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In the late 1950s, the now sadly departed great Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe wrote his masterpiece, Things Fall Apart . I remember readin...

Friday, April 24, 2020

The ChiCom Virus: So, What Have We Learned?

Sorry for the long break from posting. Life, even in "lockdown" mode, got in the way, and, furthermore, I find myself more than fed up with what's happening; it gets harder and harder to write about it. And, of course, I had my snake "adventure," but that's a boring tale for another occasion.

Sorry, also, if I repeat myself. I certainly don't want to come off as a Joe Biden clone.

For those of you with a masochistic streak, you can go over this humble blog's posts for the last several weeks. I'll wait while you do that . . . With that all said, it seems some things bear repeating when it comes to the situation created by the ChiCom virus.

So, what have we learned over the past couple of months or so? In no particular order, I submit only a few things we might have learned, or better said, should have learned, or even relearned. You will have many others.

Don't Trust Communists 

I know, I know. That is a tough one, but, please try to keep in mind that Communists lie, and they lie big, real BIGLY. Their ideology and modus operandi rely on lies. Not only that, but you will find them more than willing, giddy, in fact, to see you and your family suffer and die in pursuit--"must break eggs to make an omelet, eh, Comrade"--of their goal to remake the world. Don't believe me? See, for example, the nonsense spewed by Cheapo-Commie AOC and her cohorts. They seem dizzy with glee over the prospect of remaking the nation on the backs of suffering workers. They don't want the economy to restart--but AOC, of course, won't give up her six figure salary. Look over, also, the media and see all those "liberal journalists" happy that the economy has gone into a stall; see how they portray folks who protest the stall, and want to go back to work. The Commies hate them for it, and openly cheer for the virus.

Now, you might ask, are all these people really Communists? Well, OK, no, I guess not, well not, at least, in the strict sense: they are too stupid to be real Communists. They don't know Marx, never having read him or the other "philosophers" of that horrid creed; they, furthermore, seem totally ignorant of the USSR, Venezuela, Cuba, and the other brilliant examples of Marxism in practice. The "liberal" media and punditry class come out of our decrepit institutions of "hire" learning--the correct term for places that charge an arm and a leg--which teach a downgraded, washed-out, ahistorical, lazy man's Marxism under various names, e.g., "feminism," "environmentalism," "social science," "race and gender studies," etc. At these institutions of hire learning, they learn a smug, ignorant cynicism, centered on a hatred for the West, which they seek to pass off as higher learning. We once called them "useful idiots." Time to bring back that very useful and accurate label.

The ChiComs, of course, are a lot smarter than our home-grown Commies. They prove more than willing to buy the rope from us with which to hang us--and we sold them a lot of rope over the past decades. In fact, we have gone even further: we subcontracted to them the rope-making business in the name of globalism, and to save a few bucks. These ChiComs, as we have seen, now wealthy thanks to the American Chamber of Commerce and their religious belief in "free trade," lied about the origin and contagiousness of the Wuhan virus. They allowed it to spread from Wuhan around the world. Then, with the Russians and Iranians chipping in, they have tried to flip the narrative: blame the US military, and offer "help" to countries affected by the virus. That help has consisted, in large part, of defective test kits and other faulty gear . . . and, well, you know the rest of the story. The Western pundits quickly parroted the ChiCom line out of ideological affinity, a shared hatred for America and the West, a desire to bring down Trump any way possible, old fashion bribery, and just sheer, smug stupidity.

The Experts are "Experts"  

I have written a lot about "experts," their models, and policy prescriptions, and how they have produced the dire predicament in which we find ourselves. I will try not to repeat it all, but, of course, will just a bit.

Our policies to "combat" the ChiCom virus have been driven and shaped by "experts" and their "models." That continues even as the "models" fail again and again in their predictions. Don't forget that "experts" can't even predict accurately the track of a hurricane from one day to the next, or the weather a couple of days out. That, however, doesn't stop them from telling us that we are all gonna die from Man-made Global Climate Cooling, Warming, Change, Whatever; that we will face more hurricanes, no, no, fewer hurricanes; stronger hurricanes, no, no weaker hurricanes; more snow, less snow, no snow; more floods, no, no, more drought . . . in other words, anything is possible and it's all because of human economic activity which must cease! The Climate, nee Weather, changes! That's never happened before!

Those same sort of models produced the wildly disparate predictions about the course and impact of the ChiCom virus. The models failed miserably, so much so that we now see the "experts" busily adjusting the data--i.e., rewriting the past--to fit the models as much as possible. They want the models to predict the past. We see, for example, NYC padding the death toll; we see any death involving a diagnosis of ChiCom virus attributed to the ChiCom virus. We also see NYC and other places, e,g, Spain, adding in "suspected" ChiCom virus deaths. We saw a similar stunt during the AIDS/HIV "epidemic" during which the "experts" and their models predicted tens-of-millions, nay, hundreds-of-millions of deaths striking regardless of race, sex, or sexual orientation. That, of course, did not happen. Not even close.

The "experts," in fact, more times than not, turn out to be political activists with a decidedly leftist bent. These "experts," and their media allies, have stampeded the government into the current lockdown.

As more and more data become available, it seems clear that enormous numbers of people have been exposed to the ChiCom virus and not gotten ill, much less died. The hospitals have not been overwhelmed. We see a fatality rate, never very high outside of a few metro areas, continuing to drop. It seems headed for flu-type levels of mortality.

To sum up, a real expert is somebody who can keep a farm running, or fix a complex piece of machinery, or build a house, or keep a fleet of trucks on the road, or pick off an enemy sniper at 600 meters. Those are true experts. They produce tangible results. Getting a university credential from "experts" does not make you an expert, it makes you an "expert."

The Economy and Future Are Being Sacrificed

We are destroying the greatest economy in the world in the name of "fighting" the ChiCom virus. That must stop, now.

We will find it easier to throw the OFF switch than to throw the ON switch. I found this out, in a much less dramatic setting, as Charge of the embassy in Indonesia. We had threats coming in almost daily from Islamist extremists. Should we close the Embassy in response? I have written before about the need to balance risk against gain. We had to balance the risk of staying open against achieving the mission we had been sent to do. On one occasion we got a very specific and credible threat: I closed the Embassy. That was the easy part. Getting it back open? A bureaucratic nightmare. Nobody in DC wanted to sign off on reopening. It took a bit, but we kept insisting, and finally got the OK to go back to work. The bureaucracy let me know, however, that it was my head if something untoward happened.

We are in the same situation now; well, let me clarify that, a situation much more serious than just a few overseas bureaucrats at risk. We have put the entire nation and its future at risk, and the prospects get evermore dire the longer we hold off reopening the economy.

Let people use common sense. Isn't that what freedom's about? Taking a chance?

Giving Totalitarian Crazies a Precedent 

Diploson number two (DS2), who's become quite a sage in a H.L. Mencken or Eric Hoffer sort of way, said that what worried him the most about the "lockdown" by government fiat due to a "health emergency" was the precedent it set. He noted that we could easily in the next few years get some enviro-wackos in control who would declare an "environmental emergency" and shut down the economy or those portions of which they did not approve. 

I think Young DS2 has grabbed onto something quite real. We already see dramatic overreach in places such as Michigan and Virginia where Governors issue all sorts of restrictive edicts of questionable legality. The Mayor of NYC has sought to establish Cuban-style neighborhood watches composed of snitches. We have seen this sort of overreach before at the Federal level with Woodrow Wilson and FDR. Now, however, we have established that the whole country can be shut down on the basis of questionable "expert" information. 

Time to end this and get legislation in place to make sure this sort of overreaction does not happen again. 

Off to walk my dogs.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Now for Something Different: Couple of Non-ChiCom Virus Stories

The ChiCom virus and the hyper-exaggerated, politically, and economically destructive response to it, driven by fraudulent "expert models," have sucked almost all of the oxygen out of the news world. It is hard to focus on anything other than endless Covid-19 stories, both real, e.g., hospitals not overwhelmed, growing evidence of ChiCom perfidy, and fake, e.g., NYC padding the death totals. In the interest, therefore, of public mental health, this little blog will try to come up with a couple or so stories that normally would have occupied the headlines, but have gone almost ignored.

I will not even mention the ChiCom virus, not once will I mention the ChiCom virus epidemic that came from a lab in Wuhan, China, and was covered up by the Chinese Communist Party and their allies in the WHO. Nope. Not going to mention that stuff, at all. You will find no mention of that, or of Pelosi's February invite for everyone to come party in San Francisco's Chinatown, or of the Democrats' savage criticism of Trump for shutting travel to and from China, or of how the EU failed to do that until too late, or of the WHO's outrageous treatment of Taiwan. Nah.

I won't even mention those Democrats now crying that Trump should have shut down the country in February: so, then, let's see, he should have suspended the impeachment trial and the primaries, and sent everybody home? How would those same Dems have reacted to that? Not even going to mention it . . . Nope. So, in summary, let's not mention the ChiCom virus, and talk about something else

Maduro. According to the US Department of Justice Venezuela's Thug-in-Chief, Nicolas Maduro, and fourteen associates have been charged, "with narco-terrorism, corruption, drug trafficking and other criminal charges. Maduro and other high ranking Venezuelan officials allegedly partnered with the FARC to use cocaine as a weapon to 'flood' the United States."
“The Venezuelan regime, once led by Nicolás Maduro Moros, remains plagued by criminality and corruption,” said Attorney General Barr. “For more than 20 years, Maduro and a number of high-ranking colleagues allegedly conspired with the FARC, causing tons of cocaine to enter and devastate American communities. Today’s announcement is focused on rooting out the extensive corruption within the Venezuelan government – a system constructed and controlled to enrich those at the highest levels of the government. The United States will not allow these corrupt Venezuelan officials to use the U.S. banking system to move their illicit proceeds from South America nor further their criminal schemes.”

“Today we announce criminal charges against Nicolás Maduro Moros for running, together with his top lieutenants, a narco-terrorism partnership with the FARC for the past 20 years,” said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman. “The scope and magnitude of the drug trafficking alleged was made possible only because Maduro and others corrupted the institutions of Venezuela and provided political and military protection for the rampant narco-terrorism crimes described in our charges. As alleged, Maduro and the other defendants expressly intended to flood the United States with cocaine in order to undermine the health and wellbeing of our nation. Maduro very deliberately deployed cocaine as a weapon. While Maduro and other cartel members held lofty titles in Venezuela’s political and military leadership, the conduct described in the Indictment wasn’t statecraft or service to the Venezuelan people. As alleged, the defendants betrayed the Venezuelan people and corrupted Venezuelan institutions to line their pockets with drug money.”
That should prove a big story, but . . . well, I look forward to the reaction from Oliver Stone and Noam Chomsky, oh, yes, and Bernie Sanders. Shall we hold our collective breath?

Speaking of Bernie. The November elections? Anybody remember those? I guess ol' Bernie "Honeymoon in the USSR" Sanders has dropped out. I saw some weird split screen on TV with Bernie on one side and Dopey Joe on the other in which Bernie "endorsed" Joe, and basically sold out his legion of ardent followers. At first I thought it was a trailer for a reboot of the old Walther Mathau - Jack Lemmon "Grumpy Old Men" movie franchise. Not clear to me that Bernie did the old Gaius Gracchi exit of falling on his servant's sword. Nah. He's going to keep his millions and three houses. See'ya suckers!

How about the other big story? The FBI knew that the Steele dossier was not only a fake, but was, at least in part, a product of a Russian "disinformation" operation to gum up the US elections. The FBI knew that, went ahead with its absurd investigation of "Trump-Putin" collusion, ruined lives, and lied to the courts. The FBI and the loons in the Democrat Party put the country through nearly three years of hell for nothing. Almost no reaction in the press or from the believers in this absurd "investigation"  now that the whole thing has been debunked.

Headlines? Nah, not these stories, not in the the prog media. But, imagine if someone abroad were to unleash a "pandemic," and force the West to shut down, would the Dems and the media echo chamber get upset?  I guess that's just a rhetorical or hypothetical question since that could and would never happen . . .


Saturday, April 11, 2020

One Flu Over the Cuckoos' Guess & Xi Said, so He Said

Enough is enough. More than enough. Much more!

All over the Western world, we have shut-down the economy, and damaged and perhaps destroyed irrevocably many of our fundamental rights and freedoms, all because of ChiCom lies and incompetence, and well-financed Western "modelers" and "experts" passing off guesses and political agendas as some sort of "science." Our elected officials have ceded their powers to these so-called "scientists" and technocrats. We, the people, suffer for it.

As I have said many times before, "science" and "scientists" ain't the same thing. A fast and easy definition of "science" is, "a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe." Is that what we have in dealing with the ChiCom virus? Hardly. We have in many respects the same sort of pseudo-science that exists in the Global Climate Change scam: a bunch of models that predict nothing, based, at best, on erroneous assumptions, i.e., guesses, and data changed to suit the winds not of nature but of politics and funding. As with the Global Climate Change nonsense, the "theories" or "models" in the ChiCom virus pandemic are not falsifiable, in other words, they do not make "testable explanations and predictions."

Never forget, anybody can call himself a "scientist," just as anybody can become a "journalist," or a "consultant." "Scientists," even good ones, have obligations, personal aspirations, political agendas, and, let us not forget, egos just as much as anybody else does. They need to pay the mortgage, too. Throughout history, we find "scientists" going where money, power, and prestige beckon.

Recent decades, of course, have seen an explosion in the population of "scientists." Look at how many college majors have the word "science" attached to their description. We have gone well beyond the white-haired chemist or physicist thinking deep thoughts while conducting replicable and falsifiable experiments. We have the political activist posing as the concerned and caring expert; we have the bureaucrat protecting his fief posing as the expert. We live in an era of mountebanks with access to enormous megaphones and power.

Democracy dies as the "experts" and their models spin their tales.

Be wary, my friends, of the "experts."

Back to the ChiComs.

Now there you have some experts, real ones, in spinning a story and getting their version out and about. The ChiComs have found the "experts" at the WHO very useful; these "experts" repeated Beijing's lies about the virus and praised China's efforts to handle it. I have worked with the "experts" at the WHO, and other UN agencies. Look, some good and well-meaning people do work in those agencies, but the majority? Well, not terribly smart in their alleged fields, and are just well-paid (tax-free) bureaucrats playing very complex political games within their organizations. The vast majority has a definitely leftist bent, with considerable antipathy towards the USA, even if we serve as the biggest source of most of these agencies' ample budgets. On the ground, these "experts" don't do very much, aside from engage in self-promotion, get driven around in Land Cruisers, issue an occasional press release, and live in expensive hotels. The ChiComs quickly realized this, and became masters at exploiting this situation for their own propaganda purposes. The Chinese have proven infinitely better at it than the heavy-handed and clumsy Soviets, who, in all fairness, lacked the huge Chinese foreign currency reserves and the well-coordinated and aggressive political, investment, and trade policies.

It came as no surprise that the current head of the WHO, virulently anti-American (and anti-Taiwan) Ethiopian Communist Dr. Tedros Adhanom, would side with the Communist Chinese, take his talking points from President Xi, and help him and the CCP cover-up their responsibility for the epidemic. The good doctor, by the way, has a track-record of covering up epidemics in his native country. People such as this clown get these flashy jobs because the USA traditionally does not pay much attention to the UN's specialized agencies--to our regret, as we see. We should either get very involved, given how much money we put in, or, better yet, get out of the whole UN nonsense entirely.

There. And, I don't claim to be an "expert," just somebody who has been around a while.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Absurd . . . on Steroids

OK. Regular readers--all six of you--know my view of the current "lock-down to save humanity" from a not particularly deadly virus of ChiCom origins. Won't go into all that, again, and how we are being misled by camera-loving "experts" with kooky models that predict nothing accurately.

No. Won't do that.

This post is about something much, much smaller than the fate of the humanity, or even of our economy. It is about me, and my latest suffering at the hands of the "experts."

The Diplowife decided today that we needed to buy one of those electric grills, you know, the George Foreman sort of thing to accompany our regular gas BBQ. I don't question orders. So, we jumped into the ol' Jeep and headed into the sunny and nearly deserted streets of lovely Wilmington, North Carolina. Off we went to Walmart. We arrived at a nearly empty parking lot and walked into the cavernous building and went looking for an electric grill. We quickly discovered why the store, which was very fully stocked, was nearly devoid of customers.

Whole sections of the place had been cordoned off by what I call "Crime Scene Tape."

Little printed signs hanging from the tape explained that in compliance with orders from the authorities of New Hanover County prohibiting the sale of non-essential items, all sections of the store which sold said nonessential items had been closed. No bikes. No toys. No sports gear or wear. No video games. No kitchen goods . . . and, of course, NO ELECTRIC GRILLS!

They had them. We could see them just out of reach on the other side of the crime scene tape. But like the inhabitants of some Communist or otherwise Third World regime, we were only allowed to look at the fancy goods; we could not touch them, much less buy them! Our grill-buying dollars worthless in our pockets. Much like they're all going to be if we keep issuing trillion dollar "rescue" packages and not re-open the economy.

In a foul mood, we returned to the Jeep and--FLASH!--decided to head to the local Lowe's DIY warehouse. Ha! The edicts of the New Hanover County "authorities" seemed not to apply inside Lowe's!

Grills everywhere! Gas! Charcoal! Wood! And, yes, electric! We quickly placed a giant one in our cart and slithered out to the cashier . . . casting nervous glances over our shoulders, fearing at any moment that the New Hanover Non-Essential Enforcers would come crashing down on us. But, no, we paid and made it to our Jeep and home. I assembled the thing and there it sits: a gleaming red and silver trophy of defiance!

We took on Dr. Fauci's model and won! Take that ChiCom virus! We won't stop buying electric grills . . . made in China, btw.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Risky Business

All this ChiCom Virus insanity has me mulling over the idea of "risk" and its management.

There's a ton of stuff out there about "risk" and "risk management." I read a lot of it in my college econ classes and in the econ course I took at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI)--and, of course, every book about wars has at least an implied look at risk and the calculations made to deal with it. I have long had a fascination with the concept of "risk," and find interesting how humans in different endeavors try to manage risk, to balance it against gain or opportunity.

I will not get too philosophical or delve into complex models of "risk management." I have long expressed doubts in other postings about models that seek to explain a variety of human enterprises and predict behavior and outcomes. Let's face it, scientists can't even predict with any great accuracy the track of a hurricane, much less tell us about "global warming/cooling/change/ whatever." I am going to ramble a bit on some of my own experience with "risk management." Not very interesting, so you can stop reading right about now. Or maybe now. Or now.

One of the more unusual jobs I had in my Foreign Service career took place in Panama, 1997-2000. As we prepared to hand over the Canal and our military bases to the Panamanians in accord with the Carter-Torrijos Treaties, we ran into the issue of unexploded ordnance (UXO) on a few of the old firing ranges (some not very accurate leftoid articles about it: here, here, and here.) I got the job of leading the U.S. team negotiating with the Panamanians over the UXO issue. It was rough. The Panamanians proved extremely unreasonable and, at least, pretended not to understand the concept of "risk." I gave, even if I say so myself, some very good speeches and wrote some good papers on the topic. The point I sought to make to the Panamanians, and to the lefty commentators in the US, was that Panama was getting a great deal with minimal risk, a "risk" that could be easily managed. The risk of death from UXO was extremely low; the US military had done a terrific job cleaning up the old firing ranges. There were a very few, very isolated spots where it was not possible to certify the land as fit for human habitation. The military fenced those off, identified them with lots of signage, trained Panamanians in what to do with any UXO  they found, and often poured tons of dirt, gravel, and sand over the most "dangerous" areas. When, however, such a spot had been identified, the Panamanians almost always would announce that on that precise location they planned to build a school or a playground. One small and remote area, in particular, had some ten feet of sand poured on to it; we told the Panamanians that it was not possible to do anything more with that site; they immediately unveiled plans to place a school there, and to dig down eleven feet. I remember telling them in one raucous meeting, "Don't do that! You'll blow yourself up!" I was the pride of the diplomatic corps, yes, indeed.

In the end, nothing happened. We did not pay the billions the Panamanians wanted in "compensation" for the UXO; they took the billions worth of property and technology, instead, and, of course, nobody built playgrounds or schools on top of unexploded 60mm rounds. Not even the goofy Clinton administration would give the Panamanians even more than we were already giving. Risk identified. Risk handled.

In subsequent years, as DCM and Charge of a couple of embassies during the height of the war on terror, I had responsibility for thousands of people. We would get intel all the time telling us that the Embassy and Americans were being targeted. What to do? Should we shut down every time we got these reports? Shelter in place? Run screaming into the night and for the airport? No. We took sensible precautions and carried on with our mission. Combat veterans know about this much better than I: in combat, soldiers have to make rational decisions about risk in the midst of an irrational environment. They have to weigh the mission against the danger.

In recent decades, Western society has become increasingly risk averse. The legal codes of our societies are packed with regulations governing everything from seat belts and bike helmets to building codes and the running of nuclear plants. Some of that, of course, makes sense, some proves excessive. Overregulation, for example, appears hindering the search for a "cure" or a vaccine for the current ChiCom virus epidemic.

That brings us to perhaps the greatest example of grotesque "risk" aversion: the current economic shut-down in response to the ChiCom virus. We have closed down the greatest engine of prosperity in the history of the world in order to "fight" a virus that, while highly contagious, is not particularly deadly to the general population. This flight from "risk" is proving catastrophic: we will suffer the effects of this strategy for a long, long time. We have a political-technocratic class that will oppose ending the shut-down no matter when. They will bombard us with tales of this or that person who fell ill from the ChiCom virus after returning to work. The "experts" will lecture us on "science," and regale us with their increasingly discredited "models." They will tell us that we risk blood for money, profit over people. Yeah, yeah.

Well, as a member of one of the most "at risk" groups, i.e., old fart with underlying medical conditions, let me tell you something about creating massive poverty by closing the economy, "NOT IN MY NAME!" There you have it, a lefty slogan repurposed.

Let's get back to work. We can handle the "risk."


Thursday, April 2, 2020

Broken Record

From the beginning of this ChiCom virus crisis (here, for example, a posting from January 27) this humble blog has expressed great doubts about the seriousness of the current epidemic/pandemic. I have been shouting to the computer screen that the data, as biased as they are, DO NOT show what the media and the "experts" are telling us.

That data produced by "experts" screaming about DOOM do not comply with the models produced and relied upon by those very same "experts." Simply put, people are not and have not been dying at the rates and in the numbers the models have been predicting. The mortality rate, even if we accept the highly improbable assumption that all who die with the ChiCom virus in their system died from the ChiCom virus, is about the same for a bad flu season, and is declining. The hospitals in the USA are not overwhelmed, not even in New York, the so-called "epicenter" of the virus in America. In fact, CBS news, pioneers in fake news drama of our times, had to rely on footage from an Italian hospital, and pass it off as that from an American hospital.

Yes, if you are an old fart with underlying conditions--such as your humble blogger--you are at greater risk from this virus than if you're a young'un. That, however, is true with just about any illness you care to name.

The Communist Chinese lied about the origins and contagiousness of the virus. No doubt. They withheld critical data that could have helped Western "experts" see how serious or not of a problem we might face in countries with modern medical services. As I have noted before, the cover-up was worse than the crime; the ChiComs could not let the world see how bad China's public health and medical services are. Living conditions in most of China are dire, miserable, really. No matter what Bernie Sanders claims, China remains a poor country.

Western leaders, quick to panic, immediately shut down our economies to "fight" the virus. Instead of adopting common sense measures, and making sensible recommendations to the public, our leaders, bamboozled by the "experts" and the hair-on-fire media have begun dismantling our economies and societies in an effort to "protect" us.

Save us from our saviors!

From watching the latest White House Corona Virus press conference, it seems obvious that President Trump is realizing that his initial skepticism was correct. Notice how he kept interrupting Dr. Birx to stress that the infamous "curve" is not the same everywhere in the USA, and that measures appropriate for one part of our vast country might not be for another. I still have a slight hope that the President is going to start to turn this around.

We cannot keep waiting for another "rescue" package. We already see the Dems licking their chops about another multi-trillion dollar pork-fest concentrating on infrastructure. Great. Let's have the government take over the entire economy. Right. They are going to give us the Green New Deal whether we want it or not. The green, by the way, comes from the color of dollars and has nothing to do with saving Gaia.

Yes, without a doubt, keep insisting, demanding, requiring that basic manufacturing be returned to the USA. Let, if you want, the Communist Chinese keep their global dominance of the flip-flop market and cheap luggage. We'll take back the rest.

It is time to switch the lights back on before it is too late.

PS: I should have added this reference; it is from the always entertaining and educational No Pasaran blog which has an excellent piece on the bad math being used in the crisis.