Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Facts from the Racist Homophobes at the CDC

A few statistics


The data shows that 53% of all HIV cases involve male to male sex.
Three times as many men have HIV as women, even though it is much easier to transmit the virus from male to female.
More statistics":
MSM (Men who have sex with men) represent 2% of the population; however, their HIV diagnosis rate is more than 44 times that of other men and more than 40 times that of women. MSM is the only risk group with increasing numbers of new HIV infections annually, and they account for more than half of all new infections in the United States each year

Blacks/African Americans are the racial/ethnic group most affected by HIV. They represent about 12% of the population but are almost half of all new HIV infections.

The CDC issued an updated "fact sheet" covering new information in 2008.
MSM account for more than half of all new HIV infections in the United States each year (61%, or an estimated 29,300 infections).
While CDC estimates that only 4 percent of men in the United States are MSM, the rate of new HIV diagnoses among MSM in the United States is more than 44 times that of other men (range: 522 – 989 per 100,000 MSM vs. 12 per 100,000 other men).

In their chart of the most affected groups, straight white males aren't included at all.

The Lancet published a study in 2009 that calculated the per exposure risk for transmitting HIV based on 25 different groups and found that the risk of transmitting HIV during heterosexual contact as .04% male to female and .08% male to female. The risk for receptive anal sex was 34 times higher at 1.7%. Let's break that number down a bit. On average, it takes over 50 unprotected sex acts with a known infected partner to transmit HIV.


Are the folks at the CDC are a bunch of ignorant, racist homophobes who don't understand or care about the truth? Is the Lancet part of a conservative conspiracy to bully and marginalize homosexuals?

Or is the truth somewhat different than we have been led to believe? Do we completely ostracize these organizations for speaking the uncomfortable truth, that HIV is a disease which strikes mostly at gay men and is a result of their lifestyle?

What are the high risk activities?
  • Unprotected sex? Check

  • Multiple partners? Check

  • Anal or rough sex? Check

Folks these are the facts and getting angry at the folks who present them doesn't change them.

Yes, there are straight people who get HIV, but they represent a distinct minority, and, if you discount IV drug abusers, almost vanish from the charts completely. We talk about how HIV is a critical health issue. How many people died with HIV last year?

Just over 9,000, making it the 22nd leading cause of death in the US. For comparison, 600,000 people died of heart disease and another 567,000 of cancer.

Seriously folks, Campfield is a publicity hound and he does say some ridiculous stuff, but from listening to his interview, (Anybody else bother to listen to what he actually said?) Mike Signorile's Huff Po article was a smear job from the get go.

When did speech become a reason to deny people their rights? Not too long ago, the left was in an uproar because their protestors weren't allowed to disrupt the Republican Convention or speeches by a President they detested. They were herded into "Free Speech Zones" and not allowed to get close enough to be heard. They were outraged, and rightly so. Free speech is often times disruptive and unpleasant. The OWS idiots camping on public property in DC in defiance of the law are being allowed to stay there because in some peoples' opinions, their free speech rights trump federal law.

But it seems the left is only a champion of free speech when they agree with it. When they don't, they shout down opposing speakers. They use bull horns to prevent others from being heard. They stage protests designed to prevent speakers from appearing.

And they are taking their lead from the President. He's willing to imprison Americans without charge, trial, or representation, indefinitely, for nothing more than speech. Even more, he's already assassinated an American citizen just for his speech.

With that attitude, it's no wonder the folks back home are following his lead. Today, a State Senator can't buy a meal in a restaurant, and 'the people' applaud wildly. What comes tomorrow? Fundamental Christians believe that homosexuality is both a sin and punishment for sin. Are we going to force them to abandon their religion in order to buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks?

Not to get unnecessarily Apocalyptic on you or anything, but there is a passage in the Bible that speaks directly to that. Now I'm not saying the Ms. Boggs is the Anti-Christ, or carries the Mark of the Beast, but her actions fall very neatly into the predicted events of the Bible. With the widespread approval Boggs has gained from her action, it doesn't take a whole lot of foresight to see a trend emerging that could fulfill that prophesy.

Armageddon aside, we're creating an environment where all pigs are equal, but some are more equal than others. In comments on the various news sites, folks are saying that what Boggs did was legal because Sen. Campfield does not fall into one of the protected groups mentioned in civil rights legislation. Given that Campfield is a Catholic, and last time I checked, Catholicism is still considered a religion, it appears that he was discriminated against based on his religious beliefs, and that he is a member of a protected group. But even if he wasn't, do you remember that whole thing about "equal treatment under the law"?

By creating special classes with special protections, we've automatically diminished the protections for those not in the special class. That has been my primary objection to much of the civil rights legislation over the last couple of decades. If bullying is bad, then it is bad no matter who the target is. If bigotry is bad, it's bad no matter who the object is. If discrimination is bad, get the point. By singling out specific groups, we are saying that it is okay to bully, or discriminate, against others.

And that's crap.

Enough with the name calling already. If you don't like what Campfield stands for, fine. Run against him. Deprive him of the bully pulpit.

That's the American way.

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bartholomew Sullivan Gets One Right

I just reviewed the current crop of PolitiFact Tennessee claims, and these are much better. Even Bartholomew Sullivan's contribution, Another Republican Claims Martin Luther King Jr was a Republican, is well reasoned, accurately assessed, and logically sound. I could quibble that the evidence might call for a Mostly False rating, since there are some hints that Dr. King had some connection with the Republican Party, but that association was certainly a very loose one, and not enough to warrant claiming he was a Republican.

The choices are all Tennessee centric, and are based on statements actually made by Tennessee politicians.


UPDATE: Another PolitiFact Tennessee article came out shortly after I wrote the above. This one has to do with US infrastructure and our global ranking and while the conclusion is justifiable, the language used to get there, on a site devote to objective analysis, is a problem.
Our ruling

So Cohen is off by a notch in the current overall rankings, while for roads and bridges, the U.S. actually ranks slightly lower, providing more evidence for his point. That's close enough to earn a True.

Close enough? Sounds to me like a "Mostly True" rating here. Like the above example, it's kind of a quibble, but once is a quibble, twice becomes a trend. I'm not talking about bias here, even though both instances the shade is given to the liberal side; I'm talking about sloppiness. IS the claim fully true, or just mostly true? Call it straight every time and you'll develop a reputation for objectivity. Shade it too often, and you'll be accused of bias no matter which way you call it.

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New PolitiFact story in the KNS More Politics than Facts

Here we go again.

The newest PolitiFact article in the KNS examines a claim in a blog by a national trade association made back in July.


Apparently, blog posts from 6 months ago represent the cutting edge of political analysis at the Scripps News Service, which could explain why subscription rates are falling faster than ad revenue at their newspapers.

So what controversial statement was so hot that it was still burning 6 months after it hit the blogosphere?

Apparently, Cindy Zimmerman, a part time contributor to, the blog of the National Corn Growers Association, had the gall to refer to Tennessee Rep Stephen Fincher as "the only working farmer currently serving in the House."

I'm surprised 60 Minutes didn't leap onto this story.

Next week, PolitiFact Tennessee will be investigating whether Davy Crockett really did 'kilt him a b'ar when he was only three.'

For a detailed takedown of the piece, follow the link.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, January 16, 2012

More Spin Masquerading as Truth from the Knoxville News Sentinel

Bright and early Sunday morning, Jack McElroy trumpeted a new addition to the KNS. The Commercial Appeal and the KNS have joined forces to create Politifact Tennessee, an off shoot of the Pulitzer Prize winning effort by the St Petersburg Times to fact check the statements of politicians, and to do so without bias or agenda.

Yeah, right.

According to Jack:
The project may sound like silly, and biased, journalism. But PolitiFact, as the initiative was called, adhered to the highest standards of reporting. Political rhetoric was checked against strictly verifiable data. All sources of information were revealed, and the reasons for the Truth-O-Meter ratings were clearly spelled out.

Let's take a closer look, shall we?

From the Politifact Tennessee home page:
Every day, reporters and researchers from the Commercial Appeal and News Sentinel examine statements by Tennessee elected officials and candidates and anyone else who speaks up in the political discourse. We research their statements and rate the accuracy on our Truth-O-Meter:

TRUE – The statement is accurate and there’s nothing significant missing.

MOSTLY TRUE – The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information.

HALF TRUE – The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context.

MOSTLY FALSE – The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.

FALSE – The statement is not accurate.

PANTS ON FIRE – The statement is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim.

Now, as I read through the possible categories, I'm seeing a lot of subjective words in what should be objective criteria. Words like "significant", "critical facts", "partially", and so on. The true and false categories are fairly clear, but the Mostly True, Half True, and Mostly False are clearly areas where subjective bias can easily be masked as objectivity. After all, who decides which facts are critical and which are not? Who decides which details are important and which ones are not? And on what basis do they make those decisions?

This presents a serious problem with the root conceit of Politifact; the folks involved are making subjective judgments and labeling them as objective facts. This misrepresentation is more in keeping with propaganda than journalism.

The potential for abuse is demonstrated by the very first set of stories in the KNS. They "fact checked" Marsha Blackburn's statements about incandescent light bulbs and ruled her statement as "Mostly False."

Let's examine the article to see how they came up with that conclusion.

The headline for the article is:

New energy standards will take away "our freedom of choice and selection in the light bulbs we have in our homes."

Actually, that is not what Blackburn said. She said (quote appears below) that the new standards will take away our incandescent light bulbs, not our freedom of choice and selection. There's a huge difference in both the text and subtext presented here that reflects the bias of Bartholomew Sullivan, the author.

This is not a good start.

The sub head is:

Marsha Blackburn says she is battling for freedom of choice – for energy-inefficient light bulbs

Snarky headlines do not contribute to the appearance of objectivity. Even worse, this header puts words into Blackburn's mouth that she most assuredly did not say. Sullivan is belittling Blackburn and her position, which is irrelevant to the veracity of her statement.

The article then provides this partial quote, and a link to the video it comes from:
U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., has been on a crusade to, as she put it on the House floor in July, prevent higher efficiency standards for light bulbs from creating "a de facto ban on the incandescent bulb." In an appearance on the Fox Business Channel in December, she re-calibrated her rhetorical salvo when she told Stuart Varney she’s fighting "to keep our freedom of choice and selection in the light bulbs we have in our homes."

Before I get to the quote, notice the loaded words used in this introductory paragraph. She's on a "crusade". She had to "recalibrate her rhetorical salvo." These are not neutral, objective descriptors; they are carefully crafted to provoke an emotional reaction to the content of the story. Along with the snarky sub head, they paint Blackburn as an obsessed ideologue who is in favor of wasting energy.

That is an editorial, subjective judgement, not a fact. It goes to her personality, not her statement.

Now, let's put the quote into context. The subject of the video was not light bulbs, but the accomplishments of the Republican controlled House. The segment lasts for 3:40, of which Marsha spends roughly 30 seconds talking about the light bulbs. Her full statement was:
"We have been able to block the money that EPA would use to implement the new energy efficiency standards that take away our incandescent light bulbs, so that is, that is in this Minibus that we are going to pass today. We are going to be able to hang on to our light bulbs one more year and be able to keep up this fight to keep our freedom of choice and selection in the light bulbs we have in our homes."

So we have two parts to this statement to fact check. The first is that the new energy efficiency standards are going to take away the traditional tungsten incandescent light bulb. The second is that this will limit our freedom of choice and selection.

From the article:

The Obama administration issued a statement before the vote that said consumers still have freedom of choice under the law. "Any type of bulb can be sold as long as it meets the efficiency requirements. In sum, the bill would hinder an opportunity to save American consumers money, while enhancing energy efficiency and reducing harmful emissions associated with energy production."

Let's translate this statement. "You can choose to buy any light bulb we allow you to buy."

Hardly freedom of choice.
Supporters of the standards say the higher-efficiency bulbs mandated by the Energy Independence and Security Act not only save energy but, despite higher up-front costs, save consumers money over time because the bulbs last longer.

This claim is not sourced. What bulb types are these unnamed supporters referring to? Florescent? Compact Florescent? Halogen? Some undeveloped technology to be named later? Any links or sources for any of this? And more importantly, how does this statement relate to Blackburn's statement? It goes to justifying the law, not addressing the truth of either of her claims.

So does the imposition of higher energy standards amount to a "de facto ban" on incandescent bulbs? Does it strip away "our freedom of choice and selection in the light bulbs we have in our homes?"

The short answer is no. Existing inefficient bulbs will stay in circulation and will continue to be sold to consumers until supplies run out. And while traditional tungsten-element bulbs can’t meet the higher standards and will not be manufactured, light bulb companies are continuing to make incandescent halogen bulbs, although they are more expensive than incandescent tungsten. So the only way you could consider there to be a ban would be if you couldn't afford the halogen bulbs.

OK, here's the only part of the article that actually addresses Blackburn's statement. While Sullivan admits that traditional bulbs will not be manufactured anymore, which concedes the truth of the first part of Blackburn's statement, he argues that since replacements are available, you haven't really had your choice taken away. By similar logic, the ban on saccharine wasn't really a ban on saccharine because you could still buy aspartame. In both cases, your choice has been limited by government regulation, infringing on your freedom of choice.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group that supports the higher standards, points out that the trade association for domestic light manufacturers, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, which would appear to have an interest in a banning of its products, has embraced the increased efficiency standards. The NRDC also notes that a factory in St. Marys, Pa., is retooling to make more efficient incandescent bulbs, creating domestic jobs.

In perhaps the most telling endorsement of the higher standards, Barry Edison Sloane, the great-grandson of the inventor of the incandescent bulb, Thomas Edison, called those who sought their repeal "narrow-minded." Consumers Union, which produces Consumer Reports, also endorses the higher standards.

Two paragraphs with more endorsements of the new standards, and completely irrelevant to whether Blackburn's statement was true or false.
Traditional 100-watt incandescent bulbs would have been the first to fail to meet the new standards that were to have taken effect Jan. 1. Congress in late December effectively delayed that until October 2012. Other traditional incandescents will fail to meet the lumens-per-watt standard between then and 2014, when the standard for 40-watt bulbs kicks in. Several kinds of incandescent bulbs within those wattage ranges are exempt from the new standards, including appliance bulbs, colored bulbs and stage lighting in theaters.

This paragraph explains the process of removing traditional incandescent bulbs from the marketplace, and is material that completely backs Blackburn's claims.
PolitiFact has checked many other assertions regarding the light bulb controversy, finding a claim by the conservative political action committee AmeriPAC that "you will be mandated by federal law to get rid of your existing light bulbs" to be a "Pants on Fire"-level misrepresentation. Others have been equally misleading, particularly Varney, who can be found in a 2009 debate with environmentalist actor Ed Begley Jr. stating: "The government is telling me I may not have incandescent lights."

A lovely little paragraph that again, has nothing to do with Blackburn's statement, but is used to make her look bad through association.

Let me illustrate how this associative guilt thing works. Instead of describing Ed Begley Jr. as an 'environmentalist actor,' what if he were described as '9-11 truther and conspiracy theorist Ed Begley Jr.?' It would be just as accurate, but it would certainly prejudice the reader against his opinions, would it not?

Is that how McElroy defines the highest standards of journalism? Guilt by association?

And the conclusion:
Blackburn has been more careful in qualifying the language she uses to advance her cause. Because the standards will ultimately bring about the end of traditional incandescent bulbs, there is an element of truth in Blackburn’s claims. But consumers will still have plenty of choice of different types of bulbs, even if traditional incandescents are not for sale.

We rate the statement Mostly False.

In Blackburn's full, unedited statement, she is clearly talking about traditional incandescent bulbs being removed from the market, thus limiting consumer choice by government fiat. Those bulbs will be removed from the market. Blackburn's statement is mostly true. However, because Sullivan clearly agrees with the new standards, he chooses to ignore this basic fact and instead uses selective quotation, emotionally loaded language, unsourced and irrelevant statements, as well camouflaged subjective judgments to reach his "ruling" of Mostly False.

In other words, PolitiFact is little more than opinion based journalism masquerading as fact checking.

For this feature to be worthwhile, there are some significant changes that must be made.
  1. No snark. At all. Straight forward old school journalism rules apply. Just the facts and any relevant context with opinions and/or assumptions clearly stated.

  2. Only information that directly reflects the veracity of the claim being checked is allowed. No discussion of the merits of the issues involved, just the truth of the statement.

  3. Every claim for and against the veracity of the statement must be sourced and linked to allow checking by the reader for accuracy and context. If you include a quote from a speech, there better be a link to the transcript. If experts or supporters are cited, there better be a side bar with their name and where the information came from.

  4. A rebuttal by the subject should be included in the article.

Just for fun, here is how I would have written up this article, using the exact same information available to Mr. Sullivan.

Marsha Blackburn claims that the new energy efficiency standards will "take away our incandescent light bulbs."

Plans "to keep up this fight to keep our freedom of choice and selection in the light bulbs we have in our homes."

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., claimed during a speech on the House floor last summer that the new energy efficiency standards amount to "a de facto ban on the incandescent bulb" and during a December interview on Fox Business Channel took credit, along with the rest of the Republican led House, for delaying implementation of the standards.

Her full statement during the interview was:
"We have been able to block the money that EPA would use to implement the new energy efficiency standards that take away our incandescent light bulbs, so that is, that is in this MiniBus that we are going to pass today. We are going to be able to hang on to our light bulbs one more year and be able to keep up this fight to keep our freedom of choice and selection in the light bulbs we have in our homes."

Blackburn has said she was concerned with government limiting consumer choice.

The Obama administration issued a statement that said that consumers still have freedom of choice under the law. "Any type of bulb can be sold as long as it meets the efficiency requirements."

So does the imposition of higher energy standards amount to a "de facto ban" on incandescent bulbs? Does it limit "our freedom of choice and selection in the light bulbs we have in our homes" as Blackburn said it did?

The short answer is yes. Traditional tungsten-element bulbs can’t meet the higher standards and will not be manufactured and therefore will be removed from the marketplace once the last ones are sold. However, there will be some incandescent bulbs still available. Light bulb companies are continuing to make incandescent halogen bulbs, which are more efficient than the traditional tungsten bulbs, but also more expensive, and do pose a fire hazard. Also, some traditional incandescent bulbs will still be manufactured, mainly for appliance lights, and for stage and theater lights. But as Blackburn’s spokesman Mike Reynard said: "It’s a de facto ban because traditional incandescent light bulbs can’t meet the new energy standards. An American innovation may be able to create a new incandescent bulb 2.0 -- which can meet the new standards -- but it won’t be the incandescent bulb your parents grew up with."

Traditional 100-watt incandescent bulbs would have been the first to fail to meet the new standards that were to have taken effect Jan. 1. Congress in late December effectively delayed that until October 2012. Other traditional incandescents will fail to meet the lumens-per-watt standard between then and 2014, when the standard for 40-watt bulbs kicks in.

Our judgment:

Because the standards will ultimately bring about the end of traditional incandescent bulbs, Blackburn’s claims are accurate. But because some incandescent bulbs, including some tungsten types, will still be manufactured for special uses, and because the consumers can choose to use halogens, which are a type of incandescent light, the idea of an outright ban overstates the truth.

We rate the statement Mostly True.

No snark, no extraneous information, no bias, and no opinions hidden as facts. I even changed the wording of the conclusion from 'ruling', which implies some sort of objectivity, to 'judgment', which acknowledges that we are all subjective in our evaluations of the relevant facts.

Posted by Rich
NewsPolitiFact Check • (1) CommentsPermalink

Monday, December 12, 2011

What’s the Real Unemployment Rate?

Several liberal sites are whaling away on Fox for a chart posted on TV today showing the unemployment rate. The chart looks like this:

The concern is that, while the numbers are accurate, the graphic indicates that the current unemployment level of 8.6% is roughly the same or higher than 9%.

Unfortunately, none of the sites have any information about the information input into the chart, or the context surrounding it, but I have to agree; on the face of it, the chart looks pretty bad.

But it did get me to thinking. While the administration claims that unemployment has declined sharply over the past few months, I really don't see much change in my day to day life. I still have my job, but the folks I know who don't have a job are still struggling to find one. So I decided to take a closer look at the numbers and see what is really going on.

First, I went to the Bureau of Labor Statistics to pull some raw data. I went to the Current Population Survey page and found the following.
Unemployment Rate: 8.6% in Nov 2011
Change in Unemployment Level: -594,000 in Nov 2011
Change in Employment Level: +278,000 in Nov 2011
Change in Civilian Labor Force Level: -315,000 in Nov 2011
Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate: 64.0% in Nov 2011
Employment-Population Ratio:58.5% in Nov 2011

I noticed a couple of things right off. First, while there were 594,000 people removed from the jobless ranks, only 278,000 new jobs were created, meaning that 315,000 people left the workforce completely, and were no longer counted in the unemployment rate.

That's 10,000 people a day who are no longer part of the work force. Let's put that into perspective. The Knoxville Metro area has a labor force of roughly 300,000 people. That's everyone working in Knox, Anderson, Bount, Union, and Loudon Counties. Do we really think that enough working people to fill the five counties listed retired in one month?

Okay, that just doesn't sound right to me so I dug deeper.

I pulled a chart showing the labor force participation rate:

Series Id: LNU01300000
Not Seasonally Adjusted
Series title: (Unadj) Labor Force Participation Rate
Labor force status: Civilian labor force participation rate
Type of data: Percent or rate
Age: 16 years and over


Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Annual
2001 66.8 66.8 67.0 66.7 66.6 67.2 67.4 66.8 66.6 66.7 66.6 66.6 66.8
2002 66.2 66.6 66.6 66.4 66.5 67.1 67.2 66.8 66.6 66.6 66.3 66.2 66.6
2003 66.1 66.2 66.2 66.2 66.2 67.0 66.8 66.3 65.9 66.1 66.1 65.8 66.2
2004 65.7 65.7 65.8 65.7 65.8 66.5 66.8 66.2 65.7 66.0 66.1 65.8 66.0
2005 65.4 65.6 65.6 65.8 66.0 66.5 66.8 66.5 66.1 66.2 66.1 65.9 66.0
2006 65.5 65.7 65.8 65.8 66.0 66.7 66.9 66.5 66.1 66.4 66.4 66.3 66.2
2007 65.9 65.8 65.9 65.7 65.8 66.6 66.8 66.1 66.0 66.0 66.1 65.9 66.0
2008 65.7 65.5 65.7 65.7 66.0 66.6 66.8 66.4 65.9 66.1 65.8 65.7 66.0
2009 65.4 65.5 65.4 65.4 65.5 66.2 66.2 65.6 65.0 64.9 64.9 64.4 65.4
2010 64.6 64.6 64.8 64.9 64.8 65.1 65.3 65.0 64.6 64.4 64.4 64.1 64.7
2011 63.9 63.9 64.0 63.9 64.1 64.5 64.6 64.3 64.2 64.1 63.9

The chart shows that the participation rate declined after 9/11, began to rebound in 2006, then crashed hard in 2008. The current average of 64.1% is the lowest since 1982 and 1983.

Now, this could represent a population change, so the next thing I looked at was the size of the employed population as compared to total population.

Series Id: LNU02300000
Not Seasonally Adjusted
Series title: (Unadj) Employment-Population Ratio
Labor force status: Employment-population ratio
Type of data: Percent or rate
Age: 16 years and over


Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Annual
2001 63.7 63.8 64.0 63.9 63.9 64.1 64.2 63.5 63.4 63.4 63.1 63.0 63.7
2002 62.0 62.5 62.5 62.6 62.9 63.1 63.2 63.0 63.0 63.0 62.5 62.4 62.7
2003 61.8 62.0 62.1 62.3 62.3 62.7 62.6 62.4 62.1 62.4 62.4 62.3 62.3
2004 61.6 61.8 61.9 62.1 62.3 62.7 63.0 62.7 62.4 62.6 62.6 62.4 62.3
2005 61.7 61.8 62.0 62.5 62.7 63.1 63.4 63.2 62.9 63.2 62.9 62.8 62.7
2006 62.2 62.3 62.6 62.8 63.1 63.5 63.6 63.4 63.2 63.6 63.5 63.5 63.1
2007 62.6 62.6 62.9 62.8 63.0 63.4 63.5 63.0 63.0 63.1 63.2 62.8 63.0
2008 62.2 62.1 62.3 62.6 62.5 62.8 62.8 62.3 62.0 62.0 61.6 61.0 62.2
2009 59.8 59.6 59.5 59.8 59.6 59.8 59.8 59.3 58.9 58.8 58.8 58.2 59.3
2010 57.8 57.9 58.2 58.7 58.7 58.9 58.9 58.8 58.6 58.6 58.4 58.3 58.5
2011 57.6 57.8 58.1 58.4 58.5 58.5 58.6 58.5 58.5 58.7 58.7

Here, we see that the percentage of people with jobs dropped precipitously in July 2008 as compared to the total population, indicating that millions of jobs just disappeared, and so far, have not returned. The people doing those jobs are still unemployed, but apparently, they've been unemployed for so long that they just don't count any more.

That 8.6% isn't looking as good now. I mean, it looks good for Obama, but if you are one of the folks who are still unemployed, but not counted, well, the outlook is pretty grim.

For fun, let's see what happens if we figure the unemployment rate based on the number of people actually out of work?

The first thing we have to do is look at the size of the labor force. Again, the BLS is very helpful:
Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey

Series Id: LNU01000000
Not Seasonally Adjusted
Series title: (Unadj) Civilian Labor Force Level
Labor force status: Civilian labor force
Type of data: Number in thousands
Age: 16 years and over


Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Annual
2001 142828 143100 143664 143026 143023 144553 145097 143826 143601 144060 143987 144042 143734
2002 143228 144266 144334 144158 144527 145940 146189 145565 145167 145320 144854 144807 144863
2003 145301(1) 145693 145801 145925 146067 148117 147822 146967 146166 146787 146969 146501 146510
2004 146068(1) 146154 146525 146260 146659 148478 149217 148166 147186 147978 148246 147877 147401
2005 147125(1) 147649 147745 148274 148878 150327 151122 150469 149838 150304 150239 149874 149320
2006 149090(1) 149686 150027 150209 150696 152557 153208 152465 151635 152397 152590 152571 151428
2007 151924(1) 151879 152236 151829 152350 154252 154871 153493 153400 153516 154035 153705 153124
2008 152828(1) 152503 153135 153208 154003 155582 156300 155387 154509 155012 154624 154349 154287
2009 153445(1) 153804 153728 153834 154336 155921 156255 154897 153617 153635 153539 152693 154142
2010 152957(1) 153194 153660 153911 153866 154767 155270 154678 153854 153652 153698 153156 153889
2011 152536(1) 152635 153022 152898 153449 154538 154812 154344 154022 154088 153683

Wow. Our labor force is actually contracting! This surprised me so I expanded the range of the data to see if we had ever seen anything like this, a two year decline in the size of the labor force.


And the answer is no.

Think about that for a minute folks. Since 1948, the size of our work force has steadily increased yet for the last two years, it suddenly stopped growing and started contracting.

There are two potential explanations for this. The first is that our population is actually shrinking. The US Census says no. The second is that somebody is cooking the books.

Regardless of the explanation, we need to determine what the size of the labor force should be if we were following historical trends. Regression analysis (I love excel!) using data from January1978 though January 2008 shows that on average, the labor force should increase in size at an annual rate of 1.7 million workers. Applying that to the 2008 data indicates that the US labor force should actually be around 158 million people. BLS statistics show us at 152.5 million, 300,000 fewer than in 2008.

That's 5.5 million people missing from the work force. 5.5 million people that are not being counted in our unemployment statistics.

So, the BLS says that 12.6 million are unemployed. which results in an unemployment rate of 8.6% if you accept their numbers, i.e., that for the first time in over 60 years, our workforce has shrunk instead of grown. If you apply the historical average, then we have roughly 18 million people out of work, for a real unemployment rate of 12.3%

Yeah, I know. This is hypothetical, based on an inference from historical data. I haven't proven that somebody is cooking the books, but look at that last chart again. 60 years of nearly perfectly linear growth that suddenly stops and actually contracts in 2009. We've been through recessions before. We've been through market crashes and wars and civil unrest. But in over 60 years, we've never seen our work force dip over a two year period like we have in these numbers.

People keep on having babies, and they keep growing up. People continue to immigrate to the US, and our work force continues to grow. The employment to population ratio proves that we haven't stopped growing. But somehow, we're not adding workers to the labor force.

Folks, look at the numbers for yourself. See if what you are being told makes sense to you when you look at those numbers. Don't believe it because I say so; take a look for yourself. The information is right there.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Baumgartner’s Career Trajectory

The following is a brief timeline on Richard Baumgartner and his, shall we say, unusual career path.

In 1990, he ran for Circuit Court judge and lost.

In 1992, then District Attorney General Ed Dossett dies when he was supposedly trampled by cows. With an amount of morphine in his blood twice the normal values for dealing with pain. Gov Ned McWherter appoints Randy Nichols as the new D.A, and then in a surprise move, taps Baumgartner to fill Nichols' former spot as Criminal Court judge.

Dossett's widow, Reynella Dossett marries David Leath.

In 2003, she shoots him in the back of the head.

In 2007, Randy Nichols, citing new evidence and supported by a new Knox County Medical Examiner, seeks to exhume Ed Dossett's body in order to prove that he was murdered by his wife, who has now been charged with murdering her second husband.

In 2008, Baumgartner blocks the exhumation. A grand Jury indicts Dossett Leath for the murder of her first husband.

In 2009, with Baumgartner presiding, Reynella's first trial for the murder of her second husband results in a hung jury.

In 2009, Baumgartner blocks a second request for exhumation.

In 2010, Dossett Leath is found guilty in her second trial, also presided over by Baumgartner. She is sentenced to life in prison.

In 2010, Prosecuters drop the charges against Dossett Leath regarding the death of Ed Dossett.

In 2011, Baumgartner strikes a deal to plead guilty to one charge of official misconduct, thereby insulating himself from the consequences of a decade of drug and alcohol abuse that will cost the county millions of dollars.

Ironic, how Baumgartner's career closely parallels Dossett Leath's fortunes. They both lost everything within a few months of each other.

Posted by Rich
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From the TBI File: Why Baumgartner had Pancreatitis

Okay, so the News Sentinel has reported that Baumgartner first started taking pain pills when they were prescribed for him to deal with a chronic case of pancreatitis. What the KNS didn't tell you was the cause of Baumgartner's pancreatitis.

On page 37 of the redacted TBI report, the first page of IR 148, Dr. Dean Conley tells the TBI that the pancreatitis was due to alcohol abuse.

Apparently, the junkie got his start as a drunk. Dr. Conley went on to say that Baumgartner's pancreatitis was usually under control, as long as he remained sober, but would flare up into an acute case whenever he drank.

This brings a few more questions to mind. How often did Baumgartner sit in court while drunk? Did drinking pay a part in his most recent flare up? How bad was his alcohol problem before he turned to pills? And one more time, how the heck was he able to stay an active, prominent judge while feeding not one but two addictions?

He wrecked his pancreas by drinking before he wrecked his life with pills and the News Sentinel doesn't think that his drinking is an important part of the story? Really?

Posted by Rich
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Monday, December 05, 2011

Hell Freezes Over

Mr. Neal, the long time proprietor of KnoxViews, has an equally long history of disagreeing with me on virtually everything under the sun. In fact, he would probably take issue with that statement just for consistency's sake.

I know I would.

But today, we stand united in disgust at the incompetence and blatant propaganda being spun out by the Knoxville News Sentinel, chiefly the post by publisher Jack McElroy.
Mr. Neal's take:
Not only is the KNS exploiting their tabloid coverage of the trials, now the KNS editor is saying the KNS and Jamie Satterfield deserve credit for breaking the news that Baumgartner was an impaired drug addict presiding over the most sensational murder trial in recent history.

Seriously? Sounds like a major ass-covering operation to me. Shame on the KNS for blowing a huge story, and for helping put the victim's families through hell once again.

You know something? When you've done something so outrageously bad that even people as far apart as Mr. Neal and I can agree, you might seriously want to reconsider what you're doing because if your business model depends on the good will of the people, and you're alienating people from all sides, well, let's just say your subscription base will evaporate faster than ice cream on a hot sidewalk.

Posted by Rich
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Jaime Satterfield Speaks and A Question for Jack McElroy

Jaime Satterfield participated in a chat with KNS readers over the lunch hour today to answer questions about the Baumgartner case. I was working and unable to participate, but Lissa was able to ask a couple of questions. The chat transcript is here, but I've excerpted a couple of key comments below, because it appears she has answered the question in my last post.

Jamie Satterfield:
Judge Blackwood ruled retrials are necessary for two reasons: Baumgartner was too wasted to act in his role as 13th juror and the trials were unconstitutionally flawed because of the crimes he was committing during those trials
Jamie Satterfield:
We all noticed his behavior on the final day of Vanessa Coleman's trial. I confronted him afterward and he said he had health issues and was taking time off, which he did. When he returned, he initially seemed better
Jamie Satterfield:
It's not his health issues that were the problem. He was committing crimes during these trials and taking 10 to 30 pills a day during these trials

So Satterfield is saying that she was closely watching the judge and the trial at a time when he was taking 10-30 pills a day, and she only noticed anything strange during the last day of the trial when he nearly passed out at the bench. Apparently, observation is not her strong suit.

Another question from the chat asked about the affiliation of the judges involved. Her answer:
Jamie Satterfield:
Baumgartner is a democrat first appointed by gov. mcwherter and later elected by Knox Countians. Blackwood is retired and serves on special cases at the request of the supreme court. Schmutzer, a republican, also is retired but serves as special prosecutor at request of DA's conference. Don't know blackwood's politics. He's pretty darn conservative (Emphasis mine)

Ummm....yeah. 'He's a conservative but I don't know his politics.' Ok, maybe she just doesn't want to make assumptions. But then there's this:
Comment From Hailey
JB sat on the bench under the influence, by his own admittance, for nearly three years. How is it that NO ONE noticed that he was impaired during that time? Not the DA, defense counsel, witnesses, jury members, observers, the media .... No one saw anything out of line???

Jamie Satterfield:
Rich, all I can speak for is myself. What I saw was a man who on most days functioned fine but who on occassion seemed sick and tired. He had an explanation for that. It is documented that he suffered pancreatitis. He used his health as an excuse

As I said earlier, I didn't participate in the chat; Lissa did. Ms Satterfield apparently assumed it was me, possibly because I've questioned the quality of her coverage before, mostly on the Henry Granju case.

Putting everything together, what Ms Satterfield has said is that she accepted without question the excuses given to her by the judge for a continued pattern of poor performance in the courtroom and never once showed any curiosity about whether or not he was telling the truth.

In another part of the chat, she laments that nobody came to her with reports of the judge's behavior. I always thought that reporters were supposed to go out and find the stories, not wait for them to be dropped in their laps. She was in the courtroom day after day. She saw the judge's erratic behavior first hand and it never even occurred to her to investigate it.

Last post, I asked whether it was incompetence or corruption that kept this story from breaking years ago, before the tax payers were placed on the hook for the retrial of potentially thousands of cases. Today, according to Ms. Satterfield, the question has been answered and I guess we should all be grateful that it wasn't corruption.

And now I think the word 'incompetence' was too strong. Complacency, rather than incompetence, seems more applicable to this story. Ms. Satterfield, once engaged, does do a pretty good job at reporting the facts. It seems that sometimes, it's just difficult for her to get engaged. Ms. Satterfield saw what she expected to see, heard what she expected to hear, and never looked beyond the surface. And that's fine for most occupations, but a reporter is supposed to look deeper, isn't she? Aren't reporters supposed to ask the tough questions, to dig for the truth? When did it become the norm for reporters to accept the easy excuse?

My question now is not for Ms. Satterfield; she's given us her answers. She's said that she can sit in a courtroom day after day with a judge who was taking 10-30 prescription pain pills a day, and not notice anything out of the ordinary unless he actually passes out. My kudos to her for her honesty.

My question is for Jack McElroy. Sir, your paper is supposed to be the watchdog of the people. One of your highest functions, as you wrote so eloquently in your blog, is to shine the light on local government, so that the citizens can see that their officials are dong the job they were hired to do effectively and honestly. The TBI report makes it very clear that many people in city and county government were aware of Baumgartner's drug use well before the Christian/Newsome trials. Obviously, a fairly wide array of folks outside of the government knew as well; his doctor, his suppliers, his pharmacist, etc. Others were aware of how he was bending/breaking laws to protect his dealers, and other associates. What the TBI file makes most clear in fact, is that it appears that the only people who didn't know what was going on were employed by the KNS.

So, how did your paper fail so badly at its primary function? How can so many people know about a prominent judge who is also a junkie, and your paper miss the story entirely? Why is it that you needed the TBI to release its investigation when you have a newsroom filled with reporters who should be developing the story themselves? What steps are you taking to improve your performance? Your paper has been accused in the past of being a part of local government rather than a guardian of the public, a charge that must be seen as credible now, given the myopia demonstrated about this story.

On the other hand, if you believe that the KNS did a good job, then tell us why. How is it that you can miss criminal activity by a prominent judge that extends over a period of years and still claim that the KNS is doing its job?

Or to put it another way, what good is a newspaper that fails to find out and report the news?

Posted by Rich
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Saturday, December 03, 2011

Turning a Blind Eye: The KNS and Richard Baumgartner

The Knoxville News Sentinel has been detailing the extensive drug use of former judge Richard Baumgartner, and calling out the dozens of people who surrounded him personally and professionally who had knowledge of the judge's drug use, yet did nothing to remove him from the bench, force him to get help, or in the case of Knoxville District Attorney Randy Nichols, investigate or prosecute him when presented with clear evidence that the judge was violating the law. The KNS points out all the people who knew or suspected that the judge had a problem, but they are curiously silent on one point.

Why didn't they know anything about it?

The KNS is the only paper in town; their court reporter, Jamie Satterfield, has reported on Baumgartner's courtroom for years, including the entire Christian/Newsome case. How can it be possible for her to spend that much time observing the judge and not notice that he was blitzed out of his mind?

Is she really that unobservant?

It's not beyond the realm of possibility. The staff of the KNS does not seem to possess an overabundance of curiosity when it comes to reporting on the dealings of the Knox County Sheriff's Office or the DA's office. They're pretty content with rewriting press releases and accepting statements from Knoxville's powers-that-be without question. It's possible that she could observe Baumgartner passing out during the climax of the trial of the decade and not suspect that maybe something was going on.

Of course, there is another possibility. The KNS may have known about Baumgartner's addiction and decided not to run with the story. Baumgartner had a lot of people covering for him. Who's to say there wasn't a publisher among them?

So which is worse, an oblivious reporter or a complicit publisher?

What good is a newspaper that either cannot or will not report the news?

Posted by Rich
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Friday, November 11, 2011

Joe Paterno Belongs in Jail, not the College Football Hall of Fame

Believe it or not, there are sports writers that want us to take all the good that Paterno has done for college football over the years into account instead of remembering him just for the fact that he covered up for a child rapist.

Pete Rose must be furious.

I don't give a damn what 'good' Paterno did as he taught young men how to play a game; he covered up a child rape, and by doing so, enabled the rapist to continue hurting children for over a decade. To me, that's grounds not just for dismissal, but a life time ban from being around kids, civil penalties, and jail time as an accomplice before and after the fact. The Penn State football program should be given the death penalty by the NCAA, the entire chain of command from the assistant who saw the rape through the President needs to be fired and prosecuted.

I'm on vacation and haven't been at the computer that much, but from what I understand, the basic storyline is that Jerry Sandusky, a coach at Penn State has spent the last 30 years or so abusing young boys, most of whom he met through his charitable foundation, The Second Mile, a foundation designed to help boys with bad families. He brought the boys to the Penn State locker room, where he showered with them, and raped them.

In 1998, State College Police were notified by the mother of one victim that Sandusky had showered naked with the boy. They investigated, along with the Pennsylvania department of Public Welfare. Sandusky admits to showering naked with the boy, but no charges are ever filed.

In 2000, a janitor sees Sandusky performing oral sex on a boy between 11 and 13. he informs his superior, as well as his co-workers, one of whom also sees Sandusky with the boy. The report goes nowhere.

In 2002, then graduate assistant Mike McQueary sees Sandusky having anal sex with a 10 year old boy in the shower. He does not stop the rape, does not call the police, but does call and tell his father. The next day, he informed Coach Paterno of what he saw. Paterno does not call the police, but informs the AD, Tim Curley. Curley informs Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz. Neither Schultz nor Curley call the police or inform the family, although several weeks later, they tell McQueary that Sandusky no longer has keys to the locker room, although he still remains on campus and has an office in the athletic complex.

In 2008, a boy's mother reports to her son's school that Sandusky has had sexual contact with her son over a period of several years. In 2009, the DA begins an investigation. In November of 2011, Sandusky was arraigned on 40 counts relating to sexual abuse of at least 9 victims. Curley and Shultz step down, while Paterno and University President Graham Spanier are fired by the University's Board of Directors.

How can you see a 10 year old boy being raped and not step in to stop it immediately? And when you hear about it, how can you cover it up? How can you not call the police? How can you put the welfare of a University or a football program over that of a young child?

Apparently, our culture has sunk to the point where the value we place on our children is lower than the value we place on our institutions and our sports teams. Students at Penn state rioted when they heard that Paterno had been fired, and sports journalists are busy trying to whitewash his reputation already, insulting him from the damage he's caused through his cover up. This even though there is a report that Sandusky has been on recruiting trips for Penn State even this year, which means that Paterno, despite knowing what Sandusky has done, is comfortable sending him out to interact with high school boys.

That just staggers my imagination.

As I said at the start, Paterno needs to go to jail, as does Curley, Schultz, McQueary, and anybody else at Penn State who knew what was going on and did nothing to stop it. Given that the coverup reached the highest level of the school administration, and extended over 10 years, during which time more kids were abused, the NCAA should give Penn State the death penalty for football, if not for all athletic programs. The fact that this probably will not happen is a disgraceful commentary on our society.

A culture is not judged by its best and brightest, but by the lowest level of performance it accepts. Penn State set the bar about as low as it could be set.

Will the rest of us raise it?

Posted by Rich
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Monday, August 31, 2009

Disney Buys Marvel

The folks at Disney have just made an offer to buy out Marvel Comics.

My interest in upcoming Marvel movie projects just dropped by 75%.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Profiling, Racial and Otherwise

I was profiled and pulled over.

My race wasn't at issue; the issue was that I was driving through New Jersey with Florida tags and pulling a trailer, following another car with Florida tags. The police officer who pulled us over said that he suspected we were carrying drugs, and when he found out we were all in the Navy and that the closest thing to drugs we were carrying was two aspirins and some pipe tobacco, warned us not to tell anybody or he would end our lives.

I was profiled and pulled over another time.

My race wasn't at issue; the issue was that I was driving through a small town in another state at 2AM on a Thursday night. The police officer who pulled me over said I had been "driving erratically," which was completely untrue; he pulled me over because I didn't belong in his town, particularly at 2AM.

Now a Harvard professor was arrested for demanding that an officer give him his name and badge number after that officer questioned him for supposedly breaking in to his own house.

Folks, this isn't a race issue; it's an abuse of power issue. The common factor in all three cases, and in so many others, is not race, but an abuse of police power. I was pulled over twice for the "crime" of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pr. Gates was arrested for refusing to co-operate with an officer, and for demanding accountability from that officer. The interesting question is not "Would a white man have been arrested in the same circumstances?" Believe me, had I or any other white man gotten in the face of that officer, we too would have been arrested. The interesting question is "Would the charges have been dropped without the professors fame and credentials?"

Like I said, it's not about race; it's about power and its abuse. Did the officer abuse his power when he harassed and arrested Gates? It's a hard call to make. Gates deliberately provoked and antagonized the officer, but does that give the officer the right to detain or arrest Gates? Some would argue that the police must maintain an aura of inviolability in order to do their jobs safely. In order to work effectively, police must be able to send the message that if you mess with them, you will pay a price. There is some validity to this argument because without that aura of authority, the only power the officer has is his weapon, and we really don't want that to be the only way he has to enforce the law. Police are not arbiters of the law; they are enforcers. On the other hand, we are citizens, not subjects. Should we be required to surrender our rights at the whim of any police officer who feels like we don't belong? Should we be compelled to identify ourselves to any officer who asks? Obviously not.

On the other hand, did Gates provoke this confrontation and his eventual arrest? Consider the circumstances. The police were called because a neighbor saw two men breaking in to a house. They arrive at the house to find the front door forced open and two men inside the house. Wouldn't it be reasonable for them to ask for identification at this point, whether the two men were black or white? Should Gates have gotten angry for being asked to identify himself, or should he have been grateful that the police were working to protect his property? What if you were in the same situation. Suppose you just had to break in to your own house and a neighbor called the police because they saw two people trying to break in. When the police got there, would you be angry that they wanted to make sure that you belonged there, or would you be grateful that they were doing their job?

It boils down to a simple question: Did the officer ask for Gates identification to verify that he was the rightful occupant, or because he was black? Gates wasn't arrested for breaking and entering; he was arrested for disorderly conduct for arguing with and pursuing the officer when the officer was trying to end the incident. Given the circumstances, and the fact that the officer was trying to leave the property while Gates continued to engage with him, it seems that the former is more likely.

The real profiling here was done by Pr. Gates, who, in his fatigue and frustration, revealed his prejudice against the police. He instantly assumed that it was all about his race, and not the circumstances. He later admitted that the woman who called 911 in the first place did the right thing, which is curious because if she did the right thing, then how could the responding officer be faulted for doing his job by following up on the call? Obviously, he can't. The officer was doing his job, nothing more. I haven't read anything that said he treated Pr. Gates with anything less than full courtesy. There's no reports that he pulled a weapon on him, or physically confronted him. All we know is that he asked for ID. That's his job and in those circumstances if he hadn't done that, he would have been negligent.

To most folks, this negates the racial aspect of this incident completely. Gates wasn't arrested for breaking and entering, and he wasn't arrested for being a black man; he was arrested for getting belligerent with a police officer who was doing his duty. But if this were just a story about a man arrested for getting belligerent with a police officer, well, it wouldn't sell a whole lot of newspapers, would it?

Posted by Rich
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Saturday, July 18, 2009

My Tribute to Walter Cronkite

It is simply this:

It wasn't until after Mr. Cronkite retired that we the viewing public learned anything about his politics. Sadly, today's news people see that as a bug, not a feature.

Posted by Rich
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Friday, July 17, 2009

You HAve Got to be Kidding Me!

A woman refused a C section and courts ruled that her decision constituted child neglect and abuse and terminated her parental rights.

DYFS commenced a Title 9 proceeding pursuant to the Abandonment, Abuse, Cruelty and Neglect Act (the Act), N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21 to -8.106, and placed J.M.G. in its custody. At the fact-finding hearing, the trial judge found that J.M.G. was an abused and neglected child due in part to her parents' failure to cooperate with medical personnel at the time of her birth. V.M.'s refusal to consent to a c-section factored heavily into this decision. Later, at a permanency hearing, the judge approved DYFS's plan for termination of parental rights and foster family adoption.

Now, if she had requested a late term abortion, everything would have been peachy, right?

Posted by Rich
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