Friday Reads: I’ve got a golden ticket!!

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Good Morning from One excited Hillary Clinton Fan!!

I’ve got my Saturday all planned around the Senator Mary Landrieu event!  I’m canvassing in my neighborhood in the morning, then headed out for Moms  Grams for Mary which includes new Grandmother Hillary Clinton as the special guest and featured speaker.

The Landrieu campaign said Clinton will speak about women in the workforce, particularly how to get more women into science, technology and mathematics fields.  Clinton is considered the Democratic frontrunner in the 2016 presidential race.

 

I’m going to follow up some of BB’s comments yesterday with some news on the ground.  I spent most of the evening phone banking for Mary and talking to some really enthusiastic women of color and men that are all for her re-election.  I think that the the turn out of minorities may actually be pretty good this year because the obvious, ugly racism is igniting some really huge fires.  The ugly, misogyny is also heating some fires under women.  I’m just hoping the Latino vote has the same degree of fire!  Still, many polls show a Republican take over.  Do polls undercount Dem supporters?images

A couple of elections in which polls tilt slightly Republican aren’t enough to prove anything. The polls have erred before, only to prove fine over the longer term.

But the reasons to think that today’s polls underestimate Democrats are not based on just the last few years of results. They are also based on a fairly diverse set of methodological arguments, supported by extensive research, suggesting that many of today’s polls struggle to reach Democratic-leaning groups.

Supporters of Senator Harry Reid of Nevada shortly before the 2010 election, which he won by six points despite a series of polls showing him behind. Nevada is a particularly difficult place for pollsters. Credit Isaac Brekken for The New York Times
“The problems that we’re having with getting representative samples tend to lead us toward people who tend not to be Democrats,” said Scott Keeter, the director of survey research at the Pew Research Center. The most highly regarded pollsters, like those at Pew, have made many adjustments to compensate. But other polls, including many of those informing polling averages and Senate forecasting models, are not nearly as high in quality. Another highly regarded pollster, who requested anonymity, put it more bluntly, calling the new challenges “scary.” Many pollsters are reluctant to say things on the record that might undermine confidence in their own polling; others are unwilling to say anything at all, even to offer basic methodological information.

There are reasons to question whether the problems will be as acute this year, because many of the young and nonwhite voters who pose the biggest challenges to pollsters will most likely stay home in a midterm election. Even if the polls are again biased toward Republicans this year, there are reasons to doubt whether Democrats will retain control of the Senate. The Republicans might have a large enough advantage to withstand another round of modest polling errors.

But the larger concerns will remain, and they might be more significant in 2016 — when younger and nonwhite people are expected to vote in larger numbers.

No race illustrates the issue better than the Nevada Senate race in 2010. Senator Harry Reid easily won re-election, by 6 points, after trailing in every nonpartisan poll conducted over the final few weeks of the race. It was one of the biggest general-election upsets in recent memory, but it is perhaps less surprising when viewed in light of polling’s challenges today.

Nevada can be a nightmare for pollsters. It has the country’s third-most urbanized population; the fastest rate of population growth between 2000 and 2010; and the second-fastest growth in the nonwhite share of eligible voters. Hispanics represent 17 percent of eligible voters — the sixth-largest share in the country. All of these circumstances present problems for pollsters.

Perhaps as a result, the polls have underestimated Democrats in every competitive statewide contest since 2004. It is a microcosm of the polling challenges across the country.

Who Responds
Many of the difficulties stem from the declining response rate to telephone surveys. The share of households responding to telephone surveys plummeted to 9 percent in 2012, from 36 percent in 1997, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. Young, nonwhite and urban voters can be hardest for pollsters to reach.

In a different era, the varying response rates among these demographic groups would not have mattered so much. In the past, the young did not vote so very differently from the old, nor the rural from the urban; divisions were more likely to be along religious or regional lines. Nonwhite voters were a sliver of the electorate.

But today, Democrats predominate in large metropolitan areas and among younger people; Republicans dominate the countryside and the older. Nonwhite voters represent a far larger share of the electorate, and the Democratic coalition, than even a decade ago.

To compensate, most polls sponsored by the news media weight their sample to match the demographic composition of the adult population. Specifically, some pollsters weight their samples to a long list of census targets, like race, age, gender, education, region, household size, telephone use and population density.

But many of the less rigorous polls do not weight to all of these targets, and not correcting for one can potentially bias a survey.

Most of this year’s state polls, for instance, do not weight their sample by population density. Some weight their sample to make sure that voters from broad geographic regions are properly represented, but even within those regions, respondents might be less likely to be urban. In Nevada, some pollsters use “Clark County” as a region, which includes the city of Las Vegas, its surrounding suburbs and thousands of square miles of desert occasionally punctuated by a small town. Population density, Mr. Keeter said, could be a “killer” to any poll that doesn’t compensate for it.

Even when pollsters do try to use the right weights, it may not be enough.

One problem is that the targets for weighting lag behind demographic change. Most polls sponsored by the news media weight their samples using products from the Census Bureau, like the decennial census or the American Community Survey. The catch is that many of these are a few years out of date. As a result, polls are typically weighted to reflect the slightly whiter America of a few years ago, rather than the America of today.

clintonmaryI think that this honest interview by Mary Landrieu holds the key to many election outcomes.  Will women and minorities come out to vote and demonstrate election muscle?

Louisiana Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu said Thursday that the issue of race is a major reason that President Barack Obama has struggled politically in Southern states.

“I’ll be very, very honest with you. The South has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans,” Landrieu told NBC News in an interview. “It’s been a difficult time for the president to present himself in a very positive light as a leader.”

Noting that the South is “more of a conservative place,” she added that women have also faced challenges in “presenting ourselves.”

The comment prompted a fiery response from Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, who called it “remarkably divisive.”

“She appears to be living in a different century,” he said in a statement. “Implied in her comments is the clear suggestion that President Obama and his policies are unpopular in Louisiana because of his ethnicity. That is a major insult by Senator Landrieu to the people of Louisiana and I flatly reject it.”

Really. Does Bobby Jindal really think that the reason he feels the need to lighten his skin in portraits, changes his given name and his religion to something more “American” sounding, just something he felt like doing?  Louisiana Bloogger Lamar White reminds our Governor of some few facts:-eeb8c983d1f46b7e

Mary Landrieu says, “The South has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans,” and the rightwing goes apoplectic. Bobby Jindal accuses her of being “remarkably divisive.”

Here’s a quick recap:
1. 250 years of slavery
2. The Civil War
3. White-only primaries
4. Jim Crow laws
5. Segregation
6. Anti-miscegenation laws
7. The Ku Klux Klan
8. David Duke
9. Generations of codified employment, educational, and housing discrimination

Louisiana hasn’t elected an African-American to a statewide office since Reconstruction, even though they comprise more than a third of the population.

Louisiana is the prison capital of the world, and the overwhelming majority of our prison population is African-American. There are 5400 inmates in Orleans Parish; 400 of them are white.

It astounds me that a politician can’t even say that “the South hasn’t always been the friendliest place for African-Americans” or make the suggestion that maybe, just maybe this is one of the reasons the nation’s first African-American President has never been popular without Republicans acting as if she’s calling every white person a racist.

We really need to grow up. We need to be honest about our history and honest about the enduring ugliness of racism.

Twenty years ago, the leading Republican candidate for Louisiana Governor was the former Grand Wizard of the KKK. The past is sometimes more present than you think.

At the recent Lousiana debate, both the Tea Party Republican and Dr Crazy Eyes-the Dino or Establishment Republican depending on your vantage point–took some time to go full throttle dog whistle.

“Sometimes I do vote against the president — contrary to what these two say — because I do whatever it takes to deliver for the people of Louisiana,” Landrieu said.

Meanwhile, Cassidy connected nearly every major issue facing the nation to the the president’s Affordable Care Act, trying to sell to voters that Landrieu is as much to blame for the direction of the country as Obama.

He blamed the ACA for killing jobs and hurting the economy. If a government agency is struggling financially, Cassidy said it’s because Obama and Landrieu took money from them to pay for the health care reform.

“Is six more years of the same policy going to bring [people] to a better life? If you think so, vote for Sen. Landrieu. If you want a senator that’s going to stand up to Barack Obama and not vote with him 97 percent of the time…vote Bill Cassidy,” Cassidy said.

Maness also hammered away at Landrieu — and to a much lesser extent Cassidy — as he touted his position as the conservative, anti-Washington insider.

As a retired colonel, he leaned heavily on his military experience in the Air Force while calling for change in Washington, a tighter grip on the treasury’s purse strings and “ripping out Obamacare by the roots.”

“What these two represent is hyper partisanism,” Maness said.

Landrieu argued she was the better choice to represent groups like women, students and the elderly. She criticized Cassidy for not supporting her efforts to reduce student loan debt and for wanting to raise the retirement age to 70.

“You expect them to work their whole life, pay into a system and get nothing back? I will never vote for a raise in the age,” Landrieu said.

Cassidy said his plan wouldn’t have an immediate impact on people approaching retirement while solving a Social Security program headed for bankruptcy.

“The difference between us is her way doesn’t work. The actuaries say it doesn’t work,” Cassidy said.

Maness wouldn’t give a solution. Instead he called for people to work together and search for an acceptable solution that both sides can live with.

Old controversies also surfaced during the debate. For Landrieu, it was her campaign charter flights paid for with Senate funds. For Cassidy, it was his refusal to debate in all of the scheduled debates.

Landrieu said she returned the money to the treasury and took responsibility for her mistake. Cassidy said he didn’t need five debates to remind people Landrieu voted for the ACA.

The candidates also discussed border security. Landrieu talked about her efforts to beef up the number of security officers and provide extra funding for a smart fence and the Coast Guard. Cassidy and Maness said the border might not ever be secured as long as Obama and Democrats controlled the Senate.

Cassidy and Maness also used Ebola as another example of where the president — and in their minds Landrieu — had failed to protect the nation. Landrieu said she supports a 21-day quarantine, which is contrary to the president’s position.

They also discussed the Islamic militant group ISIS. Landrieu said she supports airstrikes and is open to boots on the ground, but is hesitant to use foot soldiers. Cassidy and Maness said the president has failed in handling the situation. Maness criticized both for not returning to Washington to authorize a strategy.

jindal-rgaYes, despite the fact we are a major resource for medical research on tropical and highly communicative diseases, no republican politician is leaving the Ebola panic stone unturned.  Bobby Jindal–supposed health policy authority–has joined the hysteria in call for doctors who are experts in the field to ignore the premier infectious, Tropical diseases to not come to their major conference in New Orleans if they’ve been any where near any of the Ebola-infected nations. Is this even legal?

The Jindal administration is telling scientists and medical experts who have recently dealt with the Ebola virus to stay away from a national conference that starts Sunday in New Orleans.

The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, which is staging the conference for more than 3,500 people from nearly 100 countries, is urging compliance by its members but criticizing the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

“While the state of Louisiana’s policies are outside of the scientific understanding of Ebola transmission — and acknowledged by the state health officials’ own admission, we recognize that the state has determined its policy in this matter. ASTMH does not agree with the policy,” the society said. “These heroes are serving the global good by working in West Africa to end this outbreak and prevent additional death and suffering. The society firmly believes that policies that hinder the work of health care workers are ineffective and counterproductive.”

The group’s leadership volunteered to reimburse the registration fees of members who stay away.

State officials sent a letter to members of the society “disinviting” those who have been to the West African countries impacted by the deadly virus in the last three weeks or who have treated any patients on American soil. The state public health advisory bans people who have traveled to one of the Ebola-stricken countries or cared for people with the virus in the past 21 days from using public transportation or joining large groups. “That’s what the Department of Health and Hospitals felt is the best way to protect our citizens,” state Medical Director Dr. Jimmy Guidry said.

The public health advisory is the latest in Jindal administration edicts taken in the wake of the first U.S. death from Ebola — a Liberian national who died at a Dallas hospital.

Guidry said there is no way to know who and how many of the conference registrants fit the banned-from-attendance list. “The organization could not give us that information,” he said.

He said the state is trusting the medical professionals, many of whom specialize in infectious diseases, to do the right thing because “they know the risk.”

“I’m telling them the best thing is to come after 21 days to avoid this many people getting together with folks exposed,” Guidry said.

The incubation period from Ebola infection to onset of symptoms is two to 21 days. Humans are not infectious until they develop symptoms.

First symptoms include fever, muscle pain, headache and sore throat followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and, in some cases, both internal and external bleeding, according to the World Health Organization.

The 63rd annual meeting begins Sunday with an opening address by the co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, and continues through Thursday. The group’s website describes it as “the premier forum for exchange of scientific advances in tropical medicine and global health.”

An email letter from society leadership to conference registrants notes that the state mandate exceeds recent federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for “low asymptomatic individuals” who have recently been in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

“We regret that some of our attendees may be affected by the state’s travel advisory, and we request your cooperation with the policy,” they wrote, adding that states have legal rights and responsibilities to set their own public health policy “to meet perceived local public health needs and concerns.”

Ebola is considered a tropical disease because it thrives in warm and wet conditions. Some of the conference registrants are Ebola specialists, and two symposiums are scheduled on the subject.

images (1)I am so freaking embarrassed to be represented by such morons as a citizen of Louisiana.  Elected Republicans are a freaking menace to civilization!  This is the man that said they should not be “the party of stupid”?  It seems he’s leading the pack of them!

But Jindal, eyeing a 2016 bid for president, has completely abandoned his anti-”stupid party” crusade, desperately doing all he can to burnish his Know-Nothing credentials.
Some of the latest evidence emerged Wednesday, when his administration issued a letter asking Ebola researchers who had recently traveled to afflicted west Africans not to attend an upcoming conference of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in New Orleans. Experts have condemned such sweeping bans as not based in science, noting additionally that travel bans and other restrictive measures targeting health workers and researchers may well discourage other professionals from traveling to Ebola-stricken countries. But Republicans, happy to demagogue the Ebola issue ahead of the forthcoming midterms, have little interest in the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and public health advocates. And Jindal is happy to join in.

The same day Jindal’s administration told Ebola researchers to keep away, the governor was in Kentucky, rallying support for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The same guy who lamented that his party was “simply being the anti-Obama party” tore into the president with an ad hominem attack, impugning Obama’s intelligence and suggesting that he should recoup his tuition fees from Harvard.

“There’s actually one lawsuit I’m happy to endorse. You see we have gotten so used to saying we have a constitutional scholar in the White House, we’ve gotten so used to saying we have a smart man as president. But I’m beginning to wonder if that’s really true,” Jindal said.

“I’m beginning to wonder what did he really learn in three years at Harvard Law School,” he continued. “The lawsuit I’m willing to endorse? I think he should sue Harvard Law School to get his tuition money back. I don’t think he learned a darned thing while he was there.”

Perhaps Jindal should team up with conservative carnival barker Donald Trump and demand that the president release his academic transcripts.

Jindal’s latest forays into right-wing rhetorical red meat come on the heels of other public statements that put the lie to his self-fancied image as the GOP’s ideas man. He was among the first conservatives to rush to the defense of homophobic “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson, alleging Robertson’s critics were engaged in a “war on religion” and suggesting that pushback against anti-gay remarks somehow threatened free speech. Meanwhile, the Brown University biology major and Rhodes Scholar won’t say if he accepts the theory of evolution or climate science, putting him to the right of the pope on those issues.

So Bobby Jindal, recognizing that thought and ideas are anathema to the contemporary GOP base, no longer has any interest in eradicating the stupid from the stupid party. Instead, he’s angling to become its leader — once he’s gained a little more weight.

I will try to get some pictures Saturday and maybe some “live” blog comments of Hilary’s Speech for Mary.  Meanwhile GOTV for sanity!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: Political Bright Shiny Objects and Voter ADD

downloadGood Morning!

I have to admit to being really tired of a number of things.  Last night, I was regaled with yet another anti-Muslim trope.  This time it was about Muslim nurses refusing to wash their hands and you know, EBOLA! Several people jumped right on it even though right below was a Snopes piece clearly debunking the lie.  Oh, and this was from those so-called Hillary Clinton supporters from back in the day. Some folks will pounce on any old piece of shined up shit.

Nothing quite characterizes this election year as way the so many Americans with short attention spans bounce around the Political Pin Ball table after the latest “shiny object”.   They just panic then move to the next thing before finding out how wrong they are about so many things.  What should they blame on Obama next?  What should they pearl clutch about?  Muslims?  Ebola?  Benghazi!  Resurgent Communists?

The short-attention span generation has birthed the shiny-object election.

The theme of the 2014 midterms — to whatever extent one is discernable — has been an explosion of one crisis after another, each of which demands an enormous amount of media attention before fading for the next one.

From the Secret Service to ISIS, Ebola to immigration, mistreated veterans to Ferguson and race relations, candidates and the president have been forced to react to the controversy du jour.

Strategists and experts say the result has been bad news for Democrats, who have had a tougher time underscoring their preferred campaign messages on their party’s support for women and the middle class.

Instead, each shiny object captivating a media that craves the hottest story has helped Republicans making the elections for the House and Senate all about President Obama.

“Every time there is a major issue — or as were now referring to everything, crisis — it seems to reverberate on Obama,” said Democratic strategist Peter Fenn. “It plays into what was already a sour political mood and compounds it.”

Crisis management has forced the White House to name new czars, fire political appointees and drop bombs, even as Republicans point to missteps as signs of Obama’s weak leadership and the government’s lack of competency.

Vulnerable Democrats are put in the unenviable position of either backing the president or lobbing criticism at their party’s leader.

“It totally threw the Democratic game plan off,” said Princeton University political historian Julian Zelizer. “They wanted to focus on the economic recovery, Republican extremism, and it’s hard for candidates to speak about that with these issues coming up.”

Democratic strategists say that their candidates would have been better able to account for crises if they had done a better job organizing around a cohesive message earlier in the campaign.

Jamal Simmons, a veteran Democratic aide, said politicians never “get to choose what the public thinks is important so they must hit the balls that come their way.”

“What makes this cycle seem especially dominated by errant issues is the lack of policy proposals or substantive messages about agendas coming from either side,” he argued. “In campaigns about nothing, election debates tend to be dominated by anything.”

There’s also been a shift in media, with even the 24-hour news cycle appearing dated in the era of the internet and social media.

“Part of what’s going on is the way the media works,” Zelizer said. “It’s not necessarily that there’s more issues, it’s the quick attention span media cycle where we move from one crisis to another.”

Nothing says “look, shiny objects!” like anything on CNN.  Candy Crowley actually thought the two heads of the ruling parties could rationally discuss issues pertinent to the U.S. vote.  Alas!  Too many shiny objects in such a short time!shiny-objects

A CNN “State Of The Union” debate on the midterm elections between Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus and Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) quickly devolved into complete chaos on Sunday.

Host Candy Crowley first asked Priebus if this election is about scaring voters into voting a certain way. And when he responded with a line about President Obama’s policies being on the ballot, Crowley asked Wasserman-Schultz if that was true.

As the DNC chair responded, Priebus jumped in to insist that Wasserman-Schultz answer the question about Obama’s policies.

After Crowley asked another question, the two chairs quickly started talking over each other again, discussing completely different topics.

“This is ridiculous,” Priebus noted.

Crowley then asked Wasserman-Schultz again whether Obama’s policies are on the ballot, and Priebus jumped in once more.

“Are they the president’s policies or not? Are the president’s policies on the ballot or not?” Priebus echoed.

“Reince, maybe you could let Candy ask me the questions rather than you,” Wasserman-Schultz retorted.

“She’s been doing a great job of it so far — you haven’t been answering them, though,” Priebus hit back.

The two party chairs continued to interrupt each other and bring up new topics for the rest of the debate.

Meanwhile, the most key races in the country are basically dead heats.  The fate of the senate is held in the balance.shiny-objects-680x320

C0ntrol of the U.S. Senate is coming down to the wire, with Democrats and Republicans locked in tight races in the key contests that will determine the majority in that chamber of Congress, according to six new NBC News/Marist polls.

The momentum in these races, however, has swung mostly in the Republican Party’s direction, giving the GOP a clear path to winning the majority.

  • In Colorado’s Senate contest, Republican challenger Cory Gardner holds a one-point lead among likely voters over incumbent Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., 46 percent to 45 percent. Back in September’s NBC/Marist poll, Udall was ahead by six points, 48 percent to 42 percent.
  • In Iowa, Republican Joni Ernst edges Democrat Bruce Braley by three points, 49 percent to 46 percent. Earlier this month, Ernst’s lead was two points, 46 percent to 44 percent.
  • In Kansas, independent Greg Orman has a one-point advantage over Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, 45 percent to 44 percent – down from Orman’s 10-point lead earlier this month in the NBC/Marist poll.
  • In Arkansas, Republican challenger Tom Cotton gets the support of 45 percent of likely voters, versus incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., at 43 percent. In September, Cotton’s lead was five points.
  • And in North Carolina, incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and GOP opponent Thom Tillis are tied at 43 percent each. That’s down from Hagan’s four-point lead earlier this month. Libertarian Sean Haugh gets 7 percent of the vote.

“Senate contests are coming down to the wire,” says pollster Barbara Carvalho of Marist College’s Institute for Public Opinion. “ In a reversal from 2012, when there were multiple paths for [President] Obama, now the Democrats are struggling to protect their firewall in Iowa, North Carolina and Colorado.”

All five of these races are within the polls’ margins of error. The lone exception is the NBC/Marist poll of South Dakota, where Republican Mike Rounds enjoys a 14-point lead over Democrat Rick Weiland, 43 percent to 29 percent, while independent Larry Pressler, a former Republican senator, gets 16 percent. To win control of the Senate, Republicans must gain a net of six seats. Two pick-up opportunities – in Montana and West Virginia – appear to be slam dunks for the GOP. And South Dakota, per the NBC/Marist poll, looks to be a safe bet for a third.

That means Republicans need to win three out of these seven other Democrat-held seats to get to a majority: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, New Hampshire and North Carolina.

But if Democrats win a GOP-held seat – say Georgia – or if Orman decides to caucus with Democrats, that means Republicans must win an additional seat (or two) to net six Senate seats.

Gold

 What is exactly is a real threat to America as compared to an imagined one? 

 Americans are inundated with media coverage and politicians warning them of dire threats: Ebola, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the war on Christmas.

The truth, though, is that the most-hyped threats are often not actually that threatening to Americans, while larger dangers go mostly ignored. That should tell you something about how our political system and media can distort threats, leading Americans to overreact to minor dangers while ignoring the big, challenging, divisive problems — like climate change — that we should actually be worried about.

Obsessing about possible threats is something of a beloved national past-time here in America, which is objectively one of the safest places on Earth, so we want to help you do it right. Here, then, is a highly un-scientific and incomplete ranking of threats to the United States — sorted by the current danger to Americans, worst-case danger to Americans, and how freaked out you should be.

We’re a lot more likely to have our lives impacted by heart disease, cancer, or gun violence than Ebola or ISIS, so why do so many people follow the imaged threat over the real?

Guns

Danger to Americans: Guns kill more than 30,000 Americans every year, about as many deaths as caused by motor vehicles. But only about one in three of those deaths is a homicide. A few thousand are from accidents but most are due to suicide.

Worst-case scenario: We have already chosen to live in a society with the world’s highest gun ownership rate and some of its loosest gun control laws, so the worst-case scenario is pretty much here. Still, gun deaths per year are on the rise.

How freaked out should you be: It all depends on whether you see America’s uniquely permissive gun laws as worth the trade-off. But you — and, yes, your children — are at risk, regardless of your views about gun regulations.

Meanwhile we’re overreacting as usual.  Of course, it’s the civil rights of good people that get trampled in the hysteria.images (6)

White House officials warned the governors of New York and New Jersey of the “unintended consequences” of quarantining all medical workers returning from west Africa, as a political crisis deepened on Sunday over how to counter public fears about the spread of Ebola in the US.

Amid a barrage of criticism from aid organisations, medical experts and the mayor of New York, the governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, and his New York counterpart, Andrew Cuomo, staunchly defended their plans, which provide for the mandatory 21-day quarantine of anyone returning from west Africa after direct contact with people suffering from Ebola.

Kaci Hickox, a nurse who was detained in New Jersey despite testing negative for Ebola, described her treatment as “inhumane” and said she had been made to feel like a criminal.

The White House made it clear that it objected to the hurried introduction of “policies not grounded in science”.

The tougher rules were introduced hurriedly on Friday by Christie and Cuomo after it emerged that a New York doctor, Craig Spencer, had moved widely around the city in the days before he tested positive for Ebola.

Spencer, who worked for Doctors Without Borders in Guinea, is now in isolation at Bellevue Hospital. Hickox was stopped at Newark airport in New Jersey just as the new rules were announced.

On Sunday evening Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City, hit out strongly against her treatment. “The problem is this hero, having come back from the front, having done the right thing, was treated with disrespect, was treated with a sense that she had done something wrong when she hadn’t,” he said.

Speaking at a press conference at Bellevue, de Blasio added: “We respect the right of each governor to make decisions that they think are right for their people. But we have to think how we treat the people who are doing this noble work and we must show them respect and consideration at all times. And we owe [Hickox] better than that and all the people who do this work better than that.”

The White House indicated that it was urgently reviewing the federal guidelines for returning healthcare workers, “recognising that these medical professionals’ selfless efforts to fight this disease on the front lines will be critical to bringing this epidemic under control, the only way to eliminate the risk of additional cases here at home”.

“We have let the governors of New York, New Jersey, and others states know that we have concerns with the unintended consequences of policies not grounded in science may have on efforts to combat Ebola at its source in West Africa,” an administration official said.

The governors’ moves have created another political crisis for the Obama administration, which is already facing criticism of its handling of the Ebola crisis in the run up to the midterm elections.

Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations, on Sunday became the highest-ranked administration official to officially comment on the crisis. She told NBC: “We need to make sure [returning healthcare workers] are treated like conquering heroes and not in any other way.”

Power, who was in Guinea’s capital Conakry on the first leg of a tour through the three West African nations hardest hit by the epidemic, said: “All of us need to make clear what these health workers mean to us and how much we value their services, how much we value their contribution.”

In New Jersey, Hickox, who returned from a stint working for Doctors Without Borders in Sierra Leone, appointed a lawyer to free her and called her treatment “inhumane” and “poorly planned”.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Disease, said quarantining health workers could have the unintended consequence of stopping US aid workers from tackling the disease at its source in West Africa.

“There’s a big, big difference between completely confining somebody so that they can’t even get outside and doing the appropriate monitoring based on scientific evidence,” he said on CNN. “The harm is that it is totally disruptive of their life. We want them to go because they are helping us to protect America to be over there.”

Ebola cannot be transmitted until someone with the disease begins to display symptoms; even then it is only transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids.

A spokesman for Doctors Without Borders said a total of 52 people from the US have worked with the organisation in west Africa on the Ebola response since it began in March. The spokesman said 31 Americans were currently working in West Africa, with 20 due to return sometime in the next four weeks.

A spokesman for SIM, Palmer Holt, said the international missionary organisation had one American doctor in Liberia, “who is planning to return to the States soon, but if he has to undergo mandatory quarantine, he may not be able to do that, as his plan is to do a brief visit and then quickly return.”

Meanwhile, we can’t even get through the hysteria of this election season before some one starts going off the rails on the next one.  The journalistic magpies are at it already.two-magpies

In November’s Harper’smagazine, Doug Henwood, a longtime progressive economics writer, editor and publisher, takes a deep dive into Hill-and-Bill land and resoundingly bursts the bubble that’s now taking shape across America’s Democratic provinces.

His article, “Stop Hillary: Vote no to a Clinton Dynasty,” turns the notion that Hillary and the White House are an inevitable match made in heaven into a restive rejoinder filled with deflating details from the Clintons’ long careers in high offices.

“What Hillary will deliver, then, is more of the same. And that shouldn’t surprise us,” Henwood writes, saying the country would be far better served by anyone but Hillary the hawk, Hillary the centrist, Hillary the corporatist, and Hillary the appendage of Bill. “Today we desperately need a new political economy—one that features a more equal distribution of income, investment in our rotting social and physical infrastructure, and a more humane ethic. We also need a judicious foreign policy, and a commander-in-chief who will resist the instant gratification of air strikes and rhetorical bluster.”

“Is Hillary Clinton the answer to these prayers?” Henwood asks, then answering, “It’s hard to think so, despite the widespread liberal fantasy of her as a progressive paragon, who will follow through exactly as Barack Obama did not. In fact, a close look at her life and career is perhaps the best antidote to all these great expectations.”

Harper’s and Henwood, to their credit, are trying to jump ahead of the curve and answer the most obvious question looming in American politics. That question is not, as posters from her rallies pose, “Are we ready for Hillary?” According to Henwood, it’s more like, “Really, Hillary? Really?” as he offer readers an answer filled with details we thought we had forgotten.

Some days it just doesn’t pay to look at the news.  I’m feeling it’s going to be a long November.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today? 


Friday Reads: Economic Anemia

Good Morning!

MuslinVoodooDoll-2Since I’m in the middle of revamping my course for Graduate Finance Students in International Finance and reviewing textbooks and the usual stuff, I thought I’d focus on the economy for the morning.

One of the most awful results of the Reagan years has been the creation of mainstream paranoia over policy using  data evident from the scientific method, intellectuals and academics that spend years researching and learning theory and empirical evidence, and the idea that government can’t ameliorate issues through policy but is somehow a potential enemy of the governed.

This kind of paranoid drivel used to be the realm of militia types like Clive Bunday and John Birchers like the Koch Brothers and father.  It had no place in mainstream discourse until Reagan started pumping up the idea that poor people game the government and the government games every one else.   Its now spread to Christian extremists, the NRA, and most of the Republic Party.

Let me give you the latest example of someone who is possibly going to be a Senator from Iowa.  Joni Ernst is doing the Sharon Angle thing of declaring any government issue she doesn’t like her potential enemy and any one supporting that view as a potential target of her nice little gun that she carries with her everywhere. 

Joni Ernst, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Iowa, said during an NRA event in 2012 that she would use a gun to defend herself from the government.

“I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere,” Ernst said at the NRA and Iowa Firearms Coalition Second Amendment Rally in Searsboro, Iowa. “But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family — whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.”

Ernst made the remark a little more than a month after gunman James Holmes allegedly killed 12 people and injured 58 in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Ernst’s campaign did not respond to The Huffington Post’s request for comment about the remark on Wednesday evening.

Earlier this year, Ernst released an ad in which she points a gun at the camera and vows to “unload” on Obamacare.

We’ve also experienced this massive attempt to rewrite secondary school textbooks and curricula to reflect the deeply held philosophical and religious views of these folks rather than theory or empirical evidence brought about by hundreds of years of research and scholarship.  This also ignores primary documents that show just the opposite to be factual.

But, facts be damned, there’s children’s minds to warp.  Biased ideas are not at the center of legitimate academic pursuit. Folks that follow agendas tend to live at the edges of universities and most departments are quite embarrassed by them. I spent time in a department where one research professor’s favorite pursuit was proving that iqs and brain sizes among varying races were the reason for underachieving groups in an economy.  All DNA evidence shows that race is a social construct but this guy spent a life time trying to show the relationship between brain sizes of races and incomes and jobs.  So, most time when you see folks that believe this stuff, they reside some where on the fringes.  However, since the Reagan years, there’s been a major attempt by right wing religious zealots to teach propaganda and there’s been a rather significant increase in the level of ignorance on things from incoming freshmen.

This is happening even in economics where you would think that paranoia about “communism” would’ve gone away since the fall of the USSR.  Not true, however.  They prefer to fear imagined boogey men and to set up  imagined fairy tale rescuers over doing policy that’s be proven effective in years of empirical study.

The standards’ authors are clearly fans of the free enterprise system, consistently emphasizing the advantage of American capitalism over other structures.

For example, the high school standards state that students should be able to “understand how the free enterprise system drives technological innovation and its application in the marketplace.” The middle school standards clearly promote free enterprise capitalism over other economic systems, saying that students should be able to “compare and contrast free enterprise, socialist, and communist economies in various contemporary societies, including the benefits of the U.S. free enterprise system.” Finally, the standards connect capitalism with the conservative ideal of limited government, asking students to be able to “explain why a free enterprise system of economics developed in the new nation, including minimal government intrusion, taxation, and property rights.”

It really takes very little time spent in economics to realize that political constructs are not economic constructs. For example, the United States economy was founded on Mercantilism which began with monopolies, charters, grants and largess of royalty and aristocracy.  The concepts of Capitalismimages (3) and of Communism had the same roots and they were a lot more philosophical than ever real.  Even, now, we have a modified market system.  There has never EVER been a “free market” system or “communism” in an economic sense.  Socialism is just one end of a modified market system and still relies heavily on private ownership of the majority of factors of production.  Most facets of government policy are to make a market behave closer to a free market model because it can’t possibly d0 so under one factor, characteristic, or situation that exists. I mean really, who wants to leave the market for uranium to the free market?  That’s just an extreme example.

The problem is that dogma has overtaken reality among folks that now find themselves in office.  It’s bad for the country.  It’s bad for business. It’s bad for nearly every one.  The one thing that’s becoming abundantly clear since the Clinton Presidency and definitely during the Obama Presidency is that the Democratic Party is the party of Wall Street and Big Business.  It’s not the Republicans.  No where is this more evident than economic reports written by the private sector.  Today’s Republicans scare the shit out of big business and finance.  The last few battles to keep the federal government and the deficit funded has nearly caused market meltdowns twice. You also don’t see them complain about increasing the minimum wage or decreasing the current level of income equality.  NO REALLY.   This means Chris Christie is really going to have some ‘splaining to do over this statement. 

Labor Secretary Tom Perez on Thursday panned New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s comments that he’s “tired” of the minimum wage debate.

“Chris Christie’s got his head in the sand if he’s getting tired about the minimum wage,” Perez said according to Bloomberg Politics.

President Barack Obama and Democrats have led the push to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10, and the issue has made its way onto the campaign trail this year.

“Chris Christie needs to talk to his economists, who will tell him that 70 percent of GDP growth is consumption,” Perez said Thursday.

The criticism came just days after Christie said he was “tired of hearing about the minimum wage” at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce conference on Tuesday.

“I really am,” the Republican governor and potential 2016 hopeful said. “I don’t think there’s a mother or a father sitting around the kitchen table tonight in America saying, ‘You know, honey, if our son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all of our dreams would be realized.'”

“Is that what parents aspire to for our children?” Christie asked. “They aspire to a greater, growing America, where their children have the ability to make much more money and have much great success than they have, and that’s not about a higher minimum wage.”

Before the Labor secretary chimed in, the remark drew fire from other Democrats, and White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest even quipped during a briefing Wednesday that people living on a minimum wage are those who are really tired.

Christie also used his time at the podium to make a 2016 prediction.

“I am convinced that the next president of the United States is going to be a governor,” Christie said. “We’ve had this experiment of legislating .. and getting on-the-job training in the White House. It has not been pretty.”

voodoo-doll-670So, this kind’ve talk is really making the economists of Wall Street and of huge corporations very nervous.  They’re quite aware that today’s Republican Party is tanking the economy.

Even though Republicans depict themselves as the party for business and banks, it turns out that the GOP’s economic policy is detrimental to their bottom lines and continued existence; particularly rising costs and stagnant wages since the Bush-Republican Great Recession. What both bankers and retailers really want instead of tax cuts, deregulation, and more Republican austerity and budget cuts are better incomes for all Americans that will lead to increased consumer confidence and greater purchasing power to trigger higher business profits. What they have learned after thirty years of “trickle-down” is that the trillions of dollars taken by the 1%, especially since 2009, have failed miserably to stimulate the economy. Instead, they demand more buying by the masses that Wall Street firms and analysis of 65 of the nation’s top retailers claim will only happen with, as President Obama preaches, growing the economy from the middle-out.

For example, in a report last month titled Inequality and Consumption, Morgan Stanley economists said, “Despite the roughly $25 trillion increase in wealth since the recovery from the financial crisis began, consumer spending remains anemic. Top income earners have benefited from wealth increases but middle and low income consumers continue facing structural liquidity constraints and unimpressive wage growth. To lift all boats, further increases in residential wealth and accelerating wage growth are needed.” Republicans completely disagree and either resist consideration of raising the minimum wage or promote abolishing it altogether. According to the Republicans, increasing income inequality must continue and it is crucial that they convince the population that no wage is too low. It is a belief the Koch brothers espouse but it is rapidly losing favor in circles whose survival depends on a population of consumers.

Standard and Poor’s (S&P) rating agency concurred with Morgan Stanley’s economists in their August report, How Increasing Income Inequality Is Dampening U.S. Economic Growth, And Possible Ways To Change The Tide, and strongly advised the federal government to create “a path toward more sustainable growth, that in our view, will pull more Americans out of poverty and bolster the purchasing power of the middle class. A rising tide lifts all boats…but a lifeboat carrying a few, surrounded by many treading water, risks capsizing.” To “lift all boats,” S&P suggests a “high degree of rebalancing” that includes increased “spending in the areas of education, health care, and infrastructure to help control the income gap that, at its current level, threatens the stability of an economy still struggling to recover.” Contrary to wisdom of real economists concerned with America’s economic survival, Republicans across the country have been laser-focused on their austerity crusade to cut spending on education, infrastructure, and healthcare including the cruel heartlessness of refusing free Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

Despite the call from both banks and businesses to increase the minimum wage and spending on essentials for a robust recovery, congressional Republicans have obstructed and outright blocked each and every attempt by the President and Democrats to stimulate the economy. Despite trailing every developed nation on Earth in infrastructure, Republicans consistently refuse the President’s calls to increase spending on desperately-needed infrastructure repairs including roads, bridges, public buildings, and sewers that numerous economists, including some highly respected conservatives, say is crucial for job-creation, increased consumer spending, and a vibrant recovery. Increased consumer confidence, and spending, is something all economists agree is for the good of the country’s economy but can only happen if incomes rise for the majority with higher wages and more well-paying jobs.

I’ve said this a million times but it’s true.  If you have an economy that’s 70% reliant on consumer spending for growth and 99% of the population has stagnant to falling real income, you’re going to run into trouble.  Especially since a huge part of that 99% spends high levels, all of, or beyond black-voodoo-dolltheir income and wealth levels.  Years and years of evidence has shown that consumers are the real job creators.  No business hires workers if no one is buying their goods and services.  Rich people–especially with some of the horrid changes we’ve had in the tax code during the Dubya years–are spending more and more of the income and wealth on gambling paper for paper profits.  This does not create anything of value in a real economy but it sure creates asset bubbles and the potential for financial meltdowns.   One has only to survey retailers to figure out the relationship between incomes of the middle and working classes and their bottom lines and their hiring plans.

Former Walmart U.S. CEO Bill Simon, whose company had seen consumer traffic drop for six straight quarters and same-store sales drop for five quarters, explained in July 2014 that “we’ve reached a point where it’s not getting any better but it’s not getting any worse—at least for the middle (class) and down.” Kip Tindell, CEO of the Container Store, put retailers’ feelings best when he said, “consistent with so many of our fellow retailers, we are experiencing a retail ‘funk.’” The culprit is obvious: low wage and income growth for the middle class. Median household income in 2013 stood 8 percentage points below its 2007 prerecession level.

The simple fact of the matter is that when households do not have money, retailers do not have customers. The failure of incomes to keep up with the growing cost of college, child care, and other middle-class staples leaves even less money for retail spending. A previous analysis by the Center for American Progress shows that this so-called “middle-class squeeze”—stagnant incomes and the growing cost of middle-class security—leaves the median married couple with two kids with $5,500 less to spend annually on food, clothes, and other essentials that retailers sell.

Or, as officials of J.C. Penney—whose sales fell 9 percent in 20136—put it when listing the risks to its stock value: “the moderate income consumer, which is our core customer, has been under economic pressure for the past several years.”

Moreover, retail spending—which includes spending on everything from clothing to groceries to dining out—has broad implications for the entire economy since it accounts for a large fraction of consumer spending, which itself makes up 70
percent of U.S. gross domestic product, or GDP.

Even Walmart is concerned even while not paying living wages, not providing good benefits, and not creating an environment where a worker feels secure about his/her future.  Now the weird thing is that fringe economists are still overly scared about inflation and high taxes.  These things, however, are not at the top of any one’s concerns that would be invited on any Fox News program.   Here’s a headline from Forbes: “Want a Better Economy? History Says Vote Democrat!”.  In 2012, a number of books evaluated the results of the economy under Democratic vs Republican administrations.  The results are startling.

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan is attributed with saying “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.“ So even though we may hold very strong opinions about parties and politics, it is worthwhile to look at historical facts. This book’s authors are to be commended for spending several years, and many thousands of student research assistant man-days, sorting out economic performance from the common viewpoint – and the broad theories upon which much policy has been based. Their compendium of economic facts is the most illuminating document on economic performance during different administrations, and policies, than anything previously published.

The authors looked at a range of economic metrics including inflation, unemployment, corporate profit growth, stock market performance, household income growth, economy (GDP) growth, months in recession and others. To their surprise (I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Goldfarb) they discovered that laissez faire policies had far less benefits than expected, and in fact produced almost universal negative economic outcomes for the nation!

From this book loaded with statistical fact tidbits and comparative charts, here are just a few that caused me to realize that my long-term love affair with Milton Friedman‘s writing and recommended policies in “Free to Choose” were grounded in a theory I long admired, but that simply have proven to be myths when applied!

  • Personal disposable income has grown nearly 6 times more under Democratic presidents
  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has grown 7 times more under Democratic presidents
  • Corporate profits have grown over 16% more per year under Democratic presidents (they actually declined under Republicans by an average of 4.53%/year)
  • Average annual compound return on the stock market has been 18 times greater under Democratic presidents (If you invested $100k for 40 years of Republican administrations you had $126k at the end, if you invested $100k for 40 years of Democrat administrations you had $3.9M at the end)
  • Republican presidents added 2.5 times more to the national debt than Democratic presidents
  • The two times the economy steered into the ditch (Great Depression and Great Recession) were during Republican, laissez faire administrations

The Obama economy is actually surprisingly good given that a large number of good economic policies have not been enacted due to Republican political kung fu.images (4)

It was no joke on Thursday when I asked Austan Goolsbee, a pretty fair amateur comic, to rattle of key economic indicators that are trending in very positive ways right now.
“Jobs created. Weekly U.I (jobless) claims. Unemployment rate. Auto Sales. Gas Prices,” said Goolsbee, former head of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers and a onetime winner of the annual “D.C.’s Funniest Celebrity” contest.

And, yet, as a headline in Politico.com also noted Thursday, “Economic Anxiety Dominates 2014.” So what’s really and truly up? What explains the disconnect between seemingly very strong numbers and the lack of love for Obama and the Democrats?

“You can’t brag about the economy because people can’t feel it,” said Thomas Bowen, a Chicago-based Democratic political and policy consultant.

“I’m sure (some) Democrats have polled this: ‘The recovery isn’t working for you.’ That’s why they’re not running on the economy improving.

Not long after, I was driving past a state unemployment office along a rather somber commercial strip on Chicago’s Northwest Side. The parking lot was full. And then I mulled the folks I know working part-time involuntarily or sticking with jobs they don’t especially like out of fear of the limited alternatives.

“You’re talking about indicators in the last six months,” said Bowen. “But look at the start of the recession until today. We’re just getting out of the hole from jobs losses. And the jobs aren’t the same. They’re not higher paying construction jobs.” “Not all indicators equate with average folks,” said Anna Greenberg, a Washington-based Democratic pollster.

“Wages and salaries are stagnant,” she said. “Yes, the stock market is up and the jobless rate down. But the cost of living is up and you may not have more money.”

images (5)So, a lot of economists like me remain very confused.  It’s not like there’s not support by people and businesses for good policy like infrastructure projects, improving the terms of student loans so more folks can access higher and continuing education, and a reasonable minimum wage.  The cities and states that have raised the minimum wage are even those that are doing well among states.   States that have raised their minimum wages have better job growth.

New data released by the Department of Labor shows that raising the minimum wage in some states does not appear to have had a negative impact on job growth, contrary to what critics said would happen.

In a report on Friday, the 13 states that raised their minimum wages on Jan. 1 have added jobs at a faster pace than those that did not. The data run counter to a Congressional Budget Office report in February that said raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, as the White House supports, could cost as many as 500,000 jobs.

The Associated Press writes:

“In the 13 states that boosted their minimums at the beginning of the year, the number of jobs grew an average of 0.85 percent from January through June. The average for the other 37 states was 0.61 percent.

“Nine of the 13 states increased their minimum wages automatically in line with inflation: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Four more states — Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island — approved legislation mandating the increases.”

The AP notes: “[The] state-by-state hiring data, released Friday by the Labor Department, provides ammunition” to the camp in favor of raising the minimum wage.

“Economists who support a higher minimum say the figures are encouraging, though they acknowledge they don’t establish a cause and effect. There are many possible reasons hiring might accelerate in a particular state.

” ‘It raises serious questions about the claims that a raise in the minimum wage is a jobs disaster,’ said John Schmitt, a senior economist at the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research. The job data ‘isn’t definitive,’ he added, but is ‘probably a reasonable first cut at what’s going on.’ “

So, it just appears that there’s a huge portion of the United States electorate and elected that would rather live in their dream world of imaginary beings and dogma than have their lives made better by using what we know and what we’ve learned.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Tabloid Tuesday Reads

TabloidCoverGood Morning!

I’ve had a bout of a really bad stomach flu and I’m just beginning to get some energy back, so I’m not going to post anything that takes any analysis.  Hopefully, this will be a fun post after week after week of horrifying news.  Oh, these tabloid covers don’t come from Fox News or any right wing blog, just so you know.

Jane Fonda has had a really interesting life.  She recently gave an interview that opened up a lot of the more distressing things that she’s endured.   You need to go to the link to watch/listen to the interview.

She talks about losing a parent to suicide (4:00), how being a tomboy with no period made her wonder if she was really a girl (4:30), how failed marriages forced her to look inward for strength (7:30), how she said goodbye to a slowly dying parent (13:30), how she manages being a caretaker for her partner with Parkinson’s (22:00), and what sex is like after celibacy (26:15). She’s not scared of anything anymore. You’ll love it.

She’s still working and has done these interviews as part of  blitzing the airwaves for her new movie.  Fonda’s life has been an open book but now so are many of her feelings about that life.

In a career spanning more than 50 years, the two time Oscar winning actress has always been hard to ignore. Before she was the video work-out queen of the 80’s, Fonda was a noted activist for Civil Rights and an outspoken opponent to the Vietnam War. She has repeatedly expressed regrets about the photographs taken of her posing with North Vietnam guns that shot down American planes.

“At your level of fame the easy thing to have done throughout your entire career was to seek privacy and instead you’ve spoken out about causes that you believe in. Why?” asked Bryan.

“I’m my father’s daughter, explained Fonda. “I grew up with Tom Joad. The Grapes of Wrath. 12 Angry Men. The Wrong Man. Ox-bow Incident.

“My dad never spoke much. He was very taciturn.But I knew that these movies had characters that he loved, and that’s what he felt the world should be like and he believed in sticking up for the underdog, for fairness and justice.”

“And so at a certain point in my life I found myself going in that direction and it’s made me a better person for sure. And I’ve learned a lot. I didn’t just sort of give money out like it’s a charity. I was down in the trenches and it really made me a better actor too, I must say.”

There’s something else Jane inherited from her famous father Henry. A tendency to get teary.

“My dad always said ‘Fondas cry at a good steak’, Fonda said.” It’s a sign of empathy I think. Because the crying doesn’t mean sad. It means your heart is open and your soul is open. And I found ( This Is Where I Leave You) full of those kind of moments that opened my heart and my empathy gene and I hope that it does for audiences. And I think it will.”

Yet another study has shown that the most conservative areas of the country are the most porn-addicted.  Is it the misogyny, the down home religion, or the repression?  This study argues that it’s correlated with defense mechanisms.3fa31e84082c747957312117249f4e7c

In October, two Toronto researchers, Cara MacInnis and Gordon Hodson, published a study that correlated the popularity of sex and adult material-related search terms across various regions or states with information from a Gallup pool asking about religious and political attitudes. Their study design involves a number of different comparisons and considered the effects of poverty, population, and other variables.

Unsurprisingly, higher levels of religiosity and conservatism correlated higher search rates sexual content – specifically, it meant more searches for phrases like “sex,” “gay sex,” or “sex images.”

While aggregate data can’t be used to draw conclusions about individual behavior and is open to alternative interpretations, it fits with information from other sources. For instance, Business professor Benjamin Edelman at Harvard found that states that place a higher esteem on traditional gender roles and sexuality have higher rates of paid subscriptions for adult materials – which seems to imply they have no idea how the Internet works in these states, as well.

It dovetails with claims made by strip club owners that they make up to three times as much during Republican conventions than Democratic conventions or even the Superbowl. MacInnis and Hodsen quote an exotic dancer named Layla Love who said in 2001 that the arrival of the RNC brought with it “15 to 17 hour shifts, every day” until the convention ended.  She added that “So, for basically seven days straight, I will be in the club, every day, day shift and night shift.”

So we’ve stated the obvious; what’s this got to do with defense mechanisms?

There are several that are relevant to this discussion:

  • Denial means simply refusing to acknowledge that some event or pattern is real.
  • Repression involves pushing uncomfortable thoughts and feelings to the far recesses of the subconscious mind.
  • Reaction formation is saying or doing the opposite of what you really want but won’t allow yourself to express.
  • Projection means assuming that others share the impulses, feelings, and vices that you find unacceptable in yourself.

We’ve all encountered at least one of these before when dealing with a religious conservative: for instance, the Religious Right projects more than an IMAX theater. When factored into this discussion, however, it becomes easy to picture a group of so-called “Values Voters” at the convention after a night painting the town (Republican) Red:

Projection: Godless liberals are destroying this country-feminazi sluts demanding sex with no consequences and faggots pushing their gay agenda on our children.

Repression: What?

Reaction formation: This town is full of trashy dancers who wag their big tits and tight asses at honest businessmen. We should lock them up and throw away the key.

Repression: What?

Denial: Real Christians, through prayer, have the power to resist temptation. Only righteous men in public office can stop the moral decay of this sex-obsessed country.

Repression: Did you say something?

We all have our failings; nobody is perfect. But if you’re going to demand perfection from others and make no allowances for failure, you better damn well be perfect yourself. Not just “saved” – perfect.

owns Here’s an interesting portrait of King Tut.  Did he really have “girlish hips” and boy boobs?

Earlier this year, egyptologists from the American University in Cairo shed light on some of the bizarre burial rituals discovered in the tomb, including the fact the king’s penis was embalmed at a 90-degree angle – the only mummy to have ever been found with this feature.

On the outside of the tomb, decorations depicted Tutankhamun as underworld god Osiris, while wall paintings (pictured) showed the king being embraced by the underworld god. It is believed that if Tutankhamun was shown to be this powerful god it would quash a religious revolution taking place in the 1320s BC

Researchers from the American University in Cairo believe the king’s appendage was embalmed at a 90-degree angle to make the young pharaoh appear as Osiris, the god of the underworld.

The angling of the penis was a feature worn by ‘corn-mummies’, created in honour of Osiris.

The mummy was also covered in black liquid to resemble Osiris’ skin.

Elsewhere, Tutankhamun’s heart was missing when the tomb was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922.

Religious texts claimed Osiris’ heart was similarly removed by his brother Seth.On the outside of the tomb, decorations depicted Tutankhamun as Osiris.

They claimed that this may have been carried out on purpose to make the king appear like Osiris, the god of the underworld, in an attempt to frighten religious revolutionaries.

At the time of his death in 1323 BC, the father of the teenage Egyptian king was said to be leading a religious revolution in the country.

It is believed Akhenaten wanted to destroy the belief in the Egyptian gods and instead worship a sun disc called the Aten.

Tutanhkhamun was trying to tackle this revolution when he was believed to have broken his leg and died from an infection in the wound. DNA analysis in 2010 also found traces of malaria in his system.

During mummification a decision was made to not only embalm the erect penis, but also to cover the king’s body in black liquid – similar in colour to the skin of Osiris – and remove his heart.

These rituals, according to Professor Salima Ikram from the university, were done in order to make people think Tutankhamun was the underworld god.

His DNA also showed some weird things.wwn-cover1

Albert Zink, from the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Italy, deciphered the truth about the ruler’s parents by studying the royal family’s DNA.

He found that Tut was born after his father Akhenaten – dubbed the heretic king – had a relationship with his sister. Incest was not frowned upon by the ancient Egyptians and they did not know about the health implications for any offspring.

Hutan Ashrafian, a lecturer in surgery at Imperial College London, said that several members of the family appeared to have suffered from ailments which can be explained by hormonal imbalances. He said: ‘A lot of his family predecessors lived to a ripe old age. Only his immediate line were dying early, and they were dying earlier each generation.’

Egyptian radiologist Ashraf Selim: ‘The virtual autopsy shows the toes are divergent – in layman’s terms it’s club foot. He would have been heavily limping.

‘There is only one site where we can say a fracture happened before he died and that is the knee.’

Evidence of King Tut’s physical limitations were also backed up by 130 used walking canes found in his tomb.

 Republican Candidates for all levels of office continue to say strange things too. This one is really weird.  Is it just me or does it appear that many of them seem to have mental illnesses that should be treated?  I mean isn’t religious delusion like an indicator of some really awful problems?

Rep. James Clyburn’s (D-S.C.) Republican challenger referred to same-sex couples as “gremlins” and “bullies” in a Facebook post urging supporters to oppose gay marriage at the polls this fall.

Anthony Culler, the GOP nominee for Clyburn’s seat, wrote a Facebook post on Oct. 14 decrying same-sex marriage as “a pestilence that has descended on our society, against our will, by those in the courts and government that do not value the traditional family.”

“Same sex couples that seek to destroy our way of life and the institution of marriage are NOT cute and cuddly but rather (for those of you that are old enough to remember the movie), Gremlins that will only destroy our way of life,” he wrote.

He adds: “These people are bullies and now that they are winning their true and hateful nature is much easier to see and hear.”

Culler goes on to charge that gays have “a strong tendency for substance abuse,” and urges readers to avoid the ” ‘over the top’ and ‘anything goes’ ceremonies or parties that these people revel in.”

“Stand against this and we will reverse it and drive it back into the darkness,” he writes.

One more before I go go too.  This one is real but sounds like tabloid stuff.  I kid you not.  Although, really, what is Politico any way if not a beltway tabloid and only journalism in the minds of the originating stooges?images (2)

Federal law enforcement officials are taking an ISIL threat against Michele Bachmann so seriously that Capitol Police have given the Minnesota Republican her own security detail.

An online threat against Bachmann emerged recently, according to multiple law enforcement officials familiar with the situation. Last week, Bachmann was provided a security detail in response, according to the sources.

Members of the U.S. Capitol Police’s Dignitary Protection Division were briefed on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The police security will continue until Bachmann, who will retire at the end of this Congress, is no longer in office.

A police detail of this type typically means 24-hour protection when a member of Congress is on Capitol Hill or back in the home district.

Officials declined to outline the specific nature of the threat.

Bachmann’s office referred news media inquiries to Capitol Police. A Capitol Police spokeswoman declined to comment.

“The U.S. Capitol Police does not discuss law enforcement operations or security regarding Members of Congress,” spokeswoman Kimberly Schneider wrote in an email.

Bachmann has been publicly critical of not only ISIL, but also Islam, calling on President Barack Obama to declare war on the religion during a speech at the conservative Value Voters Summit at the end of September.

“And I believe if you have an evil of an order of this magnitude, you take it seriously,” Bachmann said. “You declare war on it, you don’t dance around it. Just like the Islamic State has declared war on the United States of America.”

Have a great day!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today, because it’s a WIDE OPEN thread!


Thursday Reads: “But where are the clowns? Quick, send in the clowns. Don’t bother, they’re here.”

Good Morning!

I’m still a little out of it but I’m nowhere out of it compared to what’s going on in this midterm election season.  I’m not about to gamble where it’s going to end up, but I will tell you that it’s just about as strange as any election season I’ve ever seen.  8170291676_8431de6a3c_z

First up, Republicans that refuse to debate for some reason or another.  Perhaps it’s because they open their mouths and turn people off?  However, Florida’s governor now has the Temper Tantrum Toddler award for this one.

The Florida gubernatorial debate got off to a rocky start Wednesday night when Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) refused to come out because his Democratic opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist, asked for and received a fan under his podium.

The debate moderators at CBS Miami seemed shocked, wondering aloud what to do for several minutes until Scott finally consented to join Crist on stage. Scott apparently told the hosts that the debate rules banned fans from the stage.

“We have been told Governor Scott will not be participating in this debate,” CBS moderator Elliott Rodriguez said. “Now, let me explain what this is all about. Governor Crist has asked to have a fan, a small fan, placed underneath his podium. The rules of the debate that I was shown by the Scott campaign said that there should be no fan. Somehow there is a fan there and for that reason, ladies and gentlemen, Governor Scott will not join us for the debate.”

The announcement was met with jeers and boos from the crowd.

“That’s the ultimate pleading of the Fifth I’ve ever heard,” Crist said from the stage.

knowRepugClownsRick Scott has all kinds of issues.  First, let’s start out with the legal and political issues that have haunted his term and campaign.

Look to a Ponzi state running eternally on the next out-of-town sucker, administered by a gerrymandered GOP hammerlock and overseen by a man who the president of Public Policy Polling once said could be trounced by “a ham sandwich.” That man is Florida Governor Rick Scott, who bought one election and feels like having another, who — depending on your point of view — makes the Sunshine State either more of a national punchline than it already is, or a paradise where every political malignancy can sizzle and bloat before coming home to fuck up wherever it is you live. Meanwhile, the man sent as an alternative to the theory that government’s job is to die quietly is Charlie Crist, a Republican conveniently converted to Democrat, for whom even long-time friends say pursuing policy takes a distant second place to holding office as an end in itself.

That Rick Scott is a Republican is no surprise. He has a classic up-from-his-bootstraps story that doesn’t involve a coal-mining immigrant granddad but actually features himself. And like so many conservative biographies, it’s ideologically impure — estranged from an abusive father, raised at points in public housing, getting a government job, starting a business in part via GI benefits, eventually becoming CEO of Columbia/HCA, the nation’s largest private healthcare company, which grew by undercutting non-profit hospital fatcats with cutthroat private bottom-line policies.

Why he ever wanted to become a Republican candidate remains bit of a mystery, because while CEO of Columbia/HCA, the company was assessed the largest penalty for Medicare and Medicaid fraud in history. In yet another instance of the GOP Cult of the Leader at work, Scott presented the ideal candidate because of the success of his business, which was owed to his vision; the fact that it ultimately paid nearly $1.7 billion in penalties for a criminal enterprise was someone else’s fuckup. Scott himself admitted to exercising his Fifth Amendment privileges in a civil deposition 75 times when it might relate to the federal investigation of Columbia/HCA — not to use his right to avoid self-incrimination but because he didn’t want to indulge a “fishing expedition.” That’s not a legitimate application of the Fifth Amendment. Your chief executive at work: a man for whom the rules of the justice system are just, like, thishassle.

His 2010 candidacy felt spectacularly surreal because, to paraphrase something I wrote then, he was a proud, self-celebratory embodiment of unpunished white collar crime. It was like seeing the executives of Merrill, AIG, Lehman Brothers and Countrywide simultaneously going through Senate confirmations to the Federal Reserve while drawing fingers across their necks at the committee chairperson and mouthing the words, “YOU’RE NEXT.” Scott could run on his record only in the most oblique and vacuous manner, since floating away via golden parachute after bumping your revenues by defrauding the federal government is not a viable state economic model.

Instead, Scott snorted the Tea Party miasma and duly acted as if his gubernatorial opponent were Barack Obama and health insurance. If elected, Scott would move the State Capitol from Washington, D.C. back to Tallahassee. To sell this vision, he insulated himself from campaign accountability in almost every respect. He sent his own mother to a news conference as a substitute, refused to subject himself to interviews from newspaper editorial boards and ducked debates. Reporters were ignored with an almost princely disdain and fed bland focus-group-tested answers to unrelated questions. He instead largely campaigned on television, pouring over $73 million of his own money into saturating the state with ads whose studio magic made him look like an approximation of a human being. It didn’t work. Florida residents and critics nationwide simply call him Voldemort.

Once in office, the limitations of running on his record and as not-Obama immediately showed. Despite going on to set the record for one-term executions since 1970, he admitted he hadn’t considered the responsibility of signing death warrants before he decided to run for office. In fact, the Tallahassee rumor mill suggested he wasn’t even aware that he physically had to sign each order. His office maintained the same level of lockout contempt for the press corps and expressed dismay and outrage at the “partisan” criticism of the office. Such micromanaged disdain for access and devotion to imaging doubtless increased focus on the revelation that Scott made a show on the trail of adopting a rescue dog, then ditched it once it had served its purpose. The secretive nature of the Scott administration continues to this day, with revelations that Scott and aides used private emails and private phones to circumvent the state’s Sunshine Laws.

Meanwhile, despite claiming on the stump that he would create 700,000 new jobs in seven years, on top of the projected job growth of 1,000,000, for a rate of roughly 242,857 jobs per year, Scott almost immediately ratcheted his pledge down by 1,000,000, claiming he merely needed to create 700,000 jobs total. This is akin to pledging 2 billion years ago to build a grand hotel and canyon on the site of the Colorado River, then showing up 2 billion years later to take credit for the Grand Canyon and hope everyone forgot about the hotel. And, as the Tampa Bay Times reports, he still comes up short according to his own office, reporting growth of 620,300 jobs in four years, far short of the 971,428 he should be on track for. Worse, even his own office’s numbers are fudged, because they don’t count public sector job losses — despite the fact that they are jobs — because, well, fuck ‘em. Factor in jobs lost to Scott’s budget slashing and elimination of regulatory oversight — 15,000 in just the first eight months alone — and he’s only at 594,900.

Rick Scott is a scary and crooked clown.  He’s a tea party sweetheart and a complete nightmare.  We’re waiting for him to announce that he is not a witch.esq-republican-clowns-120811-xlg

Even before he was elected in 2010, Scott spent $5 million of his own money—earned leading a health care companythat derives much of its revenue from government payments—to fight Obamacare. Florida was the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case challenging Obamacare, and even after the court upheld the law, Scott refused to take steps to implement it. His fellow tea partiers are urging lawmakers to do the same: At a hearing in December, activist John Knapp told state legislators, “The American Constitution which you just swore an oath to uphold and defend has been contorted, hijacked, and reduced.”

To get Medicaid in Florida, you have to make less than $3,200 a year—and the state seems set to reject Obamacare subsidies that would fix that.

Obamacare is a particular target of tea party wrath in Florida, but it’s hardly the only one in a state where the movement’s ideology has permeated every layer of government. In just one year, Scott and his conservative allies slashed state spending by $4 billioneven as they cut corporate taxes. They’ve rejectedbillions in federal funds in one of the states hardest hitby the recession. They’ve axed everything from health care and public transportation initiatives to mosquito control and water supply programs. “Florida is where the rhetoric becomes the reality. It’s kind of the tea party on steroids,” says state Rep. Mark Pafford, a Democrat. “We’ve lost all navigation in terms of finding that middle ground.”

Similar shifts have occurred in other states where the tea party has amassed political power, including Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin. But no state has gone as far as Florida, where small-government advocates have seized the economic crisis and fiscal downturn to reshape the state, often sacrificing benefits for residents to make a broader political point.

imagesWell, that’s just one race.  How bizarre can races in the other 49 states be?  You probably don’t want me to ask that , do you?  Take South Carolina’s Nikki Haley.  PLEASE.  If the nation’s CEOs aren’t worried about the Confederate flag, why should any one else bother with it?

Haley retorted by claiming that the Confederate flag has not kept companies from coming to the state.

“What I can tell you is over the last three and a half years, I spent a lot of my days on the phones with CEOs and recruiting jobs to this state. I can honestly say I have not had one conversation with a single CEO about the Confederate flag,” she said.

She also said that she herself has helped combat the state’s image problem.

“But we really kind of fixed all that when you elected the first Indian-American female governor,” Haley said. “When we appointed the first African-American U.S. senator, that sent a huge message.”

Libertarian candidate Steve French said that while he doesn’t mind if individuals display the Confederate flag, he doesn’t think businesses should be able to.

“So, if you want to paint your house in the Confederate flag, I am completely fine with that,” he said.

Meanwhile, in Illinois, it’s evidently fashionable to buy the governor’s seat now and forget everything else.

It costs real money to blanket the state with wall-to-wall commercials, a fact borne out by the quarterly filings of the candidates running for governor.

Republican Bruce Rauner spent $20.3 million in the months from July through September, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections. During the same period, he took in $20.5 million in contributions, including a $1.5 million check he wrote to himself last week.

However Rauner said the rest of his take was fueled by 11,000 individual donors.

“Our campaign is gaining supporters every day and we’ve picked up even more momentum since Pat Quinn admitted that he wants another massive tax hike in exactly three weeks,” Rauner said.

Rauner still had nearly $3.7 million left in his kitty, giving him plenty of ammo to continue waging his televised battle with Gov. Pat Quinn.

Quinn had yet to post his totals for the quarter, but at the end of the previous quarter, he was flush with nearly three times as much ready cash as Rauner.

Actually, it’s no big deal for a guy that makes about $60 million a year.  What’s more American these days than buying out a Democracy?gallery_298_17_57445

Republican governor candidate Bruce Rauner made $60.15 million last year — up from $53 million the year before, according to cover sheets of his tax returns his campaign released Friday.

All told, Rauner and wife Diana reported paying $17.25 million in federal and state taxes for 2013. That’s only slightly more than the $17.1 million of his own fortune that Rauner has put into his campaign against Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. That total includes a $1.5 million contribution the Republican challenger reported making to his campaign fund Friday.

In keeping with past practices, Rauner’s campaign released only copies of the 1040 federal and state forms but did not provide copies of other forms, attachments and schedules that would provide more information about the sources of Rauner’s income, business losses and tax deductions. Rauner released his tax information late Friday afternoon on a holiday weekend, a time when the public tends to be less focused on the news.

State law does not require candidates to release their income tax filings, but it has become commonplace for office seekers to do so. Quinn and many other candidates also provide copies of their entire filings, including attachments and schedules.

Rauner had filed for an extension for the April 15 filing of his federal and state income taxes. That made them due next week, less than a month before the Nov. 4 election.

Prior to launching his campaign in March 2013, Rauner left his position as a name partner at private equity firm GTCR. The candidate’s economic disclosure with the state showed he kept a partnership interest in a lengthy list of the firm’s investment funds.

Rauner, Quinn meet for first televised debate
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports on the first major debate of the Illinois gubernatorial election.
The federal tax information Rauner released Friday showed the bulk of his income — more than $41 million — took the form of capital gains, which are taxed at a lower rate than regular income. Another $14 million came from interest and dividends.

Rauner’s tax return cover sheet showed more than $10.1 million in federal deductions, but the materials the campaign released did not specify what they were. Instead, the campaign issued a statement saying the Rauners and a separate family foundation made charitable contributions of more than $5 million.

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I’m not sure Louisiana is going to stand up to any more of Jindal’s presidential aspiration set loose on us frankly. Meanwhile,  Rick Perry has taken off to Europe while his states completely dysfunctional Public Health System appears to be shipping Ebola around the country. I sincerely wouldn’t recommend electing any of these clowns to your statehouse.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: Surreal and Surrealer

Good Morning!

tumblr_m33kteHAjW1qex560o1_r1_500There are some things you just can’t make up.  This would include Republican Senator John McCain telling CNN’s Candy Crowley that Obama needs to appoint an “Ebola Czar”.  Wasn’t one of the main right wing talking points a few years ago that Obama was czar happy?  Also, why wasn’t McCain asked about the stalled appointment of our US Surgeon General?

Remember a couple years ago how President Barack Obama had eighty million czars and it was bad because czars = Russia? Well czars are good now.

“From spending time here in Arizona, my constituents are not comforted,” Senator John McCain (R-AZ) told State of the Union host Candy Crowley Sunday morning. “There has to be more reassurance given to them. I would say that we don’t know exactly who’s in charge. There has to be some kind of czar.”

Hard to see what good a czar would do, given that McCain added that he “was impressed” with Crowley’s panel of experts, in the sense that he nonetheless didn’t believe them.

Yes, that’s the deal.  Thanks to the Republicans we have no Surgeon General.

Currently the U.S. does not have a permanent surgeon general. President Barack Obama nominated Dr. Vivek Murthy to fill the spot last November after the previous surgeon general vacated the position.

Murthy’s nomination has been tied up in the Senate since March amid concerns from conservative gun rights group, the National Rifle Association, that the Harvard and Yale educated doctor would seek to implement restrictions on the Second Amendment if he were confirmed for the position.

British-born Murthy is a supporter of President Obama’s efforts to reduce gun violence by restricting the sale of certain firearms.

In October of 2012 he sent the following tweet out from his twitter account: ‘Tired of politicians playing politics w/ guns, putting lives at risk b/c they’re scared of NRA. Guns are a health care issue.’

The NRA and it’s powerful lobbying arm pounced on the statement after Murthy, who also co-chaired a group called Doctors for Obama, was nominated and warned Senators that they would punish them if they voted to confirm the 36-year-old doctor as the spokesman for the government’s public health initiatives.

At a nomination hearing before a Senate subcommittee in February, Murthy testified that his views on gun control would not affect his ability to serve as surgeon general

‘My concerns with regard to issues like gun violence have to do with my experience as a physician, he further explained and ‘seeing patients in emergency rooms.’

But that didn’t quell the NRA’s concerns that he may allow his political beliefs to seep into his medical work.

In mid-March a spokesman for the organization told the New York Times that ‘given Dr. Murthy’s blatant activism on behalf of gun control, that’s not a gamble we’re willing to take.’

As a result, Murthy’s nomination has still not come for a vote before the Democratically-controlled Senate – more than six months later – as vulnerable Democrats in conservative-leaning states have tried to distance themselves from anti-gun efforts ahead of November’s federal elections.

Not only that, but the Republican Sequester has cut funds to the very agencies tasked with preventing the spread of diseases.bearded lady

Two weeks ago in the Senate, committees on Appropriations and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions convened a hearing to “discuss” what kind of resources are necessary to address, and stop the virus from spreading. According to the director of the CDC National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Dr. Beth Bell, the epidemic could have been stopped if more had been done sooner to build global health security.

Bell asserted that if the Republican sequester had not cut aid budgets and global health programs indiscriminately by $411 million, and USAID by $289 million, the epidemic could been reduced to a manageable situation if not stopped altogether. Bell said, “If even modest investments had been made to build a public health infrastructure in West Africa previously, the current Ebola epidemic could have been detected earlier, and it could have been identified and contained. This Ebola epidemic shows that any vulnerability could have widespread impact if not stopped at the source.” Now it has the possibility of impacting Americans.

Despite warnings from economic experts and myriad agencies across the government, Republicans parlayed their fear-mongering about deficits, debt, and “foolish, wasteful, out-of-control, and unnecessary spending” into a devastating sequester that put a major dent in the CDC’s budget that is bearing exactly the fruit experts warned Republicans about. NIH representative Anthony Fauci reiterated Bell’s conclusion and told the committees, “honestly it’s (the sequester) been a significant impact on us. It has both in an acute and a chronic, insidious way eroded our ability to respond in the way that I and my colleagues would like to see us be able to respond to these emerging threats. And in my institute particularly, that’s responsible for responding on the dime to an emerging infectious disease threat, this is particularly damaging.”

The Republicans’ precious sequester required the NIH to cut its budget by $1.55 billion in 2013 across the board that had the desired result of affecting every area of medical research within the agency. Bell agreed with Fauci that her department is leading the U.S. intervention in West Africa, but complained the agency is being hamstrung by a $13 million sequester cut that a minuscule increase in 2014 and 2015 is not going to make up in time to effectively stop the virus’s inevitable spread.

b15f13a4fd7ec67cd8ad262ce330a138Stopping the spread of the disease means stopping the disease in West Africa.  However, Republicans won’t approve money to do this because the money would go to Africa.  Yup, the usual suspects are also holding up Ebola aid.

A Republican senator is urging his colleagues to hold up the $1 billion the White House has requested to combat the Ebola virus in part because the plan “focuses on Africa.”

“I ask you to oppose fully allowing the additional $1 billion in reprogramming requests until previously requested additional information is available for members of Congress to be fully briefed,” Louisiana Senator David Vitter wrote in a letter to members of the Senate Appropriations and Armed Services committees. The $1 billion that the administration has requested would be redirected from funds from the war operations budget to pay for the construction of medical facilities, supply distribution, medical training and for military and civilian personnel. Most of the money has been held up for nearly a month, as Republicans on key committees demand more details from the administration.

While Vitter criticized Obama for not fully presenting a plan, he apparently knows enough about it to be concerned that it “focuses on Africa, and largely ignores our own borders.” Vitter wants the United States to bar noncitizens traveling from countries affected by Ebola from entering the country.

While Congress delays, world leaders are pleading for assistance. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said Thursday that twenty times more aid was needed in West Africa to fight the epidemic. Speaking at the same World Bank conference, the director of the Centers for Disease Control called for swift action. “Speed is the most important variable here,” Thomas Frieden said. “This is controllable, and this was preventable. It’s preventable by investing in core public health services.”

Senator Chris Murphy, in an interview on MSNBC on Thursday morning, called the delay in Congress “unconscionable.” He said the committees should release the full funds this week. Murphy acknowledged that some of the questions committee members have about the administration’s plan are “legitimate,” but noted that his colleagues only selectively care about missing details.

“In contrast to the lack of questions we asked when we made a decision to get involved in a war in the Middle East that’s going to cost us $10 billion a year, we seem to have a different level of inspection when it comes to questions being asked about money that’s going to protect the United States from a very real and very present threat of Ebola,” Murphy said.

Many lawmakers (and the media) are in a frenzy about the prospect of Ebola spreading through the United States, but there’s a conspicuous lack of urgency when it comes to doing more to treat the epidemic where it’s already having a devastating effect. Members of Congress have been far quicker to criticize the president for inaction than their colleagues. On Thursday, twenty-six lawmakers wrote to Obama asking him to “take aggressive action to combat and prevent the spread of this disease in the United States,” specifically by banning travel to the US by citizens of affected countries. Meanwhile, the congressional committees that have to approve the redirected funds have blocked most of it until they get a more detailed plan from the administration.

Here’s a few quick things to read that might interest you.  If you watched American Horror Story: Coven last year, you know about the mythical axman.  Here’s some information about the real axman murders in New Orleans and the infamous mass murderer.163961958dd25f0c0ab5504c98c525aa

It was the screaming that awakened Esther Pepitone.

The woman and her husband, Michel “Mike” Pepitone, had turned in for the night at their Mid-City home. They operated a corner store at the front of their building at South Scott and Ulloa streets, and with a circus on Tulane Avenue just a block away that weekend, their day had been busy.

She woke up shortly before 1 a.m. on October 27, 1919, when she heard her husband’s cry, “Oh my God!”

Esther Pepitone found her husband unconscious. Their mattress was saturated with blood. A picture of the Virgin Mary that hung above the bed was specked with crimson, and the walls were splattered from the floor nearly to the ceiling.

Mike Pepitone’s head had been bashed 18 times with at least one weapon. But it was hard to tell just what had happened because his skull was so badly damaged. “It was battered into an almost unrecognizable mass,” reported The Times-Picayune.

Esther Pepitone told police she had caught a glimpse of two shadowy figures in the darkened bedroom, but she could not identify the men. The two wordlessly slipped toward the back of the house, she said, through the room where the Pepitones’ six children were sleeping, and exited through the back door, heading down South Scott Street toward Canal.

Mike Pepitone was in agony. “Every time he turned his head, blood came from his head and face,” Esther Pepitone was quoted as saying by the New Orleans States. “It simply poured over the bed.”

She threw open a window and began screaming, too, and their 11-year-old daughter ran outside to get help.

The first one on the scene was Ben Corcoran (or Cochran, depending on the source), a sheriff’s deputy who lived on the block and who was on his way home from work. He found Mike Pepitone mortally wounded and a weapon, described alternately as a large bolt with a heavy nut attached to it and as a stake used to secure a tent at the circus, sitting on the chair next to him. Five of the Pepitone children were still in bed, fast asleep. The door to the back yard and the gate that opened onto South Scott Street remained ajar.

Mike Pepitone, 36, was rushed to Charity Hospital. Within two hours he was pronounced dead.

His savage murder was never solved. It was the last in a string of attacks commonly attributed to a now-mythical serial killer known as the Axman.

1c250bcd95f95a23306c3e34f200b065I’ve started watching this year’s American Horror Story: Freak Show which is visually interesting but hasn’t really grabbed me yet.  It’s all about those freak shows of old times.  If you’re watching it, let me know what you think.  The sociopathic killer in this season’s horror story is scary clown Twisty.  It appears that Bakersfield, California is also experiencing an invasion of scary clowns.

Reports of creepy clowns carrying knives and other weapons have been scaring people in the California city of Bakersfield for the past week, police said on Sunday.

In the latest incident, a person telephoned the Bakersfield Police Department on Saturday night, reporting a clown armed with a firearm, said watch commander Lieutenant Jason Matson.

“We’ve been having sightings all over the city,” Matson said. “They range from anywhere from a guy carrying a gun to a guy carrying a knife running up to houses.”
The Bakersfield Californian newspaper reported earlier in the week that at least some of the reports were hoaxes. Matson said he did not know whether the incidents were pranks.

At least one of the reports was not a hoax – police arrested a teen on Friday who had dressed up as a clown and was chasing children on the west side of town, Matson said. The juvenile, whose name was not released, said he was doing it to perpetrate a hoax he had seen online.

He was arrested on suspicion of annoying a minor and booked into the Kern County Juvenile Hall, Bakersfield police said in a news release.

A child who had been chased “was clearly scared,” the release said.

Here in Louisiana, it’s right wing Christians that are scaring the local children.tumblr_n340f1jgWI1swr6ugo3_400

This is is an open letter to the Christian terrorists living in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Since I don’t know you, and there’s no threat of you leaving notes in MY mailbox — “We know who you are. We know where you live. We know where you work.” — I’m not going to be as polite as the atheist you’ve decided to persecute with “God’s love.” Go to hell — whatever form that concept takes inside your sick brain, just pull up a chair and stay while. There’s not one chance in a million you actually understand the “love and message of the Lord” you claim to follow.

Those voices inside your head? That’s not God, Allah, Yahweh or any other monotheist notion of an eternal being. He (or She) who tells you “I am who I am,” is most likely just an auditory hallucination — a symptom of a schizophrenic disorder, manic depression or psychosis. Look, if talking to your inner voice gives you peace of mind — God bless. Did those voices tell you to harass a neighbor and threaten their children? A qualified psychiatrist will most likely prescribe some pretty heavy-duty tranquilizers; the bad news is, medication probably won’t rid your diseased mind of the voices.

 So, who are the real freaks?  That’s the question asked in the FX show.  

Jon Jeffels, whose family received the anonymous notes, is handling this as well as he possible can. He reported the messages to the police and moved the other members of his family to an undisclosed location for the time being. Jeffels also wants to reiterate that this appears to be the work of one or two people, certainly not representative of the religious population at large.

Frankly, if I wanted to put up pictures of the real freak show it would mostly contain Republican Presidential Candidates of the last few elections and their buddies.

Anyway, wouldn’t want you to get too scared!  Just scared enough to vote on Novemeber 4th!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads: Zombie Memes

zombie-apocalypseGood Morning!

The Ebola Virus and the epidemic in Africa is real.  The right wing hysteria about the virus is rivaling the bad plots of the Zombie movies I’m watching during SyFy’s Countdown to Halloween.  I thought I’d spend some time separating the facts from the conspiracy theories today.  So let me start with one of the most outrageous Zombie Memes from one of the most vile women on the planet. Dementia or further evidence of the advanced stages of evil?  It’s your choice.

In an interview with WorldNetDaily published today, Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly weighed in on the unfounded theory gaining traction in the right-wing media that Central American young people are to blame for an outbreak of a childhood respiratory illness in the U.S.

“There are all kinds of diseases in the rest of the world, and we don’t want them in this country,” Schlafly told WND, adding that “of all the things [Obama has] done, I think this thing of letting these diseased people into this country to infect our own people is just the most outrageous of all.”

She went on to imply that President Obama is intentionally allowing people infected with Ebola into the United States because he wants America to be “just like everybody else, and if Africa is suffering from Ebola, we ought to join the group and be suffering from it, too. That’s his attitude.”

Conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly – author of “Who Killed the American Family?” – said she agrees Obama is responsible for allowing diseases to enter the country.

“There are all kinds of diseases in the rest of the world, and we don’t want them in this country,” Schlafly said. “And it’s Obama’s job to keep them out.

“Out of all the things he’s done, I think this thing of letting these diseased people into this country to infect our own people is just the most outrageous of all.”

Schlafly said the government should screen immigrants for disease before they enter the country, as was done at Ellis Island a hundred years ago.

“That was the purpose of Ellis Island – to have a waiting place where it was decided whether people were healthy enough or responsible enough to come into our country,” she said. “The idea that anybody can just walk in and carry this disease with them is just an outrage, and it is Obama’s fault because he’s responsible for doing it.”

When asked why the current administration hasn’t done more to prevent diseased illegal aliens or Ebola carriers from Africa from entering the country, Schlafly said Obama wants to make the U.S. more like the rest of the world.

“Obama doesn’t want America to believe that we’re exceptional,” Schlafly said. “He wants us to be just like everybody else, and if Africa is suffering from Ebola, we ought to join the group and be suffering from it, too. That’s his attitude.”

Yup, it’s despicable She. Still foaming at the mouth after all these years too.

Okay, so as not to overwhelm you with teh crazy all at once.  Let’s go to some science and medicine.zombies1

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told a top-level forum in Washington, D.C., that the Ebola outbreak is unlike anything he’s seen since the AIDS epidemic.

“I would say that in the 30 years I’ve been working in public health, the only thing like this has been AIDS,” Frieden said before the heads of the United Nations, World Bank and International Monetary Fund, according to AFP.

Frieden added: “We have to work now so that it is not the world’s next AIDS.”

Frieden’s comments come as the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. died Wednesday despite intense but delayed treatment. The U.S. government also announced it was expanding airport examinations to guard against the spread of the deadly disease.

The checks will include taking the temperatures of hundreds of travelers arriving from West Africa at five major American airports.

The new screenings will begin Saturday at New York’s JFK International Airport and then expand to Washington Dulles and the international airports in Atlanta, Chicago and Newark. An estimated 150 people per day will be checked, using high-tech thermometers that don’t touch the skin.

The White House said the fever checks would reach more than 9 of 10 travelers to the U.S. from the three heaviest-hit countries — Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

President Barack Obama called the measures “really just belt and suspenders” to support protections already in place. Border Patrol agents now look for people who are obviously ill, as do flight crews, and in those cases the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is notified.

It’s unlikely a fever check would have spotted Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died of Ebola in a Dallas hospital Wednesday morning. Duncan wasn’t yet showing symptoms when he arrived in the U.S.

signsofthezombieapocalypse_wpid-signsofthezombieapocalypse_zombies-cementerio1So the disease is ravaging West Africa.  That’s where the problem is and needs to be solved.

There are the facts about the state of the Ebola crisis. In West Africa, more than 8,000 people have contracted the disease and nearly half have died. In the U.S., there’s just one confirmed casethat of Thomas Duncan, the Liberian man who passed away in Dallas on Wednesday. Experts say that the caseload in West Africa is likely to get much, much bigger. As many as 1.4 million people could get the disease, with a large fraction of them dying from it. The same experts expect no similar outbreak here, even if a few more cases appear, because we have the personnel and the resources to limit exposure.

But all of the news on Wednesday was about developments here in the U.S.in particular, new screening efforts at five major U.S. airports, Duncan’s death, and reports of possible new cases in the U.S., including one in Dallas. You could tell by the questions that Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, fielded during a late afternoon press conference.  He got more than a dozen of them. Only two were about the situation abroad. (And one of them, it so happens, came from me.)

The preoccupation with what’s happening here, as opposed to what’s happening over there, is perfectly understandable. On Tuesday, a Gallup poll revealed that Americans today are as worried about contracting Ebola as they were about contracting H1N1, the swine flu, during that outbreak two years ago. By that time, millions of people had gotten H1N1 and thousands had already died. But people die from flu all the time, usually because they are very young or very old or already otherwise infirmed. It’s a threat that people have factored into their daily lives, if at all. Ebola is quite literally a foreign menace, one to which almost nobody gave much thought until a few weeks ago. The virus kills about half the people who get it, with little regard for age or health status of the person infected.

That fear goes a long way to explaining why the U.S. is implementing the new screening process at the airports. Customs and Border Patrol agents were already on the lookout for people with visible signs of the disease. Now they will add another layer of scrutiny. They will use questionnaires to screen for people who have been in affected countriesand, then, subject these people to temperature tests and more questioning. People who have fever or show other Ebola symptoms will be evaluated by quarantine officers from the CDC, then referred to local health authorities who will decide how to handle the cases. The primary goal is to identify any passengers infected with Ebola before they leave the airport.

But yes, the right wing is hysterical and afraid and lying as the right wing is prone to do.

Of all the issues that you would think would be non-partisan, Ebola should be at the top of the list. The disease is just a mindless germ that doesn’t check your race, gender, social class, sexual orientation or party identification before it strikes, suggesting both liberals and conservatives ¿Quién Está Creando Zombies Y Para Qué¿ 3have a stake in treating people exposed to the disease with compassion and care. And yet, to flip on Fox News or turn on any conservative media at all, you’d think that ebola was some kind of plague designed by the Democratic party in order to wipe out Republicans.

Blowing the threat of ebola out of proportion and trying to link it to Obama has been a constant theme on the right in recent days. Elisabeth Hasselbeck of Fox News literally demanded that we put the country on lockdown, banning all travel in and out. In a bit of race-baiting, Andrea Tantaros of Fox suggested that people who travel to the country and show symptoms of ebola will “seek treatment from a witch doctor” instead of go to the hospital. Fox host Steve Doocy suggested the CDC is lying about ebola because they’re “part of the administration”. Fox also promoted a conspiracy theorist who is trying to claim the CDC is lying when they caution people not to panic.

Other right wing media joined in. Tammy Bruce blamed ebola on the “Obama legacy”. Laura Ingraham said Obama was prevented from doing more to stop the disease because of his “core ties to the African continent”. Rush Limbaugh even went as far as to accuse Obama of letting the disease spread because he supposes liberals believe “we kind of deserve a little bit of this”.

Okay, so here’s a zombie mistake and a big one.   Justice Kennedy’s Typo Accidentally Stops Same-Sex Marriage in Nevada.

Yesterday, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy stunned America when he ordered a halt on Nevada’s same-sex marriages, less than a day after the Court voted to overturn a ban on gay marriages in that state. Turns out that it was a total accident. Yes, a big ol’ “oops, my bad” incident.

According to SCOTUSBlog, what happened was the following: The Ninth Circuit recently heard challenges to same-sex marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada, who, for the purposes of convenience, had combined both of their challenges into a single case. In two different rulings, the federal appellate court struck down both of these states’ bans, allowing same-sex marriage in Idaho and Nevada, and issued a mandate on the ruling to immediately enforce the new law. In other words, the moment that the Ninth Circuit struck down the ban, gay and lesbian couples could get married immediately.

This did not make Idaho happy, so they filed a request to Justice Kennedy asking him to put a stop on same-sex marriage in Idaho, so that state officials could review their case before the Ninth Circuit. Kennedy allowed it, but in a total brain fart moment, issued an order that put a stop on weddings in both Idaho and Nevada, even though nobody in Nevada had asked for a review, either.

Thankfully, same-sex marriages can still occur in Las Vegas for the time being, but unfortunately, nobody knows what the eff is happening anymore. As a result, the Ninth Circuit has recalled its order implementing same-sex marriage in Idaho and are asking for briefs as to whether they need to do the same in Nevada.

Good job, Kennedy. Look how much confusion your typo has caused.

Oh, another Zombie Meme replacing Benghazi these days.  It’s not only Ebola that’s Obama’s fault but also ISIL.  It’s all about killing white people!!!  Here’s some great links and proof from Politicus.toht-facepalm-jeff-robertson

We have shown that for the GOP, the threat of Ebola exists only as an excuse to attack President Obama, that it’s all Obama’s fault (of course) and that, Oh my God! Oh my God! It’s going to kill us all! Cue to Rand Paul diving under his bed.

We have also been closely following the rise of ISIL in Syria and Iraq, and have tried to show you the contrast between the Republican and the Democratic reactions.

We have shown that for the GOP, the threat of ISIL exists only as an excuse to attack President Obama, that it’s all Obama’s fault (of course) and that Oh my God! Oh my God! They’re going to kill us all! Cue to Lindsey Graham diving under his bed.

It is surely significant that yesterday Time Magazine should profile the Republican response to the ISIL “scandal”: GOP Ad Claims ISIS Plot to Attack U.S. Via ‘Arizona’s Backyard.’

As Time’s Zeke Miller and Alex Rogers describe the ad, which was posted to YouTube yesterday,

The National Republican Congressional Committee ad opens with grainy footage of black flags and fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) holding rifles on military vehicles. “Evil forces around the world want to harm Americans every day,” an ominous voiceover states. “Their entry into our country? Through Arizona’s backyard.” The spot goes on to recount how Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), locked in a close re-election fight with Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin, has voted against border security legislation, suggesting that she “leaves Arizona vulnerable.”

Chris Wallace of Fox News has already planted the suggestion in viewers’ facile minds that Ebola could come across our Southern Border and that it could be used as a weapon. It doesn’t matter after those words are spoken than an expert debunks them. The damage has been done.

The brain damage was done to any one that actually believes these things years ago.

So what’s on your reading and blogging list today?