Elizabeth Warren and Bank Threats

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Although it’s received minimal mainstream news coverage, one of the more interesting stories of the last week or so is the Reuters report that a number of banks are threatening Democrat lawmakers, in reaction to Elizabeth Warren’s call for them to be broken up. Says the article:

Representatives from Citigroup, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, have met to discuss ways to urge Democrats, including Warren and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, to soften their party’s tone toward Wall Street, sources familiar with the discussions said this week.

Let’s ignore the fact that Warren’s anti-corporate bona fides are nothing but an act. Let’s talk about what to do with banks that try to subvert the political process like this.

Many people will call for campaign finance restrictions to address such concerns. I might be able to get behind such actions, if they would actually work.

The reality is that organizations the size of these banks are always going to be able to find ways around any such restrictions. They have done so countless times, and will always do so in the future.

The way to limit the ability of banks to influence politics is to take the money and power out of politics. If politicians can’t dole out billions of dollars in favors, the banks won’t have any reason to corrupt the system.

It’s really that simple.

And, for the record, I’m all for breaking up the banks. I just think it should be done by the market, which was all ready to knock down these big boys quite a bit.

Instead, our “leaders” in Washington decided they were too big to fail, and decided to make them even bigger.

The So Called Ebola Czar

So, if you’re going to appoint an Ebola Czar, don’t you think just maybe he or she should have some experience either in Ebola in particular or infectious disease control in general?

Otherwise, if just looks like you want someone to handle the political and perception issues.

More Thoughts on the Ebola Outbreak

I was on the road last week, so I’m just now getting around to posting my thoughts on developments of the last few days.

Thomas Eric Duncan, the patent diagnosed with Ebola in Dallas, passed away this week. Sad, but not surprising. There’s legitimate reasons that this disease is so scary.

The charges that he received inferior treatment because he was black are stupid, however.

The charges that Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital erred by sending Duncan home the first time probably have legs, however. Every step taken by the hospital in Duncan’s treatment will be scrutinized, and hospitals around the country should improve their processes as a result.

About Duncan, I suppose I can understand his lying on the exit interview from Liberia. If I knew I had been exposed to Ebola in Africa, I’d probably do everything I could to get to a Western country.

I’m not excusing this, but I can understand it.

But, once I got to the U.S., I certainly wouldn’t go hang out with my family while I waited to see if symptoms developed. Send them to stay with friends, and have then check in regularly by phone.

What he did certainly put them at considerable risk. How much damage he did remains to be seen.

Speaking of risks, I’m still not worried about a generalized outbreak in the United States. Even as incompetent as the government can be, they’ll be able to see this disease move and quarantine it.

The risk to first responders is real, but not to the general populus.

What does scare me is the chance of the disease mutating. No, it’s very unlikely to go airborne.

But changes in virulence are more possible.

Say the disease mutates so that it doesn’t knock you off your feet so quickly. The contagious are more likely to go out into the public and expose others.

Or another mutation might cause it to become contagious before symptoms are evident. That’s truly scary.

Yes, the odds of this happening are vanishingly low, but each time the virus replicates, those dice are thrown. Throw the dice enough times, and it just might happen.

That’s why it’s critically important that we attack the disease in Africa, where it’s running wild. It would be worth our investing time, talent and treasure to do so.

Quote of the Day: October 5, 2014

From yesterday during the Baylor-Texas post game, actually.

“I’ll have to be honest with you, my head is still spinning trying to think about it [the Texas defense]. They threw so many looks at us, coverage wise…I couldn’t tell you what they did on consecutive plays.”
— Bryce Petty

Great game by the Longhorn defense. Fix special teams and get even a mediocre game from the offense, and we’re in it to the end.

More Thoughts on the Ebola Patient

As always happens with major news, further details have brought clarity and inflection to the situation.

First of all, the patient allegedly lied on his exit paperwork in Liberia, claiming that he had not knowingly been exposed to Ebola. He had, in facts been helping Ebola patients.

Apparently, Liberia plans to file charges against him.

This is unfortunate, but not unexpected. Someone who’s been exposed to Ebola, will likely face any consequence to come to the United States, where his odds of survival go up substantially.

Shutting the border might well make things worse, if it were even possible.

Assuming the patient survives, he should be shipped back to Liberia as soon as he’s able, and barred from entry to the United States in the future. And, if anyone actually develops Ebola from exposure to him, they’ll have a heck of a civil case against the guy.

Speaking of people exposed to him, reports are that up to 100 people may have been exposed since her developed symptoms.

There’s considerable concern by the public that this high number means officials mishandled things, but it doesn’t surprise me at all. The Feds are retracing every step he took since he got sick, and are contacting the people that might be exposed.

That’s how it should be.

There is some concern about how the patient was sent home after the first visit to the ER, but that’s using the benefit of hindsight. Before this week, we hadn’t ever had an Ebola diagnosis in the US. Missing it is unfortunate, but understandable. I’m sure it’ll be peer reviewed.

Five of the people exposed to the patient are children in the Dallas school system. Many parents with kids in these schools are keeping their kids home.

This is a tough situation. Intellectually, the risk is extraordinarily low. None of the exposed children have exhibited symptoms.

But if it were my daughter’s school, I can’t say for sure that I wouldn’t do the same thing. So, I’m not going to judge.

I have no doubt we’ll have additional developments in the coming days, so I’ll comment further as the situation warrants.

Quote of the Day: Wednesday, October 1, 2014

We have some depth at the D-line but, in the secondary, I may have to put my uniform back on. But I can’t take a step without something about to break. That’s our concern right now. We don’t have the depth that we need. We’re trying to get some young guys to step up right now. I’m telling the guys ‘right now.’ I don’t need scout team defensive guys. I need guys that I can put out there and there won’t be no let-down. I keep telling the entire defense that at The University of Texas, the expectation is ‘greatness’ at every position. Right now, we don’t have that.

Vance Bedford, defensive coordinator for the Texas Longhorns, when asked about the game this weekend against the Baylor Bears.

That second sentence if pure gold.

Why I’m not Especially Concerned About the Ebola Announcement

Some backgrounds: My wife works in an ER. I’ve been around medical professionals my entire life. I work with quite a few in my professional life.

With that in mind, here’s why I’m not panicking over yesterday’s announcement of a confirmed case of Ebola in Dallas.

1) I’ve had time to mentally prepare.

It’s been clear for months that a diagnosis of Ebola within the United States was going to happen sooner or latter. The world is too flat to prevent it, short of shutting down international travel entirely.

Also, given my background, I’ve been absorbing everything I can about Ebola the last few months. This potentially hits very close to me.

So, knowing it was was coming means you have time to prepare for the inevitable, both emotionally and mentally.

2) This particular situation is as good as it could be.

With Ebola, you are not contagious as long as you are symptomatic. It doesn’t matter if the people around you are immune compromised or completely healthy. No symptoms means you’re not putting out the virus, and no one can catch it from you.

The patient in Dallas did not have a fever when he left Liberia, and did not develop symptoms until he had been here four days. If they had developed the day after he got here, concern for the passengers on the plane might be warranted.

Certainly, there is concern for those exposed between when symptoms first developed and when he went into quarantine, four days later. It’s clear that the Feds are tracing his steps during that time.

In fact, the Dallas EMS crew exposed to the patient has tested negative. They are among up to 18 people currently being monitored.

3) Ebola is stable, for a virus.

As far as viruses go, Ebola is fairly resistant to mutation, especially for an RNA virus.

Certainly, the mutation risk is non-zero, but the likelihood of it going airborne is vanishingly small.

Somewhat more likely are other ways of it becoming more easily transmitted. For instance, say it were to become contagious a few days before symptoms began (like the flu).

This chance is still low, based upon the history of the virus, and not something you can worry about until/unless it actually happens. Let’s not make a bad situation worse, if we can avoid it.

The best thing we can do to prevent mutation is to stop the spread of the disease. More disease means more replication, which means more chances for mutation.

4) Announcing flight details would make things worse.

Within the media (both traditional and social) there has been considerable outcry for officials to announce what flight the patient came in on.

I very much disagree. These people are at no risk, and such an announcement would just induce panic, causing many problems of its own.

That said, the flight info will eventually get out to the public. But the more time that has passed until it does, the less time has to pass until the 21 day exposure window closes.

5) Our health care system is ready for this.

Discussions within our healthcare system about Ebola have been going on for months. Protocols for dealing with the problem came from the CDC some time ago, and have been reviewed and distributed to all first responders.

They’ve been running under an assumption that it was coming. I imagine most emergency rooms have had one or more cases that they worried could be Ebola. They already know what to do.

And, without doubt, most hospitals are having additional meetings on this today to remind everyone of the appropriate protocols.

But the simple fact is, they’re ready.

Our first responders are the ones under real risk from Ebola in the US. The public doesn’t have a whole lot to worry about.

6) The government actually is good at this sort of thing.

Those that know me or read this blog regularly know I’m a libertarian. In my opinion, the government could screw up a wet dream.

But the problems here play to their strengths.

The Feds need to keep the virus contained. Anyone who displays symptoms will be quarantined, until test results are returned.

And the Ebola patient’s steps need to be retraced. Anyone he contacted from a day or two before symptoms until he was quarantined needs to be contacted, tested and monitored.

These are things our government is pretty good at, and all indications are that they are happening already.

I expect they’ll stop this case of Ebola in it’s tracks.

What are the game changers?

The biggest change that would make things worse would be a mutation that allowed the virus to spread more easily. Obviously, that could be catastrophic, but isn’t something that you can address unless it happens.

A more likely change in situation would come if it turns out the government is lying to us about the situation. Say, for instance, he actually was symptomatic on the plane?

Obviously, the government has lied to us in the past, and will do so in the future. We’ve been told the last few months that there was no reason to worry about Ebola being diagnosed in the United States. That was bullshit, and was obviously bullshit.

But I don’t see any upside to the government in deception regarding the Dallas patient. Feel free to correct me in the comments, but I think we’re getting a pretty straight story here.

What can you do?

First of all, get your damn flu shot.

The early symptoms of the flu are not all that different from Ebola. If you develop the flu, you’re probably going to worry that you might have Ebola. Well, some of you will have such worries.

No, the flu vaccine isn’t completely preventative, but it’s your best bet. And, no, you won’t develop autism as a result of taking the flu shot.

I’ve gotten a flu shot every year for the last decade or so, and my brain still mostly works.

If you get sick with flu like symptoms, stay home. Don’t take it into work with you. But, to be honest, I’d give that advice with or without Ebola in the US.

And, if your asshole boss makes you go into work when you’re sick, don’t go up to him or her and intentionally cough in his or her face. That would just be wrong.

If someone in your household is sick, avoid contact with their blood and bodily fluids. Chances are they don’t have Ebola, of course, but you don’t want their flu either.

Wash your hands regularly. Good old fashioned soap and some elbow grease are your best bet. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can help, but are useless against things like enterovirus.

So scrub, scrub, and scrub some more.

Go get medical help if you or anyone under your care has a fever of 101.5F or above combined with any of the following: headache, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, or unexplained bruising or bleeding.

And while this is a decision everyone has to make on their own, I probably wouldn’t go to the emergency room unless I were really sick or injured (such as what I describe above), or had contributing factors such as immune system disorders.

And if/when I did go to the ER, I’d probably do my best to find my own corner of the waiting room. I’d especially avoid anyone who looked especially sick. Ebola drops on you like a ton of bricks. Anyone who is infectious, will probably look like it.

All of these concerns are increased if you’ve traveled from Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria or Senegal recently, or recently been around someone who has.