Thursday Reads: Flu Epidemic, Obama’s Boy’s Club, and Other News


Good Morning!!

I have a nasty cold, so if I don’t make a lot of sense this morning, please try to make allowances. I just hope I don’t get the flu. Mayor Menino declared a public health emergency in Boston yesterday because there have been 700 confirmed cases of flu in the city. This morning The Daily Beast reports that there is a “major influenza epidemic taking hold across the country.”

New York City and much of the U.S. are a week or two into a major influenza epidemic. Boston declared a public-health emergency Wednesday after reporting four deaths, and North Carolina is seeing its biggest number of cases in a decade. To place the problem into graphic, corporate terms, the charts sent around to compare this year’s activity against that of other years have required re-scaling to accommodate the scary red line going up and up.

Public health officials are telling people it’s not too late to get a flu shot, but according to this article, this year’s vaccine may not be working so well.

One alarming possibility is that this year’s vaccine against influenza is not well-matched to the current disease-causing strains. This exposes a significant problem in the modus operandi of influenza vaccine production—it’s mired in techniques and approaches developed before World War II; in fact soldiers from that war were among the first to get this brand of vaccine. Here’s how it works: each year, around February, world experts select from a menu of dozens just three influenza strains—two of flu A andone of flu B—to place into the coming season’s vaccine. More than three would require a shot with too large a volume and might blunt the body’s immune response. Once selected, the three viruses are grown painstakingly, on hen’s eggs (what year is this?) then, after a big enough crop has been raised, the virus is killed and stabilized and sent around for injections—all on the hope that the experts guessed right.

To date, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found strong agreement between the vaccine strains and the current clinical strains, suggesting the vaccine ought to work just fine. But some clinicians have their doubts. This much activity, is the thinking, can only be due to extremely limited protection from vaccine. For some, it feels like 2009 all over again, when the novel flu strain, so-called because it had never previously been seen in people or animals, appeared. That was the year that spring-break revelers from Queens who had gone south of the border brought back an altogether new strain. Because of its novelty, no vaccine was active against it (at least at the start), so we saw the unchecked spread of influenza zipping across the country in no time flat.

So is that happening again? We won’t know until there is more testing of this year’s strains.

President Obama is getting a lot of criticism for turning his “inner circle” into a “boy’s club.” From Tuesday’s NYT:

In an Oval Office meeting on Dec. 29, 11 of President Obama’s top advisers stood before him discussing the heated fiscal negotiations. The 10 visible in a White House photo are men.

In the days since, Mr. Obama has put together a national security team dominated by men, with Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts nominated to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as the secretary of state, Chuck Hagel chosen to be the defense secretary and John O. Brennan nominated as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Given the leading contenders for other top jobs, including chief of staff and Treasury secretary, Mr. Obama’s inner circle will continue to be dominated by men well into his second term.

From the White House down the ranks, the Obama administration has compiled a broad appointment record that has significantly exceeded the Bush administration in appointing women but has done no better than the Clinton administration, according to an analysis of personnel data by The New York Times. About 43 percent of Mr. Obama’s appointees have been women, about the same proportion as in the Clinton administration, but up from the roughly one-third appointed by George W. Bush.

The skew was widespread: male appointees under Mr. Obama outnumbered female appointees at 11 of the 15 federal departments, for instance. In some cases, the skew was also deep. At the Departments of Justice, Defense, Veterans Affairs and Energy, male appointees outnumbered female appointees by about two to one.

At Salon, Irin Carmon writes:

Diversity in any sense is something that doesn’t really happen unless you try, and if the Obama administration is trying with its top-level appointments, other priorities have clearly trumped it. This doesn’t have to be because of a conspiracy: A lifetime of seeing almost exclusively white men as authority figures has a way of perpetuating itself, and without much self-examination or effort, people tend to go with a certain comfortable framework. (This is true despite the president being a black man; as anyone who has worked for a woman or a person of color who was the first to stake out a spot on hostile turf can tell you, racism and sexism aren’t exclusively white male phenomena.) But it’s still a problem that needs to be talked about, over and over again, until something changes.

Carmon concludes her post with some excellent questions:

…leadership matters, and here we are with this top-level lineup of too-familiar faces. Hillary Clinton is gone, and we don’t have Sheila Bair, Michele Flournoy or Susan Rice (a pretty good selection given that “pipeline problem”) and another white man is expected to succeed Jack Lew as chief of staff should be become the treasury secretary. The numbers look even worse now that Hilda Solis, a Latina woman, has resigned as secretary of labor.

So here are some follow-up questions: Will John Kerry carry on the legacy of Hillary Clinton in encouraging female leadership and entrepreneurship around the world? Will Chuck Hagel, if confirmed as secretary of defense, fully and fairly implement the progressive changes in the military the administration supports, including the partial expansion of abortion access for service-members and dependents, despite his past opposition? How independent will Lew be from the Wall Street boys’ club’s values and logic? And how will the administration do better on this stuff next time, if it does indeed care about it?

At least Eric Holder’s announcement that he is staying on at Attorney General will keep Obama’s cabinet from being made up of only white men.

Obama is also getting hammered for choosing an anti-gay preacher, Rev. Louis Giglio, to give the benediction at the inauguration. From Think Progress, via Alternet:

The Presidential Inauguration Committee announced Tuesday that the President Obama has selected Pastor Louie Giglio of the Georgia-based Passion City Church to deliver the benediction for his second inauguration. In a mid-1990s sermon identified as Giglio’s, available online on a Christian training Web site, he preached rabidly anti-LGBT views. The 54-minute sermon, entitled “In Search of a Standard – Christian Response to Homosexuality,” advocates for dangerous “ex-gay” therapy for gay and lesbian people, references a biblical passage often interpreted to require gay people be executed, and impels Christians to “firmly respond to the aggressive agenda” and prevent the “homosexual lifestyle” from becoming accepted in society.

Read quotes from Giglio’s sermon at the Alternet link.

Buzzfeed notes that the White House hasn’t yet responded to the criticism of the Gigio choice.

The White House on Wednesday was refusing to address comments critical of gay and lesbian people made by Rev. Louie Giglio, who was tapped by President Barack Obama to deliver the benediction prayer at the Jan. 21 inaugural ceremony….

The inaugural invitation is not Giglio’s first interaction with Obama. He also was one of the president’s guests at the White House’s 2012 Easter prayer breakfast, according to the White House pool report from the April 4, 2012 event.

This past November, Giglio served as the convocation speaker at the Jerry Falwell-founded Liberty University. Although he did not address homosexuality in the speech, he did strongly urge visiting high-school students to attend the college known for its strict policies against homosexual behavior and spoke about the positive influence Falwell has had on his life.

While Giglio did not talk about gay issues directly, he did reference gender roles in a striking way, speaking of a time he started crying very hard. He explained, “I started bawling, I mean, sobbing. Not crying like men cry. I started crying like women cry.” Continuing, he explained what he called the unwritten rules for men who cry, telling the students, “A man never looks at another man that’s crying. That’s the rule.”

If you’ve been watching the Rachel Maddow show recently, you’ve heard about the Shell Oil rig that went aground in Alaska last week. Connie from Orlando sent me a couple of links on Rachel’s interview with Rep. Ed Markey last night on Shell’s lies. From the Maddow Blog: One man’s near miss ecological disaster is another man’s swells. Watch the video here.

Paul Ryan is up to his old tricks. From Laura Bassett at HuffPo: Paul Ryan Cosponsors New Fetal Personhood Bill.

Despite the deep unpopularity of fetal personhood bills in 2012, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has again decided to cosponsor the Sanctity of Human Life Act, a bill that gives full legal rights to human zygotes from the moment of fertilization.

Ryan, who reportedly has 2016 presidential ambitions, had to de-emphasize his opposition to abortion without exceptions during the 2012 election to align his position with presidential candidate Mitt Romney. But this year, Ryan has been tapped as a keynote speaker for the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List’s sixth annual Campaign for Life Gala, and he is re-upping his support for the most extreme anti-abortion legislation in the country.

The personhood bill, first introduced in 2011 by Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) and reintroduced by Broun last week, specifies that a “one-celled human embryo,” even before it implants in the uterus to create a pregnancy, should be granted “all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood.” Similar legislation has been rejected by voters in multiple states, including the socially conservative Mississippi, because legal experts have pointed out that it could outlaw some forms of birth control and in vitro fertilization as well as criminalize abortion at all stages.

Broun said in a statement that a zygote’s right to life should be “defended vigorously and at all costs.”

“As a physician, I know that human life begins with fertilization, and I remain committed to ending abortion in all stages of pregnancy,” he said. “I will continue to fight this atrocity on behalf of the unborn, and I hope my colleagues will support me in doing so.”

Of course Republican governors are still trying to limit access to abortion, and the Center for Reproductive Rights has designed a “monitoring tool” that can be downloaded to track what’s happening in the states.

The tool outlines State obligations under international and regional human rights law on a range of reproductive rights issues—freedom from discrimination, contraceptive information and services, safe pregnancy and childbirth, abortion and post-abortion care, comprehensive sexuality education, freedom from violence against women, and HIV/AIDS. The tool then identifies key questions that human rights experts, monitoring bodies, and civil society can use to assess to what extent a State is in compliance with its obligations.

I want to end with something more positive from Emily Esfahani-Smith at The Atlantic about the differences between the pursuit of happiness and the search for meaning: There’s More to Life Than Being Happy. It’s about Victor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning. I highly recommend it.

And here’s something nice: and unreleased track from Jimi Hendrix, recorded in the late 1960s.

Have a great day, and please share your recommended reads in the comments!

32 Comments on “Thursday Reads: Flu Epidemic, Obama’s Boy’s Club, and Other News”

  1. Fannie says:

    Let me see if I can find the link to Joe and Mika’s flare up on tv this morning, she called him out as macho (asshole, me) over his statements about Obama’s picks…………..

    BB I just got a copy yesterday of Viktore E. Frankl’s book………we are getting some snow, so I hope to bundle up and read for couple of days.

    Instead of Ryan getting a jobs bill going, he’s back with his old tricks, that is all he’s got.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I heard some of that Morning Joe garbage. Mika is just about the only woman ever allowed on that show, so he has a lot of nerve yelling about gender diversity. What an asshole!

    • ANonOMouse says:

      I watched that segment of Morning Joe this morning and he treated Mika shamefully, but he usually does. He is so condescending to her, talking over her and down to her regularly. This morning he went so far as to put his hand in front of her face and snap his fingers at her. He treated Katty Kay basically the same way. Joe Scarborough doesn’t really give a damn about who Obama appoints to his cabinet, he especially doesn’t care whether or not Obama appoints women. He just cares about bitching about Obama and stupid Obama is giving him plenty of fuel with these appointments. I don’t know whether or not the female options for the cabinet jobs open were better than the men he appointed, but I do know that there needs to be many more women in the halls of power and especially in cabinet positions. Maybe a WOMAN POTUS will put and end to the good-old boyz club, a club which Joe Scarborough is a member of, once and for all.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        BTW….I complained to MSNBC about Joe’s disgraceful behavior this morning toward Mika and Katty and the fact that Morning Joe is basically a boyz club where the host regularly leads the boyz in taunts of Mika.

        Fuck you Scarborough!!!!

    • Beata says:

      Thank you for the link to The Atlantic article.

      In addition to Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”, I recommend Primo Levi’s “Survival in Auschwitz” ( original title: “If This is a Man” ). Also recommend Levi’s other books.

      If anyone here is interested in other Holocaust history or literature material, I can provide suggestions. The Holocaust was my focus of study in college.

  2. Fannie says:

    Did you call MSNBC? Have the number or sent email?

      • ANonOMouse says:

        For the record……Unless I mixed up the videos the initial video that I posted here from HuffPost on this incident, was considerably longer than the video that HuffPost has up now. The video I first posted, or the video I thought I was posting, showed a lot of the conversation between Katty Kay & Joe and Mika & Joe. I don’t know why they’ve replaced it with a video that has edited out much of Joe’s ugliness, unless it is to cover his ass. His arrogance toward Mika is astounding at times and his need to constantly inject himself and his prior work in Congress into the discourse is astounding. They need to change the name of the show from “Morning Joe” to “Joe talks about himself and takes himself way to seriously” Show. Morning Joe is basically an exercise in joe narcissism.

      • Fannie says:

        Thank you mouse, I followed up also.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        Thanks Fannie and thank you Dak for the longer version.

        There was even more conversation that Mediate didn’t get. Watching the entire segment, live, was infuriating, but he’s the “star” of the show so I suppose he can behave in whatever fashion suits him with no consequences. In the end Mika did a sort of mea culpa and kind-of-sort-of apologized for characterizing his behavior as chauvinistic. She shouldn’t have and I wonder if someone was whispering into her earpiece to genuflect before the Scarborough throne. She regularly capitulates to him and I think that ongoing deference is demeaning to Mika and a boost to his sense of Male privilege. But Who’s surprised?

      • Fannie says:

        Mika is free to speak her mind, her opinion. I hope by the apology (which she didn’t owe to him or anyone else) that again women must be “fearful” of those in power, and retreat to the controls in place with Joe as a man, and with the media as male dominated, and with her pay status in the future, as well as job security. Teach it Mika, it’s got to be done.

        Romney was out saying how he developed the binders of women, like he went door to door and opened them all for women, when in fact, it was the women of Mass. that took him the list. The one guy who said what Romney was doing, was like the CEO’s trying to be diverse.
        No he wasn’t, he was stealing all the credit from the women who were good citizens who wanted a better government in place for Mass. They did the same to Hillary, steal her hard work, as in the Ledbetter bill, and Obama took two seconds to sign the bill, against her hours, and days, and years of hard work. That is what I a am tired of. Teach it Mika, because Old Joe is undoing all the good you have put forth on the show.. Don’t let Cup Joe enslave you Mika.

  3. RalphB says:

    The anti-gay pastor has withdrawn from the inauguration over his past remarks. I imagine he was pushed.

    • RalphB says:

      Yep, he was thrown out on his ear 🙂

      We were not aware of Pastor Giglio’s past comments at the time of his selection and they don’t reflect our desire to celebrate the strength and diversity of our country at this Inaugural. Pastor Giglio was asked to deliver the benediction in large part for his leadership in combating human trafficking around the world. As we now work to select someone to deliver the benediction, we will ensure their beliefs reflect this administration’s vision of inclusion and acceptance for all Americans.

  4. RalphB says:

    HuffPo: Quvenzhané Wallis & Oscars: 9-Year-Old Is Youngest Best Actress Nominee Ever

    Quvenzhané Wallis just made history. With the announcement of the nominees for the 85th annual Academy Awards this morning, the Louisiana-born Wallis, just 9 years old, is now the youngest ever nominee for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

    Wallis, who was just 5 when she auditioned for the role in “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” has received major recognition and critical acclaim for her portrayal of the character Hushpuppy.

    She’s my favorite and simply magnificent!

  5. dakinikat says:

    Can some one assure me that the sun is still in the sky and it hasn’t been replaced by something else?

  6. dakinikat says:

    U.S. scientists urge end to limits on gun safety research imposed by NRA pressure

  7. RalphB says:

    Raw Story: Marine Corps orders spouse clubs to admit same sex members or leave

    The U.S. Marine Corps has taken the advance step of requiring that all spouses clubs admit members of same sex couples or face being barred from base, according to The Associated Press.

    The move comes before the Department of Defense standardizes anti-discrimination policies across all branches of the military, in accordance with the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

    The rule change was caused by a controversy at Fort Bragg over a same sex partner who was denied admittance to an officers club. Shortly after CNN aired a story about the dispute, the Marine Corps took direct action.

    Every now and again, they still make me proud.

  8. RalphB says:

    Fox must give out extra bonuses for being super stupid!

    Raw Story: Eric Bolling: Schools ‘pushing the liberal agenda’ by teaching algebra

    Fox News host Eric Bolling on Wednesday accused some schools of “pushing the liberal agenda” for teaching an algebra lesson about the distributive property.

    During a segment about “indoctrination in schools,” Bolling reminded viewers of a 2009 video of children chanting, “Mmm. Mmm. Mmm. Barack Hussein Obama,” which outraged conservatives at the time.

    “But even worse is the way some textbooks are pushing the liberal agenda,” the Fox News host explained, pointing to an algebra worksheet that Scholastic says gives students “[i]nsight into the distributive property as it applies to multiplication.”
    Bolling advised parents to read their children’s history books because his son’s textbook addressed the Iraq war “and they were very, very liberally biased, saying George Bush went in there because he heard there were weapons of mass destruction and they were never found. It was a very liberal bias to the history books.”

    “There are science teachers that if they hear that if a student is questioning, like, any kind of climate change thing, they just, like, think you’re an idiot,” Gutfeld observed.

    “You guys just gave two examples of things that are right,” left-leaning co-host Bob Beckel quipped.