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?


Thursday Reads

man-reading-newspaper

Good Morning!!

So much has been happening in the news for the past couple of weeks, it’s hard for me to decide what to write about.

I guess I might as well begin with the latest breaking outrage–the attack on Canada’s Parliament yesterday.

Reuters reports: Canada’s parliament attacked, soldier fatally shot nearby.

A gunman attacked Canada’s parliament on Wednesday, with gunfire erupting near where Prime Minister Stephen Harper was speaking, and a soldier was fatally shot at a nearby war memorial, stunning the Canadian capital.

The gunman in the parliament building was shot dead, and Harper was safely removed in incidents that may have been linked to Islamic militants.

Witness accounts indicated the man who shot dead the soldier guarding the National War Memorial in central Ottawa, went on to attack the parliament building minutes later. Canadian police said however they could not “at this point” confirm it was the same person….

Witnesses said a flurry of shots were fired after a gunman entered the parliament building, pursued by police.

The assault took place very near the room where Harper was meeting with members of his Conservative party, a government minister said.

“PM (Harper) was addressing caucus, then a huge boom, followed by rat-a-tat shots. We all scattered. It was clearly right outside our caucus door,” Treasury Board Minister Tony Clement told Reuters.

The shooter was later identified as “Michael Joseph Hall, 32, a convert to Islam who was using the name Michael Zehaf-Bibeau.”

On Monday, there had been another incident in Quebec in which a man “deliberately drove a car into two soldiers.” One of the victims died and the other was injured. The suspect, Martin Couture-Rouleau, who was shot and killed by police, was among about 90 people who were being monitored by the Canadian government as possible domestic terrorists.

CNN has a background article on the events in Canada, Canadian shooting: What we know — and don’t know — a day later; and here’s another from The Globe and Mail: Attack on Ottowa: What We Know So Far. One more story from Fox News, Pal says Ottawa gunman wanted to go to Middle East, seemed ‘mentally ill’.

4127~Gromit-Reading-PostersWhite House Fence Jumper Intercepted by Guard Dogs

Back in the USA, there was another White House fence jumper last night about 7:30 ET. From The Washington Post, Another man jumps White House fence, is apprehended on lawn by K-9 squad.

A man jumped the White House fence Wednesday night and was taken into custody after being bitten by a guard dog, officials said, just weeks after another fence jumper made it deep into the executive mansion amid a series of security failures.

Secret Service agents and K-9 units quickly apprehended the latest fence jumper, who authorities identified as Dominic Adesanya, 23, of Bel Air, Md. He was taken to a hospital with injuries from a dog bite, and charges against him were pending, authorities said.

Two of the Secret Service dogs — named Hurricane and Jordan — were taken to a veterinarian and treated for minor bruising they suffered during the incident, according to agency spokesman Edwin Donovan. “Both K-9s were cleared for duty by the veterinarian,” Donovan wrote in an e-mail….

Adesanya has been charged with two counts of assault on a police officer — a charge that stems from his attack on the dogs — along with one count of making threats and four counts of resisting and unlawful entry, Donovan added. All charges except for resisting and unlawful threats are felonies; Adesanya was unarmed at the time of his arrest.

It’s a good thing the dogs were there; they seem to be better at apprehending crazy people than Secret Service agents. A couple more links:

ABC News, Alleged White House Fence Jumper Accused of Kicking Dog.

CNN, Latest White House fence jumper has mental problems, father says.

Cockney CaineBackpage.com and the Indiana Serial Killer

Yesterday, NW Luna posted a link from the Seattle Times about a lawsuit against Backpage.com, Backpage.com asks high court to throw out lawsuit.

A lawyer for Backpage.com told the Washington Supreme Court on Tuesday that a lawsuit filed by three young girls who were sold as prostitutes on the website should be thrown out because Backpage didn’t write the ads, so it is not liable.

But the victims’ lawyer said Backpage doesn’t have immunity under the federal Communications Decency Act because the website markets itself as a place to sell “escort services” and provides pimps with instructions on how to write an ad that works, making Backpage a participant in the largest human-trafficking website in the U.S.

The justices plan to rule on the case at a later date….

Suggesting they might be skeptical about Backpage’s argument, the justices asked lawyer Jim Grant about the website’s content.

“Your client wouldn’t say with a straight face that ‘escort service’ doesn’t mean something else most of the time?” Justice Steven Gonzalez asked.

Justice Charles Johnson asked whether this was an “ostrich issue.”

“We escape liability if we stick our head in the sand and not pay any attention — as long as you don’t affirmatively contribute?” Johnson asked.

Backpage.com is where recently arrested Indiana serial killer Darren Vann found his last victim. The Washington Post reports:

On the Internet, 43-year-old Darren Deon Vann went by the name “Big Boy Appetite.” On the Chicago-centric landing site for Backpage.com, which has become the king of online sex ads, he apparently thought he could be anonymous.

That all changed Monday when Vann, a convicted sex offender,was charged with murdering a woman. Police said they are investigating his alleged role in the killings of six others whose bodies police say he helped find in abandoned homes dotting Gary, Ind., over the weekend.

It’s unclear how many of Vann’s apparent victims were targeted using Backpage, but it was his final act — finding his victim through classifieds on the site — that led police to his doorstep, authorities said.

Like many sex-crime victims whose services were openly advertised on the Internet (sometimes unwillingly), the dead northwest Indiana women seemed to share the commonality that they “might be less likely to be reported missing,” said Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, according to the Chicago Tribune. Of the seven women found with Vann’s help — some of them long dead — only one, 35-year-old Anith Jones, had been reported missing.

Police said Vann found the most recent woman, 19-year-old Afrika Hardy, on Backpage a week before he allegedly killed her. He had met her, according to police, by responding to one of the hundreds of ads for “body rubs,” “escorts” or “adult jobs” that populate the site.

An update on the police investigation of Vann and his crimes: From AP via ABC News, Police Track Indiana Slaying Suspect’s Movements.

Investigators are using the cellphone records of an Indiana man already charged in the slayings of two women to pinpoint his movements after he told police he liked to check on the status of bodies he’d previously stashed after a fresh kill, authorities said.

Illinois law enforcement officials told The Associated Press Wednesday that Darren Vann, 43, may have traveled to Chicago’s south suburbs between the time 19-year-old Afrikka Hardy’s body was discovered Friday in Hammond, Indiana, and Saturday when Vann was arrested in nearby Gary. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the investigation.

Indiana police say Vann, a convicted sex offender, has confessed to killing Hardy and six women whose bodies were found over the weekend in abandoned houses in Gary. He has been charged with murder in the deaths of Hardy and 35-year-old Anith Jones, whose body was found Saturday in Gary.

Yesterday, at his arraignment, Vann refused to respond to the Judge’s questions.

A judge ordered Vann be held in contempt of court Wednesday when the former Marine refused to even acknowledge his name during an initial court hearing in Hardy’s slaying.

Magistrate Judge Kathleen Sullivan asked Vann if he understood the reason for the hearing but he just stared back silently.

“Mr. Vann, are you choosing not to take part in this hearing?” Sullivan asked the shackled Vann, who was flanked by two Lake County Jail guards at the lockup in Crown Point.

Sullivan urged Vann’s public defender, Matthew Fech, to tell his client “that he stays in jail the rest of his life until this hearing takes place.” Fech urged Vann to speak, but he again offered no response. Sullivan found Vann in contempt and said she would schedule another initial hearing for next week.

Apparently, Vann was upset because there were so many media people in court. Hey, court hearings are open to the public. When you murder a lot of people, reporters show up. I guess Vann doesn’t understand that he’s no longer a private citizen.

To Kill a MockingbirdSome updates on responses to the Ebola situation . . .

Boston.com, US to Track Everyone Coming From Ebola Nations.

All travelers who come into the U.S. from three Ebola-stricken West African nations will now be monitored for three weeks, the latest step by federal officials to keep the disease from spreading into the country.

Starting Monday, anyone traveling from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone will have to report in with health officials daily and take their temperature twice a day.

The measure applies not only to visitors from those countries but also returning American aid workers, federal health employees and journalists. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the new step Wednesday.

CDC Director Tom Frieden said monitoring will provide an extra level of safety. Passengers already get screened and temperature checks before they leave West Africa and again when they arrive in the United States.

‘‘We have to keep our guard up,’’ Frieden told reporters on a conference call.

A few more links on Ebola:

WaPo, Dallas nurse Amber Vinson free of Ebola virus.

Newsweek, Ebola’s Missing Vaccine: Europe Is Being Caught Unprepared by the Deadly Outbreak.

Forbes, America Is Beating Ebola: Every Patient Taken To An Elite U.S. Facility Has Survived.

martha-holmes-actress-buff-cobb-reading-comic-books-at-homeMore interesting news stories, in no particular order, links only

Reuters, NOAA employee charged with stealing U.S. dam information.

Buzzfeed, Conservative Cardinal Who Clashed With Pope Francis Confirms He Has Been Ousted.

Eonline, See Bloody Photos From Bristol Palin’s Drunken Fight in Alaska.

Sweden has been looking for a mysterious submarine for the past week or so: Sweden gets two new sightings, as hunt for undersea intruder goes on.

Reuters, Special Report: Traffickers use abductions, prison ships to feed Asian slave trade.

ABC News on University of North Carolina Chapel Hill academic fraud report, Probe: UNC Academic Fraud Was ‘Shadow Curriculum’ (faculty were involved for decades in giving breaks to athletes).

ABC News, The Hilarious Moment When a Guy Told Obama ‘Don’t Touch My Girlfriend’ (I don’t see it as hilarious; it’s part of a pattern of disrespect toward this President).

Crooks & Liars, Conservative think tank say women should stop being worried about date rape and date rape drugs.

Discovery News, 45,000-Year-Old Man Was Human-Neanderthal Mix (how will the fundies deal with this?).

What else is happening? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread.


Lazy Saturday Reads: Ebola, Texas, and Crazed Republicans

Boston Coffee shop

Good Day!!

There are two confirmed cases of Ebola contracted within the U.S., and now we have an “Ebola Czar.” President Obama has named Ron Klain, a lawyer and political operative who most recently served as “president of Case Holdings, which manages the assets of AOL founder Steve Case, and general counsel of Case’s venture capital firm, Revolution.” Before that, according to USA Today, he worked for a lobbying firm, but not as a registered lobbyist. And before that,

He was the chief of staff for two vice presidents, Joe Biden and Al Gore, and one attorney general, Janet Reno. He served as a senior White House aide to President Obama….

As Biden’s chief of staff, Klain had a key role in implementing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and signed off on one of its most controversial projects: a $535 million loan guarantee to solar panel maker Solyndra.

“Sounds like there are some risk factors here — but that’s true of any innovative company that POTUS would visit,” Klain wrote to Department of Energy officials May 24, 2010, a day before Obama visited a company factory. “It looks like it is OK to me, but if you feel otherwise, let me know.”

Earlier in his career, he served as the staff director of the Senate Democratic Leadership Committee and chief counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee….

Klain served as the top lawyer on the Gore-Lieberman Recount Committee after the 2000 election and was portrayed by actor Kevin Spacey in the 2008 film Recount.

Boston Common Coffee Company

He has no experience with health care issues or control of infectious diseases. Maybe Obama just did this to throw a bone to crazy Republicans, but it’s not working. They’re predictably attacking the choice. On the other hand, good old Beltway Bob Ezra Klein thinks Klain is a perfect pick.

Something I learned during the first two years of the Obama administration, when the staff infighting was at its worst: if you wanted to get somebody to say something nice, ask them about Ron Klain.

Klain entered the administration as Vice President Joe Biden’s chief of staff. This was, itself, notable: Klain has been chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore, too, making him the only person to serve in that position for two different vice presidents.

 But the esteem for Klain wasn’t based on his resume. Rather, he had a mix of policy, political and bureaucratic chops that everyone agreed was rare. The policy people spoke admiringly of his policy savvy, and they all agreed he lapped them in political instincts. The political people admired his political instincts, but recognized he was better at policy. And everyone agreed Klain knew how to run an interagency process.

Okay . . .

The Ebola response involves various arms of the Department of Health and Human Services (particularly, though not solely, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the Pentagon, the State Department, the National Security Council, the World Bank, the World Health Organization, President Obama’s office, private stakeholders, and many, many more.

The “czar” position requires someone who knows how these different agencies and institutions work, who’s got the stature to corral their efforts, who knows who to call when something unusual is needed, who can keep the policy straight….

I’ve seen some people arguing that there would be no need for an Ebola Czar if the Senate would simply confirm Dr. Vivek Murthy, Obama’s nominee for surgeon general, who’s being blocked because the National Rifle Association doesn’t believe gun violence is a public-health issue. Murthy should be confirmed, but it would be a mistake to make him Ebola czar; he’s a newcomer to government, and would need to learn, on the job, how to manage the various agencies and principals involved in the response effort. He’d likely get sidelined as players with more weight and bureaucratic skill began going around him.

Actual government experience is badly underrated in Washington. Politicians run for office promising that they know how to run businesses, not Senate offices. “Bureaucrat” is often lobbed as an insult. But in processes like this one, government experience really matters.

Maybe Klein is right. He makes some good arguments anyway.

BostonCoffee_000

Scott Brown seems to believe a venture capitalist is what’s called for. Brown had this to say yesterday: “We Would Not Be Worrying About Ebola Right Now” If Romney Won.

Scott Brown told Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade Friday that Ebola wouldn’t be a problem for America if Mitt Romney had won in 2012.

“Gosh can you imagine if Mitt was the president right now?” Brown said. “He was right on Russia, he was right on Obamacare, he was right on the economy. And I guarantee you we would not be worrying about Ebola right now and, you know, worrying about our foreign policy screw ups.”

Golly gee willikers, Batman! You can watch the interview at the Buzzfeed link above. New Hampshire Republican agree, according to The Washington Post.

It’s interesting that Texas politicians are attacking Obama’s Ebola response so vehemently. You’d think they would be more concerned about how a Dallas hospital sent Thomas Duncan home with a 103 degree fever, even though he told them he had just arrived from Liberia. And how they let nearly 80 hospital workers care for Duncan for days without any special protective gear. And how they let people who had been exposed to Duncan’s bodily fluids travel travel by air and sea to possibly expose hundreds of other people. But no. Gov. Rick Perry, who could have stopped exposed Texans from traveling, went to Europe during the Ebola crisis and now says President Obama should have handled Texas’ problem for him.

And then there’s Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Here’s what he had to say about the new Ebola Czar. I’m not going to link to it, because it’s at Newsmax:

“We don’t need another so-called ‘czar'; we need presidential leadership. This is a public health crisis and the answer isn’t another White House political operative. The answer is a commander-in-chief who stands up and leads, banning flights from Ebola-afflicted nations and acting decisively to secure our southern border.”

Kaili Joy Gray at Wonkette: President Doctor Ted Cruz Is The Only Cure For Ebola.

Remember that time Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Canada) was all, “Say health care one more time, and I will shut this government DOWN!” and also something about Green Eggs and Ham and Nazis?

Nuh uh, no you do not, because Cruz would never be so reckless and irresponsible as to suggest the government should have nothing to do with health care because FREEDOM. That’s not leadership, and Cruz is all about leadership. Especially the presidential kind, cough cough, wink wink, nudge nudge, YEAH WE KNOW, CRUZ WANTS TO BE PRESIDENT!

That’s why Cruz is leadershipping so hard in response to President Obama’s announcement that he will appoint an Ebola czar to coordinate all the government agencies tasked with dealing with this mess (which is mostly in Africa, but that doesn’t count). Obama had to Do A Thing because the entire rightwing will not shut up about it. The folks at Fox and on the interwebs know for A Fact we are all dying this second of the terrifying African disease from Africa, spread by African Africans just like Obama, who is African and hates America and dear lord will these people never stop? (No. The answer is no.) ….

Right on, amen, and hells yes! Right now — and at no other time in history — the government has a duty to Do A Thing about Americans facing a public health crisis. And if stupid Obama insists on listening to the director of the Centers for Disease Control instead of Bill O’Reilly, Cruz will have no choice but to launch his 2016 presidential campaign right this second to save America.

And really, who better to just now discover the government serves a purpose and should maybe sometimes do stuff than the guy who wanted to shut it down because doing stuff is the last thing the government should ever do?

Honestly, I’m think some crazy Republicans would like to cause an epidemic just to spite Obama.

caffe-lil-italy_boston

By the way, have you heard there’s been another screw up at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital? A patient who might have Ebola was transferred to the hospital from Baylor Hospital, and then went missing after Presbyterian sent him on his way.

On Friday morning Baylor Hospital in Dallas confirmed a patient with ‘Ebola similar’ symptoms also triggered positive on a verbal screening questionnaire.

Although a positive blood test has not been confirmed, sources say it’s not unusual to have a patient screen positive considering the wider net for Ebola now over Dallas. A positive screening means the patient met some of the criteria to cause concern.

According to Baylor, it was the answers to some of the screening questions — like if a person had been in contact with a known Ebola patient — that triggered the standing protocol by Dallas County Health and Human Services that the person be transferred to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas,  presumably for further, complete testing.

A source at Baylor said the patient came to the Emergency Room through a private entrance and was then immediately put into isolation.

According to a statement released by Texas Presbyterian, via The Boston Globe,

“The patient was placed in isolation at Texas Health Dallas and evaluated with all appropriate precautions,” the statement read. “The patient was determined to be low risk and wanted to leave the hospital. The CDC and Texas Department of State Health Services were advised of this and did not feel it was necessary to have her detained.”

However, the Globe learned that earlier,

Spokespeople for Texas Health Presbyterian told local news stations that they had not received a transfer patient and could not say whether the patient had been treated or released. There is no confirmation that this patient has Ebola. Texas Health Presbyterian has not responded to Boston.com request for comment.

WTF?! Someone in authority in Texas needs to make sure Texas Presbyterian is not involved with anymore suspected Ebola patients. Period. But Gov. Perry is too busy blaming everything on President Obama to do anything useful in his own state. Where is this patient? Are we really sure she is OK?

More insane Republican responses to the Ebola mess: CNN has a list, What’s more disturbing than Ebola? The outrageous commentary. Here’s just one example from Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia:

“The most comforting thing that I heard from (Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health) was that water kills the Ebola virus. I’ve never heard that before. I thought it was something that was so contagious there wasn’t much you could do to prevent it or anything else, so her advice was ‘wash your hands.’ “Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal told the Marietta Daily Journal.

From the experts:

“As with other infectious diseases, one of the most important preventive measures is frequent hand-washing. Use soap and water, or use alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol when soap and water aren’t available,” the Mayo Clinic said about the prevention and spread of Ebola infection.

Read more at the link.

coffee_shop_by_flobelebelebobele-d5o4398

And then there’s Peggy Noonan. She thinks Megyn Kelly of Fox News knows more about preventing Ebola than CDC Director Tom Frieden. Here’s Simon Meloy at Salon on Noonan’s solutions: Peggy Noonan’s plan to save America: Think like an 11-year-old.

We need a travel ban, Ms. Noonan observes, drawing deeply from her vast reservoirs of disease-control expertise. “If we don’t momentarily close the door to citizens of the affected nations, it is certain that more cases will come into the U.S.” It is certain! They will come here with their disease. They will come to America. You may be inclined to note that the broad consensus among public health officials is that closing off West Africa will only make the epidemic there worse, which will in turn increase the risk of transmission to America. The petulant naysayers among you may be wont to point out that imposing a flight ban will only make it harder to track the movements and contacts of potentially infected persons.

But that’s just more gobbledygook, more amphigory, more hurbledy-burbledy. That, as Ms. Noonan writes, is how the government talks, and “everyone who speaks for the government on this issue has been instructed to imagine his audience as anxious children.” No … instead of speaking like children, writes Ms. Noonan, we should bethinking like children:

It is one thing that Dr. Frieden, and those who are presumably making the big decisions, have been so far incapable of making a believable and compelling case for not instituting a ban. A separate issue is how poor a decision it is. To call it childish would be unfair to children. In fact, if you had a group of 11-year-olds, they would surely have a superior answer to the question: “Sick people are coming through the door of the house, and we are not sure how to make them well. Meanwhile they are starting to make us sick, too. What is the first thing to do?”

The children would reply: “Close the door.” One would add: “Just for a while, while you figure out how to treat everyone getting sick.” Another might say: “And keep going outside the door in protective clothing with medical help.” Eleven-year-olds would get this one right without a lot of struggle.

Yes! Trust in the wisdom of 11-year-olds. Unlike disease control officials, they are not burdened by years of experience in dealing with outbreaks, and the things they say are generally easier to understand. And whose heart is not warmed by the delicate innocence of a child’s words as imagined by a former Reagan official?

Much more insanity at the link.

I know there’s lots more news happening, but I’m so fascinated by the crazy responses to Ebola that I just can’t stop reading about them. Please let us know know else is happening in the comment thread, and have a nice weekend.


Friday Reads

morning-coffee

Good Morning!!

 

I’m going to begin with some good news today.

It looks like the coming winter will be on the mild side. From Discovery News: Winter Forecast for US Nothing to Shiver About.

Don’t expect the polar vortex to pummel the eastern United States this winter, government scientists said today (Oct. 16).

Overall, forecasters expect mild winter conditions across much of the United States, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said as they issued their annual winter weather outlook.

While there’s always a chance that the polar jet stream will again funnel frigid Arctic air south toward the United States, nothing in the new forecast indicates a rerun of the persistent patterns responsible for the “polar vortex.” “We do not expect to see a repeat of last winter,” said Mike Halpert, acting director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

Developing El Niño conditions in the Pacific Ocean will influence this year’s winter weather, with wet conditions forecast from Southern California to South Carolina, and dry conditions expected across the North. Temperatures will be warmer than average in the West and in New England, but colder in the South from Texas east to Florida, according to the forecast.

I hope they’re right!

Now for the latest Ebola news . . .

AP_EBOLA_HOSPITAL_141015_DG_4x3_992

Why can’t Dallas hospital workers just stay home until they’re cleared? From The Washington Post: Texas hospital worker quarantined on cruise ship in Caribbean.

A Texas health-care worker who “may have” handled lab specimens from Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan has been isolated on board a Carnival cruise ship in the Caribbean. The worker has shown no symptoms of the disease, according to Carnival, which said it is in close contact with the Centers for Disease Control. A Carnival spokeswoman said the guest, who was not named, will remain on board in voluntary isolation until the ship returns to its home port of Galveston on Sunday.

The Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital employee and a partner boarded the ship Oct. 12 in Galveston, Tex., before the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated the requirement for active monitoring, the State Department said in a statement. Although the worker is healthy, the U.S. government is working with the cruise line to get the ship back to America “out of an abundance of caution.”

The employee, who has not been named, did not come into direct contact with Duncan, the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. However, he or she may have been exposed to his clinical specimens, the State Department said.

“It has been 19 days since the passenger may have processed” Duncan’s fluid samples, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement early Friday morning. “The cruise line has actively supported CDC’s efforts to speak with the individual, whom the cruise ship’s medical doctor has monitored and confirmed was in good health. Following this examination, the hospital employee and traveling partner have voluntarily remained isolated in a cabin.”

Belize refused to allow the woman (gender identified by news release) to be leave the ship so she could be evacuated by the U.S.

In its own statement Thursday, the the Belize government said it “was contacted today by officers of the U.S. Government and made aware of a cruise ship passenger considered of very low risk for Ebola….Nonetheless, out of an abundance of caution, the Government of Belize decided not to facilitate a U.S. request for assistance in evacuating the passenger through the Phillip Goldson International Airport.”

Now that the horses are out of the barn, so to speak, officials in Texas have decided to close the barn doors. From USA Today: Travel Ban for Texas health care workers in Ebola case.

Texas health officials have ordered any person who entered the room of the first Ebola patient at a Dallas hospital not to travel by public transport, including planes ship, buses or trains, or visit groceries, restaurants or theaters for 21 days, until the danger of developing Ebola has passed.

The instructions, issued by the Texas Department of State Health Service late Thursday, cover more than 70 health workers involved in providing care for Thomas Duncan, the Liberian national who became the first patient to test positive for Ebola in the United States.

Duncan died Oct. 8 at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

The hospital workers were ordered to undergo monitoring twice a day, including one face-to-face encounter.

The health department said anyone failing to adhere to the rules “may be subject to a communicable disease control order.” The health workers were asked to sign a written acknowledgement of the directions when they appear for monitoring.

Amber Vinson

Amber Vinson

According to The Hill, the CDC has now decided it needs to talk to passengers who were on Amber Vinson’s flight from Dallas to Cleveland. Vinson is the second nurse to come down with Ebola after caring for Thomas Duncan, who died of the disease last week.

After reports that she may have shown symptoms on her flight back to Dallas, the CDC asked those passengers to contact the agency. But in a release Thursday night, the CDC expanded that notification to include passengers on Vinson’s flight to Cleveland. The agency said that it wants to interview passengers and that “individuals who are determined to be at any potential risk will be actively monitored.”

Ebola is contagious once an infected person starts exhibiting symptoms, so the CDC wants to keep tabs on anyone that could have come into contact with Vinson when those symptoms began. She traveled to Cleveland on Oct. 10 and returned on Oct. 13, the day before she reported her symptoms to the CDC.

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives decided to get involved in the Ebola crisis, and it wasn’t pretty. BloombergPolitics compiled The Five Worst Questions from the House Ebola Hearing. According to the article, Democrats are wrong to claim that lack of funding made the situation worse. Republicans obsessed over banning travel into the U.S. and “securing the borders.” But the most ludicrous question came from Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA).

Representative Morgan Griffith wanted to know if humans can catch Ebola from dogs, and Frieden said there were no known incidents. But still, the Virginia Republican wanted to know if we could stem the flow of West African dogs traveling into America.

“Don’t you think we ought to at least restrict travel of dogs?” he asked.

“Um,” Frieden replied. “We’ll follow up in terms of what’s possible.”

In addition, President Obama held an “emergency meeting” at the White House yesterday.

(Reuters) – President Barack Obama said he was considering appointing an Ebola “czar” to coordinate the fight against the virus in the United States, but he remained opposed to a ban on travel from West Africa.

Obama’s administration is facing sharp criticism from lawmakers over its efforts to contain the disease at home. Obama authorized calling up military reservists for the U.S. fight against Ebola in West Africa on Thursday….

“It may be appropriate for me to appoint an additional person” to oversee efforts to contain Ebola, Obama told reporters, adding that experts have told him “a flat-out travel ban is not the way to go” because current screening measures at airports are working.

He said he had no philosophical objection to a travel ban but that some travelers might attempt to enter the United States by avoiding screening measures, which could lead to more Ebola cases, not fewer.

randpaul1

A final dose of stupid came from Sen. Rand Paul, who told an audience of college students that you could catch Ebola by standing three feet from someone who is infected.

His comments directly conflict with statements from world health authorities who have dealt with Ebola outbreaks since 1976.

Paul…made his comments during a stop at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire Wednesday. In his remarks, he called Ebola “incredibly contagious” and suggested it could spread at a cocktail party attended by someone who is symptomatic, according to CNN video footage….

“You’re not going to get AIDS at a cocktail party. No one’s going to cough on you and you’re going to get AIDS. Everybody knows that. That’s what they make it sound exactly like,” Paul, a doctor and potential presidential contender, said Thursday at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. “But then you listen to them closely, they say you have to have direct contact. But you know how they define direct contact? Being within three feet of someone.”

World health authorities have been clear that Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids, and that blood, vomit and feces carry the most virus. Health workers are at particular risk because in the course of caring for patients, they draw blood and clean up diarrhea when the patients are most infectious. Likewise in the epidemic zone in West Africa, people involved with burials of highly infectious bodies are at high risk.

In other news . . .

Bill Clinton is heading down to Louisiana on Monday to stump for Mary Landrieu, according to Politico.

Former President Bill Clinton will campaign in Louisiana Monday with Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, joining the endangered incumbent in the state capital of Baton Rouge.

Clinton, unlike President Barack Obama, can be an effective surrogate in the red Southern states where the Democratic majority hangs in the balance.

The visit, Clinton’s second for Landrieu this election cycle, comes a day before the start of early voting, which runs from October 21-28.

Bill Clinton stumps for Coakley

I’ve been hoping Bill would find time to come to Massachusetts to campaign for Martha Coakley for Governor, and what do you know? He blew through here yesterday! He spoke at Clark University in Worcester.

WORCESTER — Former President Bill Clinton told a capacity crowd at Clark University today that elections are just one big job interview.

Speaking in Worcester in support of Martha Coakley’s run for governor, Mr. Clinton said Ms. Coakley’s actions and advocacy as attorney general indicate how well she will perform once she completes that job interview.

“All you’ve got to do,” he told more than 800 people who waited in a line the length of the Main South campus in monsoon-like conditions to get into Atwood Hall, “is increase the number of employers who make the hiring decision.”

Ms. Coakley, a Democrat, and her running mate, Steve Kerrigan of Lancaster, are in a tight race with Republican Charlie Baker and his running mate, Karyn Polito of Shrewsbury. Mr. Clinton tried to convince the crowd they had the potential to make it a landslide.

“I don’t care what the polls say, she can win this race handily if you want it bad enough,” Mr. Clinton said.

Now we just need Hillary to show up.

How about a little economics news? It seems people in Europe are getting fed up with Angela Merkel’s austerity obsession, according to the NYT. I can’t excerpt from the piece, but here’s a report from The Local in Italy:

Italy and France on Thursday reacted to turmoil in global stock markets by stepping up their calls for the European Union to switch course to focus on growth, not on balancing budgets.

But their calls were once again batted away by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who insisted the way out of the crisis was for all eurozone states to stick to agreed rules on the size of their deficits.

In the latest salvos in a simmering row that is set to come to head at a summit of EU leaders next week, Rome and Paris went on the offensive on the sidelines of the ASEM meeting in Milan.

“We in a very delicate moment in terms of the international economic and financial situation,” Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said.

“Which is all the more reason for Europe to show itself capable of producing an economic response based on investment in growth and not only on rigour and austerity,” Renzi said.

He also said a “focus on growth” was recommended by the IMF – “and they don’t seem to be dangerous communists to me”.

merks2_2396548b

According to UK Reuters, the U.S. has warned Europe about the possibility of deflation.

The United States on Wednesday renewed a warning that Europe risks falling into a downward spiral of falling wages and prices, saying recent actions by the European Central Bank may not be enough to ward off deflation.

In a semiannual report to Congress, the U.S. Treasury Department also said Berlin could do more to help Europe, namely by boosting demand in the German economy, Europe’s largest.

“Europe faces the risk of a prolonged period of substantially below-target inflation or outright deflation,” the Treasury said.

The Guardian today published a summary of Europe’s “five years of economic crisis.”

Finally, Janet Yellen has expressed concern over growing economic inequality in the U.S. Reuters reports:

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said on Friday the growth of economic inequality in the United States “greatly” concerned her, and suggested in a detailed speech on the politically charged issue that Americans should ask whether it was compatible with their values.

With global financial markets rebounding from days of frenzied selling, Yellen did not comment on the volatility or on monetary policy. Instead she focused on the gulf between rich and poor that has only grown wider over the last several decades and, she said, through the U.S. economic recovery.

“The extent of and continuing increase in inequality in the United States greatly concern me,” Yellen told a conference on inequality at the Boston branch of the central bank.

“It is no secret that the past few decades of widening inequality can be summed up as significant income and wealth gains for those at the very top and stagnant living standards for the majority,” she told economists, professors and community workers.

“I think it is appropriate to ask whether this trend is compatible with values rooted in our nation’s history, among them the high value Americans have traditionally placed on equality of opportunity.”

Good for Yellen. Now let’s see some action beyond the words.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a fabulous Friday!!

friday-121


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?


Wednesday Reads: 10,000 Full Cavitity Searches…on Pigeons?

Good Morning

Screen-Shot-2014-09-30-at-9.54.07-PM

That tweet is something innit?

It seems like a logistical nightmare to me:

 China Subjects 10,000 Pigeons To Anal Exams Due To Terrorism Fears

On Tuesday, China’s largest newspaper The People’s Dailytweeted that thousands of pigeons had undergone “anal security checks” to ensure they weren’t carrying anything harmful in their bodies. These rectal examinations were performed as a terrorism precaution for China’s National Day on Wednesday.

[...]

Despite the fact that pro-democracy protests have been going on for several days in Hong Kong, China continues to aggressively censor news about the protests. This tweet served as a distraction and is just one example — albeit a ridiculous one — of China’s media complying and avoiding coverage of Hong Kong’s demonstrations. Additionally, China has also gone through social media to limit information being released about the protests — including removing protest-related posts from Twitter-like service Weibo and banning Instagram.

Seriously? Anal exams? On pigeons?

Ha…I couldn’t resist.

Okay, getting serious now.

It is October 1st.

The bloody shit has hit the fan, or what I really mean to say is that the Ebola virus has come to America:

First Ebola case diagnosed in US; fears others may have been exposed | Al Jazeera America

A patient being treated at a Dallas hospital has tested positive for Ebola, the first case of the disease to be diagnosed in the United States, federal health officials announced Tuesday.

Officials at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital say the unidentified patient is being kept in isolation and that the hospital is following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations to keep doctors, staff and patients safe.

The hospital had announced a day earlier that the patient’s symptoms and recent travel suggested Ebola. An outbreak of the killer virus has killed more than 3,000 people across West Africa and infected a handful of Americans who have traveled to that region.

All the crazy talk before, when sick folks were coming to Atlanta and other US hospitals for treatment, that was nothing. Get ready for the mega news cycle that is sure to follow this story. (Not that is isn’t big news…but it will eclipse many important things that are going on right now….that need media attention.)

Ebola now in the US, first case confirmed by CDC

The CDC has confirmed that a man in a Dallas hospital has Ebola, CBS News is reporting.

[...]

Apparently the man had been in west Africa recently — Liberia, to be exact — where there’s been a rather large outbreak of Ebola. He’s been in strict isolation as soon as the hospital suspected Ebola.

According to the CDC press conference, the man left Liberia on the 19th of Septemnber. Arrived in the US on the 20th of September. Had no symptoms, but then around the 24th of September, began to develop symptoms. Sought care on the 26th. And then Sunday the 28th admitted to a hospital and placed in isolation.

He was admitted into isolation on Sunday.

The CDC director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, says that Ebola is not contagious until you have symptoms.

CNN says that while this is spread through bodily fluids, if you shook hands with this man between the 24th and the day he went to the hospital, you would have to be put into isolation for three weeks. Wow.

The good news is that he had no symptoms until long after he arrived in the US, so at least people on his flight are safe.

More on the man’s background, and how they are now investigating him:  Health officials tracing Dallas Ebola patient’s path

The patient, who is in an isolation unit at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, did not develop symptoms until four days after he arrived from West Africa, officials said at a hastily called press conference at the CDC’s headquarters in Atlanta.

“He was checked for fever before getting on the flight,” said CDC Director Thomas Frieden. “There is no reason to believe anyone on the flight was at risk.”

The Ebola virus is not spread through the air, but through contact with bodily fluids of victims — sweat, blood, saliva and other secretions.

The patient, whom officials would not identify, flew to the United States on Sept. 20, and began feeling ill on Sept. 24, Frieden said.

He sought care at the Dallas hospital on Friday and was sent home with antibiotics, Dr. Edward Goodman of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said at a separate press conference in Dallas. Goodman said the hospital is looking into why the patient was discharged.

On Sunday, a Dallas Fire-Rescue crew transported the man to the hospital in an ambulance. This time, he was admitted to the hospital, Frieden said.

The ambulance crew has been quarantined, and the ambulance taken out of service, according to a statement from the city of Dallas.

Gov. Rick Perry is scheduled to stop in Dallas on Wednesday in response to the news, according to WFAA.com.

None of the officials at the news conferences would say whether the man is an American citizen. They said only that he was visiting family members who live in this country.

But a statement released by the city of Dallas said the man had “moved to Dallas from Liberia a week ago.”

Frieden, along with Dallas County and Texas state health officials, emphasized that the patient did not become contagious until Sept. 24 when he began to display symptoms.

“There is zero risk of transmission” to other passengers on the overseas airplane flight, Frieden said.

Asked how many people may have been around the victim after he developed symptoms, Frieden said, “I think handful is the right characterization. Family members, and there may have been one or two or three community members. Our approach is to cast the net widely.”

Those who may have been exposed will be monitored for 21 days, the incubation period for the Ebola virus, he said.

Officials would not release the name of the airline or the flight number.

A statement from American Airlines said: “American Airlines does not fly to Africa and we have been told the passenger was not on a connecting flight involving our aircraft. We follow the guidelines put in place by the CDC specifically for airlines and work with our crews to protect the health of our customers and employees.”

The patient “is communicating and expressing hunger,” Goodman said Tuesday evening.

He said the experimental vaccine that was used on two Americans who contracted Ebola in Liberia this summer is no longer available.

Hmmm, doesn’t The Walking Dead season premier start soon? Talk about a great way to drum up some hysteria and publicity. And think about it, all those Ebola victim Halloween costumes! Damn what impeccable timing.

Sorry that I am so snarky/bitchy. I am in a mood.

This is really a drop dead serious thing. Go to that link above to see how the CDC is handling it, and more specifically how Texas is handling it.

The city of Dallas activated its Emergency Operations Center and went to “Level 2: High Readiness” although no one was available to explain what that means.

Oh my. I think the pigeons over in China wish they lived in the city of Dallas.

A Dallas County spokeswoman said, “Level 2 generally means department activities and personnel have extended beyond the regular work day.”

President Obama has been briefed about the Ebola case by the CDC, according to the White House press office.

Good, the President should be briefed about something like this…right?

I mean, we want him to be ready to defend himself for the onslaught of blame:

And We Have Our First Conservative Pundit To Connect Barack Obama To the U.S. Ebola Case | The Daily Banter

If you had one minute in the over-under on how long it would take for a member of the conservative entertainment complex to connect President Obama to the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the U.S., congratulations — you win.

This afternoon, literally immediately following the CNN tweet announcing that the CDC had confirmed the Ebola diagnosis, 26-year-old Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich tweeted out this:

Now if you don’t know who Katie Pavlich is, that’s precisely why she made sure she was the first to invoke the name of the Great Socialist Satan in the wake of today’s Ebola announcement. She knew that, kind of like celebrity wedding pictures, the first one to get it out there is the one who gets all the free publicity.

[...]

Pavlich is one of the interchangeable conservative Barbie dolls that stake out the couch-of-shame on Fox News’s Outnumbered. She’s an editor at Townhall.com, which is a reliable online dispensary for the relentless stream of horseshit that comes out of the mouths of people like Michelle Malkin and Hugh Hewitt. She wrote an entire book on the pretend Fast and Furious scandal and has a new book out called, amusingly, Assault and Flattery: The Truth About the Left and Their War on Women. In other words, there isn’t a damn thing special about her. She’s your average, by-the-numbers conservative entertainment troll. She knows how the game is played and she’s playing it for all it’s worth.

Pavlich knows that once she brings Obama into this, she gets attacked by sane people — which just increases her street cred on the right — and the crazies rally around her because she just threw them a bunch of red meat. It doesn’t even matter that she went on to deny she was specifically blaming Obama for Ebola in the United States, because the goal was never anything more complicated than getting some quick mileage out of dragging the president into the storyline.

You knew it was a Fox contributor, without even having to read about it…didn’t ya!
Global nightmare by Political Cartoonist Olle Johansson

154311 600 Global nightmare cartoons

FENCE JUMPER by Political Cartoonist Bill Day

154362 600 FENCE JUMPER cartoons

Those cartoons just seemed to be begging to be included in the post.

Ah, let’s add one more.

Secret Service Screwups

154363 600 Secret Service Screwups cartoons

And with that cartoon, a few links on the Secret Service’s disturbing service or non-service:

No More Mister Nice Blog

THE MAINSTREAMING OF RIGHT-WING EXTREMISM, PART LXVIII

I know I should be freaking out about Ebola, but I want to write about The Washington Post‘s appalling decision to publish an opinion piece by a former Secret Service agent that includes this recommendation:

[Secret Service director Julia] Pierson should be replaced and the next director should come from outside the Secret Service, with the deputy director remaining an agent. In this role, a true leader, not a bureaucrat, is needed. Someone like Florida congressman and retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Allen West would be perfect for the role. West has successfully demonstrated that he possesses the leadership skills of a combat officer as well as managerial and diplomatic skills of a congressman, exactly the traits needed in the next director. Highly competent and beholden to no one in the Secret Service, he would be a superb director.

Allen West? Seriously?

Let’s ignore the fact that West resigned from the military a decade ago just as an investigation found probable cause to determine that he’d assaulted and mock-executed a prisoner in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Let’s ignore the fact that West specializes in verbal hand grenades, so it’s preposterous to credit him with “diplomatic skills.” The reason this is an insane recommendation is that we really can’t be certain that West would consider it his duty to protect President Obama from harm.

Yeah,

Just last month, West wrote:

Barack Hussein Obama is an Islamist in his foreign policy perspectives and supports their cause. You can go back and listen to his 2009 speech in Cairo, where Muslim Brotherhood associates were seated front and center.

All the circumstantial and anecdotal evidence points to that conclusion.

See, it makes me wonder if maybe there are people out there who should be getting other areas of their bodies probed and examined. I am talking about West’s brain, because that…is just fucked up. (More crazy at the link.)

Digby has another take on it…Hullabaloo

Now I’m worried about the president’s safety #secretservicewingnuts

by digby

Ok, I’ll admit I haven’t been as freaked out about the incursion into the White House as some people. But if the fellow who wrote this op-ed for the Washington Post is indicative of the sort of people who are protecting the president, I am now truly afraid for him[.]

Oh you bet your ass sister!

If I was Obama, I would earnestly think about hiring his own body guards.

Report: Obama rode elevator with armed man | AccessNorthGa

The latest embarrassment for the Secret Service comes after agency Director Julia Pierson took full responsibility for a Sept. 19 breach of the White House. The Washington Examiner and The Washington Post report that the latest incident took place in an elevator during Obama’s Sept. 16 visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

The Post says agents questioned the contractor and discovered his criminal history after he refused to stop video recording the president with a phone camera.

Agents didn’t know he was armed until a supervisor fired the contractor on the spot and the man turned over his gun.

The Secret Service did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

Damn. You know the people here in Georgia are nuts. Gun nuts that is.

Again, we see Fox News spreading the joy, they are loving it:

Fox News Analyst Wonders If Secret Service Purposely Didn’t Do Their Duty:  Did they wish or did they wonder? | Crooks and Liars

In other political news:

WASHINGTON: Study: In 2012, Florida voters waited the longest to cast ballots | Elections | McClatchy DC

(Not that it was really a big surprise.)

Voters in Florida waited far longer than those in other states to cast their votes in the 2012 election, hampered by long ballots and cutbacks in early voting options, according to a new report by congressional auditors.

Voters in the state stood in line more than 34 minutes on average, significantly longer than ballot-casters did in any other state reviewed by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ watchdog.

The shortest waits? Alaska, at just 1.4 minutes.

Three others states had wait times about 25 or more minutes: Maryland, Virginia and South Carolina. But most of the others fell somewhere between five minutes and 20 minutes, on average.

In Florida, the GAO estimated, 16 percent of voters waited 61 minutes or more to cast their ballots – tops among the states surveyed.

And from Dakinikat’s home state, this long reads starts out like a horror story: Plaquemines Louisiana Environmental Disaster: The Land Is Vanishing | New Republic

In response to complaints some years ago about blocked plumbing along New Orleans’ Claiborne Avenue, city workers opened up the sewer main and found a human nose. Following the line down the avenue, popping open manholes and looking inside, they discovered ears, fingers, fingernails, shriveled flaps of skin, viscera. Where had it all come from?

To solve this mystery, the Sewerage and Water Board turned to Warren Lawrence, a former plumber who served as the utility’s inspector. Lawrence conducted his job with the perspicacity of a criminal detective. It wasn’t enough for him to repair a drainage problem; he made a point of pursuing each disturbance back to its source and holding the perpetrator responsible. When, for instance, Lawrence encountered a section of corroded pipes, he traced the damage to a battery factory near the Superdome that had been illegally pouring acid down the drain. After finding a black-and-white jumpsuit in a sewer, he learned that inmates of Orleans Parish Prison had been stuffing their uniforms into the toilets in an effort to back up the jail’s plumbing system. To increase their odds of success, every prisoner flushed their toilet at the same time. They called this a “Royal Flush.”

Lawrence followed the trail of body parts to Charity Hospital. The manhole that led into the hospital’s sewer line was clogged with flesh. Lawrence asked hospital administrators why they were dumping bodies into the sewer. They explained that, until recently, they had incinerated all unclaimed corpses. The stench was abhorrent, however, so they had installed a $1 million, 15-horsepower grinder pump. The machine ground the bodies into a slurry, but small parts escaped the blades. Lawrence ordered the hospital to remove the grinder. As he was backed by the force of City Hall, the hospital had no choice but to comply.

Take some time with that one.

On Jeopardy this week: – ‘Jeopardy!’ Category Titled ‘What Women Want’ Filled Entirely With Sexist Stereotypes

At a time when the country is struggling with serious issues regarding gender equality, Jeopardy! could have taken the opportunity to explore some of the things 21st Century women have been fighting for. How about equal pay? Or perhaps, access to birth control? Maybe greater legal protections against sexual assault?

Instead, the show offered such examples as “a new vacuum cleaner” and “Pilates.” Yuck.

4324324134421541554141

I know we have Jeopardy viewers here, anyone see this shit?

For your history/archaeology link of the day: Massive Roman Coin Hoard Unearthed in England – Archaeology Magazine

Archaeologists and conservators from the British Museum have announced that an amateur metal detectorist has found one of the largest hoards of coins ever discovered in Britain. The hoard is comprised of no less than 22,000 coins dating to between A.D. 260 and 350 that were in very good condition when they emerged from the ground, Devon County Council archaeologist Bill Horner told The Independent. Since the hoard was found ten months ago—its discovery was kept quiet to avoid looting at the site while archaeologists conducted a proper excavation—the coins have been cleaned, identified, and catalogued. Many bear portraits of the family of the emperor Constantine and of the emperor himself.

That is awesome, they are calling the find, the Seaton Down Hoard. (Sitting Down Hard…ha.)

Lastly, a review of a new DVD release…of a classic movie, that just so happens to be screening on TCM later this month:

Review: Just in time for Halloween, Criterion releases horror classic The Innocents · DVD Review · The A.V. Club

“I can’t judge you, Miss. A body can only judge themselves.” So Mrs. Grose (Megs Jenkins), the housekeeper of a palatial country estate in the eden of rural England, concludes to Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr), the new governess who’s grown increasingly convinced that her two young charges are possessed by the sinister spirits of their deceased former caretakers. The exchange happens late in The Innocents, as Jack Clayton’s formative but underappreciated horror masterpiece coheres into a ravishing neo-romantic takedown of Victorian repression, spooky and scathing in equal measure.

Miss Giddens, whom Kerr agreeably claimed was her best role, is a high-strung woman whose outspoken love for children may not be quite as selfless as it seems. Despite having no professional experience, Giddens is hired by an apathetic bachelor (Michael Redgrave) to care for his orphaned niece and nephew at his idyllic country home. Flora (Pamela Franklin) and Miles (Martin Stephens) are strange and cloistered children who were previously exposed to the kinky sexual relationship shared between Giddens’ predecessor and the bachelor’s valet, and Giddens pities the kids for that, taking it as her mission to restore and protect their innocence for as long as she can. But as she begins to see apparitions around the property—a robed figure sweeping across a dark hallway, a man emerging from the night to press his demented face against a first floor window—Giddens starts to suspect that the children may be more tainted than she feared.

If The Innocents isn’t quite the oldest scary story in the book, it’s certainly by now one of the most familiar. (But it’s also damn old: The film was adapted from Henry James’ 1898 novella The Turn Of The Screw, even though it takes most of its cues from the William Archibald play that inspired its title). Released in 1961 as a response to the somewhat schlocky Hammer horror films of the time, The Innocents is a comparatively restrained ghost story that owes far more to Jean Cocteau’s Beauty And The Beast than it does Terence Fisher’s The Curse Of Frankenstein. In fact, the case could be made that it’s not a ghost story at all; Clayton’s palpable use of the subjective camera ensures that the phantasms are almost never glimpsed from any perspective other than Miss Giddens’—a point cultural critic Christopher Frayling makes during the erudite commentary track included with Criterion’s new edition of the film. The script, co-written by Truman Capote, doesn’t spend much time entertaining the idea that everything is in Giddens’ head. But Kerr’s possessed performance as an unraveling woman nevertheless imbues each seemingly supernatural incident with the intimacy of a nervous breakdown.

Now I’ve never seen this flick, so I look forward to watching it:  Thursday, October 23 @ 08:00 PM (ET)

TCM has a long article about the film: The Innocents (1961) – Articles – TCM.com

And Movie Morlocks has a few blog posts that mention the movie, here is one of them:

moviemorlocks.com – Do You Want to See Something REALLY Scary?

During the month of October I’m often asked to recommend my favorite horror films. But recommending scary movies can be a tricky business. What frightens me might make you merely shrug your shoulders and laugh out loud. And if you’re a serious horror fan there’s a high probability that you’ve seen a lot of well-regarded classic films such as THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925), FRANKENSTEIN (1931), PSYCHO (1960) and Val Lewton’s various movies as well as Halloween standards like THE SHINING (1980), CARRIE (1976), NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) and HALLOWEEN (1978) so recommending movies can become rather redundant. Instead of simply suggesting some of my favorite horror films for you to watch I thought I’d share some of my favorite scary moments from films that have left a deep impression on me over the years. So pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable while I share something REALLY scary.


THE INNOCENTS (Jack Clayton; 1961) – The ghostly woman in black

THE INNOCENTS is one of my favorite films and in my not so humble opinion, one of the most frightening films ever made. Henry James’ classic ghost story has been adapted for the screen many times but no film has come close to matching Jack Clayton’s haunting retelling of “The Turn of the Screw.” THE INNOCENTS tells the eerie story of Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr), a governess to two young children who she believes are haunted by ghosts. The film has a lot of chill-inducing moments but nothing terrifies me more than the startling image of an unearthly woman dressed in black standing by the edge of the water surrounded by tall grass. Kerr only gets a brief glimpse of the ghostly figure of the long dead Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop) and if you blink you might miss her. But if you do see her, you’ll never forget her.

So be sure to check it out.

Well, let’s end today’s post with another little clip from 1996’s Beavis and Butthead. This one not only has another it cavity search bit, but gives Chelsea Clinton some ass kicking power in her teen years…and a jab at White House Security. Ah…life before 9/11…

Good times.


Tuesday Reads: What’s Wrong With the Secret Service?

Uniformed Secret Service officers walk along the fence on the north side of the White House on Sept. 20 in Washington. (Susan Walsh / AP)

Uniformed Secret Service officers walk along the fence on the north side of the White House on Sept. 20 in Washington. (Susan Walsh / AP)

Good Morning!!

What is going on with the Secret Service? There has been one scandal after another involving the agency during Obama’s presidency. In the past couple of days The Washington Post broke the news that not only did Omar Gonzalez, the Iraq war veteran who jumped over the fence and got into the White House on Friday, September 19 actually get deep into the White House before being apprehended, but also the Secret Service apparently lied about that and a previous White House breach.

Carol D. Leonnig reports: White House fence-jumper made it far deeper into building than previously known.

The man who jumped the White House fence this month and sprinted through the front door made it much farther into the building than previously known, overpowering one Secret Service officer and running through much of the main floor, according to three people familiar with the incident.

An alarm box near the front entrance of the White House designed to alert guards to an intruder had been muted at what officers believed was a request of the usher’s office, said a Secret Service official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The officer posted inside the front door appeared to be delayed in learning that the intruder, Omar Gonzalez, was about to burst through. Officers are trained that, upon learning of an intruder on the grounds — often through the alarm boxes posted around the property — they must immediately lock the front door.

After barreling past the guard immediately inside the door, Gonzalez, who was carrying a knife, dashed past the stairway leading a half-flight up to the first family’s living quarters. He then ran into the 80-foot-long East Room, an ornate space often used for receptions or presidential addresses.

Gonzalez was tackled by a counterassault agent at the far southern end of the East Room. The intruder reached the doorway to the Green Room, a parlor overlooking the South Lawn with artwork and antique furniture, according to three people familiar with the incident.

Below is a diagram of Gonzolez’ pathway through the White House, from The Daily Telegraph.

floor_plan_3056162c

 

Leonnig also reported a few days ago on a 2011 incident in which a gunman shot at the White House with a semiautomatic rifle: Secret Service fumbled response after gunman hit White House residence in 2011.

The gunman parked his black Honda directly south of the White House, in the dark of a November night, in a closed lane of Constitution Avenue. He pointed his semiautomatic rifle out of the passenger window, aimed directly at the home of the president of the United States, and pulled the trigger.

A bullet smashed a window on the second floor, just steps from the first family’s formal living room. Another lodged in a window frame, and more pinged off the roof, sending bits of wood and concrete to the ground. At least seven bullets struck the upstairs residence of the White House, flying some 700 yards across the South Lawn.

President Obama and his wife were out of town on that evening of Nov. 11, 2011, but their younger daughter, Sasha, and Michelle Obama’s mother,Marian Robinson, were inside, while older daughter Malia was expected back any moment from an outing with friends.

Secret Service officers initially rushed to respond. One, stationed directly under the second-floor terrace where the bullets struck, drew her .357 handgun and prepared to crack open an emergency gun box. Snipers on the roof, standing just 20 feet from where one bullet struck, scanned the South Lawn through their rifle scopes for signs of an attack. With little camera surveillance on the White House perimeter, it was up to the Secret Service officers on duty to figure out what was going on.

Then came an order that surprised some of the officers. “No shots have been fired. . . . Stand down,” a supervisor called over his radio. He said the noise was the backfire from a nearby construction vehicle.

White House shooter Oscar Ortega-Hernandez

White House shooter Oscar Ortega-Hernandez

That was just the beginning of the “fumbled response.”

That command was the first of a string of security lapses, never previously reported, as the Secret Service failed to identify and properly investigate a serious attack on the White House. While the shooting and eventual arrest of the gunman, Oscar R. Ortega-Hernandez, received attention at the time, neither the bungled internal response nor the potential danger to the Obama daughters has been publicly known. This is the first full account of the Secret Service’s confusion and the missed clues in the incident — and the anger the president and first lady expressed as a result.

By the end of that Friday night, the agency had confirmed a shooting had occurred but wrongly insisted the gunfire was never aimed at the White House. Instead, Secret Service supervisors theorized, gang members in separate cars got in a gunfight near the White House’s front lawn — an unlikely scenario in a relatively quiet, touristy part of the nation’s capital.

It took the Secret Service four days to realize that shots had hit the White House residence, a discovery that came about only because a housekeeper noticed broken glass and a chunk of cement on the floor.

Four days to figure out that bullets had struck inside the White House?! Unbelievable! And yet the White House came to the defense of the agency after Leonig’s report on the 2011 incident. From the LA Times:

“The men and women of the Secret Service put their lives on the line for the president of the United States, his family and folks working in the White House every single day, 24 hours a day,” deputy national security advisor Tony Blinken said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “Their task is incredible and the burden that they bear is incredible.”

Blinken spoke in the wake of the publication of a story in The Washington Post about the Secret Service’s slow and confused response to the 2011 shooting. The gunman, Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, was arrested for firing rifle shots at the White House from a nearby street.

Are officials afraid that Secret Service agents will be even more careless about the President’s safety if they are criticized? (Privately, the WaPo reported, President Obama and his wife Michelle were extremely angry after the shooting incident.) As for the “burden that they bear,” I guess that’s why agents have a history of drinking, carousing, and hiring prostitutes–to deal with all that stress? What if Obama or a member of his family had been wounded or killed during one of these security breaches?

At least some in Congress are taking the problem seriously. NPR reports, Secret Service Chief Faces Questions Over Breaches At White House.

The head of the U.S. Secret Service is in for a likely grilling from lawmakers today when she appears before a House committee to answer questions about the Sept. 19 security breach at the White House in which a man with a knife jumped a fence and made it inside the executive mansion before agents intercepted him.

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson will appear opposite members of the House Oversight Committee just as new information has come to light about the incident: The Washington Post reports that after jumping the fence, Omar Gonzalez made it past the front doors, overpowered a guard and then ran across the East Room before being tackled at the doorway to the Green Room.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday that the president and first family, who were not in the executive mansion at the time of the breach, are “obviously concerned” but have confidence in the Secret Service.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), a member of the House Oversight Committee on Monday told The Associated Press that he’s “worried” that “over the last several years, security has gotten worse, not better.”

NPR’s Giles Snyder says while the fence jumper incident is likely to dominate the hearing, Pierson, who took over as Secret Service chief last year, is also expected to be questioned about a 2011 incident in which shots were fired at the White House.

Secret Service agents with President Obama on his arrival in Columbia in 2012

Secret Service agents with President Obama on his arrival in Columbia in 2012

The Daily Telegraph summarizes previous Secret Service screw-ups under Obama:

The American public first learned the phrase “wheels up party” in 2012. The term refers to agents’ often-drunken celebrations in a foreign country after a successful overseas trip by the President.

But during Mr Obama’s visit to Cartegena, Colombia, his bodyguards didn’t wait until the President had left town. Eleven agents were sent home after some allegedly drank and slept with prostitutes in the week leading up to Mr Obama’s visit. The Secret Service promised reform but a similar incident unfolded in Amsterdam in March when one agent was so drunk they passed out in a hotel hallway.

Less than a year after Mr Obama took office in 2009, he hosted a lavish state dinner for the Indian prime minister, inviting many of Washington’s most notable figures to attend.

But among the dignitaries were Michaele and Tareq Salahi, a Virginia couple who had dressed up for the event but had no invitation. They passed easily through the Secret Service cordon and photos later showed them smiling alongside Mr Obama and his top aides.

The ease with which the “party crashers” entered the White House exposed the Secret Service to ridicule but also raised serious questions about security.

Mr Obama is said to face an unprecedented level of death threats – both from right-wing extremists and Islamist militants – and the misfires by the Secret Service have dented the agency’s projection of invincibility.

Not that any of this irresponsible behavior by Secret Service agents is really all that surprising for those who remember history. There have been numerous reports of similar behavior before and during the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Russ Baker wrote about it at his blog “Who What Why” after the Colombia incidents in 2012.

Go back almost half a century, and look at the most shocking dereliction of duty ever—the failures that made it easy for someone (or someones) to assassinate John F Kennedy. The failings are endless, from not insisting that the bubble top go on Kennedy’s car, to having too few Secret Service agents protecting the president, to authorizing a particularly dangerous route that slowed the car way down, to allowing it to go through a canyon of windows—and then not checking or securing the windows or installing spotters or sharpshooters. A grade school kid could have done a more serious job of protecting the president….

And yet we continue to let this agency off the hook. We forgot that even LBJ, a direct beneficiary of the agency’s sloppiness with his former boss, trusted the outfit so little himself that he inquired at one point whether he could have the FBI protect him instead.

No agent on rear bumper of JFK's limo.

No agent on rear bumper of JFK’s limo.

The history of racist attitudes in the Secret Service is also concerning, as Baker argues:

It is foolish to ignore the worldviews and attitudes of people expected to protect presidents. Former Secret Service agent Abraham Bolden has described rampant racism and widespread contempt for Kennedy and his policies among Bolden’s fellow officers.

Now, here are a few salient details about the Secret Service today that go beyond trying to get a little “R&R”:  When Washington Post reporters visited the Virginia home of Texas native David R. Chaney, one of the Secret Service supervisors on the Colombia trip, they found a silver pickup truck parked in front. On the vehicle they spotted a bumper sticker with an outline of the state of Texas, and the word “secede.”

It is interesting to note that Chaney’s father served in the Secret Service when Kennedy was in office. As assistant agent in charge of personnel, he was friends with many of the agents who were in Dallas in November, 1963.

There’s much more at the link. Please read the whole thing.

There were also reports of drinking and carousing by Secret Service agents in Dallas the night before the assassination. Vince Palamara has spent years researching the Secret Service and the JFK assassination, and he published a book about it last year, Survivors’ Guilt: The Secret Service and the Failure to Protect President Kennedy.

I know there is lots of other news, but I thought this story was worth a full post. So . . . what other stories are you following today? Let us know in the comment thread, and have a terrific Tuesday.