January 7, 2011

Something tells me that Seattle isn’t a popular pick

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:08

Here’s Scott Feschuk venting his spleen about the myriad wonders that put Seattle into the playoffs as the number 4 seed, despite posting a losing regular season record:

Did you see how coaching mastermind and Up With People alumnus Pete Carroll waited to tip his hand about who’s going to start at quarterback for his Seahawks. That left New Orleans at the disadvantage of having to prepare for both Dumb and Dumber. That’s some sneaky maneuverin’! It’s too bad Seattle couldn’t bring in The Most Sought After Man in the World, Jim Harbaugh, to coach this game. Or quarterback it. Or use his heavenly powers to part the Saints D-line while curing leukemia with his farts. Because according to sports talk radio Harbaugh could totally do it. HE’S A MICHIGAN MAN! Alas, the Seahawks are stuck with the roster that managed exactly one victory this season against a team that finished with a winning record. Every single one of Seattle’s nine losses this year was by more than 10 points. Every. Single. One. Why? Because they are terrible. TERRIBLE. Do not let yourself forget this: They are a terrible football team that is awful! Although in their defence Mike Williams has had a nice season and Carroll’s hair has never had more lustre and bounce. Some people seem to be trying to talk themselves into taking the points. At ESPN.com, one blogger wrote about how “the planets are aligning for a Seahawks victory.” His proof? “The defending Super Bowl champs must travel across the country to face a 7-9 team they defeated by two touchdowns already this season. Is that anything for them to get fired up about?” Um, yes, actually. I’d think the prospect of beginning your quest for a second consecutive Super Bowl title by lining up across from the Spazzy McNumbnuts would indeed be a tantalizing and highly agreeable proposition. Sure, the Saints will be without their two top running backs. But you know why that’s no big deal? BECAUSE THE SEAHAWKS ARE TERRIBLE.

Bruce Arthur chimes in:

Playoffs! We’re talking about playoffs! But not before we check off the list of those who didn’t get here, and therefore got thrown out on their behinds. We’ll go from the top of the trash pile to the bottom, starting with the stinking Seattle Seahawks, who finished 7-9, scored fewer and allowed more points that the 4-12 Cincinnati Bengals, got outscored by a total of 97 points — more than Detroit, Dallas and San Francisco combined — and …

Wait, what? They’re in? Well, that’s ridiculous.

How not to handle public health issues like influenza

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Health, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:38

I was astonished to hear a radio reporter yesterday admit that much of the reason for the drop in people getting flu shots is the massively overblown oh-my-god-we’re-all-going-to-die media panic last year over Swine flu H1N1. In case you somehow managed to miss out on it last year, every news broadcast seemed to feature yet another doctor or public health official telling us that we faced a worldwide pandemic of H1N1 which was the invincible, all-conquering Überflu to top all plagues we’d ever faced before. Death tolls in the millions were confidently predicted. Every individual who died seemed to be mentioned personally . . . because there were so relatively few compared to those poor folks who died of “ordinary” seasonal flu.

Lorne Gunter gives a bit of credit where it’s due:

Give Allison McGeer credit for being frank about what’s behind this winter’s flu outbreak in Ontario: unnecessary panic over last year’s swine flu “pandemic.” Dr. McGeer, head of infection control at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, says flu cases are way up this season because vaccinations are way down; and vaccinations are way down, likely, because too much was made of the swine flu by media and officialdom last winter.

It is a medical case of the doctors who cried wolf, in other words.

[. . .]

There is a fine line between erring on the side of caution and crying wolf. And last year, the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) blew through that barrier with abandon.

Just as it had on SARS and bird flu and the Ebola virus, the WHO overreacted to swine flu, issuing cautions that were out of all proportion to the risk the disease posed to the public. (Remember in 2003 when the WHO recommended people from around the world stay away from Toronto because the city was host to a few hundred SARS infections?)

But unlike those earlier panics, the WHO pulled out every stop on swine flu. It was as if the UN agency had been surprised that its earlier scares had failed to grow into full-blown pandemics; and so they figured that, finally, swine flu was due to become a worldwide infection requiring a dramatic response from international health officials.

As I wrote last year in May, when even the most panic-stricken media outlets were no longer playing the JuggernautOfDoom theme:

This would have been a good opportunity for de-escalating the panic mongering (and perhaps even attempting to rein-in the media, who were equally to blame for the tone of the information getting to the public). They chose, instead, to actively hide the fact that H1N1 cases were running below the level of ordinary seasonal flu cases (total H1N1 deaths: approximately 18,000 — typical annual death toll from seasonal flu: 250,000-500,000).

The biggest problem isn’t that they over-reacted this time, it’s that it has reduced their credibility the next time they start issuing health warnings. And that’s a bad thing. Unless they pull the same stunt next time, too. In which case, we may start hearing talk about setting up competing organizations to do the job the current entities appear to have given up on.

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