Friday, September 19, 2014

The Chocolate-cream Soldier and other bonbons

While driving to an appointment yesterday, I thought I heard a report on the radio news that the United States is giving Ukraine $53 billion to build up its army, but no weapons.

How absurd, I thought, and of course I had misheard. It's only $43 billion, or about 100 Solyndras.

The image of Buntschli, the mercenary in "Arms and the Man" who goes unarmed and uses his cartridge case only to carry chocolates, came immediately to mind, since Ukraine's president is the "chocolate king." Life seldom imitates art so clearly.

Later in the day, I heard King, er, President Poroshenko solemnly promise to an open-handed, empty-headed and madly cheering Congress (ours) that sure, for certain all of our dollars will go only to incorrupt institutions, which must have magically sprung up since Transparency International did its rankings last year. Ukraine finished 144th.


An honest, open crook

After that, it was almost refreshing to read about Jack Ma. American investors are going to give him around $24 billion (50 Solyndras) for no share in the governance of his fencing operation, Alibaba. All they want is a rakeoff on the profits from selling fake gold coins.

Ma and his gang make no pretense of being anything other than thieves. I do not believe they are more thievish than the mill run of other corporate leaders, just less shy about saying so. Certainly they got along with the corrupt bankers of New York like, well, thieves.

There was no sign that any American investors were reluctant to invest in a corrupt business. They're like Congress that way.

Who is dying in Africa?

The vastly overhyped Ebola epidemic is not West Africa's leading health problem. It may not be in the top 3. But it scares the be-hoozis out of Westerners.

As of today, Ebola hemorhagic fever is reported to have killed 2,500 people. Even if the accurate total is 5,000, that's only 1% of the deaths each year from malaria in Africa.

Measles kills more, too.

But you don't hear rightwingers screaming about measles being brought over the border, and you don't hear even sensible people fretting about malaria arriving via air passengers in New York. (Direct air links between Africa and the United States by American carriers are a recent development.) 

Because they don't think they are going to be sickened at home by measles or malaria. It's a good idea to speak to the locals about how they view the situation.

UPDATE, SATURDAY: From The Washington Post, a column recommending speaking to the locals. I cannot say I particularly agree with all of the column, but the comments are, for the most part, appalling.

 Stupid science tricks

What if you ran an experiment in which half the subjects showed a possible change that might indicate a tendency to a postulated, but unproven, pathway to a medical condition in some people? And in the other half it didn't? And the sample size was 7? You might think that is practically the definition of an inconclusive result.

Virtually every editor in the country put the story on Page One.

The subject is sweeteners. Oh. Morality not science.

Dang liberals

Remember all the bad words liberals applied to Cliven Bundy? Add shiftless. You know who you can
always count on for words about family values and taking personal responsibility: the Palins. Actually demonstrating either, well, no, never. You know whose fault that is? Liberals.


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