added to almost anything. The first two were launched with every expectation of success, yet they failed rather quickly and were cancelled because consumers weren't receptive. The third just sort of snuck up on us, and in the face of all the fear of fattening, 'bacon-y goodness' caught on and spread. Now there are even bacon-maple donuts and bacon-flavored ice cream, with their own fans.

The point: Private enterprise can react quickly in the face of adverse customer reaction. Government enterprises are authorized by legislation and funded by more legislation. They are extremely slow to change. They are staffed by (sometimes) huge bureaucracies that have a vested interest in keeping the program alive, and a significant ability to affect the 'keep or kill' decision, if such a decision can even be considered.

A private firm can react quickly. Governments can't. The private firm has one goal--to be financially successful. When a new product has trouble, the trouble isn't just blamed on the delivery method--the product itself is examined. The government has many conflicting goals. There is a strong incentive to find a simple, impersonal aspect of the product and blame everything wrong on that, and there is practically no incentive to examine the program itself. The result is slow and ineffective reaction to both adversity and success. The Obamacare website is still in the same state of disarray it was weeks ago, and now the promised November 30 fix deadline is expected to be adjusted backward.  But the website is just the delivery vehicle; the real problem lies within the product that defines the size and shape of the box.

Obamacare is a perfect example of why government enterprise is an oxymoron, and it's a perfect illustration of why most all parts of American life and business should be left in the private sector. The public sector, by it's very nature, can't avoid doing it worse.

Cross-posted at RedState

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

When a President Lies

How can we have confidence anything else he says is true?

At this point, although they are very bad spots on Obama's record, the IRS, Benghazi, NSA internal spying, interfering with local authorities and state authorities, Fast and Furious, Egypt, Libya, the Muslim Brotherhood, border control, green energy cronyism, Obamacare, incompetence in general, inability to develop a website for $600,000,000, and all the rest of it, are all beside the point.

We have a president who stood in front of us, looked us in the eye, and lied to us. The way he phrased the lie left no doubt that he intended to convince us that his law would be beneficial, by his very sincerity in taking care of our misgivings. We had no reason to fear his giant new law, because we would be protected from its possible side effects.

There is no reasonable doubt that he knew he was lying, unless one believes he was simply being directed by his staff to follow the script without knowing whether it was accurate or not. (If that is true, we have an even bigger problem than a lying President--we have a Robot-in-Chief.) He didn't just make a misstatement once while speaking extemporaneously, he lied from a prepared script, repeatedly.

Claims that it was just 'political spin' or 'accurate but not precise enough' are nonsense, in the strictest meaning of nonsense. It was a direct, clear, unambiguous statement, a personal promise from him to each of us, to You, individually, that you "could keep your insurance and your doctors. Period."

We have a president who lied to us. He lied multiple times. He lied with a purpose. He lied in order to pass a law that would not have passed without the lie.

President Nixon was drummed from office for the same transgression. Essentially, President Clinton was impeached for it. President George H. W. Bush didn't even need to lie; he was not re-elected simply because he changed his mind during his only term and didn't veto a tax increase.  But they, too, are irrelevant.

Our current President lied to us, personally. The words amounted to, "I promise You." Multiple times. How many times does it take before we remember that it's not just a rhetorical tactic, it's a character flaw? It's part of a personality. It may be the most important thing we can know about anybody--is he honest? Can we trust his word? It is the most important thing we can know about a politician.

The MSM has done all it can to protect him, and it may work. But would you buy a used car from the man? He has already lied to us many times. Why should we believe anything he says or has said; future, present, or past? Why trust him about anything?

"Once a liar, always a liar." What more do we need to know?