News, Part I

I guess we won’t have my cuz to kick around for a while, eh.

A plurality of Canadians have given Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party the boot after nine years and elected Justin Trudeau to head a new Liberal government in Canadian federal elections held two weeks ago. Mr. Trudeau takes office November 4.

I didn’t learn that on Facebook. It was probably tweeted but even the curated Twitter feed is too congested to pick out that tidbit.

In fact, I don’t get my news from Twitter or Facebook. Here’s why.

Here’s what is trending this morning on Facebook:

• Clear Food: Report Finds Some Vegetarian Hot Dogs Contain Meat, Traces of Human DNA
• Maureen O’Hara: Actress Known for Role in ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ Film Dies at Age 95
• Vancouver Island: Whale Watching Boat Sinks With 27 on Board, Killing at Least 5
• Jimmy Morales: Former TV Comedian Elected President of Guatemala in Landslide Victory
• Chris Christie: Governor of New Jersey Kicked Off Amtrak Quiet Car for Talking on Phone
• Comet Lovejoy: Researcher Says Comet Is Producing Alcohol and Sugar
• Germaine Greer: Feminist Writer Says Transgender Women Are Not Women During ‘Newsnight’ Interview
• Florida Bear Hunt: Federal Agency Ends Hunt in Central Florida After 207 Bears Get Killed

Truth? I don’t care if Amtrak kicked Chris Christie off the quiet car any more than I care that American Airlines kicked Alec Baldwin off a plane for playing games on his own cellphone. It was boorish behavior but it wasn’t news.

“I am more inclined to follow it on the internet. TV news is too slanted. Reporters deliver the news with political slants to the left or right and they dilute the actual facts of the event,” wrote a Yahoo forum correspondent.

I’ve watched plenty of people click every link in the “Trending” column of their Facebook feed. That, of course, pleases Mr. Zuckerberg. But they made the same fundamental error as our Yahoo correspondent.

That Yahoo correspondent thinks that Internet news is less skewed and is more fact-checked than other sources. We “drink from the firehose” of “information overload” in the best of times. Probably better that our firehose be pumping something of substance.

This is news, as reported this morning in the NYTimes:

• Health Care Co-op Closings Narrow Consumers’ Choices
• Criminal Charges and $50 Million Fine Expected in Goldman-New York Fed Case
• Afghanistan and Pakistan Hit by Huge Earthquake
• Right-Wing Party Roars Back in Polish Elections
• Broadband: New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman Launching Probe Into Internet Speeds
• General Motors and the United Automobile Workers union [that owns 8.7% of GM stock, down from 17.5% in the 2009 car theft] reached a tentative agreement
• The Obama administration called for a testing cap so that no child spends more than 2 percent of classroom instruction time taking exams.

Every one of those stories has an impact on your life and mine.

The truth is that most news isn’t all that important when counted against your day-to-day life or mine. Facebook might argue that the “ambient engagement” and “community awareness” their Trending line offers provides the context we need to get through the day.


So, knowing that Germaine Greer thinks transgender women should use the men’s room helps me put food on the table?

I’m all for absorbing data by osmosis but the way we actually answer the questions of whether we can afford a new car this year or if it is safe to walk the street after dark rarely comes from the fake reports; it comes from the hard news of consumer prices, the Cleveland Clinic’s new mobile stroke unit, and what laws (if any) Congress passed last week.

News is more accessible than ever, but it’s up to us to find it. There’s more information in one daily NYTimes or Wall Street Journal than I can digest and the Internoodle just compounds the problem. The Interwebs deliver little but what you want to hear, not what you need to know.

Next week, we’ll look at the quality of the news instead of the quantity and the headlines.

As a side note, anyone who thinks hot dogs don’t contain stuff you don’t want to know about including traces of human and rat DNA, also believes their favorite politician told them the truth today.



I’m bored.

Miz Gekko wrote about boredom and creativity but this is different.

I like working on/worrying on a problem or a process or simply an idea. I can wander around in the cellar in the back of my head, move the furniture around, blow the dust aside with the air compressor, and make connections or come up with something new. I used to do that all the time while standing in a grocery line or sitting on the toilet or commuting. Somewhere along the way, I lost some of that time.

My need to make some changes to the No Puffin Perspective™ has nothing to do with gaining time to commune with the guys in the cellar.

My need to make some changes has everything to do with what I write about.

I need to freshen my approach.

The Perspective™ has indeed exposed a number of the issues we face, from the general lies, to the Comcast lies, to the political lies in pseudoscience and finance.

Don’t worry, I’ll still point out when we need a new head for the CDC (and for the guy who appoints the CDC Director).

Today in Medicine
We need a new CDC Director.

Norah O’Donnell asked the yes-or-no question on CBS Face the Nation yesterday, “Do we need to mandate the MMR vaccination?”

CDC Director Tom Frieden danced around it but never said yes.

It is a tragedy that the measles vaccine had eliminated measles from the U.S. by the year 2000. Fewer than 100 cases have been reported every year since, but 644 people became infected in 27 states in 2014. 84 cases of measles were reported in January of this year alone. Most are in California where airhead parents listening to their bubble headed, celebrity, political “scientists” have opted out of vaccinations. [<==Note Editorial Commentary]

Public schools do require kids to be vaccinated but California parents can exempt their kids simply by saying they have a “personal objection” to vaccination. Of the 6,236,672 kids enrolled in 10,366 California schools, nearly 200,000 may not be vaccinated against measles and over two million have not received all seven CDC-recommended shots. Those 200,000 put thee and me at risk. Your kids, too.

CDC Director Tom Frieden danced around the question but he never said yes.

Here’s the plan.

Week 1: Random Fancies from the “you just won’t believe this” department.

Week 2: Random Storytelling from North Puffin.

Week 3: Random Truthtelling from the topical news

Week 4: Random Storytelling from South Puffin. (We don’t call it Random Access for nothin’ you know.)

Five week months mean you get a week off. Yay!

Don’t worry, I’ll stay on top of my areas of interest and expertise, from business and marketing, and engineering and real science, to heating issues, to the National Debt, teaching, and, of course, healthcare but next week I’ll tell the story of why we had no telephones at Floodstock.

If you are an editor looking for syndication, the new schedule means you can pick up a monthly spot with light explanations of the unexpected, a twice-monthly pair of tales from the northern- and southernmost points of the Puffin range, or all four. Or any other combination.



La La Liberals

Thought for the Day
Some presidents have talked the talk and walked the walk.
Barack Obama talks the talk and walks the links.

This isn’t a comment on how many vacation days Mr. Obama (or any other President) takes. We know that all modern Presidential staffs are in constant contact with the mother ship no matter where POTUS himself happens to be.

This is a comment on how disconnected Mr. Obama is. He gives good speech. Kind of. With a teleprompter. But he sure isn’t much on follow through.

“If he walked on water,” my friend Lido Bruhl said, “you’d complain that he doesn’t get his feet wet. And that TelePrompTer canard is so 2008.”


Here’s talking the talk. A (baker’s) dozen times.

Housing Meltdown:
Create a foreclosure prevention fund for homeowners. Fail.

Notarized Campaign Promise• Create 1 million new manufacturing jobs by the end of 2016 and working to double American exports. Fail.
• Stand up for American workers and businesses by combating China’s trade practices. Fail.

• Develop a Cyber Security Strategy that ensures that we can identify our attackers and a way to respond. Can you spell Snowden? Fail.
• Close Guantanamo Bay. Fail.

• There were 400,000 claims pending within the Veterans Benefits Administration, and over 800,000 expected in 2008. Fail.
• Make the VA a leader of national health care reform. Fail.
• Create a veterans job corps. Fail.

• Close the “doughnut hole” in Medicare. I still have one.
• Expand eligibility for Medicaid. Not in Florida or 23 other states.
• Move the U.S. health care system to standard electronic health records that providers can share. Not in Vermont or most other states.
• “Help up to 40 million, no 30 million, no 15 million, no 7 million, no 7 people get health insurance.”
• “If you like your plan…” Any other questions?

To be fair to my pal Lee, no politician keeps his campaign promises. In fact today, no politician even plans to keep her campaign promises.

To be more fair to my pal Lee, my rug-chewing friend Rufus had the same love affair with Glenn Beck as lefty loons have with Mr. Obama.

“What Beck does surely is news,” Rufus told me. “He has asked the questions I have been asking for months, and he has turned up some answers. I’ve never seen Beck make a statement without sources.

“Of course, I also like a six of Becks Premium light (64 cal /12 oz),” he said in that 2008 exchange.

That’s wrong, too. A 64 calorie slightly alcoholic soda pop isn’t beer.

The only purpose of a news show is to report the answers. Mr. Beck delivered perhaps five minutes of answers leavened with 18 minutes of advertising and 37 minutes of high volume rug chewing.

That ain’t news.

In fact, all that is is rousing the rabble.

Still the usual Liberal approach to
sing Lalalalalalalalala
say the science is settled
or point Oh, look! A squirrel!
and to scamper away does even less for a rational discussion than quoting Mr. Beck (or Keith Olbermann). All that is is rousing the rabble. Sound familiar?

Too many Liberals use the political scientific method: Have an idea and think it’s perfect. Find data that backs up the idea. Conclude it was a great idea and never needs changing.

We can do better.

We could apply the actual scientific method in government: Observe a problem and wonder about it. Do research and gather data. Have an idea. Experiment and gather more data to test the idea. Analyze that real data and draw a conclusion.

Oddly, that could even work on Facebook.


Figures Don’t Lie

Right? Right?

Except Carroll Wright’s entire quote is “Figures do not lie but liars figure.” Carroll D. Wright was United States Commissioner of Labor, addressing Congress at the time; he probably drew on earlier but unattributed versions of the saying.

In the story, Stagnant Wages Imperil Financial Security, the PBS Newshour and Bloomberg News collaborate to paint a deliberate picture of pernicious inflation eating away at our income (true) and that we need to increase the minimum wage to combat it (not true). See, there may be plenty of reasons to increase wages as well as plenty of reasons not to. This story doesn’t tell any of them.

“I would go to neither outlet for facts,” Rufus said when he sent me the original link, “but this is all the way over the top propaganda (or monumentally stupid.)”

PBS Graphic of CPI v. Adjusted WagesAt the core of the story is this animated graphic that they say shows wages aren’t keeping up with prices.

Figures don’t lie but liars do figure.

I had trusted Bloomberg News. Co-founded by former-NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Matthew Winkler, it delivers what we thought was accurate financial news to subscribers. Mr. Winkler was a writer for the Wall Street Journal. Pretty good creds for a finance reporter. They wanted to undercut the competing Dow Jones News Services.

That’s why it disturbs me that Bloomberg’s Roben Farzad would use data he has to know he manipulated to illustrate the PBS story. See, the problem with Mr. Farzad’s chart is that he adjusted the wages data for inflation and then compared the result to inflation. Apples versus oranges. Lies versus truth.

PBS corrected itself. Sort of. “A few of you who visited the NewsHour website last night commented on a graphic we created for yesterday’s show. It was meant to explain the relationship between stagnating wages and inflation. What we should have said is that one reason wages adjusted for inflation have been so flat for so long is that rising consumer prices are eating up a good deal of the gains.” They even offered a chance to view a “selection” of those responses and a corrected graphic but there was no link to the corrected graphic and the main body of the story still uses the wrong one.

Figures don’t lie but liars do figure.

Here’s the chart they should have used:

Published Figures of Minimum Wage Income v. Federal Poverty Level

Huh. Here we can see that published figures of minimum wage income for one person and the annual federal poverty levels for a family or household of one tell the opposite story. Minimum wage income has grown slightly above the alleged market prices in the Federal Poverty Level. The unadjusted data from each year doesn’t lie.

Unfortunately, the real data doesn’t tell the story PBS and Mr. Farzad wanted to tell, does it?

We’re left with two conclusions. Either (a) PBS and Mr. Farzad are too stupid or too uneducated to do simple arithmetic or (b) PBS and Mr. Farzad lied to us to push an agenda. This is very, very bad. The first indicts our schools since every editor and reporter has been graduated from somewhere. The latter indicts the media.

Bottom line? Rufus was right.