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Journal Journal: "I could care less"

It's amazing how people try to rationalize away the phrase "I could care less", much in the same way that Star Wars apologists try to rationalize the use of parsecs when talking about the Kessel Run. Maybe there are black holes to navigate around, and minimizing the distance is the sign of a good pilot, or maybe this, or maybe that... or maybe George Lucas just made a mistake, you know?

So when it comes to people rationalizing away "I could care less" as being some nonchalant way of saying "yeah, I could but I'm not going to bother" I just don't buy it. It's a misquote of the perfectly unambiguous phrase "I couldn't care less". So when I stumbled across a rationalization of that, my mind wandered upon what I think is a pretty damned good analogy of why it doesn't make sense: I could eat more.


Journal Journal: Critics of Tea Party Movement Miss the Big Picture 8

Many commentators seem to believe that the Tea Party represents a net minus for the GOP because of the split between them and the existing establishment. This criticism seems oddly familiar to me. Many people predicted that the drawn out fight between Hillary and Obama would be the death of the Democrats in 2008. As it turned out, that extended fight kept them in the news for months and built up the ground networks that helped Obama carry the day in states that normally be out of reach for a Democrat. Take Indiana, where Obama carried the state by ~28k votes. Does that happen without the ground operation built for the primary and the name recognition/publicity gained from it? Impossible to say, but I think it's clear that the intra-party squabbling was a net positive for the Democrats in the end.

It seems likely to me that the Tea Party will have the same impact on the GOP. They may well prove to be a net minus in selected races (Delaware) but the enthusiasm they've generated and the new people they've brought into the political process will more than balance that out come November.

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Journal Journal: Here comes the tidal wave..... 1

Worked the NYS primary election today. We had higher turnout for this mid-term primary than I've ever seen -- more than we did for the Presidential Primary in 2008. I'm only one poll worker in a single district but I've never seen this kind of enthusiasm for a primary before. We had 44% turnout for our GOP voters and 30% for the Democrats.

Paladino looks to have crushed Rick Lazio. I called this race at 10pm -- Paladino ran up a much higher margin (93% in Erie and Niagara counties, all districts reporting) with his base than Lazio did with his (60-65% in Suffolk and Nassau counties, 60% of districts reporting) . Paladino beat Lazio in some downstate counties (Dutchess and Orange) that should have been more familiar with Lazio. He looks to have edged him out with 50-55% of the vote in most other upstate counties, though we'll have to wait for tomorrow for the final numbers.

With this kind of turn out for a primary I'm betting that November is going to be huge. It wouldn't surprise me if we beat our numbers for 2008 -- we had a 60% turnout that year.

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Journal Journal: Misinformation Abounds regarding Vaccines and California Whooping Cough Epidemic 2

I have had a great laugh doing some research online (various sites) to try to figure out why this year's whooping cough epidemic is happening in California. It is amazing the amount of misinformation I have found. Pro-vaccine people are blaming it on anti-vaccine people (false, see below), and Anti-vaccine people are blaming it on the vaccine (also wrong). Some people are even blaming it on illegal immigration. As best as I can tell this is because the whooping cough vaccine is different from the vaccines of, say, Polio or Measles, and people try desperately hard to fit it into their agenda even when it doesn't fit. In my reading I have learned a lot about a type of vaccines I never really paid attention to. I figure it's time to set everyone straight.

The NPR article above is particularly laughable (really, NPR does enough good reporting they should know better) because they say whooping cough was once "wiped out." Not so, says the CDC.

Most vaccines against serious illnesses are called "live attenuated virus" vaccines. These include MMR and Polio, and and basically the idea is you give the body a weak version of the virus so it develops an immune response against a stronger version. Usually with appropriate doses, these provide permanent immunity, but there are rare cases where the virus can revert, so it is possible to get full-blown measles from the MMR vaccine, though once again this is rare. These are the vaccines which produce herd immunity.

It turns out that whooping cough vaccine is a different kind of vaccine altogether and in fact individuals are not actually vaccinated against the bacteria that cause the disease at all. Instead, the vaccine is against a toxin that is excreted by the bacteria, and that toxin, called an exotoxin, is what causes respiratory damage. The theory is that this way if you get the illness, your body will have a head start at damage control (by attacking and neutralizing the exotoxin) and so you won't get very sick. So the vaccine is a dose of denatured bacterial exotoxins, called toxoids, that your body can develop antibodies to. Other toxoid vaccines include tetanus and diphtheria. While it is possible to be allergic to an acellular toxoid vaccine like this one, it is entirely impossible to get the disease from it because there are no live (or even dead) microbes in the vaccine itself. Whooping cough, or pertussis, vaccine is usually given with diphtheria and tetanus toxoid vaccines together either as a DTaP or a Tdap depending on age of the individual, but adult vaccinations are rare.

One interesting feature about toxoid vaccines is that they don't actually provide direct immunity against the disease at all because the targets of antibody production aren't on the envelope of the microbe. Instead they work by reducing the severity (and length) of the illness. In short, they don't keep you from getting sick. They just keep you from getting extremely sick. Consequently most people reading this could still get diphtheria this winter, or whooping cough, and could even spread it, but you probably wouldn't know you were carrying a serious illness. In short these vaccines provide absolutely no herd immunity at all, though they may provide some epidemiological benefits in terms of reducing the number of individuals infected by a single person (the downside of course is that it makes diagnosis and monitoring much harder--- we simply don't have any idea, for example, how many minor cases of whooping cough or diphtheria actually occur every year. We just know they don't get sick enough to be diagnosed).

Yet the news media and many "experts" still talk about herd immunity from this vaccine. Indeed while the CDC recommends adults be vaccinated, they state clearly that herd immunity is not a direct factor and that it's not a simple choice.

And while it is not believed that whooping cough has an asymptomatic carrier state, diphtheria is shown to have one, particularly in vaccinated adults. (One possibility worth considering is that asymptomatic means just that, so even mild symptoms, such as those resembling the common cold could be a symptomatic carrier state.)

So the picture that emerges is that whooping cough vaccine prevents death and long, tiring illnesses in children, but doesn't stop the bug from circulating. So it's probably a good thing for kids to have. However, whooping cough is also very much out of control and not just this year, as the CDC admits.

Furthermore I have come to realize that a few times in the last decade I've gotten this cough which lasts a few weeks and then mostly goes away, except for periodic, very heavy coughing, and with no symptoms in between. In these cases, sometimes I have been diagnosed with asthma but the inhalers don't seem to help much (so I go back to using an herbal remedy which seems to work very well, but it is rather non-standard). This lasts a few more months, and then goes away. My current thinking is that my son probably picked up whooping cough at school and I picked it up from him. Since he was vaccinated, he only seemed to have the common cold, but I got something a bit worse.

This specific vaccine isn't about herd immunity, but rather reducing the severity of a serious childhood illness. It doesn't contain microbes, live or otherwise, and while it may reduce the spread of the illness there isn't sufficient data to know the extent of this. This particular vaccine is almost certainly worth giving to most kids. However, there is no benefit that non-vaccinated individuals get from those who are vaccinated in this case.

Whooping cough cycles come and go every few years. This is no different. While hospitalizations may be preventable with the vaccine, it's spread is probably not.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Thanks for the gift subscription! 6

I just received mail notification that a fellow user has bought me a gift subscription to slashdot. I'm already friends/fans with the person but his email address isn't visible so I can't thank the person off-/. (wimp, change your privacy settings and deal with the spam! :P )
Not sure what I did to deserve it, but I thank you!

User Journal

Journal Journal: Motorola Providing free TouchDown Licenses to DROID X Owners

Well, I got my Droid-X. Imagine my surprise when my $550 phone failed to properly communicate with my employer's Exchange server. Turns out the Droid-X has some software glitches relating to Exchange. Push e-mail will not work at all with Exchange 2003 and only works intermittently with 2007 and 2010. Polling e-mail may work but there are also issues with the notification system. Your phone might download messages off Exchange but fail to notify you about them until some time has passed.

Motorola is providing a free license for a third party app called TouchDown to anyone who writes in and complains about this issue. This app normally goes for $20. It is without a doubt the best mobile Exchange client that I've ever seen. It offers features above and beyond the stock Motorola application. I would encourage anybody who needs to use Exchange to get this application -- even if you aren't dealing with the push e-mail/notification bugs. It would be worth paying for, IMHO. Getting it for free because Motorola couldn't run their Exchange application past QA before launching the Droid-X is an added bonus.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Anyone out there with the Motorola Droid-X? 8

The only reason I haven't yet gotten a smartphone is because of Verizon's nickel and diming. I primarily want one for the usual smartphone functionality but I'd also like the ability to tether for some lightweight usage. Not looking to use tethering as a replacement for my home internet connection or even for web surfing. My desire is to be able to ssh and/or rdp into the office when I'm in the field. It seems kind of absurd that I should have to pay $30/mo extra for the ability to do something I could easily accomplish with a POTS line and modem. It's also absurd that Verizon expects you to pay more for the privilege of talking to an Exchange server. I guess the data packets from Exchange weigh more than the packets from a pop3 server or some such.

I've been told that the Exchange data requirement isn't actually enforced for non-Blackberry devices. Found a few posts on various forums where people claimed to successfully sync with Exchange on the $30 data plan. I've also been told that you can tether Android devices using third party applications such as PDAnet without paying Verizon's additional $30 fee. It's against their TOS but they won't find out about it unless you consume an "excessive" amount of bandwidth. Not real worried about doing that with the occasional ssh/rdp session. Can anyone confirm these two points? If they are indeed true then I'll probably be ordering the Droid-X soon.

User Journal

Journal Journal: George Will Has Really Soured on Afghanistan 20

New op-ed, titled McChrystal had to go. Will makes some pretty compelling arguments against our strategy in Afghanistan. Some highlights:

It may be said that McChrystal's defect is only a deficit of political acumen. Only? Again, the mission in Afghanistan is much more political than military. Counterinsurgency, as defined by McChrystal's successor, Gen. David Petraeus, and tepidly embraced by Barack Obama for a year or so, does not just involve nation-building, it is nation-building.

This does not require just political acumen; it requires the wisdom of Aristotle, the leadership skills of George Washington and the analytic sophistication of de Tocqueville. But, then, the grinding paradox of nation-building is this: No one with the aptitudes necessary for it would be rash or delusional enough to try it.

The McChrystal debacle comes as America's longest war is entering a surreal stage: The military is charged with a staggeringly complex task, the completion of which -- if completion can even be envisioned -- must involve many years. But when given the task, the military was told to begin bringing it to a close in a matter of 18 months.

It's a pity that we weren't smart enough to avoid this whole mess back in 2001. We ought to have used our own troops (along with the aerial mines that Bush and Rumsfeld refused to approve) at Tora Bora, captured or killed OBL, left the keys to the country by the door on our way out along with a note that said "If you host terrorist organizations again we'll come back and mess you up again." It should never have been our mission to try and spread our system of government or moral values to a region of the world that's effectively living in the Middle Ages.

BTW, I believe that the President handled the McChrystal mess effectively. He clearly had to go. I also think that Petraeus is the best man for the job though I'm in agreement with George Will's assessment of it as a fool's errand. Petraeus was successful in Iraq because the Iraqi people decided that bombing their country back into the Middle Ages was not an effective long term strategy. The Taliban leadership seems to desire such an outcome. It remains to be seen if the American people or our President have the stomach to stay there long enough to find out if the foot soldiers of the Taliban desire the same outcome.

User Journal

Journal Journal: More Guns Means Less Crime 28

Op-ed by John Stossl:

You know what the mainstream media think about guns and our freedom to carry them.

Pierre Thomas of ABC: "When someone gets angry or when they snap, they are going to be able to have access to weapons."

Chris Matthews of MSNBC: "I wonder if in a free society violence is always going to be a part of it if guns are available."

Keith Olbermann, who usually can't be topped for absurdity: "Organizations like the NRA ... are trying to increase deaths by gun in this country."

Of course he's right about the mainstream media. It is exceedingly rare to find someone on one of the major networks with a positive view of civilian firearms ownership. The ABC news show 20/20 went so far as to rig a scenario to demonstrate that concealed carry won't save you -- they pitted a trained firearms instructor against untrained individuals whom had never handled a firearm before. They further rigged the test by telling the "attacker" in advance whom had the concealed weapon out of a room of a dozen or more people. In spite of this stacked deck one of the simulated concealed carriers managed to "wound" him before "dying". Naturally ABC dismissed this result by claiming that the wound would not have been sufficient to stop a shooting rampage. I suppose the staff of 20/20 are also experts in terminal ballistics and the psychology of pain.

In Canada and Britain, both with tough gun-control laws, almost half of all burglaries occur when residents are home. But in the United States, where many households contain guns, only 13 percent of burglaries happen when someone's at home.

This is a statistic that's often overlooked but I think it's very relevant. I would regard home invasions as one of the biggest violations of the person, short of rape, kidnapping or murder. Thankfully they are relatively rare in the United States. I suppose the prospect of dying over that big screen TV is an effective deterrent for most criminals. It's my understanding that in the UK the self-defense laws won't permit you to defend your home if it is broken into while you are present. Of course even if the law permitted you to do so it would rather difficult in a society that requires one to jump through bureaucratic hoops before being able to obtain a single shot rifle or shotgun.

I was somewhat surprised to see Canada included in that figure. I always thought they were a little bit more sensible than the Mother Country. I looked into obtaining a Canadian firearms license so I could legally transport my handgun through Canada when taking trips to Detroit (because really, who wants to go to Detroit unarmed?) and the process didn't seem particularly complicated or burdensome. Perhaps one of my Canadian friends could enlighten me as to Canadian laws regarding self-defense in the home? Are you allowed to defend your home against a home invasion?

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Journal Journal: I Hate Crackberry 6

Trying to set up an employees Blackberry to connect to Outlook Web Access. Can't manage to make it connect. Call up Verizon Tech Support, get bumped from Level 1 to Level 2 and then to Blackberry. Blackberry bumps me up to Level 2 and then Level 3. Still no explanation for why it won't work. Did receive a "helpful" recommendation to purchase Blackberry Enterprise Server. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense for one user....

From research I've done on my own while on hold it appears that Blackberry doesn't want to play nice with reverse proxy servers. We have such a server between our Exchange box and the internet -- a small Linux box running Squid. This configuration works just fine with every other smart phone we have (Droids, Palms and Windows Mobile) and users who log into OWA from normal web browsers but not with the Blackberry for some reason. Go figure. Naturally the employee in question is a member of management and will be most unhappy if I can't get her stupid crackberry working. I wonder if there is a work around for this or if I'm really going to have to change our network configuration to accommodate this one device?

Just concluded my three hour telephone marathon with no resolution on the issue. I asked my rep at "Level 3" whether or not the reverse proxy server might be the cause and his response was "What's a proxy server?" So much for Level 3 support....

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Journal Journal: We Ought Not Submit Our Civil Liberties to a Cost Benefit Analysis 10

So, I read this interesting piece on Reason today. It started talking about US v. Stevens and had a frightening quote from Solicitor General Elena Kagan: "Whether a given category of speech enjoys First Amendment protection, depends upon a categorical balancing of the value of the speech against its societal costs." In Ms. Kagan's world it's apparently appropriate for Legislators to determine the "value" of speech. Never mind the plain text of the 1st amendment (Congress shall make no law...) or the obvious dangers in applying such a test to free speech. This is scary stuff indeed. Thankfully SCOTUS shot down this argument in an 8 to 1 vote.

I've heard a similar vein from leftists in discussions regarding the 2nd amendment. They point to the "societal cost" of weapons accessibility and use that as an argument for tightening restrictions on firearms ownership. It seems obvious to me that "societal cost" is a vaguely defined term that could be used to restrict all manner of civil rights but they refuse to accept this and continue to argue in favor of further restrictions on liberty. Why restrict such a standard to the 1st and 2nd amendments? What about the societal cost of criminals getting away with their crimes? Wouldn't it better for society to restrict the right to remain silent and right against unreasonable search and seizure? Maybe we should look at double jeopardy too. Doesn't it impose a cost on society to let someone get away with a crime when new evidence later materializes that could have convicted him? Might want to consider the right to a jury trial too. Juries are too easily fooled by slick lawyers and it would probably be better for society if all civil and criminal cases were decided by Judges.


Journal Journal: Chicago v. Self Defense 8

By Jeremy Lott on RCP:

Talk about your inconvenient truth. Five days after Chicago Mayor Richard Daley had held a press conference touting the benefits of the city's handgun ban by brandishing a rifle with a bayonet and -- I swear I am not making this up -- cracking a joke about shoving it up a reporter's bum, an 80-year-old man on the West Side of Chicago traded gunfire with a burglar, killing the intruder.

For advocates of gun control, the optics on this story are just awful. It's nearly impossible to drum up any sympathy for the deceased, Anthony Nelson, who had a long history of drug and weapons convictions and was on probation. He attempted to break into the house, brought a gun with him, and fired twice at the so-far unnamed homeowner.

Conversely, it is impossible to fault the homeowner. The man who killed Nelson was a veteran of the Korean War. He fired only one shot and got the intruder in the chest. On that morning, the man was protecting not just himself but his wife and a 12-year-old great grandson who was staying over. A son told reporters "My father had no choice. It was him or the other guy."

Rest of the piece can be found here. Let's not forget that our current President hails from the Windy City and doubtless agrees with Mayor Daley on at least some level regarding firearms.

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