As of late last night we didn’t have much snow where I live, but this morning there’s at least a foot out there if not more. The town hasn’t even plowed my street yet, so it looks like a sea of white and you can’t tell there’s a road there at all. The snow is piled up against the storm door, so I’ll either have to dig out gradually while pushing the door outward or try to get out through the garage. We are still expecting at least another foot today before the storm passes.
I can’t really complain so far. I’m warm and dry and I have electricity. I feel for the people along the coast and on the islands. Here in Massachusetts, Nantucket and parts of Cape Cod have lost power. Nantucket had 78 mph winds last night. In Scituate, which is on the South Shore, “officials cut power to homes along ocean,”
SCITUATE, Mass. (WHDH) -Town officials in Scituate cut power to several coastal roads because they fear, if an electrical fire sparks inside a home it could easily spread to several homes and fire crews wouldn’t be able to access it during high tide.
It was a precaution based of a similar storm in 2010 that destroyed two houses.
“We’re doing it for this storm, because experience has told us, the power company needs lots of advance notice to power down an area, we expect significant flooding in this area,” Scituate Town Administrator Patricia Vinchesi said.
“There are no mandatory evacuations permitted in MA, that’s why can only ask people to voluntarily leave,” Vinchesi said.
I feel for those people. The temperature where I live was in the single numbers last night and it’s only in the teens right now.
You can watch the storm track live at NBCNews.com. Here’s the latest on the storm, according to NBC.
Coastal New England was battered Tuesday by a blizzard of blinding snow, ferocious waves and winds that topped hurricane speed, and city streets in Boston were empty of all but snowplows.
New York City, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut lifted travel bans, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said subways and buses in the nation’s largest city would roll again later in the morning. But major airports in the Northeast were still deserted after more than 7,700 flights were canceled.
In Massachusetts, the blizzard was living up to its historic billing. The city of Worcester, about 60 miles west of Boston, had 25 inches of snow on the ground and was closing in on its record of 32.1 as a band of extremely heavy snow settled in for the morning.
In Boston proper:
Mayor Marty Walsh of Boston said it could still be Tuesday night or Wednesday before mass transit starts rolling again there. In the meantime, police were ferrying doctors and nurses to their hospital shifts.
“We’ve had a pretty good night, but the main bulk of the storm is hitting us right now,” Walsh of Boston said on NBC’s TODAY. “We’re asking people just to stay in their homes today and just ride this one out.”
Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island were all under states of emergency as of early this morning. Apparently the storm was somewhat of a bust in NYC, with only about 6 inches in Central Park and not much more predicted.
From USA Today: Mighty storm hammers Northeast; NYC ‘dodges bullet.’
A mighty storm marched resolutely across the deserted streets of the Northeast early Tuesday, showing mercy on New York City and Philadelphia but relentlessly pounding Boston and many coastal areas with heavy snow, high winds and flooding.
More than 50 million people were hunkered down in the angry storm’s path. More than 7,000 flights were canceled, road travel was banned in several states and schools were closed for millions of kids.
The storm was forecast to continue roaring through much of the region into Wednesday, although forecasters were downgrading the potential impact in some areas. The National Weather Service said the storm tracked 50 to 75 miles further east than expected.
“It’s a case of haves and have nots,” AccuWeather meteorologist Tyler Roys told USA TODAY on Tuesday. “The worst of it is in the coastal areas. Other places have been relatively spared.”
Philadelphia, which on Monday morning appeared to be vulnerable to huge snow totals, had about an inch downtown early Tuesday. A blizzard warning was canceled for New York City and New Jersey.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio opened city streets to traffic Tuesday morning, and the subway system was being brought up to speed. The city had feared a blast of 20 inches of snow or more; Central Park had almost 8 inches Tuesday morning.
“This is a better-safe-than-sorry scenario,” de Blasio said on CNN Tuesday morning. “It is still very bad on the streets … but we dodged a bullet.”
Here’s another NBC News page with live updates on transportation delays and road closings.
For the real weather geeks, here’s an article from The Boston Globe on How and Why Nor’easters Form.
One question you might ask during this major storm is how and why did this form? If you saw a forecast as recently as Friday, meteorologists thought this storm would stay mostly out to sea, obviously that isn’t the case. Let me explain why the storm formed and then why it’s hitting and moving so slowly.
It’s important to keep this in mind when thinking about a storm. It’s all about nature’s attempt to bring balance to the atmosphere. Storms try to blend cold and warm air together to make them even. Once this happens, a storm will weaken and die. As the storm is forming the contrast in air masses is at it’s most intense. We are seeing nature’s attempt to bring warm air north and cold air south, the result is an intense coastal storm, we call a nor’easter.
You have likely heard of the jet stream. This is the band of winds at 30,000 feet that moves storms and air masses across the middle latitudes of the planet where we live. This jet stream doesn’t blow in a straight line. Instead it has curves and loops and these change the way the air flows within this stream of air. Basic meteorology tells us that if the air up at 30,000 feet is spreading out and speeding up it in turn aids in pulling the air upward off the surface of the planet. We call these concepts diffluence and divergence and they are two major components to why winter storms form. That upward motion or lift brings the air from the ground higher and higher until it cools and forms clouds and eventually precipitation. The more lift you have, the bigger the storm.
When storms are formed and becoming more intense all the levels of the atmosphere work in tandem to help build the storm.
Read much more wonky stuff about weather at the link.
So that’s the winter weather situation as of this morning. If you are in one of the affected states, please let us know how you’re doing.
In other news,
I’m going stick with headlines this morning, because I’m still fighting a cold and I didn’t sleep that well last night. Here’s what’s happening:
Washington Post, Koch-backed network aims to spend nearly $1 billion on 2016 elections.
Politico, The Kochs put a price on 2016: $889 million.
Via Cannonfire, an interview with Max Blumenthal at The Read News about the lies in the movie American Sniper, American Sniper: Honoring a Fallen Hero or Whitewashing a Murderous Occupation?
Something very creepy out of Indiana, Gov. Mike Pence’s state-run news outlet will compete with media. “Gov. Mike Pence is starting a state-run taxpayer-funded news outlet that will make pre-written news stories available to Indiana media, as well as sometimes break news about his administration, according to documents obtained by The Indianapolis Star.” Yikes!
Interesting developments in Greece.
The New Yorker, Greece’s Warning to the Rest of Europe.
Washington Post, Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling convicted in leak case.
Talking Points Memo, Jon Stewart Has Field Day With Incomprehensible Palin Speech (VIDEO).
What else is happening? Please share your links in the comment thread and enjoy your Tuesday!
I could easily stay under the covers today and just ignore the outside world. Yesterday I thought I was getting over my cold, but today the sinus congestion has kicked back in and I’m coughing and I can tell there is stuff in my lungs. To top it all off, there’s a snowstorm outside that is expected to leave a big sloppy mess in its wake; and more snow is predicted for Tuesday. To be honest, I’m having difficulty working up much enthusiasm for the news today, so once again I’m going to focus on a story that has aroused my curiosity recently.
One thing I’ve been thinking about for the past couple of days is the success of the movie American Sniper. I suppose I should see it before dismissing it, but I really don’t want to sit through a movie about a guy who shot hundreds of people at a distance in a pointless war.
The first time I heard anything about Chris Kyle was when he was shot and killed along with a friend, Chad Littlefield on a Texas shooting range. The New York Times reported that Kyle worked with veterans suffering from PTSD by taking them to the gun range and letting them work out their issues there. That just seemed bizarre to me, but I’ve never been in a war or even held a gun in my hand, so there’s no way I could relate to this. Maybe there was something to it.
The alleged killer was a young veteran named Eddie Ray Routh, whom Kyle was supposedly trying to help. According to the Washington Post, the specific details surrounding Kyle’s death aren’t dealt with in the movie about him.
Kyle had returned from Iraq in 2009 and was
well acquainted with the difficulties soldiers face returning to civilian life, and had devoted much of his time since retiring in 2009 to helping fellow soldiers overcome the traumas of war….
In 2011, Mr. Kyle created the Fitco Cares Foundation to provide veterans with exercise equipment and counseling. He believed that exercise and the camaraderie of fellow veterans could help former soldiers ease into civilian life.
Mr. Kyle, who lived outside of Dallas with his wife and their two children, had his own difficulties adjusting after retiring from the Navy SEALs. He was deployed in Iraq during the worst years of the insurgency, perched in or on top of bombed-out apartment buildings with his .300 Winchester Magnum. His job was to provide “overwatch,” preventing enemy fighters from ambushing Marine units.
Kyle also wrote a book, “American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History,” in which he wrote that
[h]e did not think the job would be difficult….But two weeks into his time in Iraq, he found himself staring through his scope into the face of an unconventional enemy. A woman with a child standing close by had pulled a grenade from beneath her clothes as several Marines approached. He hesitated, he wrote, then shot.
“It was my duty to shoot, and I don’t regret it,” he wrote. “My shots saved several Americans, whose lives were clearly worth more than that woman’s twisted soul.”
Over time, his hesitation diminished and he became proficient at his job, credited with more than 150 kills.
I just can’t relate to any of that, and I really don’t want to see a movie that glorifies that kind of killing. Why do so many people want to see it, and why do they see this man as a hero? I don’t get it. I spent some time yesterday reading about Kyle’s life and the movie from different points of view, and I’m even more mystified now than I was when I began reading.
One thing I learned is that Kyle was a serial liar or fabulist of some sort. He once claimed he had beaten up former Navy Seal, professional wrestler, and Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura in a bar fight. Ventura sued Kyle for defamation of character and won a $1.8 million settlement from Kyle’s estate.
A St. Paul, Minn., jury awarded former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura $1.8 million Tuesday in his lawsuit against the estate of “American Sniper” author Chris Kyle.
On the sixth day of deliberations, the federal jury decided that the 2012 best-selling book defamed Ventura in its description of a bar fight in California in 2006. Kyle wrote that he decked a man whom he later identified as Ventura after the man allegedly said the Navy SEALs “deserve to lose a few.”
Ventura testified that Kyle fabricated the passage about punching him. Kyle said in testimony videotaped before his death last year that his story was accurate.
Legal experts had said Ventura had to clear a high legal bar to win, since as a public figure he had to prove “actual malice.” According to the jury instructions, Ventura had to prove with “clear and convincing evidence” that Kyle either knew or believed what he wrote was untrue, or that he harbored serious doubts about its truth.
The jury’s verdict was later upheld on appeal.
According to a long and fascinating piece by Michael McCaffrey, another wild story that Kyle liked to tell was how he was carjacked by some bad guys and ended up killing them and being thanked for it by the police.
Chris told many people, and some reporters, that just after his return from Iraq in 2009, he was carjacked by two men at a gas station on a remote Texas highway. Chris asked the men if he could reach into his truck to get his keys, and as he did he pulled a pistol from his waistband and shot both men in the chest from under his armpit. The two men were killed instantly. Chris called the police and waited for them while leaning against his truck. The police came, Chris handed them a phone number to call at the Pentagon. The cops called the number, and the people at the Pentagon told the cops that Chris Kyle was a war hero and a Navy SEAL. The police also went inside and watched the gas station surveillance video of the incident. The cops then let Chris go on his way. Chris claimed he got emails from cops all across the country after the incident thanking him for “keeping the streets clean”. Great story. Except none of it is true. Not a word. There were no carjackers, no dead bodies, no cops, none of it. He made the whole thing up. His big mistake was then telling the story to his SEAL friend, Marcus Lutrell, author of Lone Survivor, and Marcus put the story in his second book, Service: A Navy SEAL at Work. Now it wasn’t just a tall-tale, it was in the public record, and it is demonstrably a lie. The New Yorker magazine and other journalists have investigated the story. They all come to the same conclusion. There were no carjackers. There were no dead bodies. There were no cops. None of it happened. No police departments know anything about it, no coroner ever saw the bodies, no gas station had any surveillance video or ever heard of such a thing and no cops ever responded to the scene and called the Pentagon.
And then there was the tale about how Kyle and another guy had gone to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and picked off looters from the roof of the Superdome. McCaffrey writes:
The second story that was told by Chris Kyle was that he and another SEAL were sent by the government to New Orleans in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. Once they got to New Orleans, Chris and another sniper went to the roof of the Superdome, and started shooting looters in the city. Chris Kyle said this to many people, he also said this on tape. Chris claims to have killed thirty looters all on his own. Helluva story. Only problem is…there’s not a speck of truth in it. Once again this is a total fabrication, or to put it less delicately, a complete, bold faced lie. Chris Kyle never went to New Orleans after Katrina. He never shot ‘looters’. Just like with the carjackers, there are no bodies and no documentary or corroborating evidence it occurred. None. Chris Kyle lied. Again.
Why would this man, who already had plenty of dramatic true stories to tell, make up these tall tales out of whole cloth? If you’re interested in the psychology of people like this, you’ll probably find McCaffrey’s suggested explanations as interesting as I did.
Here are a few more articles to check out if you find the hero-worship of Kyle and his own behavior as interesting and confounding as I do.
The New Yorker: In the Crosshairs — Chris Kyle, a decorated sniper, tried to help a troubled veteran. The result was tragic.
The Guardian: Chris Kyle and the Iraq war are more complex than American Sniper – or criticism of it, by Colby Buzzell.
Slate: How Accurate Is American Sniper? by Courtney Duckworth.
Alternet, via Raw Story: 7 big lies ‘American Sniper’ is telling America about Iraq and Chris Kyle, by Zaid Jelani.
Telesur: American Sniper? by Ross Caputi.
The Boston Globe: Many miss the point of Eastwood’s ‘American Sniper,’ by Ty Burr.
Rolling Stone: ‘American Sniper’ Is Almost Too Dumb to Criticize, by Matt Taibbi.
The Washington Post: Trial of Eddie Routh, killer of Chris Kyle, will be darkest chapter of ‘American Sniper,’ by Abby Philip.
What stories are you following these days? This is an open thread.
I’m going to focus on just one story today. I wanted to try to understand something I’m curious about–what’s causing the rapid spread of measles in California?
The outbreak of measles that started at Disneyland in December is spreading rapidly across California, into other states, and even into Mexico. Five Disneyland employees have now been diagnosed with the disease (three have recovered and others are being tested), and the number of reported cases traced to Disneyland has passed 60.
Last week I wrote about an unvaccinated woman who contracted the measles virus in Disneyland and then took two airline flights to the Seattle area during the holidays before she was diagnosed. How many other people did she infect? Measles is highly infectious, airborne virus that can be spread by coughing and sneezing, like the common cold. From the CDC website:
Measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person. It can spread to others through coughing and sneezing. Also, measles virus can live for up to two hours on a surface or in an airspace where the infected person coughed or sneezed. If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.
Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before to four days after the rash appears.
Another case was recently identified in Eugene, Oregon. The man is so sick that he hasn’t been able to talk to anyone, but his wife says he was in Disneyland and also went to the Rose Bowl game and then flew back home before he started showing symptoms. How many other people did he infect? UPDATE: It turns out the man did not go to the game–see story in comment thread.
Measles cases are also turning up in Northern California, according to SFGate: Disneyland measles outbreak spreads to Bay Area.
A large outbreak of measles that started at two adjacent Disney theme parks in December has now sickened people all over California, including a handful of Bay Area residents, and is prompting public health authorities to urge everyone to get vaccinated if they aren’t already.
California has reported 59 cases of measles since mid-December, the bulk of them in people who either visited or had close contact with someone who had been to Disneyland or California Adventure Park in Anaheim, public health officials said in a media conference call Wednesday. Seven measles cases have been reported in the Bay Area: in Alameda, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.
Most of the people who have become infected were unvaccinated. Because of the threat of infection, public health officials said people who aren’t vaccinated — either because they can’t get the vaccine or they choose not to — should avoid public places where large groups of people, especially international travelers who may carry measles, congregate.
“We can expect to see many more cases of this vaccine-preventable disease unless people take precautionary measures,” said Dr. Gil Chavez, deputy director of the Center for Infectious Diseases with the California Department of Public Health. “I am asking unvaccinated Californians to consider getting immunized to protect themselves and family and community at large.”
I had measles as a child, and fortunately I didn’t develop any of the complications, such as blindness, severe ear infections, pneumonia, and encephalitis (rare). But now that we have a vaccine for measles, children don’t need to risk these possible dangerous consequences of getting the virus. Sadly, we have a lot of people in this country who believe conspiracy theories about vaccines.
How do the anti-vaxxers avoid the vaccines? Most states require vaccinations for children attending school, but most states also allow religious exemptions. Here’s a list of vaccine requirements in each state. Every state but Mississippi and West Virginia allows religious exemptions; a few states also allow “philosophical” exemptions. Only California allows “objections based on simply the parent(s) beliefs.” I’m guessing some parents avoid vaccinating their children by home-schooling them.
Bloomberg reports that Orange County has banned unvaccinated kids from attending school because of the measles outbreak.
Health officials in Orange County, Calif. have banned two dozen students who have no immunization records from attending high school in the wake of a measles outbreak that has been traced back to Disneyland.
Sixty-seven confirmed measles cases have been reported in California in the current outbreak. One student from Huntington Beach High School who was infected with the disease attended class following winter break, exposing fellow students to the highly contagious illness, especially those who did not receive a childhood vaccination against it.
“If there is a case in the school and their child is not immunized, they will be removed from the school for 21 days,” Dr. Eric Handler, the Orange County public health officer, told the Los Angeles Times. “From an epidemiological standpoint, in order to prevent spread of the disease, this is a necessary measure.”
Now check this out:
In Southern California…many schools now report that upwards of 10 percent of students have not received childhood vaccinations. In Northern California, the figures are even worse, with clusters of under-vaccinated children in the San Francisco Bay Area resulting in one out of every four children going without the recommended immunizations.
Most of the parents who opt out of having their kids vaccinated are relatively affluent and well-educated, according to science writer Tara Haelle at Forbes. She notes two reasons why measles is spreading so rapidly in California.
Those two things are the extreme infectiousness of the disease and the low levels of herd immunity, or community immunity, in pockets of southern California. Measles infects 9 out of every 10 non-immune individuals it finds. It’s airborne and hangs around up to two hours after an infected person leaves the area. It doesn’t take much for this disease to spread through a population that isn’t immune from previous exposure or through vaccination. Or, to put it another way, in an unvaccinated population, each person infected with the measles will transmit the disease to 12 to 18 other people. If no one were vaccinated against measles, we would be up to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of cases by now. We aren’t because there are some levels of herd immunity, but it’s because herd immunity has been weakened that we’re seeing additional cases at all.
She also debunks the notion that undocumented immigrants are spreading the virus.
Meanwhile, one of the biggest myths popping up in comment threads and on social media is that undocumented immigrants have something to do with this outbreak, or any other outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease. We don’t yet know who Patient 0 – the first person with the disease – was at Disneyland, but we don’t really need to know. It’s not undocumented immigrants we should be pointing the finger at. It’s home-grown, upper-middle class, well-educated, mostly white southern California parents who have chosen not to vaccinate their children we should be giving the side-eye to. When vaccination rates in the region are below some developing countries’ rates, you don’t need undocumented immigrants to bring in the disease. Unvaccinated Americans do a fine job of that all on their own. A look at past cases makes this clear.
When the CDC tracked measles cases for the first half of 2013, they found that 159 cases resulted from 42 importations of the disease – but more than half those importations were U.S. residents returning to the States from abroad. Similarly, the outbreak of close to 400 cases in Ohio last year began with unvaccinated U.S. travelers returning from a visit to the Philippines. And the largest outbreak in San Diego since 1991 occurred in 2008 after an intentionally unvaccinated 7-year-old boy returned from a vacation in Switzerland with his family and brought back the measles. That last case is particularly of interest because the boy was a patient of Dr. Bob Sears, who has been spreading misleading information about measles in the midst of this outbreak.
Interestingly, she says that some people who have been vaccinated will still get the disease. But someone who hasn’t been vaccinated is 35 times more likely to get measles than someone who has had the vaccine.
Here’s some more information about Dr. Bob Sears, and Orange County pediatrician and author of “The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child.” From the LA Times: Vaccination controversy swirls around O.C.’s ‘Dr. Bob.’
While the vast majority of physicians are troubled by the anti-vaccination movement, Sears, 45, lends a sympathetic ear. About half his patients forgo vaccines altogether. To others, he offers “Dr. Bob’s” alternative and selective vaccination schedules, which delay or eliminate certain immunizations.
At a conference this year in Rancho Mirage, Sears told a roomful of pregnant women, new mothers and healthcare professionals that vaccines work well and are responsible for the nation’s low disease rate, something parents who don’t want to immunize can take advantage of.
“I do think the disease danger is low enough where I think you can safely raise an unvaccinated child in today’s society,” he said. “It may not be good for the public health. But … for your individual child, I think it is a safe enough choice.”
That approach frustrates infectious-disease experts, who in recent years have found themselves combating some celebrities’ anti-vaccination beliefs.
“We eliminated endemic measles in the U.S. in 2000. It’s now 2014 and we’re at 400 cases. Why?” Dr. Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said in an interview in June. The number of cases has since risen to nearly 600. “Because people listen to Bob Sears. And, frankly, I blame him far more than I do the Jenny McCarthys of this world. Because he’s a doctor. And he should know more.”
Here’s an interesting article from The New Republic, The Best Way to Combat Anti-Vaxxers Is to Understand Them A new study underlines the similarity between “neo-liberal” thinking and the anti-vaccination movement. Well The New Republic should certainly understand neo-liberal thinking–they practically invented it. An excerpt:
“Anti-vaxxers,” as they are often referred, are an easy group to stereotype and a difficult group to humor. In most thinking circles, they are cast as “the other”; people either too stupid to understand the science behind vaccination, or too selfish to care about the impact of their choices on those around them.
But vaccine skeptics aren’t as different from their critics as we might like to think. And their rise in number over the past decade has less to do with stupidity, or even selfishness, than it does with beliefs about knowledge, trust, and freedom of choice that are pervasive throughout our culture, whether you choose to vaccinate your kids or not.
Dr. Jennifer Reich, a sociologist at the University of Colorado Denver, has been researching the anti-vaccination movement since 2007, seeking to understand the processes by which people come to reject vaccines. Over the past seven years, she has conducted in-depth interviews with parents who refuse mainstream vaccine recommendations, along with doctors, alternative healers, and public policymakers.
Not all of the parents Reich spoke with were “anti-vaxxers” in the sense that we typically think of the term; only a small minority identified as activists in the Jenny McCarthy mold, campaigning other parents not to vaccinate or advocating for policy change. Nor did they necessarily abstain from vaccination completely.
Rather, what united them was a sense that vaccines were up for negotiation: to be administered or rejected depending on the convictions of the parent and the needs of the child. Reich’s interviewees saw themselves as critical consumers of information. They engaged with doctors not as authorities to be obeyed, but as another data point to be evaluated, embraced, or discarded. They continually assessed risk: How likely was it that their child would be exposed to Disease A? What would be the consequences if they contracted Disease B?
It seems to me that what these anti-vaxxers have in common with neo-liberals is that they have lost the sense that as Americans we are all in this together. They focus only on their own needs and ignore the ways in which their choices about whether to vaccinate their children could impact others and society as a whole.
Just one more article before I wrap this up.
Fifteen years after measles was declared eliminated in the United States, the recent outbreak traced to two Disney parks in California illustrates how quickly a resurgence can occur….
Experts explain the California outbreak simply.
“This outbreak is occurring because a critical number of people are choosing not to vaccinate their children,” said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center and an attending physician at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Division of Infectious Diseases.
“Parents are not scared of the disease” because they’ve never seen it, Offit said. “And, to a lesser extent, they have these unfounded concerns about vaccines. But the big reason is they don’t fear the disease.” ….
Researchers have found that past outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases are more likely in places where there are clusters of parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated, said Saad Omer, an associate professor of global health, epidemiology and pediatrics at Emory University School of Public Health and Emory Vaccine Center, in Atlanta.
“California is one of the states with some of the highest rates in the country in terms of exemptions, and also there’s a substantial clustering of refusals there,” Omer said….Other reasons include the belief that their children will not catch the disease, the disease is not very severe and the vaccine is not effective, Omer noted.
In California, vaccine exemptions have increased from 1.5 percent in 2007 to 3.1 percent in 2013, according to an analysis by the Los Angeles Times.
So, in a sense California is endangering people in other states. Omer says there’s recent legislation to make it more difficult to get exemptions, but “it is too soon to know the effects of the new law.”
So . . . comment on this issue if you wish; but feel free to treat this as an open thread. Have a great day Sky Dancers.
Tonight President Obama will give his sixth State of the Union Address. Yesterday, Dakinikat wrote about Obama’s proposal to increase taxes on the wealthy to benefit the middle class. Obviously that isn’t going to pass muster with our Republican Congress, but maybe it will at least embarrass some members just a little bit. We’ll have a live blog tonight during the speech, and I hope you’ll join us.
Here are a few stories to check out before tonight.
From The Washington Post: Obama will give State of Union address against backdrop of deep partisan divide. Author David Nakamura seems concerned that the president isn’t interested in being “conciliatory” toward Republicans.
The president will enter the House chamber Tuesday night for his sixth State of the Union address riding a wave of confidence driven by an improving economy and brightening public approval ratings. And he seems as defiant as ever.
Although Obama has vetoed just two bills in his six years, the White House has threatened to veto five measures from Congress this month alone — including legislation that would authorize the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline, tie funding of the Department of Homeland Security to a rollback of Obama’s executive actions on immigration, and impose new economic sanctions on Iran.
Obama vowed in a private meeting with Democrats last week that he will play “offense” during the final two years of his presidency, building on the aggressive executive actions he laid out over the past two months. The legislative proposals he has previewed — including a plan for free community college and a revamping of the tax code — have been based firmly on his terms, drawing objections from Republicans.
The nerve of this guy! He tried to reach across the aisle for years, and now he’s given up the ghost. Shocking.
Joni Ernst is not the next Sarah Palin.
And Tuesday night, she’ll get the chance to prove it.
The SOTU will be followed by a Republican response by newly elected Iowa Senator Joni Ernst. Will she castrate a hog during her presentation? Ben Jacobs at The Daily Beast writes:
Ernst, the gun totin’, hog castrating freshman Republican senator from Iowa will give her party’s response to the State of the Union—a tricky, high-profile task that have landed many before her at the bad end of a punchline.
But the prime time address not only gives Ernst a chance to show off her Iowa charm, it gives her the opportunity to shed the comparison to Sarah Palin that she attracted as she campaigned through the Hawkeye State’s 99 counties last year as a populist conservative.
Once called an “onion of crazy” by Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schutz (D-Fla.), the Iowa senator first gained national attention in a crowded, if undistinguished, primary field with an television ad about castrating hogs. She followed that up with another advertisement that featured her in safety glasses firing away at a target while the voiceover boasted that she kept “more than lipstick in her purse.”
CNN notes that recent responses to the SOTU have not gone well and asks “Is the State of the Union response cursed?”
“It’s almost like the kiss of death to get picked to do the Republican response,” said Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “It represents an amazing opportunity to catapult yourself into the national conversation, but the risk is huge and the success rate has been minimal at best in recent years.”Republicans couldn’t have been more excited to spotlight their Indian-American wunderkind Bobby Jindal, Louisiana’s governor, in response to the first black President’s address to a joint session of Congress. But all party bigwigs and critics alike were talking about the next day was Jindal’s awkward delivery, not his prospects for higher office — and certainly not GOP diversity.
It was a moment reminiscent of then-Gov. Tim Kaine’s (D-Virginia) 2006 response, when he was outdone by his own eyebrows.
And then a parched Marco Rubio took a not-so-subtle sip of water, eyes still piercing into the camera. Forget that he had delivered the first-ever bilingual rebuttal, drowned out by Rubio and his infamous water bottle.
Rubio quickly bounced back from that moment, raising more than $100,000 through his PAC by selling “RUBIO” branded water bottles. And his political fortunes are still fairly intact.
And superstitious politicos beware.
Virigina Gov. Bob McDonnell gave a rousing response straight from the Virginia state legislature in 2010. Five years later, and he’s about to start a two-year stint in federal prison over corruption charges.
Even last year’s speaker, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers was accused by a former staffer of ethics violations, though that investigation died out pretty quickly.
Maybe it’s just that today’s Republicans are a sorry bunch of losers channeling the Koch brothers?
Speaking of losers, Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise had the nerve to discuss Martin Luther King’s legacy yesterday. From The Hill: Scalise praises MLK amid controversies.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) on Monday praised the legacy of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. amid controversy over his speech to a white supremacist group while he served as a Louisiana state legislator…
“As we reflect upon the life of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., today, we also recognize how our nation has been strengthened by his legacy,” Scalise said in a statement.
“Dr. King challenged our country to fulfill the promises of liberty, equality, and justice prescribed in the founding of our great nation. Leading by example, he stressed the teachings of tolerance, service, and love, regardless of race, color, or creed. Today, his writings and speeches continue to empower and inspire those who seek liberty, equality, and justice,” Scalise continued.
Scalise made no mention of any events he planned to attend to commemorate the holiday.
Scalise’s comments stood out, however, given that the holiday coincides with multiple race-related controversies over his career prior to entering Congress.
For one, Scalise opposed making King’s birthday a state holiday in 2004 while he served in the Louisiana Legislature, as well as making it a school holiday in 1999.
The Hill also reported last week that Scalise voted against a resolution in the Louisiana Legislature apologizing for slavery. He later supported a version that only expressed “regret” for slavery.
“Why are you asking me to apologize for something I didn’t do and had no part of?” Scalise said, according to minutes of a 1996 Louisiana House committee meeting obtained by The Hill. “I am not going to apologize for what somebody else did.”
And, as reported in late December, Scalise in 2002 spoke before the European-American Unity and Rights Organization founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
Why is this man still serving as House Majority Whip?
Yesterday Think Progress noted that Scalise isn’t the only opponent the Martin Luther King holiday who still remains in power.
After King’s assassination in 1968, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) introduced the first Congressional legislation to create a federal Martin Luther King Day holiday. In the years that followed, Congress held congressional hearings during which hostile witnesses said “violence was exactly what [King] wanted,” and that King formed a “common front” with the “virulently racist Nation of Islam.”
More than 15 years later, Congress finally enacted such a law. The bill, signed by President Ronald Reagan, passed in the Senate on a 78-22 vote and in the House of Representatives by a 338 to 90 margin. The most vocal opponents included the late Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC), who mounted a 16-day filibuster of the proposal and smeared King as a Communist.
Voting with Helms against the King holiday were four men who remain in the Senate today: Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Banking Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-AZ). Shelby and McCain were in the House at the time. House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) and House Judiciary Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) also voted against the proposal. McCain apologized in 2008 for being too slow “to give greatness its due,” and Hatch wrote in 2007 that the vote was “one of the worst decisions” he has made as a senator.
Read more of the sorry history of the MLK holiday at the link.
Jezebel had a fascinating, though heartbreaking, story by Anna Merlen about the archaeological excavation of the graves of young boys at the Dozier School in Florida. We’ve written about this story here in the past. Merlen interviewed Dr. Erin Kimmerle, an associate professor at the University of South Florida, one of the leaders of the project.
The Dozier School was located in the tiny town of Marianna, West of Tallahassee and thirty minutes or so from the Georgia line. It opened in 1900 as the Florida State Reform School, and despite years of reports of serious abuse and mistreatment, it remained open for over 100 years.At least 98 people died there over the years, two staff members and 96 boys aged six to 18. Men who were once Dozier residents recounted brutal beatings they received in the White House, a small outbuilding on the school grounds whose walls remain spattered with what looks like blood. More than one survivor has called the building “a torture chamber.”
A group of men who were sent to the school in the 1950s and ’60s have banded together to tell their stories: they call themselves the White House Boys. The Tampa Bay Times has done the best coverage of the Dozier School, including an investigation in 2009 that uncovered squalid conditions, staff neglect and mistreatment from 1900 to the present day, depicting the school, as they put it, as “a place of abuse and neglect, of falsified records, bloody noses and broken bones.” [….]
Dr. Erin Kimmerle is a forensic anthropologist, an associate professor at the University of South Florida and a leader of the team excavating Dozier. (Before coming to USF, she worked as the Chief Anthropologist at the Hague, analyzing mass graves in Bosnia and Croatia.) Along with two colleagues (Antoinette Jackson and Christian Wells) and a crew of graduate students, Kimmerle has been excavating Boot Hill, the burial ground at Dozier, as well as the surrounding area and trying, through DNA testing, to return the boys’ remains to their families for a proper burial.
In January of 2014, the team exhumed 55 bodies—five more than they expected to find, 24 more than official records said were buried there. There are still many questions: how many boys lie buried under the Dozier grounds, their bodies slowly entwining with the roots of the mulberry trees around them? How did they die? And who do we hold accountable for the 100 years of suffering the Dozier school inflicted?
The interview is extremely interesting and informative. I highly recommend it.
Here’s another sad Florida story that I’ve been following. Two young sisters were arrested and charged with murder after the older girl shot and killed her 16-year-old brother on January 5.
According to the initial incident report, the girls’ father is a truck driver and their parents left them alone with their brother and a 3-year-old sister while the mother accompanied the father on a trip. The 15-year-old told police that on the day of the shooting, her brother locked her in a room with just a blanket and a bucket to use as a toilet.
According to police, she said that while her brother slept, her younger sister helped her escape the room and the 15-year-old went outside and used a knife to cut the foam around the window air conditioning unit in the window of her parents’ locked bedroom. In the bedroom, she told police, she found a handgun, loaded it, and then went into the living room where her brother was sleeping and shot him.
The arrest report says the girls then packed some things, put their 3-year-old sister in a bedroom, and walked to a nearby Dollar Store, where they called a friend, who later called police. The girls told them that the 15-year-old was routinely locked in the room her brother had kept her in.
The sisters’ parents were arrested and charged with child neglect and according to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office are still behind bars. According to their arrest report, the mother told police the 15-year-old was locked in the room about four times a week, and the father said the longest she was locked up was 20 days. In a search of the house, police found notes written by the parents asking the girl to explain why she should be let out of the room.
It turned out that there was a long history of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse in this family. The older girl had reported that her uncle was abusing her, and he is now serving a life sentence for the crimes. In addition, the mother had caught the brother raping the 1-year old, and had told authorities, but nothing was done about it.
Police say the girls will be tried as juveniles for second degree murder. Shouldn’t this killing be viewed as self-defense though? This case has also exposed a problem with laws about incest. Acccording to CBS News, Experts: Fla. sibling shooting exposes “incest loophole.”
In 2010, the children’s aunt went to police when she found a memory stick belonging to her husband with video of him sexually molesting the oldest sister. The uncle was eventually convicted and is serving life in prison.
And the abuse did not stop there. The family began locking the girl in a room – once for 20 days – and reportedly pulled her from school due to “behavioral issues.” And among the reports released by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office is a heavily redacted document that suggests that in 2011, when the older sister would have been 11 or 12, her mother found the girl and her brother having sex in the house. But, according to the incident report, “the case was closed as unfounded and no criminal acts were disclosed.”
“We treat sexual abuse of children in the family as a social and psychological problem and not as a crime – and it is a crime,” says Grier Weeks, the executive director of the National Association to Protect Children.
Incest is still treated more lightly by law enforcement in most states in the U.S.
According to Daphne Young of Child Help, a non-profit organization devoted to the prevention and treatment of child abuse, 68 percent of child sex abuse victims are abused by a family member. Jennifer Marsh of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) says that 40 percent of the people who call the National Sex Abuse hotline say incest is their primary or secondary reason for seeking help.
And yet, perpetrators who sexually abuse family members can be subject to lower penalties than they would be had they assaulted a neighbor or stranger. In Washington State, for example, the Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative Law allows an offender to receive a lighter sentence if he or she had “an established relationship with, or connection to, the victim.”
Weeks calls this “the incest loophole,” and finds it mind-boggling: “The toll on a child [abused by a family member] is devastating. She was not protected by the very people who should have loved and protected her.”
Read more at the link.
This post has gotten way too long, so I’ll just leave you with a recommendation to read a long piece at The NY Review of Books on the Citizens United decision: The Supreme Court’s Billion-Dollar Mistake, by David Cole.
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!
Before I get started on the news, I need to ask our readers for a little help. We need about $50.00 to pay WordPress for upkeep on the blog–for our design and extra storage space, that kind of thing. We’d be very grateful if some of our readers would kick in just a small amount to help us pay our bills. If you can spare a few bucks, please click on the “Make a Donation” button down below on the right. Thanks for whatever you can do.
Now that that’s out of the way, on to the news of the day.
A Change in the Weather
Mother Nature has decided to be kind to those of us who are sick and tired of being so cold. There’s a warming trend on the way! From the Weather Channel, January Thaw: Weather Pattern Change to Erase Arctic Blast.
While weather patterns can get “locked in” for lengthy periods of time, one thing is for sure: Change will occur if you wait long enough. If you’re sick of bone-chilling temperatures, you’re in luck. A thaw is now taking shape thanks to a large-scale weather pattern change.
Wednesday morning was the last hurrah for the worst of the cold, with subzero readings again over the Great Lakes as well as parts of the interior Northeast.
A temperature moderation began Wednesday and will accelerate Thursday into Friday.
Our Friday forecast high temperature compared to average map shows that much of the Plains, Rockies and West will be engulfed by above-average temperatures. Some cities, including Omaha, Nebraska and Fargo, North Dakota, could be 10 to 20 degrees above mid-January averages.
The above-average warmth will spread to the East Coast over the weekend.
Read more and watch a video at the link. For the Boston area, it means that for the next 10 days it will be in the 30s and 40s instead of the ‘teens and single numbers. I hope you’ll get warmer days where you live too!
Boston Olympics Update
On Saturday, I wrote an anguished post about a the Olympic Committee submitting Boston as the U.S. location for the Summer Olympics in 2024. I think this would be a disaster for the city I love. Today The Boston Globe reported on the organized opposition to bringing the Olympics here.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and the Olympic bidding group Boston 2024 have said they believe the majority of the public supports holding the 2024 Summer Games in the Hub. With little public polling on the issue to this point, it’s hard to judge whether that’s the case.
But if No Boston Olympics, the group leading the opposition to the city’s bid, does represent a minority, it showed that it plans to be a vocal one at a public meeting it held in the Back Bay Tuesday night. More than 100 people attended the meeting at the First Church in Boston.
The meeting featured a talk by sports economist and Smith College professor Andrew Zimbalist.
Zimbalist, who has written extensively on the lack of economic benefits sporting events like the Olympics bring to cities and countries, scoffed at the idea that Boston’s bid can be done on a $4.5 billion budget for operating expenses, and said he was skeptical that the budget can be entirely privately financed (as is proposed by Boston 2024). Boston 2024 also says public money would go toward infrastructure and security.
Zimbalist discussed some of the hidden expenses to hosting the Olympics, including the loss of advertising revenue on the MBTA during the Olympics. (The International Olympic Committee has historically required control of advertising space in the host city during and around the Olympics. An example of host city requirements built into the bidding process can be seen here, from page 213 on.) He also said that construction costs can go up if planning falls behind at all, because projects may need to be done in a rush as the Games approach.
“It’s one thing to have a nice idea and say the private sector is going to cover this,” he said. “It’s another thing to have hard contracts.”
On possibility the group is considering is getting a question on the ballot in 2016. This has worked in some cities in the past.
In other cities across the country and the world, opposition groups to Olympic bids have gone directly to the voters. Bids for the 2022 Winter Olympics lost in referendums in Poland and Switzerland.
Perhaps most famously, Colorado voted not to put any state money toward a 1976 Denver Winter Olympics bid. At the time of the bid, Colorado had already been awarded the games for that year by the IOC. But voters said no, leaving the IOC high and dry and in need of a new host. (It got one, in Innsbruck, Austria.) [….]
But going to the voters is not the only method opposition groups have used to oppose the games. A referendum in Oslo, Norway, over whether to host the 2022 Games passed in 2013. Even so, that bid was eventually dropped as the public soured on the idea over the course of the next year. And in Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Games, the Windy City’s opposition group had the opportunity to meet with the IOC and voice its concerns. The IOC ended up choosing Rio, Brazil. It’s also possible the Olympic bid could turn into a 2016 state elections issue.
How do voters feel about the Olympics coming here?
Public opinion polling on the Boston bid has been pretty sparse, but in a survey of likely Massachusetts voters earlier this year, The Boston Globe found 47 percent support for pursuing a bid, with 43 percent against. When asked if they supported taxpayer money going to funding the games, 64 percent of respondents were against the idea, though.
So there is a realistic chance of preventing what I believe would be a terrible mistake.
Boko Harum Attacks
I thought I’d follow up on Dakinikat’s post from Monday, in which she called out the hypocrisy the media and cultural elites for expressing faux outrage over the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, while basically ignoring the horrific Boko Harum attacks in Nigeria. Other writers around the internet also noted the disparity in coverage; and several days later, the corporate media has begun to call more attention to the Nigerian situation.
Charred ground and cinders mark the sites where once thousands of homes stood. That’s according to a series of satellite images released Thursday by Amnesty International, which the rights group said shows the “horrific scale” of the devastation wrought by Boko Haram militants.
As they’ve trickled out, accounts of the bloody attackson the northern Nigerian town of Baga and surrounding villages have shocked even those all too used to reports of violence by Boko Haram militants.
Witnesses told how the attackers sped into the town on January 3 with grenade launchers — their gunfire and explosions shattering the early morning calm. Some terrified residents fled, while others took refuge in their homes — and were torched with them.
Local officials reported death tolls ranging from hundreds to as many as 2,000 people. But authorities have yet to access the remote area near the border with Chad to get a full picture.
View the before and after satellite images at the CNN link. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced by the attacks.
Of the 30,000 people displaced during the latest attacks, 20,000 camped in Maiduguri city, capital of Borno state, while another 10,000 headed to Monguno town, nearer Baga. Others were stranded on Kangala Island on Lake Chad.
“These people are adding to the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people and refugees, who have already stretched the capacity of host communities and government authorities,” Amnesty International said….
Boko Haram has terrorized northern Nigeria regularly since 2009, attacking police, schools, churches and civilians, and bombing government buildings.
It has also kidnapped students, including more than 200 schoolgirls who were abducted in April — and remain missing.
NBC Nightly News reported on Boko Haram’s apparent use of the kidnapped girls as unwitting suicide bombers.
Three suicide bombings by girls aged as young as 10 suggest that Nigeria’s Boko Haram has employed a new tactic of forcing abducted children to blow themselves up, according to experts.
The Islamist sect has been carrying out almost daily killings and kidnappings across northeast Nigeria in a campaign of violence now in its sixth year. Deadly attacks on Saturday and Sunday were carried out by three young female suicide bombers.These came just days after a week-long killing spree by Boko Haram, in which the group torched at least 10 towns leaving around 2,000 people unaccounted for. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday called the attack “a crime against humanity.”It is not clear if the girls were coerced or were even aware they were strapped with explosives, which may have been detonated remotely. But experts say that Boko Haram appears to be using the children it kidnaps — such as the 276 Chibok girls who sparked the #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign — and using them as a readily available supply of suicide bombers.
“It is highly likely that Boko Haram is conscripting young girls to use as suicide bombers,” said Elizabeth Donnelly, assistant head of the Africa program at London’s Chatham House think tank. She told NBC News that these conscripts were little more than “slaves fed by countless abductions since the crisis started.”
Boko Haram roughly translates to “Western education is sinful.” The group aims to create its own state based on strict Islamic law.
At Huffington Post, Okello Kelo Sam wrote about the #RememberOurGirls twitter campaign, Amid Boko Haram’s Latest Killings: I Vow to #RememberOurGirls.
Eight months is a long time. Long enough for international outrage to rise, fall and fade away. That’s how long it’s been since Boko Haram militants stormed a secondary school in the northeastern village of Chibok in Borneo State, abducting more than 200 still-missing teenage girls.
A global Twitter campaign – #BringBackOurGirls – caught fire with the help of US First Lady Michelle Obama, former US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and, most importantly, millions of global hashtag activists. They focused the world’s attention on the girls, leading to support from the US, UK, France, Canada, China, Iran and Israel, reportedly in the form military intelligence and special forces…..
Meanwhile, the international efforts to recover the girls failed. So did several rounds of negotiations to exchange the girls for the release of captured Boko Haram fighters held in Nigerian jails….
Sam himself was a victim of the violence in Africa. He was abducted and forced to be a child soldier in Uganda. He was able to escape, but later his younger brother was also forced into combat with Joseph Kony’s group and lost his life.
Yes, I lost my brother. But I never lose hope. I do, however, fear hope for the Nigerian girls is slipping away, internationally. Media tickers marking the days since their abduction have disappeared from front pages, web pages and broadcast reports. Sometimes I wonder: Does anyone still remember the 219 missing girls?
They do in Abuja. Every day the Bring Back Our Girls demonstrators – which fueled the hashtag campaign – rally at Unity Fountain in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. Families of the missing girls, neighbors, and fellow countrymen congregate and chant the now-familiar mantra: “Bring back our girls.” [….]
It’s easy to naysay advocacy efforts like #BringBackOurGirls as “slacktivism.” After four million Tweets, the 219 girls have not been rescued. So what’s the point, right? Wrong. Until a social-media savvy Nigerian lawyer, Ibrahim Abdullahi, came up with #BringBackOurGirls, there was a practical media blackout of the abductions.
Had it not been for this social media campaign I wonder if anyone outside of Africa would know about the Chibok girls? Would the story have lasted more than one news cycle in the West? Would you be reading this now?
No, social media won’t return the girls. But it got my attention and probably yours. It’s been said by the demonstrators what is needed is a renewed campaign to once again gain mindshare of a distracted world. Mine is one voice of millions demanding the girls’ rescue. But I stand in solidarity with those at Unity Fountain and declare this My 2015 Resolution: I will #RememberOurGirls.
Please go read the whole article at HuffPo. Today, I resolve to remember those lost girls.
In Other News . . .
Global Research, FBI Thwarts Terror Plot on Capitol (That They Planned).
What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a tremendous Thursday!
At left is the cover of the next issue of Charlie Hebdo. It depicts the Prophet Muhammed holding a “Je suis Charlie” sign, with the words “all is forgiven” over his head.
The Wall Street Journal: Charlie Hebdo Puts Muhammad on Cover of Post-Attack Issue.
PARIS—Since Charlie Hebdo lost eight staff members in a terrorist attack last week, millions of people have declared their support to the French satirical magazine with the slogan “Je Suis Charlie.”
Now the often-caustic publication, faced with the challenge of reconciling its new status as a cause célèbre with its reflex to mock, ridicule and offend, is putting a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad on the cover of what is likely to be their most-read issue ever.
Distributors said Monday they were preparing to print as many as three million copies of Wednesday’s issue, 50 times the normal circulation. That is raising pressure on a small outlet known for skewering all forms of authority—including some that have rushed to its defense.
Suddenly the political and social elites who most likely had never heard of the small satirical magazine before the attack are parading around Paris and the Golden Globes pretending to be defenders of free speech. And what about the U.S. “journalists” who are little more than corporate lackeys who echoed right wing memes about President Obama supposedly not caring enough to attend a rally in France?
“It’s been extremely moving—and also hypocritical,” said Laurent Léger, a reporter for the magazine who survived the shooting. “All of a sudden, we are supported by the entire world. Whereas for years we were completely alone.” [….]
Another target for this week’s issue is likely to be Sunday’s solidarity march in France, surviving staff members said. The massive rally became a magnet for French and international political figures that have been a mainstay in Charlie Hebdo’s pages. Attendees included dignitaries from Turkey, Egypt, and Russia, countries that it has criticized for curbing free speech.
“All those dictators at a march celebrating liberty,” Mr. Léger said. “We of course are going to continue the mockery. We’ll see if it makes them jump.”
That’s great news. As Dakinikat trenchantly pointed out yesterday, these same elites routinely ignore horrifying acts of terrorism that kill people who aren’t as high profile as the victims in Paris. And, as Dak also pointed out, it turns out those world leaders in Paris didn’t really march with the hoi-polloi. They just participated in a fake photo that showed them pretending to march. Dakinikat also posted this story from The Daily Banter in a comment yesterday, but I think it deserves to be front paged.
President Abbas marched in Paris on Sunday, but a satirist in Gaza has been jailed for poking fun at the Palestinian leader.
It’s entertaining to observe the lengths to which American conservatives will overreach in order to make a nothing issue into a major scandal. Such is the case following the unity march in Paris, attended by 3.7 million people and world leaders from 40 nations. As we covered earlier today, conservatives all around are busily scolding and shaming the president for not walking hand-in-hand with those leaders, even though no president has ever marched in a protest rally overseas. Ever. But this president is, for some reason, held to a different standard than the 43 previous chief executives. It’s about “optics” they say. I often agree with that criticism and I agree that optics are important — except for the fact that no other president has been responsible for creating similar optics.
There’s another layer to this fracas. While lionizing the world leaders who marched in Paris, allegedly in support of Charlie Hebdo and free speech, critics of the president are neglecting two very important points.
1) British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and French President Francois Hollande weren’t actually marching with the demonstrators. Their participation was staged on an empty street surrounded by security and merely photographed to look like it was part of the broader rally. It wasn’t.
2) Take a guess at how many of the nations represented by those leaders have statutes protecting satire as free speech? Not one. Indeed, there’s only one western nation where satire is protected speech. It’s the United States. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell, Americans can’t be sued by other Americans for producing satire against public figures — regardless of whether the satire describes Jerry Falwell having incestuous sex or whether Saturday Night Live lampoons the president. They can try to sue, but the suit will never see the light of day.
So, while we’re applauding those 40 leaders for marching in a staged photo-op in support of a satirical magazine, bear in mind that none of those leaders come from nations where satirical speech is protected. In David Cameron’s England, for example, the prime minister or any public figure can sue cartoonists, writers, filmmakers or the producers of an SNL-style sketch show for making fun of them on television or elsewhere, and those lawsuits can actually be adjudicated and the plaintiffs can win. The same is true across the European Union and absolutely throughout the Middle East.
Frankly, I wish the White House hadn’t backed down and apologized.
One of the loudest voices criticizing the president for not going to a European “unity rally” was Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Time Magazine actually published an op-ed by Cruz yesterday.
On Sunday, leaders representing Europe, Israel, Africa, Russia, and the Middle East linked arms and marched together down Place de la Concorde in Paris. But, sadly, no one from the White House was found among the more than 40 Presidents and Prime Ministers who walked the streets with hundreds of thousands of French citizens demonstrating their solidarity against radical Islamic terrorists.
In other news . . .
Now that Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has officially announced that she won’t run for reelection, there’s a “New Gold Rush” in California, according to Bill Press at The Hill.
Barbara Boxer’s announcement that she will not seek reelection to the Senate has set off a frenzy in California not seen since the Gold Rush. Anybody could win. All you need is a pick, an ax and the ability to raise or cough up a minimum $40 million.
Wanna play? Lots of people do.
In fact, with Boxer and Dianne Feinstein occupying both Senate seats since the early ’90s, and Jerry Brown’s longtime lock on the governor’s office, younger California Democrats have been bottled up in a no man’s land for years, taking turns rotating among lesser state offices, waiting for their chance at the big time. Boxer pulled the plug. Now all that pent-up energy and ambition is bursting out. It’s fun to watch.
Three statewide officials might have the edge, but only because they’ve already run statewide a couple of times. State Attorney General Kamala Harris and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom have reached a pact not to run against each other, and Newsom’s already taken himself out of the race. That leaves Harris. But don’t count out state Treasurer John Chiang. He’s young, charismatic and still gets high marks for refusing to carry out former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s order to cut the minimum wage for state employees during a budget showdown.
Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer are seriously considering bids, as are several members of Congress. On the Republican side, Assemblyman Rocky Chavez and two former state GOP chairmen are weighing runs.
Former VP candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced yesterday that he’s not going to climb into the GOP clown car in 2016. From an interview with NBC News:
“I have decided that I am not going to run for president in 2016,” Ryan said in a phone interview, noting that he is “at peace” with the decision he made “weeks ago” to forgo a bid for the White House.
“It is amazing the amount of encouragement I have gotten from people – from friends and supporters – but I feel like I am in a position to make a big difference where I am and I want to do that,” he said.
The nine-term congressman believes he can make that “big difference” in his new role as chairman of the influential House Ways and Means Committee rather than as a presidential contender.
The committee will meet Tuesday to kick off the new Congress. By announcing that he’ll pass on a White House run, Ryan hopes to demonstrate that he’ll devote his “undivided attention” to the committee, although he admits that it will be “bittersweet not being on the trail” as a candidate this upcoming cycle.
Ryan has never initiated an important piece of legislation and gotten it passed, but now he’s going to head one of the most powerful committees in Congress. Let’s hope he continues his lack of meaningful accomplishments.
In other 2016 news, it looks like Mitt Romney is actually going to run for president for a third time. From The Washington Post, Romney moves to reassemble campaign team for ‘almost certain’ 2016 bid.
Mitt Romney is moving quickly to reassemble his national political network, calling former aides, donors and other supporters over the weekend and on Monday in a concerted push to signal his seriousness about possibly launching a 2016 presidential campaign.
Romney’s message, as he told one senior Republican, was that he “almost certainly will” make what would be his third bid for the White House. His aggressive outreach came as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — Romney’s 2012 vice presidential running mate and the newly installed chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee — announced Monday that he would not seek the presidency in 2016.
Romney’s activity indicates that his declaration of interest Friday to a group of 30 donors in New York was more than the release of a trial balloon. Instead, it was the start of a deliberate effort by the 2012 nominee to carve out space for himself in an emerging 2016 field also likely to include former Florida governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
Romney has worked the phones over the past few days, calling an array of key allies to discuss his potential 2016 campaign. Among them was Ryan, whom Romney phoned over the weekend to inform him personally of his plans to probably run. Ryan was encouraging, people with knowledge of the calls said.
Other Republicans with whom Romney spoke recently include Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) and Rob Portman (Ohio), former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, Hewlett-Packard chief executive Meg Whitman, former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown, former Missouri senator Jim Talent and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Utah).
According to Politico’s Maggie Haberman and James Hohmann, Romney is promising he’ll be ‘different’ this time.
…interviews with more than a dozen staffers and supporters who have recently spoken with Romney reveal conversations in which he promises a “different” path forward without providing specifics about what that means as far as mechanics and his own sometimes gaffe-ridden performance. And, aside from most of his communications team, Romney would still be expected to bring back the majority of his old staff, sources said.
“He really has to show people that he’d do it differently, rather than just say he’d do it differently,” said a former top adviser to Romney, one of half a dozen alumni to speak Monday with POLITICO. “He needs to assure folks he’d take a much more direct approach to laying out the vision for his campaign versus having those decisions driven by a bunch of warring consultants.”
Mother Jones has posted a series of quotes in which Romney said he wouldn’t run again, along with the famous “47 percent” video.
Finally, from Boomberg Politics, David Weigel reports that Not a Single Person Has Donated to Dick Morris’s Anti-Hillary Super PAC.
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a terrific Tuesday!