Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Monday, January 23, 2012

Our Kitchen Nightmare: The Beginning

There are actually two nightmares. The first is the kitchen itself; the second is that we are going to completely demolish and renovate it.

In 9 days.

Yep. 9 days from kitchen pathetic to kitchen fantastic, and we're doing all of the work ourselves. Well, except for fabricating and installing the countertops; we're letting professionals do that. But everything else, we're doing.
  1. I'm building custom cabinets.

  2. We're doing all of the demo work ourselves.

  3. We're taking out a wall, one sliding glass door, and a window.

  4. We're installing a larger window, a smaller door, and not replacing the wall.

  5. We're rewiring the kitchen to bring it up to code, and improve the lighting, which right now sucks.

  6. We're replumbing the sink, garbage disposal, dishwasher and refrigerator.

  7. We're moving the stove to a more useable location.

  8. We're repainting, installing a new subfloor, and new flooring.

And we're going to do it all in 9 days.

We will be doing some prep work ahead of time. Obviously, I'll have the cabinets built and finished prior to the day we start, and we'll remove the appliances and empty the cabinets before we begin. I'll also clear out the attic over the kitchen and pre-stage some of the electrical wiring for the job, Other than that, and the 2 week wait for the fabrication of the counter top after we install the cabinets, everything else willo be done during the nine days from March 17th to March 26th.

I hope.

Follow the link to see some images of what we have now, and where we're going to be soon.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

$6.5 Million Dollar Drug Drug Ring in Knox County

According to the Knoxville News Sentinel
[Eric Christopher] Hefner was arrested Friday on a federal indictment alleging he headed up a pill-trafficking ring in West Knoxville and Oak Ridge, but Poston said he's been on the radar of the DEA, the IRS and U.S. Postal Service inspectors since September thanks to a tip from a "source."

DEA knew about him. The IRS knew about him. Heck, the Post Office knew about him.

But somehow, he managed to fly under Sheriff J.J. Jones' radar while importing 260,000 pills a year into Knox and Anderson County.

Then again, unless you're running a home poker game, it appears to be fairly easy to fly under his radar.

Fortunately for the citizens of Knox County, a 'source' provided information to the DEA in September and using that information, the DEA , IRS and the US Postal Service launched an investigation.

The timing of the source is interesting because if I remember correctly, there was another drug related story making the local news in September, one that also involved the distribution of prescription pills, and involved the arrests of 4 local dealers. I would be very interested to find out if the DEA source was either one of those dealers, or somebody else involved with that investigation.

If there is a connection, and my personal opinion is that a connection is more likely than not, then Friday's arrest can be chalked directly up to the refusal of a mother to allow her son's death to be written off as just another overdose. The KCSO closed the case and said that there was no way to pursue it further or arrest the people involved. The KPD thought differently, and the people involved with Henry's death now face criminal drug charges. Even better, if the two cases are connected, that means that federal agencies have gotten involved and are chasing this thing up the ladder to take down the major players.

And maybe, just maybe, the ones who have been protecting them.

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
NewsPolitiFact Check • (1) CommentsPermalink

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, January 02, 2012

Thank You Jaime Satterfield

In a moment of inadvertent honesty, Ms. Satterfield gave us all a glimpse behind the mask of impartiality and allowed us to see the truth about the bias that exists at the KNS.

On Friday, Jaime tweeted the following:
"@jamiescoop: How ironic is it that a blogger uses docs I obtained after court fight to trash my reporting as inept and her cult followers eat it up?"

Over at Knoxviews, rocketsquirrel has an excellent post detailing all the ways this tweet is unprofessional.

But despite the unprofessional nature of the tweet, which has since been deleted, I can't help but applaud its honesty. Ms Satterfield very openly expressed her contempt for Katie, and all the folks who have joined her fight for justice. In Satterfield's eyes, we're a cult, blindly following Katie on a Quixotic mission to destroy the KCSO, the DA, and the KNS.

This attitude explains why Satterfield's reporting on Henry's case has been so poor; she has already decided there's no story there, and no amount of evidence is going to change her mind. In fact, she's so sure of herself that any attempt to change her mind will be met with closed minded scorn.

What I wonder now is whether or not Jack McElroy will continue to allow Ms. Satterfield to cover stories related to Katie and to Baumgartner. The tweet makes it very clear that Ms. Satterfield is no longer capable of objective reporting on the Baumgartner story or Henry's story.

But if her biases aren't reason enough, then perhaps her friendship with one of the principles in the case, Special Prosecuter Al Schmutzer is. According to a recent post by Ms. Granju:
Knoxville News Sentinel reporter Jamie Satterfield, (who in a recent live interview with local talk radio host George Korda volunteered the information that Special Prosecutor Al Schmutzer is a personal friend of hers, something one might reasonably think would make her a less than ideal choice for covering this story) wrote the June 3, 2011 article about Gibson’s disturbing claims.

The irony here is that Ms. Satterfield herself called me out for this very thing in an email exchange I documented in this post.
FROM:Satterfield, Jamie
TO: rhailey
Thursday, August 4, 2011 1:27 PM
If I were close enough to one side in a story to accompany her to the sheriff's office I could not ethically report on the case as a reporter. Maybe the rules for bloggers aren't as stringent.

And we're back to that again. I'm asking questions without easy answers, so now I'm unprofessional and lacking standards.

My response:

You may our may not have noticed, but I did not report on Katie's trip to the sheriff's office. Instead I provided an eye witness account to a reporter who wasn't there and who had voiced misgivings about how the incident was portrayed by one of the participants.

My standards are just fine.

Ms. Satterfield is now actively doing exactly what she called me out for, writing a story about people I was personally involved with.

So, while I applaud her honesty in demonstrating her bias, I'm now hoping she will demonstrate an equal amount of journalistic integrity, and allow somebody else without her bias and without her close relationship with one or more of the principle figures to cover both the Granju story and the Baumgartner story.

In her own words, that would be the ethical thing to do.

But will she live up to them?

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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Mr McElroy Speaks…Says Nothing

Coincidentally, while I was writing the last post, Jack McElroy was also writing on his blog, The Up Front Page. He was reacting to the questions my wife and I, as well as others, are asking, namely, why didn't the KNS know about this a long time ago? And if they did, why didn't they publish?

In his answer, he reposted the question from Lissa, as well as Satterfield's response during the chat, then added the following:

When Satterfield broke the news that the TBI was investigating Baumgartner, she reported that he had appeared disoriented at the end of the Coleman trial. That report apparently triggered a subpoena for her testimony at the hearing over the motion for new trials in the Christian-Newsom case. The subpoena was waived after attorneys agreed that any testimony she gave would match what she reported in the story.

As it turned out, there was plenty of evidence of Baumgartner's problems beyond what a newspaper reporter could see from a courtroom bench.

That's the best he could do? Once again pointing his finger at the other people who should have done something, all the while refusing to notice that he and his staff also did nothing?

The phrase that really gets me is the last one, "...there was plenty of evidence of Baumgartner's problems beyond what a newspaper reporter could see from a courtroom bench." Is it too much to expect from our newspaper that its reporters occasionally get their butts up off the bench and actually do some real investigating? Or is that too hopelessly old fashioned?

Let's be clear; the newspaper does not have a responsibility to see that justice is done. That's the domain of the justice system. But the newspaper does have a responsibility to report the news, and to look for corruption in government before it becomes blindingly obvious and prohibitively expensive. And for future reference, a judge passing out during the delivery of a verdict in a major trial qualifies as blindingly obvious.

I left a comment on Mr. McElroy's post, a slight reworking of the tail end of my last post. I'll put it here just in case it doesn't make it through moderation:

Mr. McElroy, I appreciate that you are willing to address this issue openly, but your answer is lacking. While it is true that many people knew about Mr. Baumgartner's drug problem, it is irrelevant to the question of whether or not the News Sentinel should also have known.

Your paper is supposed to be the watchdog of the people. One of your highest functions, as you wrote so eloquently in your blog about the subpoena process, is to shine the light on local government, and to hold them accountable. The TBI report makes it very clear that many people in city and county government were aware of Baumgartner's drug use. It is just as clear that a fairly wide array of folks outside of the government knew as well; his doctor, his suppliers, his pharmacists, etc. Others were aware of how he was bending/breaking laws to protect his dealers, and other associates. In fact, what the TBI file makes most clear is that it appears that the only people who didn't know what was going on were employed by the News Sentinel.

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 in order to find out what was going on when you had one of your senior reporters right there the whole time? More importantly, what steps are you taking to improve your performance?

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 Hailey at December 5, 2011 7:51 PM

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, October 17, 2011

Building the JHA

I've gotten some good input from opus, marisa, and a commenter who wants to remain anonymous, and I'm using it to start building the list of the steps along the road to drug abuse, and all the primary and collateral decision points and risks associated with those steps. At this point, we're still brain storming, so if you see something we've missed, please let me know in the comments. The only thing I don't want right now is criticism of any off the ideas listed. The first stage is to get everything we can written down and placed into a framework. We aren't editing yet; just gathering information.

So, here is what we have so far.

Drug Abuse Risk Analysis
Process StepContributing factorsSubfactorsHazards
1. Making the decision to use
External Pressures
Family History
Social Acceptance
Internal Pressures
Pain Relief
Family Isolation or Indifference
Family Crisis (Divorce, Death, Job Loss)
2. Acquisition
Their Own
Family Member
From family member
Prescription or Illegal
Dealers in Neighborhood
Dealers Outside of Neighborhood
3. Funding
4. Using
Personal Effects
Drug Effects
Brain Damage
Organ Toxicity
Cardiac Damage
Respiratory System Damage
Psychological Damage
Other Effects
Toxic Stretchers
Bloodborne Disease
Crime Related
Criminal Activity
Loss of Freedom (Arrest)
Loss of Judgment
Loss of Friends
Loss of Integrity
Family Effects
Loss of Trust
5. Addiction
Drug Effects
Brain Damage
Organ Toxicity
Cardiac Damage
Respiratory System Damage
Psychological Damage
Other Effects
Toxic Stretchers
Bloodborne Disease
Crime Related
Criminal Activity
Loss of Freedom (Arrest)
Loss of Judgment
Loss of Friends
Loss of Integrity
Loss of Job
Loss of Home
Financial Insolvency
Loss of Morality
Family Effects
Loss of Trust

Well, this is a good start, and I'm sure there's lots of missing pieces, so feel free to jump in the comments and add to the list anywhere. We can start adding more hazards to the list, as well as adding more steps, drivers, and factors.

We can already see that drug use is extremely complex, with many factors and drivers. Saying that parents are fully responsible is just as wrong as saying they are completely helpless. The truth, as it usually is, is somewhere in the middle.

What this means is that there won't be any simple solutions. Interdicting the drug supply without dealing with the drivers will only cause kids to choose different drugs, based on what is available. At the same time, making drugs readily accessible will only allow more kids who are predisposed to addiction to become trapped.

The right answer will eb a mix of approaches that is designed to answer the drivers while mitigating the risks.

We've made a good start. Let's keep it moving.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Controlling Hazards

One of the things I've been thinking about a lot recently is how to approach a problem as complex as drug abuse among children. As you have pointed out, there are a lot of different factors at work, social, psychological, genetic, behavioral, and probably some more that we haven't come up with yet. So how do we formulate a strategy to deal with all of these various factors?

The traditional approach has been to treat the problem following an economic model, breaking it down into supply and demand. On the supply side, we have the war on drugs, with all of it's heavy handed tactics and bureaucratic excesses. On the demand side, we get "Just Say No."

I think we can all agree that this approach has yielded less than acceptable results.

So I'm thinking of a different approach, one that has worked exceptionally well in another frame of reference.

Health and safety professionals in an industrial setting have to keep workers safe from all sorts of industrial hazards. Moving machinery, hazardous chemicals, toxic wastes, airborne contaminants are just a few of the hazards they have to defend against. To handle all of these varied threats, they've developed a three tiered approach that is flexible enough to adapt to any hazard, while allowing specific measures to be designed that effectively protect the employees.

This is exactly the kind of approach we need, flexible enough to account for all the different risk factors while specific enough to effectively protect our kids from the dangers of drug abuse.

The approach breaks down into three tiers of protection.

Tier one is called Engineered Controls. This is the first line of defense, and our primary tool for industrial safety. Engineered controls are those which are built into a system that function automatically to keep hazards away from the employee. Examples would be machine guards installed over moving equipment that prevent an employee from being entangled, crushed. or otherwise harmed. Other examples would be pressure relief valves, directed ventilation, or automated alarm systems. Engineered controls are divided into two classes, active and passive. Passive controls require no actions on the part of the employee. They function automatically. For example, a pressure relief valve that releases overpressure automatically is a passive control. A ventilation hood used in chemistry labs, on the other hand. is an active control. The employee must do the work under the hood to receive the benefits. The two defining characteristics of an engineered control, active or passive, is that they operate without requiring protective actions on the part of the employee, and they generally aim to keep the hazard away from the employee.

Tier two is called administrative controls. At this level, our engineered controls have not completely isolated the hazard, so now we institute policies and procedures, rules of behavior that are intended to keep the employees away from the hazards. Examples include setting up exclusion areas, stay times, and work restrictions. The focus of an administrative control is to prevent the employee from coming into contact with the hazard and their effectiveness relies on the compliance of the employee.

Tier three is work practices and protective gear. This is the lowest tier, and the last resort. At this level, the employee must, for whatever reason, be exposed to the hazard. Since we can no longer isolate the employee from the hazard, we must give him or her the tools necessary to work safely in or around the hazard. Those tools include specialized training, protective equipment, task specific work practices, environmental monitoring, and safety oversight, just to name a few.

Now, in order to determine which tier to use, and what method we can use to implement that tier, we have to understand the hazards we face. We do a Job Hazard Analysis, or JHA. In the JHA, we break each job down into it's individual tasks, then we analyze each task for the risks associated with that task. For each risk, we assign a priority based on two criteria, the severity of the risk, and the probability of it actually happening. For example, a risk with a low severity and low likelihood would be assigned to Tier three. High severity and highly likely would be Tier 1, or possibly a combination of Tiers 1 and 2.

The combination of the JHA plus the three tiers of industrial safety gives us a flexible tool to thoroughly analyze a job, determine the risks and to mitigate those risks long before an employee every clocks in for his first shift.

So, how well will this work when we apply it to drug abuse?

I think it fits very well. we're talking about hazardous substances, with multiple effects, multiple routes of entry, and dozens of secondary hazards associated with them. We've got a bunch of external factors that affect the amount of risk, all of which creates a very complex situation, but one whose parameters are right in line with this approach. For the JHA, we'll look not just at the risk of overdose and addiction, but all the other risks that go along with drug use. We'll look at each step along the path to addiction and death by overdose, and assign priorities just like we would with a JHA, by severity and likelihood. Then we'll look at all three tiers of controls and see what we can put into action to mitigate the risks. The First tier is the trickiest to adapt, since there aren't many mechanical systems we can put into place, but remember that the emphasis on the first tier is to keep the hazard away from the employee, or in this case, to keep drugs away from our kids. Tier two would then become keeping our kids away from drugs, while tier three would be the last resort, what to do when our kids have already fallen prey to drug abuse.

This approach hits the problem from all angles and all stages and I think if we work at it, we'll come up with a comprehensive plan for dealing with the dangers drug use represents for our kids.

Let me know what you think in the comments, and let's start brainstorming. For Thursday, break down drug abuse into each step, from acquiring the drugs through taking them, the high, and then the crash afterward. Build a list of the hazards involved in each step. I'll post my list on Thursday, and we'll put all of them together to put together the first step of out JHA. Please take this seriously, as the results will only be as good as the effort you put into it.

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