The next two weeks will be fascinating ones for political junkies. The Republican Convention begins on Monday, July 18 in Cleveland, and just a week later on July 25 the Democratic Convention will be held in Philadelphia. The list of speakers for the GOP Convention was released this morning.
The Washington Post: Republican convention’s ‘non-conventional’ list: Model, astronaut and Trump clan.
Donald Trump’s convention will feature an eclectic mix of cultural figures, from the first woman to command a space shuttle mission to the survivors of the 2012 Benghazi attacks to an underwear model.
But while several Republican Party establishment figures will take the stage next week in Cleveland, the national convention to officially nominate Trump will be devoid of some of the GOP’s most seasoned leaders and brightest new stars.
Republican officials released a long-awaited list of convention speakers on Thursday that are billed as “non-conventional speakers” who emphasize “real world experience.”
A small number of elected officials and former office-holders have agreed to speak at Trump’s convention, including Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Rudy Giuliani, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Marsha Blackburn, Mike Huckabee, Rick Scott, Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich, Jeff Sessions, Joni Ernst, and Asa Hutchison. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is not included in the list of speakers. It’s not clear whether that means he will be the VP nominee or if there is some reason he won’t be speaking. Another notable omission from the speakers list is Sarah Palin.
The unusual collection of non-political speakers seems designed to broaden Trump’s appeal. They include retired astronaut Eileen Collins, the first woman pilot and first woman commander of a space shuttle mission; Mark Geist and John Tiegen, two survivors of the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya; and Antonio Sabato Jr., a former Calvin Klein underwear model, soap-opera actor and reality-television star.
Some sports figures will take the stage here, including pro golfer Natalie Gulbis and Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White. But some sporting heroes of decades past that Trump has said he would like to see at the convention — former Indiana University basketball coach Bobby Knight and boxing legend Don King — are not listed as featured speakers.
Trump family members and close friends will also speak at the convention.
The Cleveland convention will be orchestrated to help expand Trump’s appeal to the general electorate. To that end, several member of Trump’s family are expected to give speeches, including his wife, Melania, and his four oldest children, Donald Jr., Ivanka, Eric and Tiffany.
In addition, other speakers who have known Trump and his family through the years plan to take the stage. They include Haskel Lookstein, a rabbi in New York who converted Ivanka Trump to Judaism; Tom Barrack, a wealthy California-based investor who has worked with Donald Trump on real estate deals; and Kerry Woolard, the general manager of Trump Winery in Virginia.
In contrast to the weak list of GOP convention speakers, the Democratic Convention speakers list is star-studded. The Washington Post:
The Democratic National Convention is likely to open with a showcase of some of the party’s biggest stars, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and first lady Michelle Obama, according to a source with knowledge of the convention planning.
Although the speaking schedule isn’t yet set in stone, the jam-packed Monday night is also expected to include Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) will introduce Warren in Philadelphia.
Sanders’s name will be entered into the nomination, prompting a roll call vote of delegates for both candidates.
As we all expected Sanders will continue trying to get as much attention as he can for as long as he can.
According to another source familiar with the convention planning, the night’s theme will be an economic agenda focused on families. The list of speakers is intended to highlight the unity of the Democratic Party in contrast to the Republican convention that will have come the week before.
The night’s programming, including the speakers and videos, will drive home the theme of Clinton’s campaign, “Stronger together,” by highlighting a populist economic agenda.
The convention speaking list is coming together this week, and more speakers are likely to be formally announced as early as this week.
Presumably, speakers also will include President Obama and former President Clinton as well as rising stars in the party.
The Trump campaign announced yesterday that the presumptive GOP nominee will name his Vice Presidential running mate tomorrow morning at 11AM in New York City. The exact location hasn’t been announced yet. NPR reports: Trump Wraps Up Vice President Auditions, Sets Friday Announcement.
The deadline for a decision comes after the presumptive GOP presidential nominee wrapped up both public tryouts and private meetings with the three men believed to be among the finalists — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
After he campaigned with Pence in Indiana Tuesday evening, Trump his family met with Pence at his Indiana home on Wednesday morning, according toNBC News, while Gingrich and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions also flew to Indianapolis to meet with Trump. Christie met with Trump and his family on Tuesday.
Pence, who gave a tepid endorsement to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz before his state’s primary, was more gleefully on board with Trump’s campaign on Tuesday night as he introduced him at a rally in Westfield.
“Donald Trump gets it,” Pence told the crowd. “Donald Trump hears the voice of the American people.” ….
Of the three presumed vice presidential finalists, Pence was the only one who gave a direct introduction for Trump before he came to the stage. Trump also campaigned with Christie on Monday in Virginia and with Gingrich last week in Ohio.
Trump praised Pence at the end of what was a meandering speech — attacking rival Hillary Clinton often but also wandering off into other topics such as immigration and trade and back again.
“I don’t know if he’s going to be your governor or your vice president, who the hell knows!” Trump told the crowd, referring to Pence.
Yeah, who the hell knows? This horrifying man is actually running for president. The other top VP candidates are supposedly Jeff Sessions, Chris Christie, and Newt Gingrich. TA Frank weighed in on each of these choices at The Atlantic: It’s down to four, but does any candidate offer even a smidgen of hope?
At this point, Trump needs a running mate who amplifies his strengths and, possibly, goes some way toward remedying some of the candidate’s most serious weaknesses: erratic behavior, lack of experience, inadequate grasp of history, and almost zero policy chops. He or she needs to believe what Trump believes—but in a way that suggests there will be an adult in the room. Trump’s vice president is likely to be powerful in the White House, so the pick is about a lot more than campaigning. The question remains, however, whether any of the final four offer a glimmer of hope.
Some excerpts from Frank’s assessments of the top four candidates.
Even in the wake of reports that Fox News and Gingrich have parted ways, perhaps to allow him to be vetted for the post, I still do not think this V.P. possibility is for real. Even Trump has said about Gingrich that “Newt is Newt.” That’s what you say about someone whom you accept despite major flaws. As in: Kanye is Kanye. That sort of stuff. And remember that “erratic” thing that we were trying to remedy? Gingrich is not your man for that.
Yes, Pence campaigned with Trump this week in Indianapolis and sang his praises. But he seemed about as believable in his Trump-love as Paul Ryan. O.K., he did a little better than that. At least he wants Trump to win, maybe.
But Mike Pence has a fan club of roughly four, and all four have the last name Pence. This is someone who has the capability to be bungling and divisive on dumb social issues—by all accounts pleasing no one in his management of a religious-liberty law in Indiana, which means he angers social liberals, social moderates, and social conservatives. To be fair, that does leave the apathetic or uninformed.
We’ve been through this. Christie is, I will admit, an excellent retail politician. He’s a superb attack dog. He’s a social moderate. You like him, and he likes you, or thinks he does. But he’s got that bridge scandal to deal with and no one respects him after he turned into a courtier. Trump’s ticket would become the stuff of comedy. Picture it. Now picture it as a silhouette.
Here, I must bring up one more crucial vulnerability of Trump: the suspicion that he doesn’t really mean a lot of the things that he says. It’s all pandering: on immigration, on trade, on budgets, on health care, etc. That’s one more reason why Jeff Sessions would pack a punch: Sessions represents Trumpism without Trump. Selecting him as a running mate would signal that Trump actually means what he’s saying.
Read more from TA Frank at the link.
I can’t resist including this assessment of Trump’s VP choices from Gawker: Which of His Potential Vice Presidential Candidates Is Donald Trump Just Fucking With? Check it out at that link.
So . . . what do you think? Will you be watching next week’s GOP clusterf#ck? What other stories are you following today?
Dakinikat will try to put up a post this afternoon if she can find time, but in the meantime, here are a few reactions to Hillary’s speech from the media and other politicians, as well as her interview with the Des Moines Register and a good article on the Clinton Foundation for us to discuss in the meantime.
From The Des Moines Register: Clinton hears ‘eagerness’ for talk of female presidency.
Hillary Clinton did not win the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, but her campaign succeeded in addressing concerns about whether a woman could be commander in chief, she told The Des Moines Register on Sunday.
“Part of what I tried to do in that campaign was to begin to answer that question,” she said. “Now I feel like the question’s been answered.” ….
“There is an eagerness that I sense coming at me from people in my audiences, in my conversations, to engage with me about that more than I felt in ’08,” Clinton told the Register on Sunday, one of two sit-down news interviews that were the first for this presidential bid.
In the 15-minute interview at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, Clinton defended the presidencies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, said she’ll propose improvements to the Affordable Care Act, and expanded on her views about the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. She landed on the side of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi over Obama in wanting to ensure stronger protections for American workers.
Read the rest at the link.
Inside Philanthropy: Shut Up About the Clinton Foundation’s Problems for a Minute to Look at It’s Programs.
With all the hype in the media about the Clinton Foundation, we wonder how many Americans actually know what the foundation does—or how many members of the media, for that matter.
Listening to news reports, you’d think the sole purpose of this outfit is to help the Clintons get rich and do favors for their shady friends. And while, to be sure, some of the reports about specific donors have been troubling—and suggest questionable judgment by the Clintons—what’s missing is a broader, more balanced look at how the foundation mobilizes money for good causes and who, in reality, puts up most of that money. (Hint: It’s not dictators looking for favors from the State Department.) While people shouldn’t stop asking hard questions about the foundation, they should pay more attention to its approach and programs.
In fact, the Clinton Foundation stands as one of the more successful efforts of recent years to mobilize new resources for philanthropy. Since its founding in 2001, it has raised nearly $2 billion, according an independent review by the Washington Post. Yes, chunks of that money have come from the Clintons’ network of political donors and corporate friends, which is how fundraising often works: You hit up the rich people you know for your causes. And, sure, some of them may not have the purest motives for ponying up, especially if you’re someone who can return favors later, but that’s the nature of the game.
Philanthropic fundraising is more like political fundraising than many may imagine. You think every hedge fund guy who gives big at the Robin Hood’s annual gala is solely focused on poor kids in East New York? Or that every tech leader who recently listened to Marc Benioff’s pleas and chipped in to fight poverty in the Bay Area has a heart of gold? Or that everyone sitting on MoMA’s board is only there because they love art? Come on.
Much more at the link.
Matthew Yglesias at Vox gets it: Hillary Clinton has always been to Obama’s left on economics.
At a dramatic weekend rally on Roosevelt Island, Hillary Clinton unleashed a speech that was in some ways strikingly liberal, especially for a candidate who’s not facing meaningful opposition in the Democratic Primary. Politico’s Glenn Thrush says it shows that “the Democratic Party is moving left fast” and Clinton knows it, which is why she uncorked “economic-inequality rhetoric could have been comfortably uttered by the likes of Elizabeth Warren, Joseph Stiglitz, Bernie Sanders, or Martin O’Malley.”
The truth, however, is that on the kind of pocketbook issues that Clinton spent most of yesterday’s speech discussing, she’s alwaysbeen on the left wing of the Democratic Party. She’s been in the public eye far too long to have avoided inconsistencies over the years. But in positional terms, somewhat to the left of Obama — or Bill Clinton — on economics is where she’s been this whole time.
Yglesias goes into plenty of detail on Hillary’s record. Good piece!
The Washington Post: Hillary Clinton won the weekend on social media.
According to an analysis by Zignal Labs, The Washington Post’s campaign analytics partner, 59 percent of all 2016 chatter during the weekend was about her. That means three out of every five stories or posts written about any presidential contender mentioned the former secretary of State. By comparison, the week prior, she commanded just 20 percent.
A June 11 post from Peter Daou and Tom Watson at their new site #HillaryMen: A Woman Leading America – If Not Now, When?
Our premise is that Hillary’s inclusive vision, unwavering commitment to public service, progressive policies and unparalleled experience make her one of the best (and best qualified) candidates ever to seek the presidency. If Hillarycannot become the first woman in history to cross the presidential finish line, who can? If not now, when? When will we show our daughters that a woman can be president?
Viewing the 2016 election through an explicit gender lens, the ferocious attacks against Hillary are not just about her, but underscore the deeply ingrained resistance to any woman with a viable path to the White House. Does anyone believe that another female candidate could get within reach of the presidency without running headlong into the same double standard and institutional resistance confronting Hillary?
Spotlighting the gender aspect of the 2016 race does not mean we discount the centrality of issues and competing ideologies or the complex information processing that leads voters to choose a candidate. Nor is it our intention to make specific accusations of gender bias. We are simply acknowledging the political, social and cultural barriers that have resulted in a complete shut out in national U.S. politics, at 44-0. In nearly a quarter millennium, not a single woman has occupied our nation’s highest office.
This is going to be a great site to read for inspiration during the upcoming campaign. Thanks to Beata for posting about it in the comments on Saturday.
I’m not seeing any particular theme in today’s news, but there is quite a bit of good stuff to read; so I’ll just toss out a few items that interested me.
Poor Benjamin Netanyahu. It seems all his efforts to use the Republican Congress to squash President Obama’s negotiations is one big giant fail. He managed to get reelected with the help of John Boehner et al., but that’s about it. First Obama said that Iran recognizing Israel wouldn’t be part of any deal, and then yesterday the White House mocked Bibi on Twitter.
The Washington Post: Why Obama says Iran does not have to recognize Israel as part of a nuclear deal.
President Obama, who doesn’t get along with Netanyahu, seemed to dismiss the Israeli premier’s latest demand in an interview this week. When asked by NPR’s Steve Inskeep whether Iranian recognition of the state of Israel would be included in any final deal, Obama deemed such a move a “fundamental misjudgment.” Here’s an excerpt of his remarks:
Well, let me say this — it’s not that the idea of Iran recognizing Israel is unreasonable. It’s completely reasonable and that’s U.S. policy….
There’s still going to be a whole host of differences between us and Iran, and one of the most profound ones is the vile, anti-Semitic statements that have often come out of the highest levels of the Iranian regime. But the notion that we would condition Iran not getting nuclear weapons, in a verifiable deal, on Iran recognizing Israel is really akin to saying that we won’t sign a deal unless the nature of the Iranian regime completely transforms. And that is, I think, a fundamental misjudgment.
The point here is one that diplomats would take for granted. When attempting to make a deal with your interlocutor, particularly one where there’s a considerable history of grievance and animosity, you can’t expect to win a total capitulation.
Duh. Poor Bibi, like today’s Republicans doesn’t comprehend the notion of compromise.
David Knowles at Bloomberg Politics on the Twitter gag: White House Trolls Netanyahu on Iran with Bomb Graphic.
The White House has employed a graphic first used by Benjamin Netanyahu to push its case for a nuclear deal with Iran that the Israeli Prime Minister opposes. On Wednesday, the president’s office posted a tweet that borrowed the graphic representation of a bomb that Netanyahu had held up during a speech to the United Nation’s General Assembly in which he warned of Iran’s growing nuclear capability.
The fuse on the original image was intact, and there was no sign of the metaphorical scissors or accompanying text that the White House saw fit to add.
And how about this op-ed from the Jerusalem Post: How Netanyahu is single-handedly hurting the US-Israel relationship.
Benjamin Netanyahu is singlehandedly hurting a relationship that has resulted in over $100 billion in military aid to Israel since 1962. The Prime Minister is hurting a relationship with a country that constantly defends Israel at the UN; resulting in over 30 U.S. vetoes of resolutions critical to Israel. Because of Netanyahu, some are wondering if the U.S. should continually give $3.1 billion in annual aid and professors like Harvard’s Steven Strauss have written about ending this perpetual assistance. Sadly, the Prime Minister’s supporters in Israel and abroad don’t seem moved by the magnitude of what could be lost if Netanyahu’s feud with Obama “gets even worse.” [….]
even those whose job it was to protect Israel from the threats trumpeted by Netanyahu feel that the Prime Minister has overstepped the boundaries of rationality.
According to The Jerusalem Post recently, “Former Mossad chief slams Netanyahu for insistence that Iran recognize Israel’s right to exist.” Efraim Halevy also predicted a“dramatic” improvement in Israeli relations with the U.S. if Netanyahu were to be defeated in the latest elections. Another former Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, called Netanyahu’s speech to Congress “bull—t” and views the Prime Minister’s policies as dangerous to Israel’s future. A third former Mossad chief, Tamir Pardo, stated that a nuclear Iran did notpost an existential threat to Israel; a viewpoint directly at odds with the hysteria (fueled by Netanyahu’s political ideology) surrounding Obama’s nuclear deal.
When three former Mossad chiefs are forced to speak out, an Israeli Prime Minister should tone down his paranoid rhetoric, not increase the tempo of his political exploits. Say what you will about Bibi’s critics, but former Mossad chiefs aren’t “leftist” and they know quite a bit about Israeli security threats. Their sober assessment of Netanyahu’s P. T. Barnum inspired diplomacy (regarding Israel’s U.S. relationship) is just cause to reassess the Prime Minister’s behavior; not champion his constant criticism of Obama’s nuclear deal.
The Economist writes that “RARELY have relations between an American president and an Israeli prime minister sunk so low.” The New Yorker published an article titled A Bad Day In American-Israeli Relations. Senator Dianne Feinstein recently stated she wished that Netanyahu “would contain himself” and I echoed the California Senator’s sentiment in a recent Congress Blog piece. Tzipi Livni has warned that Netanyahu is leading Israel into “crisis and diplomatic isolation.” Like Livni, Yair Lapid has lamented over the state of relations between the White House and Israel, stating, “This damage will take a long time to mend.” Everyone from former Mossad chiefs, U.S. Senators, Israeli politicians, and journalist have expressed dismay about the decline in a relationship that is essential to Israel’s future.
From The Washington Post, here’s more interesting news from the White House: White House condemns therapy to ‘cure’ gay youth.
The statement was issued in response to a White House petition signed by more than 120,000 people after the suicide of 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teen from Ohio whose suicide note condemning the society’s treatment of transgender people went viral after her death. In the note, she indicated she had been subjected to such therapies.
“The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights,” Alcorn wrote in her note.
The White House statement, issued by President Obama’s senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, condemned “conversion” therapy, also known as “reparative” therapy, which she defined as any treatment aimed at changing a person’s sexual identity.
“The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm,” she wrote. “As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.”
Shortly before releasing the White House response to the petition on conversion therapy, according to a White House official, Jarrett spoke with organizers of the petition. “She listened to their personal stories about why this was important to them and thanked them for their efforts,” said the official, who asked for anonymity in order to describe a private conversation.
And from The Advocate: The White House’s Executive Office Now Has Gender-Neutral Bathroom.
An all-gender restroom is for the first time available in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, confirms a White House spokesman. Alternatively, guests are invited to use whichever bathroom fits with their gender identity.
“The White House allows staff and guests to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity,” said White House spokesman Jeff Tiller, “which is in keeping with the administration’s existing legal guidance on this issue and consistent with what is required by the executive order that took effect today for federal contractors.”
Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Obama, had mentioned the policy change in an op-ed today for The Advocate, saying the adminstration had “closely examined” its policies on “restroom access” to help “ensure that everyone who enters this building feels safe and fully respected.”
Gender neutral bathrooms, if single-stall, also often offer a safe space to differently abled users, parents with their children, and anyone else seeking privacy.
The push for gender-neutral restrooms in public buildings and workplaces has been one cause taken up by transgender rights activists — and one that’s found the most visible sucecss on university campuses — making Jarrett’s anouncement feel to many like a win for trans Americans.
“It is heartening to see that, even if legislators in some states are attacking the dignity and humanity of transgender and gender-nonconforming people, at least the White House is still moving in the direction of dignity and common sense,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told The Advocate.
Within the past several years, the Obama administration has been increasingly affirming of trans citizens, with Vice President Joe Biden referring in 2012 to transgender discrimination as the “civil rights issue of our time” and President Obama using the word “transgender” (in addition to “lesbian” and “bisexual”) in this year’s State of the Union Address for the first time ever for any president. Federal employees have had the right to use the bathroom that accords with their gender identiy since 2011.
Around the country, heads of Republican homophobes must be exploding. Read the whole article for more on LGBT-positive actions the Obama administration has taken.
Some not so good news: the Secret Service’s credibility continues to slide downhill rapidly.
The D.C. police’s sex-crimes unit and a government inspector general are investigating the female agent’s allegation that Xavier Morales, a manager in the security clearance division, made unwanted sexual advances and grabbed her on the night of March 31 after they returned to the office from a party at a downtown restaurant, according to two law enforcement officials with knowledge of the probe.
The woman told police and agency investigators that Morales, her boss, told her during the party at Capitol City Brewing Company that he was in love with her and would like to have sex with her, according to two people briefed on her statements. In the office later, she alleged, Morales tried to kiss her and grabbed her arms when she resisted, according to the two people briefed on her complaint. The woman alleged that the two scuffled until Morales relented.
Through an agency spokesman, Morales declined to comment, and he did not respond to requests for comment left on his personal phone.
Late last week, the Secret Service took the unusual step of placing Morales on indefinite administrative leave and adding his name to an internal “do not admit” list prohibiting entry to the office, a Secret Service official said. The Secret Service also took away his gun and badge after agency investigators launched a preliminary review of the complaint and conducted “subsequent corroborative interviews” Thursday afternoon, said agency spokesman Brian Leary.
More details at Heavy.com: Xavier Morales: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know.
Ugh. Maybe we need more female Secret Service agents to quell the “boys will be boys” atmosphere in the agency.
More trouble may be coming for NJ governor and possible GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie.
NJ.com reports: Indictments may come very soon in Bridgegate, report says.
Indictments may be coming very soon in Bridgegate, the investigation into improper lane closures at the George Washington Bridge in late 2013 that has also led to questions about bribery and conflicts of interest possibly involving Gov. Christie and the Port Authority, sources told The New York Times.
New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman launched the probe a few months after three lanes were closed to the bridge in September 2013, causing gridlock in Fort Lee. The closures were initially attributed to a traffic study by a Port Authority executive, Bill Baroni, but emails unearthed during an investigation revealed that the lanes were shut down on the orders of a Christie aide, Bridget Anne Kelly, to a Port Authority official appointed by Christie, David Wildstein. Some believe the lane closures were retribution for the failure of Fort Lee’s mayor, Mark Sokolich, to endorse Christie’s bid for re-election at a time when the governor and likely Republican presidential candidate was trying to build bipartisan support.
The Times previously reported that Fishman’s office may bring indictments to the operators of the bridge under a little-used statute that makes it a crime to use the bridge for something other than its intended purpose. Fishman’s office declined to say what course the investigation is taking.
This could be very interesting.
I have more news links, but I’m running out of space and time. I’ll add them to the comments.
What stories are you following? I’d love to read your comments on this post and click on your links to your recommended reads for today.
The Midwest and Northeast were hit with another huge snowstorm yesterday, and there could be another one on the way. I may never get my car out of the driveway again. The strange thing is that it is also incredibly cold, in the single numbers again this morning. I’m going to wait until it gets into the 20s before I start trying to get my front door open and start digging out. I’m also struggling with a cold, so I’m going to have to shovel slowly.
The measles outbreak and the vaccine “controversy” are the stories topping the news today, after several politicians weighed in yesterday. I’m going to focus on those stories again today.
First up, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. From Jeffrey Kluger at Time Magazine: Chris Christie’s Terrible Vaccine Advice.
Last I checked, Chris Christie isn’t a licensed commercial pilot, which is one reason he probably doesn’t phone the cockpit with instructions when his flight encounters turbulence. Chances are, he doesn’t tell his plow operators how to clear a road when New Jersey gets hit by a snow storm either. But when it comes to medicine, the current Governor, former prosecutor and never doctor evidently feels pretty free to dispense advice. And doncha’ know it? That advice turns out to be terrible.
Asked about the ongoing 14-state outbreak of measles that has been linked to falling vaccination rates, Christie—the man who prides himself on chin-jutting certainty—went all squishy. “Mary Pat and I have had our children vaccinated and we think that it’s an important part of being sure we protect their health and the public health,” he said. “I also understand that parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well, so that’s the balance that the government has to decide.”
The Governor then went further, taking off his family doctor hat and putting on his epidemiologist hat. “Not every vaccine is created equal,” he said, “and not every disease type is as great a public health threat as others.”
He was not specific about which diseases fall below his public-health threat threshold, but New Jerseyans are free to guess. Would it be polio, which paralyzed or killed tens of thousands of American children every year before a vaccine against it was developed? Would it be whooping cough, which results in hospitalization for 50% of all infants who contract it and death for 2%, and is now making a comeback in California due to the state’s low vaccination rates? Are we going to have mandatory HSV 2 testing? Or would it be measles, which still kills nearly 150,000 people—mostly children—worldwide every year?
Christie later tried to walk back his remarks about vaccines, but he has a history of pandering to anti-vaxxers. During his 2009 campaign for governor, Christie wrote the following in a letter to supporters:
“Many of these families have expressed their concern over New Jersey’s highest-in-the nation vaccine mandates. I stand with them now, and will stand with them as their governor in their fight for greater parental involvement in vaccination decisions that affect their children.”
Next up, Senator Rand Paul. At the Washington Post, Jose A. DelReal writes: Rand Paul, M.D., says most vaccines should be ‘voluntary.’
“I’m not anti-vaccine at all but…most of them ought to be voluntary,” Paul told Laura Ingraham on her radio show Monday. “I think there are times in which there can be some rules but for the most part it ought to be voluntary.”
Paul pointed to a 2007 effort by then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who is also considering a 2016 run for the Republican nomination, that would have required young girls to receive a vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV). That move was sharply attacked by social conservatives who said requiring vaccination against HPV, which is a sexually transmitted disease, would encourage promiscuity. The Texas legislature eventually overturned the mandate. Perry later called the order “a mistake.”
“While I think it’s a good idea to take the vaccine, I think that’s a personal decision for individual’s to take,” Paul said, attempting to strike a balance between responsible medical protocols and personal choice.
Like Christie, Paul made sure his own children were vaccinated. But Paul really went off the deep end later on Monday.
Speaking on CNBC’s “Closing Bell” later Monday, Paul said that there should be increased public awareness that vaccines are good for children, but reiterated that vaccines should be voluntary, as he said they were in the past.
“I’ve heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines,” Paul said. “I’m not arguing vaccines are a bad idea. I think they’re a good thing. But I think parents should have some input. The state doesn’t own your children, parents own the children and it is an issue of freedom and public health.”
Parents “own their children?” WTF?! And what are these “profound mental disorders?” Who are these children and what vaccines did they get? I can’t believe the media lets this man get away with throwing out these evidence-free claims.
At The Week, Ryan Cooper explains the immorality of Christie’s and Paul’s positions.
…this entire argumentative frame misses the greatest benefit of vaccines: herd immunity. A population vaccinated to a high enough level becomes largely impervious to the disease by sheer statistics, and that protects the vulnerable ones who can’t be vaccinated, or those whose vaccines didn’t take root. Vaccines are not just about preventing personal illness, but stopping them from spreading. Done systematically enough, it can eradicate diseases completely. The elimination of smallpox, which killed something like 300 million people in the 20th century alone, ranks high on the list of human accomplishments.
That is why this is as much a moral issue as a scientific one. The appalling selfishness inherent in the idea of “vaccine choice” was starkly illustrated in a recent CNN story. After the measles outbreak at Disneyland, CNN talked to a family whose 10-month old baby had contracted the disease. They’re terrified he’ll pass it on to their 3-year-old daughter, who has leukemia and can’t get the vaccine — but might be killed by the disease. Here’s the response of a refusenik parent:
CNN asked Wolfson if he could live with himself if his unvaccinated child got another child gravely ill. “I could live with myself easily,” he said. “It’s an unfortunate thing that people die, but people die. I’m not going to put my child at risk to save another child.” [CNN]
In other words, it’s okay to cause the death of another child if your kid wants to go to Disneyland. And that’s leaving aside the risk to Wolfson’s own kids, who are put at risk by his atrocious parenting.
Every person depends on society to function. From public roads, to sanitation, to clean water, to the very economic system itself — your day is made possible by millions of other people doing their small part to maintain our civilization. When it comes to violently contagious diseases, it is not possible to speak meaningfully of choice divorced from the needs of those people.
Here’s a little more on Dr. Wolfson from Terrence McCoy at The Washington Post: Amid measles outbreak, anti-vaccine doctor revels in his notoriety.
“Don’t be mad at me for speaking the truth about vaccines,” Wolfson said in a telephone interview with The Washington Post. “Be mad at yourself, because you’re, frankly, a bad mother. You didn’t ask once about those vaccines. You didn’t ask about the chemicals in them. You didn’t ask about all the harmful things in those vaccines…. People need to learn the facts.”
But whose facts is he talking about? Every respectable expert totally disagrees with him and his anti-vaccine movement and, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, urges parents to get their kids vaccinated. And Wolfson himself, who has quickly become something of a spokesman for the anti-vaxxers, is in no way an expert on vaccines or infectious diseases. He’s cardiologist who now does holistic medicine.
What the experts say: “The measles vaccine is one of the most highly effective vaccines that we have against any virus or any microbe, and it is safe, number one,” Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS. “Number two, measles is one of the top two most contagious infectious viruses that we know of…. So you have a highly infectious virus and you have an extraordinarily effective vaccine.”
Despite the measles outbreak that has spread to at least 14 states, Wolfson’s advice to parents is:
Wolfson actively urges people to avoid vaccines. “We should be getting measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, these are the rights of our children to get it,” he told the Arizona Republic. “We do not need to inject chemicals into ourselves and into our children in order to boost our immune system.” He added: “I’m a big fan of what’s called paleo-nutrition, so our children eat foods that our ancestors have been eating for millions of years…. That’s the best way to protect.”
Should kids have polio too?
McCoy also wrote recently about Andrew Wakefield the British doctor who started the vaccine panic:
If the [measles] outbreak proves anything, it’s Wakefield’s enduring legacy. Even years after he lost his medical license, years after he was shown to have committed numerous ethical violations, and years after the retraction of a medical paper that alleged a vaccine-autism link, his message resonates. Facebook is populated by pages like “Dr. Wakefield’s Work Must Continue.” There’s the Web site called “We Support Andrew Wakefield,” which peddles the Wakefieldian doctrine. And thousands sign petitions pledging support….
Wakefield’s defenders frequently harbor a deep distrust of government. “They often suggest that vaccination is motivated by profit and is an infringement of personal liberty and choice; vaccines violate the laws and nature and are temporary or ineffective; and good hygiene is sufficient to protect against disease,” said a 2008 editorial in Nature.
And in Wakefield, who still preaches the gospel of anti-vaccination from Texas, such individuals find a true martyr — a man who has sacrificed everything to take on powerful pharmaceutical companies and the biggest villain of all: the government. Those who came to hear him speak in 2011 at Graceview Baptish Church in Tomball, Texas, left messages of encouragement, according to the New York Times: “We stand by you!” and “Thank you for the many sacrifices you have made for the cause!” Another person, suddenly aware that a reporter was in the midst, warned the writer she better be careful. “Be nice to him,” the woman said. “Or we will hurt you.
“To our community, Andrew Wakefield is Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ rolled up into one,” J.B. Handley, co-founder of a group that disputes vaccine safety, told the Times. “He is a symbol of how all of us feel.”
Read much more about Wakefield and his discredited research at the WaPo link.
Meanwhile measles continues to spread from coast to coast. Here’s a map of reported cases at the NYT.
What else is happening? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!
I thought I’d illustrate today’s post with photos of cute puppies to offset the generally horrible news. The photo above comes from yesterday’s Boston Globe, Puppy in Boston Police Department Bulletproof Vest Melts Internet.
The photo, which was posted to Reddit, is from Massachusetts Vest-A-Dog, a non-profit that helps provide bulletproof vests, essential equipment, training, and purchase of dogs for police and law enforcement K-9 programs throughout the state.
“As K-9s are trained to give up their lives to protect their partners and all of us, we believe it is every bit as important to protect them,” according to www.mavestadog.org which is why they can run freely without pain
The story says the puppy’s name is Tuco, after a character in Breaking Bad.
Did you see today’s Google doodle? It honors what would have been Jonas Salk’s 100th birthday.
In 1954, I was 6 years old and I was among the first wave of kids who got the experimental polio vaccine at my school. We were living in Lawrence, Kansas then, and I attended Cordley Elementary School. I’m not sure if this was when I was in the first or second grade (I started kindergarten at age 4). Another girl in my class had already gotten polio and one of her legs was paralyzed. I don’t know if I was in the experimental or control group, but I do recall getting another shot the following year. Children from 44 states participated in the tests.
A look back at Salk’s work highlights the vast differences between American culture in the mid-1950s and today. Salk never patented the vaccine, because he wanted it to be distributed to as many children as possible; so he never made a cent from his discovery. In some ways the 1950s were the bad old days, but most Americans still believed in pulling together for the public good–maybe it was a hangover from WWII.
From The Washington Post, JONAS SALK: Google says ‘thanks’ to the heroic polio-vaccine developer with birthday Doodle, by Michael Cavna.
As so many tens of thousands of children suffered from polio into midcentury, his vaccine began as the stuff of dreams; by the mid-’50s, it was the substance of a profoundly life-altering reality.
Dr. Salk had begun his journey a coast away; he got his medical degree in 1939, at the New York University School of Medicine, and was working at the city’s Mount Sinai Hospital before a research fellowship at the University of Michigan — with his mentor — beckoned. In 1947, he moved to head up the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s Virus Research Laboratory, where he did the real groundbreaking work in his march toward a vaccine for paralytic poliomyelitis, or polio.
The goal, of course, was to trigger the body’s own defenses — so it would build immunity against the disease. Salk believed that antibodies could be produced by injecting not a live virus, but rather a deactivated (non-infectious) one.
At this point, enough necessary tumblers clicked into place. For one, the team of Harvard scientist John Enders solved how to grow the pure polio virus in the test tube — a crucial step that enabled Salk’s effective experimentation with a “killed virus.” And then there were the needed funds — Salk got backing from the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation).
In 1954, at least 1-million children — the Polio Pioneers — were tested across the nation (this followed testing that ranged from monkeys to Salk’s own family). The vaccine was announced as safe and largely effective on April 12, 1955.
“In the two years before [the] vaccine was widely available, the average number of polio cases in the U.S. was more than 45,000,” according to the Salk Institute. “By 1962, that number had dropped to 910.”
Now we have panic over Ebola, and instead of focusing on developing a vaccine we have politicians cutting funds for medical research and ginning up public panic for their own selfish purposes, academics and corporations more interested in profits than saving lives, and ignorant people refusing to vaccinate their children.
From The Atlantic, The Anti-Vaccine Movement Is Forgetting the Polio Epidemic, by Jennie Rothenberg Gritz.
It started out as a head cold. Then, the day before Halloween, 6-year-old Frankie Flood began gasping for breath. His parents rushed him to City Hospital in Syracuse, New York, where a spinal tap confirmed the diagnosis every parent feared most in 1953: poliomyelitis. He died on his way to the operating room. “Frankie could not swallow—he was literally drowning in his own secretions,”wrote his twin sister, Janice, decades later. “Dad cradled his only son as best he could while hampered by the fact that the only part of Frankie’s body that remained outside the iron lung was his head and neck.”
At a time when a single case of Ebola or enterovirus can start a national panic, it’s hard to remember the sheer scale of the polio epidemic. In the peak year of 1952, there were nearly 60,000 cases throughout America; 3,000 were fatal, and 21,000 left their victims paralyzed. In Frankie Flood’s first-grade classroom in Syracuse, New York, eight children out of 24 were hospitalized for polio over the course of a few days. Three of them died, and others, including Janice, spent years learning to walk again.
Then, in 1955, American children began lining up for Jonas Salk’s new polio vaccine. By the early 1960s, the recurring epidemics were 97 percent gone.
Salk, who died in 1995, would have turned 100 on October 28. He is still remembered as a saintly figure—not only because he banished a terrifying childhood illness, but because he came from humble beginnings yet gave up the chance to become wealthy. (According to Forbes, Salk could have made as much as $7 billion from the vaccine.) When Edward R. Murrow asked him who owned the patent to the vaccine, Salk famously replied, “Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”
Can you imagine that happening today? Read much more about Salk at the Atlantic link.
Today it’s all about corporations making money from people’s misery. From LA CityWatch, How Sick is This Generation’s Pills for Profit Philosophy? by Bob Gelfand.
Here are two seemingly unrelated stories that nevertheless intersect. The first involves a scientific lecture I heard the other day. Without going into details, the story involves the discovery of a naturally occurring small protein that treats some of the symptoms of diabetes when injected into rodents, and also slows the growth of cancer cells grown in culture. It is a marvelous discovery and is supported by numerous control experiments that are very convincing.
The scientist, in a later conversation, explained that the patent on this discovery had already been submitted, even though the scientific papers had not all been written and submitted to journals.
In another lecture a few weeks earlier, but at the same institution, we heard from a venture capitalist. He explained that the pharmaceutical companies are only interested in developments that promise to show a billion dollars in sales.
In yet a third talk by an administrator, the resident scientists and physicians were encouraged to work with the institution’s patent office as early as possible on any patentable application.
The subject of this discussion is the monetization of science and its application to pharmaceutical research. It was not always so. In some ways this is a bad thing, and in other ways it is not.
The great counterargument to the direct monetization of scientific discovery is the story of the polio vaccine. Jonas Salk and his financial supporters made no attempt to patent the Salk vaccine. There are competing stories as to the motives and law that led to this decision. One argument is that the research had been paid for by tens of millions of donations through organizations such as the March of Dimes. Another argument is that the lawyers did not believe that a patent application would be upheld. Salk famously stated that the vaccine presumably belonged to the people, perhaps implying that the mass of Americans through their donations had already earned the right to the vaccine.
Here’s latest on the Ebola panic front. Kaci Hickox escaped her imprisonment by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie only to end up under the thumb of another stupid Republican governor Maine’s Paul LePage. Fox News reports, New fight over Ebola quarantine looms as nurse returns to Maine.
Kaci Hickox left a Newark hospital on Monday and was expected to arrive in the northern Maine town of Fort Kent early Tuesday. Maine health officials have already announced that Hickox is expected to comply with a 21-day voluntary in-home quarantine put in place by the state’s governor, Paul LePage.
However, one of Hickox’s lawyers, Steve Hyman, said he expected her to remain in seclusion for only the “next day or so” while he works with Maine health officials. He said he believes the state should follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that require only monitoring, not quarantine, for health care workers who show no symptoms after treating Ebola patients.
“She’s a very good person who did very good work and deserves to be honored, not detained, for it,” he said.
LePage defended the quarantine in a news release Monday, saying that state officials must be “vigilant in our duty to protect the health and safety of all Mainers.” Adrienne Bennett, a spokeswoman for the governor, told the Portland Press Herald that authorities would take “appropriate action” if Hickox does not comply with the quarantine, though she did not specify what that action might be.
The Portland Press Herald isn’t sure whether Hickox’s Maine quarantine is voluntary or required.
Bennett, when asked whether a 21-day quarantine was mandatory or voluntary for Hickox, at first told the Portland Press Herald early Monday afternoon that it was “voluntary.” Later in the afternoon, she wrote in an email that Hickox was expected to follow the quarantine.
“We fully expect individuals to voluntarily comply with an in-home quarantine. If an individual is not compliant, the state is prepared to take appropriate action,” Bennett wrote. She was asked repeatedly by the Press Herald to clarify what “appropriate action” was, but did not respond.
Whether Hickox, who worked in Sierra Leone for Doctors Without Borders, would abide by a quarantine is unknown. Her New York attorney, Steven Hyman, emphasized her civil rights.
“There is no basis (for her) to be kept in quarantine or isolation,” Hyman said. “We are prepared to establish that in a court of law.” [….]
The Maine Attorney General’s Office declined to comment. Dr. Dora Anne Mills, a former director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said she does not believe the state could impose a quarantine without a court order.
Meanwhile Chris Christie is still making a fool of himself in public. Politico reports that he’s now claiming he knows better than the CDC.
The Republican governor has faced criticism from the White House and some health experts over his and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s policy for a 21-day mandatory quarantine for aid workers returning from Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa.
Appearing on NBC’s “Today” on Tuesday, Christie said again that mounting evidence shows that the CDC will eventually come around to his policy.
“[T]he CDC has been behind on this. Folks got infected in Texas because they were behind,” Christie said, in reference to the multiple Ebola cases in Dallas. “And we’re not going to have folks being infected in New Jersey and in other states in this country. Governors ultimately have the responsibility to protect the public health and the public safety of the people within their borders when folks come in with this problem.”
He cited the five other states — Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New York and Georgia — where quarantines are in place, as well as reports that the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the military impose a 21-day quarantine for troops returning from West Africa. A Defense Department spokesman declined to confirm those reports on Monday.
The governor criticized both the CDC and Dr. Anthony Fauci in particular, the director of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who has criticized the quarantine policy. Appearing on the Sunday talk shows, Fauci called mandatory quarantine policies not “based on scientific data.”
“I think Dr. Fauci is responding … in a really hyperbolic way because they’ve been wrong before,” Christie said when asked about Fauci’s criticism.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo looks like a fool too. From The Buffalo News:
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Ebola quarantine policy met with withering criticism Monday from AIDS experts who said it could be counterproductive as well as the governor’s Republican campaign opponent, who said it didn’t go far enough.
Three days after Cuomo imposed a 21-day quarantine on health workers returning from Ebola-stricken nations and a day after the governor relaxed that policy to allow people to serve their quarantines at home, more than 100 AIDS activists, researchers and doctors wrote a letter to the governor condemning his actions on Ebola.
The governor’s quarantine policy “is not supported by scientific evidence” and “may have consequences that are the antithesis of effective public health policy,” said the letter, which was signed by AIDS activists such as the head of ACT UP NY as well as more than 35 physicians, including medical school professors at Columbia, Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Yale.
Most notably, quarantines “will potentially have a profound effect on efforts to recruit U.S.-based health care professionals who are desperately needed to help combat the burgeoning epidemic in West Africa while increasing stigma toward persons who come from those countries,” the letter said.
Meanwhile, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, the GOP candidate for governor, criticized the governor for shifting stances on the quarantine.
“What we’re getting is a governor who’s winging it, changing the policy all the time,” Astorino said while campaigning in New Rochelle. “It’s very confusing, and it could lead to health risks for many people.”
Finally, Dallas nurse Amber Vincent has recovered and will be leaving the hospital soon.
I have a few more articles that I’ll post in the comment thread. What stories are you following today? See you down below, and have a terrific Tuesday!
One of the most appalling things I’ve been witnessing the last few years is how costly it is for the taxpayers to fund Republican witch hunts, theocratic laws pandering to christianists that wind up being declared unconstitutional over and over again, lawsuits defending crooked Republican governors or prosecuting crooked Republican politicians, and then the tax breaks they immediately give to their donors and cronies that don’t do anything except cost everyone money and jobs. So, welcome to socializing Republican graft, crime, and cronyism in the USA!
New Jersey taxpayers are on the hook for more than $6.5 million to the law firm Gov. Chris Christie hired to represent his office in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal.
The state attorney general’s office released recent bills from Gibson Dunn & Crutcher on Friday.
The law firm represents Christie’s office in the state and federal investigations into last September’s lane closures. It published a 350-page report in March that found Christie and his top staffers were not involved in the lane closures ordered by a former Christie aide, apparently as political retribution.
The report has been criticized by some as a whitewash.
Gibson Dunn earlier this year agreed to reduce its rate from the original agreement of $650 per hour to $350.
Wisconsin is another state where the Governor has instituted every possible failed Republican economic policy offered up by the Koch Brothers. Get a load of these huge tax cuts that went to a business for being a job creator while they laid off 1900 people. Ashley Furniture got a $6 million dollar tax cut for that lovely set of job creation.
The board overseeing the state’s flagship job-creation agency has quietly approved a $6 million tax credit for Ashley Furniture Industries with a condition allowing the company to eliminate half of its state workforce.
As approved by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. board, the award would allow the Arcadia-based global furniture maker to move ahead with a $35 million expansion of its headquarters and keep 1,924 jobs in the state.
But it wouldn’t require Ashley to create any new jobs, instead granting the company license to lay off half of its current 3,848 Wisconsin-based workers in exchange for an enterprise zone tax credit, one of the most valuable and coveted state subsidies.
The board’s decision has not been made public because a contract with the company has not been finalized. But in a statement Friday, in response to questions from the State Journal, Ashley Furniture confirmed it is seeking state subsidies that include terms allowing for job reductions.
The company said it injected $394 million into the Wisconsin economy in 2013, including supporting 610 Wisconsin businesses.
“It is more expensive for Ashley to manufacture in Arcadia than it is to do so closer to its major markets,” the company said. “The loss of Ashley’s contributions to the regional economy of west-central Wisconsin would be catastrophic.”
WEDC spokesman Mark Maley said the agency doesn’t comment on pending or possible WEDC awards.
“Obviously, WEDC is very interested in working with one of the largest employers in northwestern Wisconsin to find ways to help ensure that the company can continue to flourish here in our state,” Maley said. “WEDC is committed to doing whatever it can to work with the company and preserve those jobs.”
Maley declined comment on whether WEDC had provided any other awards conditioned on retaining a percentage of jobs, as opposed to creating jobs.
When Bobby Jindal isn’t busy trying to prove his pet laws aren’t really unconstitutional or campaigning for President, his appointees are busy ripping off the state by taking advantage of retiree early payoffs. The deal is, however, they retire from one job, take a huge cash bonus, then get another job with another agency. So far, we’ve had two of his top folks double dip and slice a bonus from us. So, that’s one way to get away from Jindal’s hiring freeze and salary freeze and spending freeze on everything except his campaign travel. How can this be legal let alone moral?
On April 23 of that year, DPS Deputy Undersecretary Jill Boudreaux sent an email to all personnel informing them that the Department of Civil Service and the Louisiana State Police Commission had approved the retirement incentive as a “Layoff Avoidance Plan.”
In legal-speak, under the incentive eligible applicants would receive a payment of 50 percent of the savings realized by DPS for one year from the effective date of the employee’s retirement.
In simpler language, the incentive was simply 50 percent of the employee’s annual salary. If an employee making $50,000 per year, for example, was approved for the incentive, he or she would walk away with $25,000 in up-front payments, plus his or her regular retirement and the agency would save $25,000 over the course of the next year. The higher the salary, the higher the potential savings.
The program, offered to the first 20 DPS employees to sign up via an internet link on a specific date, was designed to save the state many times that amount over the long haul. If, for example, 20 employees, each making $50,000 a year, took advantage of the incentive, DPS theoretically would realize a savings of $500,000 the first year and $1 million per year thereafter.
That formula, repeated in multiple agencies, could produce a savings of several million—not that much in terms of a $25 billion state budget, but a savings nonetheless.
The policy did come with one major caveat from the Department of Civil Service, however. Agencies were cautioned not to circumvent the program through the state’s obscure retire-rehire policy whereby several administrative personnel, the most notable being former Secretary of Higher Education Sally Clausen, have “retired,” only to be “rehired” a day or so later in order to reap a monetary windfall.
“We strongly recommend that agencies exercise caution in re-hiring an employee who has received a retirement incentive payment within the same budget unit until it can be clearly demonstrated that the projected savings have been realized,” the Civil Service communique said.
And, to again quote our favorite redneck playwright from Denham on Amite, Billy Wayne Shakespeare from his greatest play, Hamlet Bob, “Aye, that’s the rub.” (often misquoted as “Therein lies the rub.”)
Basically, to realize a savings under the early retirement incentive payout, an agency would have had to wait at least a year before rehiring an employee who had retired under the program.
Boudreaux, by what many in DPS feel was more than mere happenstance, managed to be the first person to sign up on the date the internet link opened up for applications.
In Boudreaux’s case, her incentive payment was based on an annual salary of about $92,000 so her incentive payment was around $46,000. In addition, she was also entitled to payment of up to 300 hours of unused annual leave which came to another $13,000 or so for a total of about $59,000 in walk-around money.
Her retirement date was April 28 but the day before, on April 27, she double encumbered herself into the classified (Civil Service) Deputy Undersecretary position because another employee was promoted into her old position on April 26.
A double incumbency is when an employee is appointed to a position that is already occupied by an incumbent, in this case, Boudreaux’s successor. Double incumbencies are mostly used for smooth succession planning initiatives when the incumbent of a position (Boudreaux, in this case) is planning to retire, according to the Louisiana Department of Civil Service.
Here’s an example of how much the state is paying for one bad law after another. Jindal’s voucher experience is not only sending students to segregated and underperforming schools with no accountability, but attorneys are racking up fees trying to defend it. Imagine spending this kind of money to have a court throw out these failed laws?
The price tag for defending Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education policies against legal challenges is growing.
The Department of Education is boosting its contracts for outside lawyers by $750,000, to represent the department in lawsuits against Jindal’s voucher program that uses tax dollars to send children to private schools.
A majority of members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education agreed Tuesday to the legal spending.
The education department’s contract with Washington-based law firm Cooper & Kirk is growing from $150,000 to $650,000. The agency’s contract with the Louisiana-based Faircloth Law Group – the law firm of Jindal’s former executive counsel, Jimmy Faircloth – is rising from $20,000 to as much as $270,000.
“I regret that there is this litigation,” said Superintendent of Education John White. But he added, “We have to defend our priorities in court.”
Lee Barrios, a retired St. Tammany Parish teacher and critic of the voucher program, told BESE that the legal expense was a waste of taxpayer money.
Lawsuits were filed by two teacher unions and the state’s school board association objecting to the voucher program’s financing and by the U.S. Department of Justice challenging the program’s compliance with federal desegregation orders.
The unions and school boards association won their lawsuit, with the Louisiana Supreme Court declaring the use of the public school formula to pay for vouchers unconstitutional. Jindal and lawmakers continue to fund vouchers, now outside of the public school formula.
The Justice Department lawsuit still is pending in federal court in New Orleans.
It’s unclear how much the education department has spent defending itself and the Jindal administration against lawsuits since the governor pushed through the Legislature a series of sweeping education law changes in 2012. The department didn’t immediately respond Tuesday to a request for a full tally of its legal costs.
Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office also has a separate contract with Faircloth’s law firm worth up to $410,000 to represent the state in lawsuits seeking to throw out Jindal’s education policies, including the governor’s revamp of teacher tenure law.
Here’s a 2012 Jezebel article outlining how much it’s costing red states to defend those horrible anti-abortion and birth control trap laws. This is fiscal conservatism? Perhaps the only thing the do nothing US House is doing at all is throwing millions of federal dollars into the witch hunt that is Benghazi.
The House could spend up to $3.3 million in taxpayer dollars over seven months on a special committee to investigate the Sep. 2011 attacks against the American diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, more than lawmakers have appropriated for committees dedicated to investigating ethics and helping American veterans over an entire 12 month period.
A ThinkProgress analysis of House spending on its 20 permanent committees from Jan. 3, 2013 to Jan. 3, 2014 finds that since Benghazi committee’s full-year equivalent budget would be an estimated $5,657,142, its investigation will cost more than the budgets of nine other House committees:
Committee on Rules: $2,857,408
Committee on Small Business: $2,992,688
Committee on Ethics: $3,020,459
Committee on Veterans’ Affairs: $3,048,546
Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence: $4,389,758
Committee on House Administration: $4,600,560
Committee on Agriculture: $5,036,187
Committee on the Budget: $5,138,824
Committee on Science, Space, and Technology: $5,282,755
House Benghazi Panel: $5,657,142
Committee on Natural Resources: $6,555,829
Committee on Armed Services: $6,563,535
Committee on Education and the Workforce: $6,952,763
Committee on Homeland Security: $7,033,588
Committee on the Judiciary: $7,077,016
Committee on Foreign Affairs: $7,388,112
Committee on Financial Services: $7,394,482
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure: $8,182,307
Committee on Ways and Means: $8,423,411
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform: $8,940,437
Committee on Energy and Commerce: $9,520,516
The seven House Republicans will receive a bigger share of the committee budget, $2.2 million, more than the five Democrats, who will see “just over $1 million.” Funding for the committee “comes from already-appropriated legislative branch funds” a GOP spokesperson told USA Today, and does not represent a new expenditure. The spokesperson also claimed that the $3.3 million figure represents “the high end estimate,” though the investigation is likely to bleed into 2015.
Both Louisiana and Sam Brownback’s Kansas are experiencing lower than average growth in their economies and their employment due to the bad policies they enacted to keep donors like Club for Growth and the Kochs happy. Brownback’s economic policies have been a complete disaster for the state.
On Friday, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics released the latest employment figures for all 50 states — the same ones the Brownback administration uses repeatedly for its “we’re getting better” press releases.
Overall, the number of private sector jobs added since 2011 in Kansas crept up to 55,100. However, that statistic loses a lot of shine once you factor in the 8,300 jobs lost in local and state government ranks since 2011. Those are people who may no longer have steady income to pay the rent, buy food, pay taxes and contribute to the Kansas economy.
Fact is, Kansas has actually gained only 46,800 total jobs since early 2011.
So how does that more realistic figure — which the Brownback team does not promote — compare to the rest of the country?
Using the federal agency’s data, The Star compiled percentages of seasonally adjusted, nonfarm total job growth for Kansas, its four bordering states, a few other Midwestern states, Texas (no income tax), New York (extremely high income tax), and the U.S. average from January 2011 through June 30, 2014.
Texas, 10.5 percent
Colorado, 9.2 percent
Oklahoma, 6.5 percent
U.S. average, 6.1 percent
Iowa, 5.0 percent
New York, 4.8 percent
Missouri, 4.1 percent
Nebraska, 3.8 percent
Kansas, 3.5 percent
Arkansas, 1.9 percent
Kansas has had one of the nation’s poorest rates of employment growth during Brownback’s time in office, including since the first tax cuts took effect in 2013.
It just amazes me that Republicans can cobble together enough voters anywhere who don’t see these porkfests and poor economies as a sham. The only voters they are holding together are the number of whacko churches and businesses that are benefiting from being the sole enterprises to get government dollars these days. The other seems to be very frightened white people who believe every bad thing they’ve ever been sold on any kind of minority. It seems if you want the Republicans to throw money at you, you should start and equip a war, spout some crazy religious belief and sell votes for subsidies, or be a lawyer that has to sort it all out.
What a shit load of pricey #FAIL.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
On Thursday we lost another 1960s music great; Gerry Goffin, who wrote lyrics to Carole King’s music died at 75. The talented couple wrote the songs that accompanied my teenage years–so much great music associated with so many memories.
From the Guardian Gerry Goffin: the poet laureate of teenage pop:
Gerry Goffin, a trainee chemist who became the poet laureate of teenage pop, specialised in coming up with a great opening line to grab the audience’s attention. Plenty of people will remember the first time they heard “Tonight you’re mine completely/ You give your love so sweetly,” from Will You Love Me Tomorrow, or “Looking out on the morning rain/ I used to feel so uninspired,” from (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman. But he didn’t stop there.
Buried a little deeper in those wonderful songs are the lines that really touched his young listeners’ hearts. The words to the bridge, or middle section, of that first Shirelles hit from 1960 were almost like poetry: “Tonight with words unspoken/ You say that I’m the only one/ But will my heart be broken/ When the night meets the morning sun?” And when Goffin presented Aretha Franklin with the second verse of A Natural Woman – “When my soul was in the Lost and Found, you came along to claim it” – he gave countless ordinary lovers a way to express their deepest feelings.
Misleadingly, they are often called “Carole King songs”. She wrote the tunes, and later on she would sing them when, after Goffin and King divorced, she embarked on a hugely successful solo career. But whenever King sang her own, gentler versions of the Chiffons’ One Fine Day or the Drifters’ Up on the Roof, she was still singing Goffin’s words. They were written by the man she had met when she was 17 and he was 20, and with whom she had two daughters while they lived in an apartment in the Queens housing project LeFrak City – and with whom she travelled to work in Manhattan every day at their cubicle in the offices of Aldon Music at 1650 Broadway, where they pumped out hit after hit after hit.
From The New York Times: Gerry Goffin, Hitmaking Songwriter With Carole King, Dies at 75:
Mr. Goffin and Ms. King were students at Queens College when they met in 1958. Over the next decade they fell in love, married, had two children, divorced and moved their writing sessions into and out of 1650 Broadway, across the street from the Brill Building. (The Brill Building pop music of the late 1950s and ‘60s was mostly written in both buildings.)
Together they composed a catalog of pop standards so diverse and irresistible that they were recorded by performers as unalike as the Drifters, Steve Lawrence, Aretha Franklin and the Beatles. They were inducted together into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. In 2004 the Recording Academy presented them jointly with a Trustees Award for lifetime achievement.
The couple’s writing duties were clearly delineated: Ms. King composed the music, Mr. Goffin wrote the lyrics — among them some of the most memorable words in the history of popular music.
“His words expressed what so many people were feeling but didn’t know how to say,” Ms. King said in a statement on Thursday.
A bit more about Goffin:
Gerald Goffin was born on Feb. 11, 1939, in Brooklyn and grew up in Jamaica, Queens. He began writing lyrics as a boy — “like some kind of game in my head,” he recalled once — but found he was unable to come up with satisfying music to accompany them.
He graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School before enrolling at Queens College. He was three years older than Ms. King, studying chemistry, when they met in the spring of her freshman year.
He asked her to help him write a musical. She was interested in rock ‘n’ roll. They hit it off anyway, and she was pregnant with their first child when they married on Aug. 30, 1959.
After the couple divorced in 1968, King went on to become a singer and songwriter in her own right, although the two continued to collaborate and maintained a friendship. Goffin married again and and the couple had five children.
In addition to his wife, [Michelle] Mr. Goffin’s survivors include four daughters, Louise Goffin, Sherry Goffin Kondor, Dawn Reavis and Lauren Goffin; a son, Jesse Goffin; six grandchildren; and a brother, Al.
Goffin and King’s first hit was “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” which they wrote in 1960 for the girl group the Shirelles. After the song hit #1 on the charts in 1961, Goffin quit his job as a chemist and began working full-time as a lyricist.
Goffin’s lyrics deftly touch on the doubt that lurks behind all new romances. As sung by Shirelles’ leader Shirley Owens in unflappable manner, the song doesn’t skimp on the wonder inherent in any fresh coupling. But it’s also unflinchingly realistic about the possibility that the fairy dust will dissolve at dawn.
“Can I believe the magic in your sighs?” Owens pointedly asks her paramour. In the bridge, Goffin’s words flow like champagne even as they fear the possible hangover: “Tonight with words unspoken/You’ll say that I’m the only one/But will my heart be broken/When the night meets the morning sun.” King’s melody plays a big role in the overall effect, arching high in the verses and middle eight while accompanied by strings that elegantly trip across the proceedings like moonlight dancers, before coming back down to Earth for the interrogative refrain.
In other news . . .
At Salon, Simon Malloy writes about the multiplying Republican scandals: GOP’s sudden scandal-mania: Why criminal probes and infighting are taking over the party.
It’s fashionable right now to talk about the premature end of Barack Obama’s presidency. He’s fast approaching the second half of his second term, which is historically the beginning of lame-duck season. His poll numbers aren’t what anyone would call ideal, and Republicans (in concert with some excitable members of the press) are rushing to proclaim the Obama presidency dead. “I saw a commentator today say that these polls, what they reflect, is that the Obama presidency is over,” Sen. Marco Rubio said, referring to NBC’s Chuck Todd. “And I agree with that. I think it is, in general.” Speaker John Boehner told reporters at his weekly press briefing yesterday: “You look at this presidency and you can’t help but get the sense that the wheels are coming off.” ….The funny thing is that as Republicans team up with pundits to chisel out Obama’s epitaph, the Republican Party itself is falling to pieces right before our eyes.
Yesterday’s news that Scott Walker and Chris Christie sinking deeper into their respective scandals is as good a sign as any of the GOP’s political disintegration. After Obama crushed Mitt Romney in 2012, Republicans began casting about for their 2016 redeemer, and Christie and Walker were high on the list. They won conservative hearts with their antagonism toward unions, but they had also found a way to win in reliably Democratic states. If the GOP hoped to take on candidate-in-waiting Hillary Clinton, they’d need someone who could peel away some Democratic voters. Walker had talked about the need to nominate an “outsider” like himself in 2016.
Now Christie and Walker are implicated in criminal investigations. Prosecutors in Wisconsin placed Walker at the center of a “criminal scheme” to coordinate campaign spending with outside groups. In New Jersey, the investigation stemming from the George Washington Bridge scandal is reportedly closing in on Christie himself. For both men, once considered potential saviors of the GOP, the political future looks considerably dimmer.
Read Malloy’s take on it at the link.
At FiveThirtyEightPolitics, David Wasserman has a long article on “What we can learn from Eric Cantor’s defeat.” You really need to read the whole thing, but here’s a small excerpt that deals with the contribution of public distrust of Congress:
Cantor was only the second House incumbent to lose a primary this year (the first was Texas Republican Ralph Hall), but the warning signs of discontent were abundant: Plenty of rank-and-file House incumbents had been receiving startlingly low primary vote shares against weak and under-funded opponents, including GOP Reps. Rodney Davis of Illinois, Lee Terry of Nebraska and David Joyce of Ohio. In fact, just a week before Cantor’s defeat and without much fanfare, socially moderate Rep. Leonard Lance of New Jersey received just 54 percent of the Republican primary vote against the same tea party-backed opponent he had taken 61 percent against in 2012.
Overall, 32 House incumbents have taken less than 75 percent of the vote in their primaries so far this year, up from 31 at this point in 2010 and just 12 at this point in 2006. What’s more, 27 of these 32 “underperforming” incumbents have been Republicans.1
In other words, while Congress’s unpopularity alone can’t sink any given member in a primary, it has established a higher baseline of distrust that challengers can build on when incumbents are otherwise vulnerable. And as the sitting House Majority Leader, Cantor was uniquely susceptible to voters’ frustration with Congress as an institution.
There’s much more interesting analysis at the link.
George Will’s recent column on campus rapes is still in the news. From Talking Points Memo, George Will’s Latest: College Rape Charges Fueled By ‘Sea Of Hormones And Alcohol’.
Will explained that he took issue with the practice of adjudicating campus sexual assault cases by a “preponderance” of evidence, rather than hitting the bar of evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. That flies in the face of due process, he argued, and ultimately harms young men’s future prospects.
“What’s going to result is a lot of young men and young women in this sea of hormones and alcohol, that gets into so much trouble on campuses, you’re going to have charges of sexual assault,” he said. “And you’re going to have young men disciplined, their lives often permanently and seriously blighted by this — don’t get into medical school, don’t get to law school, all the rest.”
Four Democratic senators reached out to Will after his column was published to torch the conservative columnist’s “ancient beliefs.” Will said he wrote a letter back to the senators and laid out his rebuttal in the C-SPAN interview.
“What I say is that: A) I take sexual assault more seriously than I think they do, because I agree that society has correctly said that rape is second only to murder as a serious felony,” Will said. “And therefore, when someone is accused of rape, it should be reported to the criminal justice system that knows how to deal with this, not jerry-built, improvised campus processes.”
“Second, I take, I think, sexual assault somewhat more seriously than the senators do because I think there’s a danger now of defining sexual assault so broadly, so capaciously, that it begins to trivialize the seriousness of it,” he added. “When remarks become sexual assault, improper touching — bad, shouldn’t be done, but it’s not sexual assault.”
Well, we can’t have young men’s lives “blighted” by rape charges. Much better for young women to just suck it up and deal with a years of post-traumatic stress on their own and keep their complaints to themselves.
Whatever you do, don’t miss this TBogg post at Raw Story: Gentleman George Will is getting damned tired of having to explain rape to you guttersnipes.
Victorian gas-pipe and Her Majesty’s Curator of Rape To The Colonies, George Will, has just about had it up to here with you people — YES, YOU PEOPLE.
And especially you. Don’t think by closing your laptop he can’t see you, because he can.
Oh yes, he most certainly can, you loathsome wastrel.
t seems that, after explaining the ins and out of rape to you ungrateful curs, he was shocked and dismayed to discover that you promiscuous info-trollops on the intertubes are unable to comprehend the pearls of wisdom that he dispenses to the riff-raff gratis, courtesy of Ye Olde Washminster Poste.
Hush now, let Gentleman George condescend to speak down to you and try, fruitlessly no doubt, to explain once again that rape is what George Will says rape is…
Now go read the rest at the link. You won’t be sorry.
This sounds like it could do some good: Google commits $50M to encouraging girls to code (CNet)
Google wants to see more women in technology, and it’s funding a $50 million initiative to encourage girls to learn how to code in an effort to close the gender gap.
Thursday night the company kicked off the Made with Code initiative here with celebrities former first daughter Chelsea Clinton and actress and comedienne Mindy Kaling.
Kaling, who emceed the event, said she has tons of ideas for apps but no idea to how make them work. She said she’d like to create a “What’s his deal?” app that takes a picture of guy and tells you whether he’s single, married, a weirdo, or what his car is like. Another idea is a Shazaam-like app for perfume.
“People my age have a million ideas for apps,” she said. “But we have no idea how to build them. Last week in the movies, I didn’t even know how to turn off the flashlight on my phone.”
Kaling isn’t alone. Women are woefully under-represented in the technology industry. Only about 20 percent of software developers in the US are women, according to the Labor Department. Last month, even Google admitted only 17 percent of its tech workers are women.
A bit more possible good news from the BBC: US sets up honey bee loss task force.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the agriculture department will lead the effort, which includes $8m (£4.7m) for new honey bee habitats.
Bee populations saw a 23% decline last winter, a trend blamed on the loss of genetic diversity, exposure to certain pesticides and other factors.
A quarter of the food Americans eat, including apples, carrots and avocados, relies on pollination.
Honey bees add more than $15bn in value to US agricultural crops, according to the White House.
The decline in bee populations is also blamed on the loss of natural forage and inadequate diets, mite infestations and diseases.
There has also been an increase in a condition called colony collapse disorder (CCD) in which there is a rapid, unexpected and catastrophic loss of bees in a hive.