Friday, October 24, 2014

A peek inside the conservative mind

By Carl

WARNING: Below, you will be exposed to toxic thinking and noxious conclusions from right-wing partisans. A Level Four HazMat suit is recommended. The CDC will NOT be available for protection. You have been warned. Proceed with caution. Should you experience nausea, vomiting, tearing eyes, a rise in blood pressure SHUT DOWN YOUR BROWSER IMMEDIATELY and seek expert medical attention from Doctors Jack Daniels or Jim Beam.

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The Ebola crisis is, in point of fact, a manufactured crisis. Media outlets, tired of covering insipid and meaningless political horse races found a sexy and dangerous news item and not only ran with it, but decided to tie it into the politics of the day.

The prevailing wisdom, of course, is this crisis reflects badly on the CDC. I suppose when you push a false narrative, it has to. After all, the CDC is supposed to be on top of "crises" like these, and handle them with aplomb.

Tell that to the 20,000 AIDS victims who died before the CDC even got their boots on back under Reagan.

In point of fact, the real enemy of the American people is, not surprisingly, the GOP, and Texans specifically. It's no surprise that this outbreak occurred in the state least able to handle an outbreak. Texas has great hospitals -- the heart transplant was practically perfected in Houston -- and clearly there's enough oil money down there to import the finest doctors who want a live of luxury.

Before we get into this too deeply, let's take a look at the timeline of the outbreak:

On September 15, Thomas Eric Duncan becomes exposed to the Ebola virus when he accompanies a pregnant friend to a hospital in Liberia, who believes she is miscarrying. According to the cab driver, they tried four hospitals. None would see her (this echoes later in the tale. You'd like to think the States would be different...). The next day, the friend dies.

On September 19, Duncan leaves Liberia to visit family in Texas. He cannot fly directly to the States, so he flies to Brussels, then DC, then Dallas. He is not symptomatic. Much has been made by the lunatic reactionary fringe of the fact that Duncan "knew" he had the virus, as he quit his job on September 4, and arranging a visa to the US, but that's patently untrue. The visa was of long standing and his girlfriend had moved here long before the contact.

That Ebola was an unmanageable problem in Liberia may have contributed to his decision to leave, but there is no evidence that Duncan even saw a doctor prior to Dallas, much less received a diagnosis. Indeed, all reputable sources point to the September 15 trip as the first time he even sets foot in a hospital and that was for his neighbor.

On September 24, Duncan is symptomatic: fever, and nausea. Two days later, he decides to go to the emergency room, since a) he has no insurance and b) Ronald Reagan mandated that no emergency room may turn away a patient without treatment.

At Texas Presbyterian, Duncan tells a nurse he recently arrived from Liberia but that information does not get passed along because, Texas (In NYC, by contrast, emergency rooms routinely have maps of the world that staff can refer to on which disease outbreaks by nation are charted.) Conservatives have gotten this part wrong endlessly, preferring to point to one interview where the TPH staff said no one was aware of his recent travels. Malpractice suit number one.

TPH, suspecting a low grade virus, send him home with a prescription for antibiotics. Antibiotics, it should be pointed out, are completely ineffective against any virus. Malpractice suit number two.

Two days later, on September 28, EMTs are dispatched to Duncan's home who bring him to the hospital. None of the EMTs have developed Ebola symptoms, we should note. And they would have had less reason to suspect Ebola than the hospital staff. Protocols were followed.

It's not until September 29 that the CDC receives even the most cursory notification of a possible Ebola case, when a relative of Duncan's calls them. He gets shuffled about, and the CDC has not confirmed this phone call, although the State Department, to whom the relative was referred, does acknowledge receiving a call, but that the relative and others who State interviewed denied that Duncan was exposed to Ebola (possibly fearing deportation, or at the very least, quarantine, I suspect).

September 30, four days after the first hospital visit, Duncan tests positive for Ebola. Up to 20 people would have come in contact with him prior to protocols being put in place. The hospital executives have admitted that the initial response to Duncan's case was pathetically, almost laughably, bad.

As you now know, two nurses contracted Ebola from Duncan. One, Nina Pham, was symptomatic as of October 12. It's possible that she came into contact with Duncan's bodily fluids before the protocols would have been triggered, as Ebola may, and I stress may, not have been diagnosed yet (although the mind wobbles at how you don't put full hazmat gear on for a vomiting patient, no matter what the condition).

Also on October 12, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins orders a watch list of people who came into contact with Duncan be created.

Yet, a moron, one Amber Vinson, gets on a plane the very next day from Cleveland back to Dallas. Malpractice suit number three.

Stories vary about whether the CDC okayed her travel. Vinson and her partisans have suggested the CDC cleared her. The CDC, however, maintains they tried to persuade her not to travel but ultimately relented for her return to Dallas, for reasons unknown.

Mind you, the responsibility for Vinson self-quarantining would have been TPH's and the Dallas department of health, not the CDC. Dallas authorities had already quarantined the Duncan family. The Jenkins order suggests they could have done the same as they identified potential patients.

But it's the CDC's fault. Of course. Because they are the Federal government run by the black guy in public housing.

Never mind that the combined budget for the CDC and the National Institutes of Health were cut 44% in the budget deal last year that re-opened the Federal government.

(And a side note: if this had happened in 2013 under the shutdown, the Republicans would have been revealed as the treasonous bastards they are, since the CDC would have been completely prevented from doing anything except maybe issuing warnings.)

Never mind that we still don't have a Surgeon General, who might have been able to move more quickly on this matter and certainly brought more resources to bear to deal with this problem, because the NRA has vetoed the most recent candidate.

And never mind that the last time the Feds imposed a mandatory quarantine on anyone, they ended up getting sued (although a judge threw the case out.)

This is not an epidemic. This is not even an outbreak. We may still see a few more cases in the States, but for the most part, by October 1, the disease was back under control. It's more like a wildfire than a flu. But you'd hardly know that watching the conservative media like FOX News or CNN.

The missteps here are many, and kudos to the CDC for admitting they could have been quicker on the draw -- they could have -- but the bulk of the evidence suggests the problem lies in Texas: in it's poor healthcare system, lack of universal health insurance, and "damn the rules, I'll do what I want" rugged individualism.

Also, the fact that Duncan was not white may have played a role in his treatment at the hospital. I would like to think not, but I'll keep an open mind because this is Texas, after all.

All this occurs over a backdrop of precisely one Ebola death, the fellow who brought it here, and two additional confirmed cases.

Keep in mind that in the same time frame that this "crisis" has unfolded, there have been a thousand deaths by gun in this country.

That's a crisis.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Is rational political dialogue in America still possible?

By Richard K. Barry

I haven't written much about politics lately. I've mostly concentrated on music at another blog. It seems that nothing changes in the so-called national dialogue and saying the same thing over and over gets tiring. But just when I thought I might want to jump back in, I come across a comment by Fox News resident psychiatrist Keith Albow.


Tom Kludt at TPM describes Albow's recent's comments about our president:

"I think that we became psychologically mired in a form of national Stockholm Syndrome," he said of Obama's election victories during his radio interview last week. "We said to ourselves, and the world, 'Look at this guy. We're going to elect this guy president. Why would you attack us? We're not even voting for somebody who likes us. This guy, who has names very similar to two of our archenemies, Osama, well, Obama. And Hussein. Hussein. Surely you won't attack us now because we've got a shield here of a guy who, as the leader of our country, says we're bad.'"

I know it's only one asshole at Fox, and, given the source, it doesn't surprise. I suppose that's the problem. Tired, tired, tired.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

A preview of the forthcoming Steven Wilson album

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As you may have seen, we haven't been posting much lately. Suffice it to say, we've been busy, and preoccupied with other things. But we'll try to keep up the blogging now and then, so stay tuned -- and, you never know, we may turn our collective attention back to this blog before too long. In the meantime, some sporadic posting...

And so why not, this Saturday evening, turn not to political commentary but to music, so much a part of this blog as well, and specifically to one of the best of the very best, Steven Wilson (about whom I've written before on several occasions), whose next solo album (with the amazing band he's had for most of his recent "solo" career) is set to be released next February.

Count me incredibly excited. His first three solo albums -- Insurgentes, Grace for Drowning, and The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories) -- got progressively better, one after the other, though it's very close for the last two and I'm actually quite partial to Grace, though they're all fantastic and I prefer not to rank them. But where Insurgentes is very much a Porcupine Tree-style album, and not as distinctly solo, and where Grace is a bit all over the place, The Raven is a cohesive masterpiece of the prog rock genre, in many ways a quite retro, '70s-style album, but also post-prog given its vision and breadth, and very much a towering rock album by any standard.

And now Wilson is saying that his forthcoming album is a combination of all his solo work, maybe all his work. Which would be pretty impressive, for sure, but I have no doubt it'll be magnificent -- and what's certain is that it will be another leap forward for Wilson, who never does the same thing but prefers to keep challenging himself and, with each new work, breaking free from his own past.

Here's a short film, by frequent collaborator Lasse Hoile, of Wilson and his band recording the new album at AIR Studios in London. Enjoy!

Steven Wilson at AIR Studios, London - September 2014 from Kscope on Vimeo.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Bring in the McClowns

By Capt. Fogg

It seems I write the same things over and over again because the Republican pattern repeats indefinitely.  It's OK when we do it or say it or demand it, it's anti-American, tyrannical, too little, too late, too much, too soon when they do it. Even if Republicans invented it or pioneered it or used it until yesterday it's different when "they" do it.

How long ago was it that John McCain and  Fox News and the rest of the merry bunch made a circus act with all three rings full of how Obama is a "tyrant" for appointing all those Czars?  "More Czars than the Romanovs," tweets the funny man.  So where's the big red nose and oversize pants when John McCain tells us that hapless weakling Obama isn't appointing the Czars we need?  That's right, John McCain has joined Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), sponsor of H.R. 3226 (111th): Czar Accountability and Reform (CZAR) Act of 2009  in condemning the administration for this egregious failure, invoking the "if it's bad, it's Obama" clause in the Party rules. 2009 is when George W. Bush left office -- just coincidentally -- and of course George had 33 of them, but let's keep that quiet.


Of course there's no public office with the title Czar on the door as far as I know. It's a media epithet that began in the 1940s and of course there's nothing unconstitutional about the President appointing "other public ministers" no matter how much they chuckle and chortle and lie in the Fox newsroom.
But quoting history and public record never seems to have much effect on the magic thinkers and pea-brained partisans of any stripe.  The public's eyes are always on the jugglers and clowns and what they're doing now, not what they did ten seconds ago.

"No one knows who's in charge," says McCain, his face revealing nothing of how his party, with the help of the NRA has blocked the nomination of a Surgeon General, an office designed to take control and coordinate the process of informing the country of what's being done.  Yes, the NRA, because the Surgeon General might just get involved in gun policy.  Can't have that. Better a plague than risk a gun grabber liberal doctor commie near our weapons. Better this country perish from the earth.


 (Cross posted at Human Voices)

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Presidents don't salute

By Capt. Fogg

In the 24 hour news world, domestic abuse, particularly athlete and celebrity domestic abuse is the theme of the week.  It's likely to remain so until the abuse stories become so minor it becomes necessary to manufacture them or until some other chew toy is tossed to the media by circumstances.  What that will be, which of many will be picked up by CNN or Fox as the gonfallon of the next cycle is hard to predict.

Today's prime candidate for our next obsession   is the video clip of
Obama exiting a helicopter and saluting the marine guard with a cup of coffee in his hand.  The local Fox outlet took time out from covering wars and calamities and domestic abuse stories to discuss the implied disrespect for the people who sacrifice for "our freedom" or get dressed up to help the president off a helicopter, which ever comes first.

One characteristic of the news in our time is that we get enough information to prop up the theme of the story but never nearly enough to let you speculate on how it fits into the big picture.  Surprise surprise, presidents saluting the military is rather new to be calling it a tradition.  I believe it started with Reagan, who of course served WW II in Hollywood.  Some nations forbid saluting while "uncovered" or not wearing a hat.  According to Marine protocol:

" Marines do not render the hand salute when out of uniform or when uncovered."  

Whether or not an "uncovered"  or out of uniform president,  or any other civilian is required to return such a salute is open to interpretation .  There is no universal rule and one must remember commuting by helicopter is as common as driving to work or taking the bus is for the rest of us -- not much of a public ceremony. There is no rule about doing something because Reagan's PR people told Reagan to do it.

 

"The gesture is of course quite wrong: Such a salute has always required the wearing of a uniform.  It represents an exaggeration of the president's military role."  Wrote author and historian John Lukacs wrote in The New York Times in 2003 when Bush was in the White house and it was un-American to criticize the Warpresident..
It does seem that saluting with a cup of coffee seems a bit thoughtless or impolitic, or while talking on the telephone -- even if you're talking to Putin or scheduling an attack on Syria, but that alone doesn't sufficiently serve the cause of providing fodder for the Obamabashers.  We have to call it a "latte" because coffee with milk in it isn't as funny or as easy a target for scorn.  We must not mention or take note that when Bush saluted with a dog under his arm or when Eisenhower didn't salute at all we didn't melt into a puddle of contempt on the floor. We must not question the fact that the president is a civilian and  doesn't have a uniform to wear even if he is a commander in chief or ask whether he's subject to military protocols.  This is Obama we're talking about and this is the man we must impugn and impede and insult whether the nation is at peril. or not.


(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The man who would be king

By Capt. Fogg

President Obama wants to be a king, you know.  We hear that all the time.  He's a tyrant, he appoints Czars to run things, but of course he gets nothing done and plays golf while hordes of armed terrorists cross the borders disguised as children he invited here with his "policies." Never mind that the influx peaked in 2008. 

His policies -- his executive orders -- you know he's issued more of them than any other president and he's trashing the constitution by doing it!

Rand Paul, the man who would be president says his first executive order would be to repeal all previous executive orders, doesn't seem to see that particular order as trashing the constitution or indicating royal presumptions of his own and perhaps because he also asserts that revoking all previous orders would be his only and final order.

Of course the entire premise, that our current executive branch operates primarily by autocratic executive order and in disregard for the "will of the people" (as ignored and filibustered by Congress)  is false.  In fact Obama and his predecessor issued far, far fewer of them than any president in my lifetime.  If the facts don't fit, you're full of shit as Mr. Cochran might have said -- and he would be right.

But Paul's presidential campaign is not about truth or even about Democracy.  It's all about appealing to the irrational and fact-free passions of  the Party and apparently he had to think for a moment about repealing Truman's integration of the military and indeed Lincoln's executive order freeing of the slaves and Eisenhower's desegregation of schools before saying he would repeal and re-instate those which had some saving grace.  One can only imagine the debate about re-instating those three, but I have to wonder about the Napoleonic ego of someone who would repeal all the executive orders of the Washington administration onward and using his own judgement, re-order those he agreed with.  

To the people who cheered and applauded this proclamation without bothering to check any facts or perhaps to those who care little for facts or are able to dismiss them for some metaphysical reasons President Paul is a prospect devoutly to be wished because to those who really would be kings, all that which stands in the way must be done away with, whether true or false, good or bad or disastrous.

(Cross posted at Human Voices)

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11

By  Capt. Fogg

Riding my new bike yesterday, an elderly driver decided that the exit ramp was no longer the place for her and suddenly swerved back into the road  without looking.  It just so happens that's exactly where I was.  I managed to avoid her at some risk of falling, but it happened so fast there was no question of using my horn and she simply continued on her way somewhere at ten under the limit. Why do I mention this?  Because it's 9/11 again, the day of self pity and choreographed mourning and as the fellow on the news this morning said, "I used to feel invincible but now I feel so vulnerable."

Do we need a better example of how erratically, erroneously and stupidly people assess risk?  If we were to make a statistically accurate list ranking the possibility of being harmed by a terrorist attack on any given day, would it be below a list of thousands of possibilities -- tens of thousands -- hundreds of thousands?  But I didn't look over my shoulder in fear and dread getting on the bike on a sunny Wednesday afternoon and I'm not expecting an airplane to crash into my house in rural Florida today either. The chances of getting hurt by some nice old lady just a mile or so from home is almost incalculably larger, yet still small enough that I don't tremble in my steel toe boots thinking about the danger stalking the roads.  Heart attacks, cancer, strokes, a fall in the bathroom, these are all things I legitimately worry about at my age and try to avoid.  Terrorist attacks? Really?  Isn't that an insult to people who wake up every morning in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Palestine, Israel, Lebanon? 

But self pity and self absorption are so American.  Beheadings and the other horrors of the day don't count so much unless it's an American head rolling and thousands dead anywhere hardly count in comparison to one possibly unjust American death.

I don't know how much Cola and shoes and Toyotas the obsession of the day will sell on CNN and Fox, but it sells fear by the carload.  It sells so much fear that most of us still haven't noticed that we -- or our congress, that is, signed away the 4th amendment for the great majority of the country, that we began pumping up our police departments with heavy weaponry even in remote places like Wyoming in order to equip them for the hordes of Muslims falling from the sky over the Cheney ranch. It sold domestic surveillance, it sold countless quasi-military weapons. It sold the longest and  most expensive wars in our history. We went to war with an uninvolved country and created so much chaos and so big a power vacuum that Iraq became helpless to keep out Al Qaeda and now ISIS.

But we still feel not only sorry for ourselves, but guilty for not feeling sorry enough.  Eventually 9/11 will go the way of the Alamo, the Maine and Pearl Harbor, but not soon enough for me because as long as we weep and moan and fear to turn our heads lest a fearful beast pursues us, as long as we continue to conduct our petty civil wars,  we won't do a damned thing about the real world and its real troubles.

(Cross posted to Human Voices)

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