Saturday, 11 October 2014

The Reality of Ebola in America

I noticed in the travel news for this morning....five US airports have adapted a Ebola test, which is mandated for entry into the US.  They ask a few questions over where you were, and if you might have come into contact with some infected guy.....then they take a temperature reading.

Refusing the test?  That's the curious thing.  The federal guideline listed.....said that if you go to quarantine.  It didn't say where, or describe the living conditions there....but they'd have federal authority at these airports to accomplish this.

There are around two hundred 'international' airports in the United States.  Huntsville (sadly) qualifies as one.  Ketchikan, Alaska....oddly enough....qualifies as one.  Idaho doesn't have a single one.

Which five get the authority for this test and quarantine deal?  Dulles, JFK, Atlanta, Chicago, and Newark.  How'd they get to this idea?  The CDC says they studied the numbers of Africans coming into the US....and these five get roughly ninety-odd percent of the inflow from the affected region.

What the CDC hints that the Border Patrol folks will continue to be the first line of defense, and likely be the ones who ask the questions, and pull up some measurement device to check your temperature.  Somewhere in the background....if you read their commentary enough....there will be a couple of CDC guys standing there and waiting.  Full-up suits and protective gear in reserve?  Yeah, I'd take a guess that this will be the case.

After a twelve-hour get tired and frustrated.  You walk off the plane and find yourself in a waiting area with seven-hundred folks already there and another two-thousand folks coming down the hallway.  Your Border Patrol folks?  On this lucky day....there might be ten guys handling things....MAX.  You wait and wait.

As you get up to the front, this guy asks four stupid questions, and you answer one wrong because you really aren't thinking clearly or grasping what he means.  Suddenly, you can tell he's freaking a bit, and aiming some laser-light device at you and you freak out.  The marginal AC unit isn't cooling well, and you are over-dressed, and you show some body temperature just above normal.

Sarge now raises an arm and two CDC guys come up to seize you.  You stand in some room ten minutes later, and trying to get calmed down.  A fed guy isn't too happy with your attitude, and starts talking quarantine.....if you don't confess.  You confess your mortal sins.....your various affairs.....your tax-avoidance over ten years.....and your favorite episode of Gilligan's Island.  Nothing seems to work.

An hour get stuffed into a plastic bag of sorts.....thrown on a truck with no AC in the midst of July in Atlanta.  You end up in some old Army post where some guys in plastic suits take your bag and will issue you some hospital outfit.  You refuse.....they rough you up and cite such-and-such CDC rule.  You ask for a lawyer.....they deny you a lawyer.

You pick up your cellphone to call grandma or Uncle Percy to get you out of this fix.  They stop you and cite another CDC rule.  Eventually, they contact grandma, Uncle Percy, and your wife.  All that they will say is that you are safe and in good hands....with a cot, and three meals a day.  They promise to release you in three weeks.....if you don't show Ebola.

The meals are crap.  The cot has bed-bugs.  The tent has mice running around.  The latrine facility is cleaned once a day by a guy named Jose, who is illegally in the country but paid $4,000 a month to be the sanitation guy for the camp.  The camp has some psycho gal who yells and screams half the time......which you figure she's bi-polar and off her meds.  The camp guards will sell you beer but it's three bucks a can.  There's some Army National Guard chaplain who comes around daily to pray for you, but you get the feeling that he's working more for the CDC folks than you.

On day nineteen of the twenty-one day period....some new guy arrives from Liberia who answered the questions wrong.  He seems OK, and very friendly.....knowing the Braves results from this year, and absolutely convinced that Bush was a better President than Obama.  You notice some sweat on his brow but blow it's just hot in the tent.

Day twenty-one, you get released.  They basically drop you off at the Greyhound station in town, and you ride nineteen hours back to the final destination....home.  You curse over and over about that damn CDC thing.  You call your Congressman and Senator.....demanding pain and suffering money (mostly $50,000).

Nine days get the fever and sweats.  Doctor at the hospital asks where you been, and you note a quarantine camp.  All heck breaks out.....they rush more CDC guys to the room, and ambulance you off to the next quarantine camp.

If you didn't have it the first time sure got it this time.

That's how things work in America.  We make movies about this type of adventure, and talk about it as a joke....until it happens to us.

The Speech Test Story

Somewhere in the late 1990s....I got introduced to the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test.  Microsoft in some early version of Word....actually had the readability test as part of their package.  I admit....from the two hundred folks in my organization.....I was probably only among two or three people who knew of the software test and it's implications.

Flesch-Kincaid works this wrote a page or two (or forty pages) of a speech or paper.  The paper measures the wording....from 3rd grade level of high school.....all the way to graduate school at some university.

It's supposed to help you reach your audience.  If you know that your audience needs a speech geared for lower-intelligent folks...say 10th-grade education....then you can build a speech to that degree, and measure it in the end to be certain of the standard desired.

It's a handy product if you give speeches....write white-papers....develop research projects....or putting together an entire book.

So I noticed today....someone finally took Flesch-Kincaid and applied it to Presidential speeches given since the late 1700s to the present.  It probably took at least a year to dig up the various speeches, and run them through the application.

What they tend to find is interesting.

Most speeches written in the 1800-period....were mostly at the college-level of understanding.  Washington, Adams, and Jefferson wrote comprehensive speeches.....that probably were a bit more difficult than common man of America could take and grasp.  The thing is.....they were educated at a certain level, and most of the people they came into contact with.....were of the same level of education.  Most of the speeches?  They were heard by these same individuals.

From 1850 to 1875....things started to change.  Presidential speeches were now being drafted and given....spreading from college-level on down to the seventh-grade level.

From 1925 to 1950....there were no more of the college-graduate level speeches.  About ninety percent of the speeches given in this period by Presidents....were of the 12th grade of high school on down to the eighth grade.

Since 1975.....there's not been a single Presidential speech developed that went past the 12th grade of high school.  The majority fit for eighth and ninth grade writing skills.

President Obama's noted speeches?  They generally fit into the seventh grade to the tenth grade.

A odd fact or two from this study?  The Gettysburg Speech drafted and given by Lincoln.....was noted at the eleventh-grade level. The poor notes given to George Bush's speeches?  Well....they generally measure up to the same level given by President Obama.  No worse.

What does all this say about our national character and leadership?  We've developed the remarkable ability to write marginal speeches that get the point across to people with limited or sparse education.  We want a leader who seems to think like like us.....and educated like us.  He may be fake to some degree....walking around with a Master's Degree in law....but he's hired enough people to draft marginal speeches for our entertainment.

Fixing this or cleaning it up?  Forget about it.  I doubt if the public would be happy with a George Washington-type character today showing up and giving a humble speech which was drafted at the college level.  Neither would the public likely stand and vote for a guy like Abraham Lincoln.  We've gotten use to gimmick presidents, and it's the current trend.  For better or worse, this is the direction we are going.