Hobbies

The results are in – 秋味 is still king

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Like pretty much everything in life, the original is always the best. Going left to right. Kirin Akiaji (秋味) has the best flavor of the autumnal beers. Sapporo second. Not much difference to an Ebisu. Suntory added a hint of fruit into their standard pale ale and Asahi’s effort is as shocking as SuperDry. There is a place reserved in Hell for the person that signed off on that. So there you have it.

Cheikmate

Australian Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is clearly massively under pressure. Sporting the second worst win/loss record of any Australian rugby coach he hit out at journalists questioning whether it is time to pack it in by suggesting they take mental disorder suppressing “pills” for exposing his dreadful stats. His team was walloped by New Zealand 40-12. The All Blacks retain the Bledisloe Cup for the 16th straight year.

Cheika talked of “passion” for the job but a great coach is one that extracts the best from the players by making them believe in themselves and achieve well beyond what they think they can. Australia need a Brian Clough type coach rather than the thuggish style of Cheika. Basic discipline is lacking in the Aussie team and that stems from the top. A coach that was confident in his ability to attain quality results wouldn’t resort to cheap shots. He’d merely let the scoreboard do the talking. Instead he shows the pressure is too much for him.  This press conference (especially from 5:30) confirms he is not right for the role. Time to replace him.

CM has made the argument multiple times – if money was taken away from the game all current All Blacks would still play proudly for their country. For the Aussies it is likely only a handful that might feel the same. Cheika is not building a team steeped in history, but making excuses for his dreadful deficiencies. He may accuse journalists of being clueless by stating they’ve never coached before, but should he possess an enviable success ratio the press wouldn’t ask for reasons why the Wallabies were road kill.

Cheikmate- time to go gracefully. The fans aren’t buying it.

One man’s path to cut the rate of veteran suicides

This video is a wonderful testament to the selfless sacrifice and idea of one man, Jason Zaideman, in order to help US military veterans avoid an all too common fate of suicide due to PTSD (Post Trauma Stress Disorder) and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). Jason has set up a charitable centre called Operation Combat Bikesaver (OCB) in Indiana (which has one of the highest veteran suicide rates among 50 states). OCB proclaims,

We believe that breathing new life into tarnished motorcycles by honing in on learned skill sets will relinquish the deafening grasp PTSD / TBI / Depression has on Veterans and First Responders. By creating distinctive works of art, those candidates can give back to others suffering in a brotherhood of unity, targeting relief to the chaos of one’s own mind…They will be introduced to building, fabricating, welding and painting to resurrect something that was once damaged and forgotten into something new and truly unique while rebuilding themselves at the same time…We have lost way too many to PTSD / TBI and Depression. All of us here at Operation Combat Bikesaver have lost someone to the after effects of defending their country and community. We would love nothing more than to help our Heroes return to feeling normal again.

Before we get into the sad details of veteran suicides in the US, OCB has raised a paltry $20,000 through crowd funding.  To put that in context we have all seen the viral photo-shopped Time magazine picture of a little girl crying at a defiant Trump. It was used with great effect by the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) to raise $20mn via crowdfunding! $20 million!!

Even after it was revealed that the child – stolen from her father – was never separated from the mother (who left her other 3 kids behind) and paid a smuggler to get to the border, RAICES still shamelessly uses the picture to boost its funding target to $25mn. Despite poor veterans committing suicide at a rate of 20/day some citizens seemingly attain higher virtue by pouring 1,000x more into an organisation with highly questionable ethics. So much for thanking those that served one’s country.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) writes it “has worked tirelessly to develop suicide prevention resources for every Veteran who is experiencing a mental health crisis, whether or not that Veteran is enrolled in the VA Health Care System. In fact, of about 21.6 million Veterans across the country —including almost 2 million women — just over 8.5 million are enrolled for care from a VA provider.  VA is committed to identifying and reaching all Veterans who may be at risk for suicide and continues to enhance programs designed to reduce risk among those who receive services from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). As highlighted in a recent VA-led Call to Action to Prevent Veteran Suicide, eliminating the burden of suicide among Veterans will require participation from a broad group of federal government and community partners.”

Key findings from this year’s report include:

▪ In 2014, an average of 20 Veterans died by suicide each day. Six of the 20 were recent users of VHA services in 2013 or 2014.
▪ In 2014, Veterans accounted for 18% of all deaths by suicide among U.S. adults and constituted 8.5% of the U.S. adult population (ages 18 and older).
▪ The burden of suicide resulting from firearm injuries remains high. In 2014, about 67% of all Veteran deaths by suicide were the result of firearm injuries.
▪ There is continued evidence of a high burden of suicide among middle-aged and older Veterans. In 2014, about 65% of all Veterans who died by suicide were ages 50 and older.
▪ After adjusting for differences in age and sex, risk for suicide was 22% higher among Veterans compared with U.S. civilian adults. (2014)
▪ After adjusting for differences in age, risk for suicide was 19% higher among male Veterans compared with U.S. civilian adult men. (2014)
▪ After adjusting for differences in age, risk for suicide was 2.5 times higher among female Veterans compared with U.S. civilian adult women. (2014)
▪ In 2014, rates of suicide were highest among younger Veterans (ages 18–29) and lowest among older Veterans (ages 60 and older).

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Since 2001, the proportion of VHA users with mental health conditions or substance use disorders (SUD) has increased from 27% in 2001 to 41% in 2014.

Risk for suicide following separation from active duty service remains a concern among Veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn (OEF/OIF/OND). 18-24yo suicides in those three categories has surged from 27/100,000 in 2003 to 124 per 100,000 in 2014.

OCB is a truly worthy cause. Sadly in today’s world, too many seek to signal their virtue on social media rather than get their hands dirty and properly do something productive like Zaideman to fix causes. Truly inspirational. $20 million to support a cause based on a fake photo or $20 million to support people who have lost limbs, buddies and in many cases hope? After reading about the gore of war from my own grandfather’s letters from WW2 it is not hard to see what a gross misallocation of money and morals this is.

NRA membership searches up 4900%

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At the time media outlets went all guns blazing on the National Rifle Association (NRA), CM warned that it most likely would cause a knee jerk reaction in the opposite direction. We speculated that the hike in membership fee likely reflected a surge in members. As tragic as the Parkland shooting massacre was, CM said that ‘shaming’ NRA members en masse would only make them dig in deeper. As it turns out searches for NRA membership has surged 4900% since Feb 14. People are sick and tired of being bullied into feeling guilty about things they haven’t caused.

CM also mentioned that FedEx had the right approach by not giving in to open threats by student David Hogg calling people to boycott brands who supported the NRA. FedEx openly made their position on guns known but said they aren’t in the business of ramming their politics down the throats of others. Allowing individuals to make personal choices is always better than beating them into submission on any issue.

Many other corporates looked utterly hypocritical in cowtowing to this social pressure. The NRA members to date have undoubtedly served corporate interests well for all the right reasons of profitability. Is it any wonder honest members are upset to have sanctimonious corporate apparatchiks give them unsolicited lectures on responsibility?

Moves by sporting goods stores like Dick’s to ban AR sales and raise the age limit to 21yo looked sensible from the outside. However they had multiple massacres over decades to make that call. The current CEO has been in charge since 1984. Why the u-turn in his conscience? Indeed the company did temporarily suspend sales of ARs after Sandy Hook in 2012 but kept retailing them at the company’s Field & Stream outlets before selling them again at Dick’s. If one looks at its website one can still buy a pump-action shotgun. Not very consistent.

Surely  if Dick’s feels so strongly about gun control perhaps it should stop selling them period. 95% of firearm related murders are committed with handguns. Statistically they’d be better off banning sales of pistols.  There are 50,000 (mostly individual) gun stores in the US who will gladly sell ARs to customers. One seriously doubts that Bob’s Guns in West Virginia will cut off his nose to spite his face until the law forces him too!

According to the Crime Prevention Research Center, murders in US appear to be very concentrated: 54% of US counties (representing 11% of the population) in 2014 had zero murders, 2% of counties made up 51% of the murders, ironically in states with the strictest gun controls – Illinois, NY and California.

The failure to communicate is obvious. Progressives believe that pointing fingers will win the day. Shaming, boycotting and vilifying the very people they wish to convince to put in place more common sense gun laws are given no voice. So the deplorables exercise their voice by doing the exact opposite and signing up in droves to protect what they perceive is the open theft of their freedoms.

As mentioned in earlier posts, ignoring the state of kids growing up in broken homes, surging drug abuse and onerous political correctness being driven through the school system by creating a scapegoat in the NRA only reinforces the rift to reaching any workable solution.

So more hearty congratulations to the left. Until they begin to engage in the debate rather than shut it down look forward to yet further failures in pushing their agenda. God gave us two ears and one mouth so we would listen more and talk less. By thinking the gun debate would be a bullseye for control, they’ve inadvertently turned the weapon on themselves.

FedEx gives a lesson in corporate communications over the NRA

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CM wrote earlier in the week on the hypocrisy of corporates disassociating themselves from the NRA after the Parkland, Florida school shooting despite having decades of similar incidences to have done it. Yet their conscience never got the better of them because targeting  5,000,000 members was good for business. FedEx on the other hand has made it clear on its position with respect to gun control. Despite that it will continue to provide a service and will not be bullied, coerced or cave into activism to target members who did not commit a crime. Good on FedEx for making it clear where they stand rather than cower to social media pressure.

The adolescent media spokesman of choice, David Hogg, made very clear that he wants to hold a proverbial gun to the head of every corporate to ditch the NRA. FedEx and Amazon were also singled out as targets by the Florida student for continuing to offer discounts to the NRA. He even threatened to cancel his Amazon TV subscription because it broadcast NRATV. It is absolutely his choice to make. By all means Mr Hogg can vote however he chooses with his wallet. He should extend the same courtesy.

No one is questioning or trivializing the trauma of such a tragic event but the constant hunt to ‘shame’ people (who’ve done nothing illegal) always ends up causing those ‘shamed’ to do the opposite of the intended strategy. Many corporates could have followed FedEx’s lead. Shouldn’t it be up to individuals to freely consider whether they want to fly United, rent a Hertz car or send packages via FedEx? It is absolutely their choice to do. Most people are thinking of the function of the service at the time, not conduct pre-flight checks on whether the company has an affiliation with the NRA or any other group disliked by others.

If people are honestly abhorred by any corporate that offers discounts to the NRA then they will naturally adjust consumption patterns. 19 years since Columbine would suggest most corporates didn’t care and saw no appreciable impact to revenues by staying with the NRA. Consumers do not require people bashing them over the head to swallow a message they may already agree with or not. Surely observing the actions of those exercising unbridled volition is a superior barometer of mood over issues rather than force feeding.

Does David Hogg think he will win over NRA members by slapping them on his Twitter feed? Does Hogg seriously believe that slamming the president by branding him a coward and a draft dodger on social media will turn him, especially given his track record? If he wished to gain traction he would go far further asking to meet with Trump in the White House with his school mates and lay out a comprehensive plan to try get some leverage on the NRA. It may be a futile exercise but if he wants to show the moral high ground and win over the masses (the mainstream media would only be too happy to oblige) then acting in a manner which shows that he embodies that spirit will have a far better chance of converting others.

It will be interesting to see whether the NRA sees a surge in membership on the back of being attacked in this way. Earlier this week, a yearly membership was $30, Today it is $40. Could it be the hike is on the back of overwhelming support? Surely a club that is hemorrhaging members would be cutting prices to stay afloat.

The group published a membership recruitment drive which was viewed over 10 million times this week. The idea that all of the members at the NRA are deranged gun-toting lunatics incapable of listening to sensible suggestions is quite an accusation but often made. This was its response to those corporates that dumped it:

NRA STATEMENT ON CORPORATE PARTNERSHIPS

(FAIRFAX, VA) – The more than five million law-abiding members of the National Rifle Association have enjoyed discounts and cost-saving programs from many American corporations that have partnered with the NRA to expand member benefits.

Since the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, a number of companies have decided to sever their relationship with the NRA, in an effort to punish our members who are doctors, farmers, law enforcement officers, fire fighters, nurses, shop owners and school teachers that live in every American community. We are men and women who represent every American ethnic group, every one of the world’s religions and every form of political commitment.

The law-abiding members of the NRA had nothing at all to do with the failure of that school’s security preparedness, the failure of America’s mental health system, the failure of the National Instant Check System or the cruel failures of both federal and local law enforcement.

Despite that, some corporations have decided to punish NRA membership in a shameful display of political and civic cowardice. In time, these brands will be replaced by others who recognize that patriotism and determined commitment to Constitutional freedoms are characteristics of a marketplace they very much want to serve.

Let it be absolutely clear. The loss of a discount will neither scare nor distract one single NRA member from our mission to stand and defend the individual freedoms that have always made America the greatest nation in the world.

Having said all of the above, the voting down of a tax break for Delta Airlines by the Senate in the State of  Georgia which openly admitted that it was punishment for cutting sponsorship ties with the NRA was no less juvenile. No doubt many might view this as the NRA cashing in on favours for all those donations. Whether they played a direct hand is not determined. This is the political class trivializing sensitive matters. Cut Delta’s support for the right reasons but not because it made a commercial decision, no matter how daft the reasoning.

While we should be reflecting on the memories of 17 students that died from senseless gun violence and how to ensure it doesn’t happen again, we see that Mr Hogg and others believe that holding a metaphorical gun to peoples’ heads is the way to fix the problem. It is a sad lesson for society today. Sensible debate can’t be had with threats of coercion or aggression. Introducing ‘common sense’ gun laws requires compromise and the freedom to express opinions, no matter how absurd. All this threatening behaviour sends either party to the debate to the opposite side of the room.

Ridding the country of guns and taking homicides to zero would be a Utopian dream. That is a matter for voters to get the law changed. The irony is that tighter gun laws could have been pushed through under the Obama administration, which had majorities in the lower and upper houses. It didn’t. Clearly Democrats didn’t view it as a priority at the time.

N.B. CM is not debating the rights and wrongs of the NRA’s activity or their positions. None-the-less the fact it has 5 million members shows that it has a following and is well organized. Were it a complete crackpot organization then people would be leaving it in droves. Seems like the opposite is occurring. That would probably be a factor for so many corporates signing up in the first place. FedEx hasn’t forgotten that. It is hard not to agree with the way it handled the debate – We dislike your views on guns but we observe the legal rights surrounding them. CM congratulates FedEx for its candor on the matter.

Gun makers or Drug makers? Who should we be more afraid of?

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One by one, more of Corporate America is shunning the National Rifle Association (NRA). There is a touch of irony, perhaps hypocrisy about these moves. For a long time it has served rental car agencies, United Airlines and credit card companies to show their support for the NRA as its membership base was credibly large that it was ‘good for business.’ Despite dozens of massacres after the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 why did they not shun the NRA in the last 19 years? Why didn’t the 14 gun massacres under Obama where Democrats had a majority in the House and Senate cause them to ban guns or automatic rifles period? Now all of a sudden corporates have woken up from their wistful slumber to realize that supporting the NRA may no longer be appropriate “in moving with the times”, the very phrase which is used to silence debate. In the process these corporates pillory all members of an association that in the overwhelming majority of cases are law abiding citizens.

Let’s make it clear. CM is no fan of guns. CM is a fan of laws. A fan of democracy that lets people vote on issues such as this. Changing the constitution is in most countries a matter for the people to decide, not just the handful of politicians within the walls of law making. CM doesn’t need a gun. CM doesn’t want a gun. CM, like most reading this can’t understand why one would want to massacre innocent people with a gun. However we’ve stated clearly that banning guns won’t fix the problem in America. One could easily drive a car through a school campus and mow down dozens of kids during play time. Do we ban cars? The two students who carried out the Columbine massacre had handgrenades, pipe bombs and propane time bombs. While guns were the sole cause of the 15 deaths, these kids had intended to murder 100s in the commons area with the bombs (which were made from everyday off the shelf items).

Although when United Airlines starts taking the moral high ground with respect to the NRA after its own scandals of heavy handedly frog marching passengers off its aircraft it isn’t worth listening to. If these corporates could openly say that running NRA discounts was not worth it on economic grounds in terms of the administration in running such programs one could understand. If they made rational decisions that showed their business would fall of a cliff by supporting the NRA one could understand. It hasn’t happened in 20 years, so why now? If one chooses to fly United for whatever reason (convenience, price, family emergency) will they stop flying it in fear of association with the NRA might be bad for their image? Does the average American, where there are as many guns as people, think ill of the NRA? 32% of US households own guns. Are 32% of households unhinged lunatics? Granted the NRA does itself  little favors in the PR department after such tragedies.

As we’ve written in recent days, the growing incidence of broken homes and the surge in the dispensing of antidepressants to ‘tranquilize’ those who might be tempted into suicidal or homicidal tendencies is a worrying trend. Pharma companies are expected to mint $17bn in antidepressants by 2020.  Should we spurn Eli Lilly’s over-the-counter drugs because they are the evil corporates milking billions from Prozac?

To put it into perspective the total number of overdose deaths involving heroin from 2002 to 2015 jumped 6.2-fold in the US. Automobiles killed around 32,000 people last year or a little over 2x that of heroin overdoses. When adding non-methadone opioids (illicit fentanyl) overdose that number surged to 20,000, a 33% YoY jump on 2014 and 5.9x 2002. Why is it happening? The problem for many prescription painkiller users is that once their bottle ends, the addiction doesn’t stop meaning many switch to heroin to get the same ‘opioid’ hit.

Excessive use of pain relievers make up a large proportion of illicit drug use. Oxycodone is one of the more common type of opiate pain killer and it is highly addictive. In 2010, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required the formulation of OxyContin be changed to make it harder to become addicted to. Talk about loading patients with too much ammunition.

As opioid overdoses rise, companies such as Adapt Pharma have seen sharp rises in the sales of products like Narcan (Naloxone) which basically revives victims from the dead. Narcan publicizes its price that is even insured meaning one can overdose and revive with a $10 co-payment.

94% of insured lives in the US have coverage for NARCAN® Nasal Spray*. According to IMS Health, nearly three quarters (74%) of prescriptions for NARCAN® Nasal Spray have a co-pay of $10 or less**. For those paying cash, ADAPT Pharma has partnered with retail pharmacies to reduce out of pocket costs (Retail is $62.50/dose)…To expand community access, NARCAN® Nasal Spray is available to all qualified group purchasers for $37.50 per 4mg dose ($75 per carton of 2 doses). This pricing is available for all Qualified Group Purchasers, such as first responders (EMS, Fire Department, Police), community organizations and Departments of Health, regardless of size. This pricing represents a 40% discount off the Wholesale Acquisition Cost (WAC) of $125 per carton.”

Price hikes have been a feature of naloxene. As of January 2015, Amphastar’s version of naloxone was up to $41 a dose, according to Fierce Pharma, a pharmaceutical industry news website. That follows a price increase from $17 to $33 a dose back in October 2014, according to data provided by Truven Health Analytics. So not only is volume spiking, so is price. Walgreens has expanded the availability of prescription-free naloxone to 33 states.

West Virginia health officials are responding to opioid overdoses by distributing more than 8,000 kits with Naloxone that can get people breathing again if administered in time. Money for the kits comes from a $1 million federal grant to West Virginia, which has had the nation’s highest rate of overdose deaths at 41.5/100,000 people.

Local emergency medical services agencies in West Virginia administered 4,186 doses of Naloxone in 2016, up from 3,351 the year before and 2,165 two years ago and that data doesn’t include uses by hospital emergency departments, urgent care centers, first responders and family members.

The gun industry in America is around $11 billion. 35,000 work in the manufacture of guns and ammo. There are 50,000 retailers in the US. 32% of American households possess a firearm. One-third. The federal government collects $132 million in taxes on guns. 17 million background checks for gun purchases are conducted annually.

By all means let’s have common sense debates on regulation surrounding guns. Sending memes of Republicans on the payroll of the NRA can be met with as many Democrats accepting fortunes from the pharmaceutical lobby so as to prevent price cuts being driven through Congress. While guns maybe noisy killers, pharmaceutical companies are  in a sense becoming (or already become) stealthy silent assassins. Their drugs causing patients to switch to harder substances. 13% of adolescents are on antidepressants. Thirteen percent. 68% of them have taken antidepressants for 2 years and a quarter for over a decade,

The tragedy of school shootings is awful in every conceivable way. How it tears families apart, destroys the lives of survivors who must cope with unspeakable trauma and creates a platform for such horrid knee jerk responses in all forms of media. How the loss of 17 lives takes a back seat to agendas which feed the very opposite of the intention they proclaim. Corporates joining the bandwagon only fuel mixed messaging. It is exactly the type of ‘shaming’ that was so prevalent at the time of the election.

Trying to get the NRA to come around to spreading the word amongst its members that banning bump stocks and certain weapons is feasible won’t occur when corporates and the media publicly kick them. It is never an easy discussion but it only makes members want to dig their trenches deeper. Do people honestly believe that all NRA members would reject common sense proposals about screening, age limits and certain weapons restrictions? Yet that is the picture that is painted. They’re lunatics to a man, woman and child. Let’s hope that United Airlines and others that have spurned the NRA now turn to the drugs list in the company health provider to ensure that those pharmaceutical companies behind so many of the deaths from the explosive concoctions they sell are dealt with in the same way. Here’s a prediction. That hasn’t crossed their minds. So much for pharma companies saving lives. They are cashing in as a growing number of patients check out.

Valentine’s Day according to Google Trends

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Gender stereotypes? Google Trends just threw a spanner in the works in a study on Valentine’s Day gift searches for a loved one. It seeems like women are far more proactive and engaged in searching for gift ideas than their boyfriends appear to be. What could explain it?

Could it be that men simply are too hard wired/unimaginative? Many women could attest to their men sticking with boring flowers, chocolates, and dinner reservations through experience or a sense of duty.

Tales out of school. At my old firm I used to buy 120 individually wrapped cakes for my female clients on Valentine’s Day and spend all morning delivering them personally. Never did I receive more sincere thank you’s for thinking more creatively than dropping off boring chocolates. So a note to the lazy men out there – women seem more likely to praise the “effort” over the “result” – hopefully ladies can confirm this so we can get “equality” back into Valentine’s search engines.

Could it be that males are harder to shop for causing women to have to search harder? Could it be that women are kinder and more thoughtful souls than men?

Most women get that men probably don’t want flowers or chocolates, but what will he like? Season tickets to watch his favourite team? A sports magazine? Golf balls (dangerous territory if he’s a keen golfer), motorcycle parts (extremely high risk)? A tie? Socks? iPhone goods? Underwear? Don’t laugh. Studies show that women are behind 80% of the purchases of men’s undies. Indeed it may well be that men are pickier (or lazier) about gifts causing women to search 2-3x more.

If we look at the above chart it seems that women searching for gifts for their boyfriends keeps making higher highs as the deadline approaches. Men too albeit at a flatter trajectory.

Maybe the devil in the data is what Google could really do for men and women. Instead of judging a partner’s devotion by the scale of money dished out on such a grossly commercial day, perhaps Google could let one know how much they meant to their significant other by the timeline on when the Valentine’s Day search began and to avoid gaming the system informing hours spent online during the process.

There are millions of factors which trigger Valentine’s decisions but isn’t that what diversity is all about – freedom of choice.