Lazy Saturday Reads: Ebola, Texas, and Crazed Republicans

Boston Coffee shop

Good Day!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boston Common Coffee Company

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

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

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

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

Okay . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, the Globe learned that earlier,

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

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

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

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

From the experts:

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

Read more at the link.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much more insanity at the link.

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

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Lazy Caturday Reads

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Good Morning!!

It’s a winter Saturday, a good day to stay in a comfy bed for awhile, relax, and catch up on the latest news. So let’s see what’s happening out there today.

First up, the all-important weather forecast. I know you won’t be surprised to learn there are more winter storms on the way. From the Weather Channel: Winter Storm Maximus Brings Snow, Ice to Midwest, South, East, Rockies Through Monday.

Winter Storm Maximus, the 13th named storm of the winter season in the U.S., will have deposited a wintry mess from coast to coast by the time it is finally over Monday.

This storm will have multiple waves of snow, sleet and freezing rain sweeping west to east across the country.

First, snow will taper off over parts of the southern and central Rockies. A few additional inches of snow are expected over the mountains of Colorado and northern New Mexico. This storm will drop snow in the west, parts of the South and Midwest and then move into upstate New York and Northern New England. It’s not yet clear what we’ll be getting in the northeast, but right now we are expecting a warm weekend, and the storm shouldn’t interfere with the Super Bowl tomorrow.

another wave of wintry precipitation kicks off early Sunday in the Southern Plains, spreading to the Ozarks and the Mid-South region Sunday afternoon, then sweeping quickly through the Tennessee Valley, Appalachians and East Sunday night and Monday.

Snow accumulations look most likely in a stripe from northwest Texas into parts of Oklahoma, northern Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virgina, and Virginia with several inches of accumulation possible. Parts of northwest Texas and southern Oklahoma near the Red River could measure up to around six inches of snow.

“Maximus” will be closely followed by Winter Storm Nika, which will bring “widespread” snow and ice to the Plains, the Great Lakes, and the Northeast. Tomorrow is Ground Hog Day, but whether or not the sleepy rodent sees his shadow, it looks like winter is going to continue unabated.

In Georgia, where people are still trying to recover from their state government’s failure to prepare for a winter storm that had been predicted for two days beforehand, investigators are still trying assign blame for the massive f&ck-up.

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From the Atlanta Journal-Contitution: Storm debacle ‘case study’ of emergency management failure.

After two inches of snow turned Georgia into a national punch line, the state’s top disaster responder was cast as one of the debacle’s chief enablers. But the performance of state emergency management director Charley English is only part of larger-scale breakdown of the emergency management system, records and interviews reveal.

Records show there were failures up and down the line before and during Tuesday’s storm.

The performance of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency Tuesday is “a case study in how things can go badly,” said Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University.

It’s also a case study in what can happen if you keep electing Republicans who hate government and don’t believe it has a role in public problem-solving. According to the article, Gov. Nathan Deal and other government officials had plenty of warning that the storm was going to hit Atlanta, yet they did next to nothing to prepare. Read all the gory details at the link.

At The National Memo, Joe Conason provides an example of how government has worked well in two blood-red states: Universal Pre-K? Ask Republicans In Georgia And Oklahoma — And Then Ask Grover Norquist.

Among the biggest policy mistakes of the past 50 years is our continuing failure to provide quality early childhood education to all of America’s kids. For children, families, and society as a whole, the benefits of “universal pre-K” are not only significant and well documented, but offset the financial cost many times over. Although we’ve been aware of these basic facts since the early Sixties, most politicians have preferred to squander billions of dollars on malfunctioning weaponry, catastrophic wars, and petroleum subsidies….

Even if there were no economic upside to starting the education of every child at three or four years of age, the obvious social benefits would vital for any country that aspires to cultivating a vibrant democratic republic. Citizens who can read and do math (and perhaps take an interest in science!) are more likely to succeed at self-government. They are also far more likely to succeed in life.

Enhancing personal opportunity is how universal pre-school generates universal public savings — estimated by a large cohort of studies to lie somewhere between 7 and 17 dollars for every single dollar spent.  Human brains mostly develop well before age five, so children who attend quality pre-school enter kindergarten with social skills, confidence, and knowledge that boosts achievement for many years.

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So what happened in Georgia and Oklahoma?

In Oklahoma, where every child has been entitled to free pre-school since 1998, a well-known study by Georgetown University educators found substantially improved cognitive skills and test scores among Tulsa students who had attended public pre-K. The program made the difference between falling below national norms and moving up to achieve them. In Georgia, first to implement universal state-funded pre-school almost 20 years ago, painstaking research has likewise showed gains in math and reading that lasted through eighth grade, especially among underprivileged rural and urban children.

What about Grover Norquist? According to Conason he sends his own kids to D.C.’s free public pre-school program, despise his avowed opposition to taxes of any kind. Maybe some of those right wing Congresspeople should have a talk with him about early childhood education.

It’s looking more and more like the Keystone XL Pipeline will be approved, according to the NYT:

The State Department released a report on Friday concluding that the Keystone XL pipeline would not substantially worsen carbon pollution, leaving an opening for President Obama to approve the politically divisive project.

The department’s long-awaited environmental impact statement appears to indicate that the project could pass the criteria Mr. Obama set forth in a speech last summer when he said he would approve the 1,700-mile pipeline if it would not “significantly exacerbate” the problem of greenhouse gas emissions. Although the pipeline would carry 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada to the Gulf Coast, the report appears to indicate that if it were not built, carbon-heavy oil would still be extracted at the same rate from pristine Alberta forest and transported to refineries by rail instead.

The report sets up a difficult decision for Secretary of State John Kerry, who now must make a recommendation on the international project to Mr. Obama. Mr. Kerry, who hopes to make action on climate change a key part of his legacy, has never publicly offered his personal views on the pipeline. Aides said Mr. Kerry was preparing to “dive into” the 11-volume report and would give high priority to the issue of global warming in making the decision. His aides offered no timetable.

If so, there will be pushback from indigenous Americans: Keystone XL ‘black snake’ pipeline to face ‘epic’ opposition from Native American alliance.

A Native American alliance is forming to block construction of TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline which still needs final approval from U.S. President Barack Obama after the State Department released an environmental report indicating the project wouldn’t have a significant impact Alberta tar sands production.

Members from the seven tribes of the Lakota Nation, along with tribal members and tribes in Idaho, Oklahoma, Montana, Nebraska and Oregon, have been preparing to stop construction of the 1,400 kilometre pipeline which is slated to run, on the U.S. side, from Morgan, Mon., to Steel City, Neb., and pump 830,000 barrels per day from Alberta’s tar sands. The pipeline would originate in Hardisty, Alta.

“It poses a threat to our sacred water and the product is coming from the tar sands and our tribes oppose the tar sands mining,” said Deborah White Plume, of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, which is part of the Lakota Nation in South Dakota. “All of our tribes have taken action to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline.”

Read the rest at the link.

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The Economist has an interesting article about the Winter Olympic games and Vladimir Putin’s Russia: Sochi or bust: The conspicuous dazzle of the games masks a country, and a president, in deepening trouble

FEBRUARY 7th sees the opening of the winter Olympics in Sochi on the Black Sea. The message of the games is simple: “Russia is back”. Sochi was planned as a celebration of Russia’s resurgence, a symbol of international recognition and a crowning moment for Vladimir Putin, its president, who for the present seems to have seen off all his challengers.

Appropriately, the opening ceremony will include the image of the Russian “troika-bird” from Nikolai Gogol’s “Dead Souls”. “Rus,” wrote Gogol, “aren’t you soaring like a spry troika that can’t be overtaken? The road is smoking under you, the bridges thunder, everything steps aside and is left behind!…Is this lightning thrown down from heaven? Other nations and states gaze askance, step off the road and give [you] right of way.”

The quote has long been used to justify Russian exceptionalism and moral superiority. Gogol describes Russia as a deeply flawed and corrupt country, but it is precisely its misery and sinfulness that entitles it to mystical regeneration. His troika carries a swindler, Chichikov, and his drunken coachman, but it is transformed into the symbol of a God-inspired country that gloriously surpasses all others.

So, too, with the Sochi Olympics. This grand enterprise, the largest construction project in Russia’s post-Soviet history, is also a microcosm of Russian corruption, inefficiencies, excesses of wealth and disregard for ordinary citizens. The Olympics are widely seen as an extravagant caprice of Russia’s rulers, especially its flamboyantly macho president, rather than a common national effort. The cost of the games has more than quadrupled since 2007, making them, at $50 billion, the most expensive in history. One member of the International Olympic Committee thinks about a third of that money has been stolen. Russia’s opposition leaders say the figure is much higher.

Check it out. It’s a long read, but worthwhile, IMO.

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There’s some good news out of New York City, now that neo-facist Mayor Mike Bloomberg is gone. It looks like the “stop and frisk” policy will end soon: Mayor Says New York City Will Settle Suits on Stop-and-Frisk Tactics.

New York City will settle its long-running legal battle over the Police Department’s practice of stopping, questioning and often frisking people on the street — a divisive issue at the heart of the mayoral race last year — by agreeing to reforms that a judge ordered in August, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday.

In making the announcement, which he said he hoped would end a turbulent chapter in the city’s racial history, Mr. de Blasio offered a sweeping repudiation of the aggressive policing practices that had been a hallmark of his predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg, but that had stoked anger and resentment in many black and Latino neighborhoods. He essentially reversed the course set by Mr. Bloomberg, whose administration had appealed the judge’s ruling.

“We’re here today to turn the page on one of the most divisive problems in our city,” Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference. “We believe in ending the overuse of stop-and-frisk that has unfairly targeted young African-American and Latino men.”

That’s great news, but I wish he had noted that women have also been targeted, often in sexually abusive ways.

I’ll wrap this up and put my remaining links in the comment thread. I hope you’ll do the same. Please let us know what stories you’ve found interesting today.

Have a great weekend everyone!!


Thursday Reads: Southern Snow Mess, Amanda Knox, Ukraine Protests, and Nobel Peace Prize Nonsense

Mary Cassatt, Young Woman Reading

Mary Cassatt, Young Woman Reading

Good Morning!!

The weather crisis continues down South, and it really isn’t funny. It’s easy for us up here in the North to laugh at a couple of inches of snow, but when a large city doesn’t have the equipment and experience to deal with it, it can be a disaster, as we are seeing right now in Atlanta.

As I said in the comment thread yesterday, I think the only good solution is to shut down the city and keep cars off the streets for a few days. That’s what Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis did here after the Blizzard of ’78. He declared a state of emergency, got businesses to shut down for a week, and ordered everyone to stay off the roads except for emergency and government vehicles. Then Dukakis appeared on TV everyday updating the public on the crisis and explaining what he and officials were doing to deal with it.

I hope JJ will be around today to update us on the latest news from the embattled Georgia city. Meanwhile, here are a few links for you to peruse.

From the Houston Chronicle: Snow, ice send South’s flagship city reeling

A storm that dropped just inches of snow Tuesday wreaked havoc across much of the South, closing highways, grounding flights and contributing to at least a dozen deaths from traffic accidents and a mobile home fire. Yet it was Atlanta, home to major corporations and the world’s busiest airport, that was Exhibit A for how a Southern city could be sent reeling by winter weather that, in the North, might be no more than an inconvenience.

The Georgia State Patrol responded to more than 1,460 crashes between Tuesday morning and Wednesday evening, including two fatal crashes, and reported more than 175 injuries.

At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, more than 400 flights in and out were canceled by 6 a.m. Thursday, according to data from the flight tracking service FlightAware. Many of those flights were canceled before the day began.

Thousands of schoolchildren either slept on the buses that tried and failed to get them home, or on cots in school gymnasiums. All were back home by Wednesday evening, officials said.

State transportation crews spent much of Wednesday rescuing stranded drivers and moving disabled and abandoned vehicles that littered the interstates, medians and shoulders. Gov. Nathan Deal said emergency workers, police, and the National Guard would help drivers Thursday to recover their cars and would provide them with fuel if necessary.

Crews planned to use four-wheel-drive vehicles to take motorists to vehicles they abandoned to reclaim them Thursday. State officials also said they were creating a database to help motorists locate vehicles that were towed to impound lots.

At least the schools are closed today, but it’s still not safe to drive; and I have no clue why the governor is allowing people to do so. Trust me, the idiots will be out there on the ice. Can you believe it dripped to -15 degrees in Georgia last night?! And it will all freeze up again tonight when the temperatures once again drop below freezing.

New York Daily News: South still crippled by big chill after storm brings Atlanta to a standstill

The deep freeze that brought the South to its knees hasn’t released the region from its chokehold just yet.

Overnight temperatures were well below the freezing mark overnight on Thursday — complicating cleanup of frozen streets along across the storm weary state of Georgia.

For many, sitting in snarled traffic was a painful experience. For Amy Anderson, it felt like she was going into labor — until she realized she was actually about to give birth….

“We couldn’t go forward any more and that’s when I knew,” Anderson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The contractions had gotten so strong, I knew that this baby was coming, because we just couldn’t get through.”

Baby Grace was delivered safely and brought to an area hospital, where she is relaxing with her mother and father.

Read much more about the snow/traffic situation and see photos at the link.

From ABC News: Who’s to Blame for the Atlanta Storm Chaos?

Officials in Georgia are on the defensive, trying to explain why Atlanta was so ill-prepared for a snow storm that gridlocked highway traffic, leaving thousands of students stranded in schools and on buses, bringing out National Guardsmen and state troopers to help with rescue efforts.

The icy weather wreaked similar havoc across much of the South, closing schools and highways, grounding flights and contributing to at least a dozen deaths from traffic accidents and a mobile home fire.

Yet it was Atlanta, home to major corporations and the world’s busiest airport (According to Atlanta-Business-Directory.com/biz/c/home-services/), that was Exhibit A for how a Southern city could be sent reeling by winter weather that, in the North, might be no more than an inconvenience.

Instead of showing leadership, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal just let it happen and then whined about the weather forecasters and the media.

“At that time, it was still, in most of the forecasts, anticipated that the city of Atlanta would only have a mild dusting or a very small accumulation if any,” Deal said at a Wednesday press conference. “Preparations were made for those predictions.”

Forecasters erupted following the comments. The National Weather Service argued that the appropriate outlooks, watches and warnings were released two days in advance….

“I would have acted sooner, and I think we learn from that and then we will act sooner the next time,” Deal told reporters.

“But we don’t want to be accused of crying wolf. Because if we had been wrong, y’all would have all been in here saying, ‘Do you know how many millions of dollars you cost the economies of the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia by shutting down businesses all over this city and this state?'”

Hey, that’s the way it goes. You prepare for the worst, and if the predictions are wrong, you still took precautions and thousands of kids don’t get stuck on the roads and in their schools. That’s what Massachusetts officials learned after the ’78 blizzard. That wasn’t predicted either, and we ended up getting more than 20 inches of snow that landed on top of a previous snowfall of more than a foot. It was a disaster, and nowadays we prepare for the worst and just give a sigh of relief the worst doesn’t happen. If you don’t want to show real leadership, don’t run for governor. The problem with Republicans is that they don’t really believe in government, so they sit on their hands when disaster strikes.

In other news . . .

Italy is trying Amanda Knox for the third time–apparently over there, the government gets to keep appealing even in a murder case if they don’t get the verdict they want. They don’t have laws against double jeopardy. From the LA Times: Jury starts deliberating in Amanda Knox appeal.

FLORENCE, Italy — Lawyers for American student Amanda Knox warned jurors not to overlook mistakes made by investigators as deliberations began here Thursday in Knox’s new appeal of her conviction for the 2007 murder of British student Meredith Kercher.

“We are anxious about your verdict,” lawyer Luciano Ghirga told the judge and jurors moments before they filed out to consider the fate of Knox, 26, and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 29.

Prosecutors have called for sentences of 26 and 30 years for Sollecito and Knox, the exchange student from Seattle who shared a house in the Italian town of Perugia with Kercher, then 21, who was found partially naked in a pool of blood with her throat slashed….

Surely President Obama won’t allow Knox to be extradited to Italy. I sure hope not.

Knox has refused to attend the second appeal, which opened in Florence last year, writing to the court from Seattle that she fears being “wrongly convicted.” [….]

In an interview with Italian television Wednesday, Knox said she would be waiting at home with her family for the verdict with “my heart in my mouth.”
“The proof is in the facts. There is no proof I was there when it happened,” she said.

I really don’t understand why this is happening.

Things are really getting out of control in the Ukraine–and that’s an understatement. Some updates:

BBC News: Ukraine protesters defy terms of new amnesty law.

Parliament backed an amnesty for detainees if protesters vacated the government buildings they had occupied and unblocked streets and squares.

The opposition has rejected this and protesters remain camped out in central Kiev and still occupy key buildings.

The protests began in November after President Viktor Yanukovych reversed a decision to sign an EU trade deal.

The next month he signed a $15bn (£9.2bn; 10.9bn euros) bailout deal with Russia….

The new amnesty law will not come into effect unless protesters leave the local administration buildings they have occupied across Ukraine within 15 days.

The pro-EU protesters have taken over a number of properties in Kiev and other cities which they are using as operation centres and dormitories, and to seek refuge from the freezing conditions outside.

Meanwhile, the president has called in sick. From the LA Times: As Ukraine’s troubles mount, president takes sick leave.

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has taken a sick leave amid the nation’s political crisis.

“Ukraine’s president is on a sick leave in connection with an acute respiratory disease accompanied by high fever,” Alexander Orda, the presidential staff’s deputy health chief, said in a statement posted on Yanukovich’s official website Thursday morning.

The announcement came a day after Yanukovich compelled parliament to sign a conditional amnesty for more than 100 detained participants in protests that started over two months ago when Yanukovich refrained from signing an association and trade deal with the European Union.

The protests were predominantly peaceful until mid-January, when Yanukovich endorsed a number of controversial laws curbing rights to assembly and free speech. That move set off a fierce confrontation between thousands of protesters and riot police in central Kiev.

The conflict raged for most of last week and left at least four protesters dead, hundreds injured on both sides and dozens of protesters detained in Kiev and elsewhere in the country.

Read more at the link.

Yesterday the Snowdenistas were celebrating because the heard someone nominated their hero for a Nobel Peace Prize. Well guess who else was also nominated? 

Yes, Vladimir Putin was nominated for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize in October 2013. Maybe they can share the prize and go to the ceremony together. After all, they both live in Russia.

At The Daily Beast, Michael Moynihan explains that “thousands of officials” can nominate anyone they want for the Nobel Peace Prize. He fully expects to be pilloried for it by the Snowden/Greenwald cult.

If you have a paper thin skin (as I do) and are paid to comment on the news (this, for some mysterious reason, also applies to me), it’s advisable to fully disengage from writing about the Edward Snowden saga. After the initial leaks, I offered a cautious piece, urging against the instant beatification of the former NSA contractor. We knew little about him, I argued, so let’s wait for it to play out, and we’ll be better situated to determine if he was more Pentagon Papers thanPumpkin Papers. But it’s one of those stories allergic to nuance: you’re either a lackey of empire (the Snowden skeptic) or a fulminating anti-American trying to undermine Obama’s foreign policy (the Snowden supporter). In a debate without shades of grey, I’d rather leave the whole business to those with more anger, passion, and energy.

But allow me to wade into one tiny aspect of the Snowden affair without wading into the debate: across Twitter and cluttering my inbox; in stories from Time, Bloomberg, The Verge, The GuardianThe Washington Post, Reuters, and dozens of others; and in breathless dispatches from the universe of Facebook, I have been repeatedly informed within that last twenty-four hours that Edward Snowden has been “nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.” Take that previous Nobel Peace Prize laureate Barack Obama!

Well, almost. Because all of the media outlets listed above, and all my Snowdenite friends on Facebook and Twitter, have fallen for the perennial person whose politics I share was nominated for the most meaningless prize on the planetstory. But what, dear reader, does it actually mean to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize? The short answer: not much.

I hope you’ll read the rest at the link.

I have more links, but I’m running out of space and time, so I’ll put the in the comments. I hope you’ll do the same with any stories you want to share. Have a great day, Sky Dancers!!


Sunday Reads Late Morning Round-Up: Link Dump Brunch

Vintage Cigarette Card

Vintage Cigarette Card

Good Late Morning

I wanted to give Boston Boomer’s most excellent post from late last night some extra time this morning.  She has drawn some lines between points around the Tsarnaev family that puts the “spook” in spooky. If you have not read her post, go do it now!

We have come to the last Sunday in April, can you believe it? So…let’s get on with this morning’s reads.

Think of this as a Link Dump Brunch if you will…

This first link is a long read by one of my favorite writers and journalist, Kurt Eichenwald.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Is Not an Enemy Combatant, and Other Truths Republicans Don’t Want You to Understand | Vanity Fair

Take some time today to read that piece in full.

Next up, a review of the latest in that ricin case that just keeps on getting weirder…turns out, these dudes were Mensa wannabes. Mississippi Man Arrested in Sending of Letters Laced With Ricin

This is what the former suspect’s brother had to say… (that former suspect was Kevin Curtis…the Elvis impersonator.)

Mr. Curtis’s brother Jack said that neither he nor other relatives immediately dismissed the charges as false, given Mr. Curtis’s history of mental illness.

“We could understand, especially with the things that were tied to his initials,” he said. “I could see why somebody would think it was Kevin. But when they said President Obama, I thought, ‘Somebody messed up because he likes Obama.’ ”

So….they couldn’t rule out the possibility that Kevin did it, cause he was crazy? But when they found out that Obama was a target, they knew it couldn’t be Kevin…cause he likes Obama? That is some logical thinking if you ask me.

In Egypt, there is disturbing news about ancient archeological sites: Egyptians seize pyramid sites for use as cemeteries

Archaeologists fear for pyramid sites as illegal building gathers pace in wake of Arab spring

In Manshiet Dahshur, 25 miles south of Cairo, the villagers recently extended the boundaries of the cemetery. For Ahmed Rageb, a carpenter who buried his cousin in the annexe, it was a logical decision. “We want to bury the dead,” he said, strolling through the new cemetery after visiting his cousin’s tomb. “The old cemetery is full. And there is no other place to bury my family.”

There is just one problem. The new tombs are perilously close to some of Egypt’s oldest: the pyramids of Dahshur, less famous than their larger cousins at Giza, but just as venerable. This is protected land, and no one is supposed to build here – yet more than 1,000 illegal tombs have appeared in the desert since January.

Seems most of the people are not “burying” their dead…they are looking to do a little “illegal excavation.” Read more at the link.

This next link is regarding Obamacare and States refusing to go with expanding Medicaid. How it sticks it to those state’s poor people. Rejecting Medicaid Expansion Could Leave Poor Uninsured Even As Lawful Immigrants Get Aid

It seems that town in Georgia is not the only concentration of gun crazies in the US: Colorado town considers requiring AK-47s and AR-15s in every home

While we are on the subject of ignorant dumbasses…not that every gun crazed nut is an ignorant dumbass. Radio host Papantonio: Anti-intellectualism ‘has become almost epidemic in America’

“Chances are, if you are one of those corporate media-following bone heads who still believe that weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, or Saddam Hussein blew up the Twin Towers, or Obama is a secret Muslim, or Obama wants to take your guns, or Obama has FEMA prison camps set up for Teabag Republicans, then search no further,” said Papantonio, who is also president of the National Trial Lawyer Association. “You truly are the undereducated, child-like, impressionable, irrational, dangerous cog in America’s political system that puts Democracy most at risk.”

In her book, Papantonio explained, Jacobs found that more than 40 percent of Americans under the age of 44 did not read a single book over the course of the previous year. And their concentration had deteriorated to the point that politicians needed to condense their messages into 8-second soundbytes to grab their attention, leading her to conclude that the country was now “ill with a powerful mutant strain of intertwined ignorance, anti-rationalism and anti-intellectualism,” compounded by schools’ increased emphasis on passing standardized tests instead of comprehensive education on subjects like civics and humanities.

“If the Susan Jacobys are right and anti-intellectualism is a trend in America, then spoon-feeding our children with facts and figures designed merely to pass a standardized test will never prepare them to preserve democracy,” Papantonio said. “The truth is when we firmly grasp timeless themes that can be found in novels like The Grapes of Wrath,Elmer Gantry or 1984, we are on our way to better protecting democracy against the Mitch McConnels, the Rush Limbaughs, the Rand Pauls, Peter Kings, Louie Gohmerts, the Bill O’Reillys and Glenn Becks who infect the process of intelligent conservative rational thinking.”

Just yesterday, my dad wanted us to watch Idiocracy…and I couldn’t do it. I just could not see a movie making fun of what we… our society, has truly become.

Part of the theory of Idiocracy was that stupid people were the ones who kept having more kids, while those with higher IQ’s put off having kids till it was too late. So over time the population became dumber and dumber.

Alex Jones opens dating site for ‘Freedom Lovers’

There are those those who believe that there’s somebody out there for everybody. Including fans of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, whose specialized dating site for his listeners has gained some public attention little more than a month after opening.

As Uproxx reported on Friday, “Dating Freedom Lovers” offers fans of Jones’ InfoWars program the chance to connect with “people that share a passion for liberty and freedom.”

“I’m going to school to be a music teacher,” one user writes. “Hopefully I’ll start a private school someday to compete with the rotting public school system.”

Another hopeful romantic tells the site she is looking for a “TALL single male, with Celtic ancestry for life long [sic] relationship.”

“Unlike Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, which represent little more than vast snooping databases and NSA fronts, we are committed to preserving your privacy,” site administrators wrote in March 2013, adding that they “will never sell your information or divulge any of your details to any third party – government or corporation.”

Well, they have sites for Christian Mingles, Farmer’s only, Bootie Calls, Cougars, Plenty of Fish, you see what I mean…it was only a matter of time before they had something like, love…freedom fighter’s style.

Meanwhile: Today in Conservatism | Mother Jones

The Heritage Foundation and Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity presented the second annual Breitbart Award to Michelle Malkin, syndicated columnist and Fox News Channel contributor….The Breitbart Award honors those who advocate for the truth — a quality that Malkin exemplifies. As the founder of three successful conservative blogs — michellemalkin.com, Hot Air (now owned by Salem Communications), and Twitchy — has changed the way Americans consume media. Malkin dedicates her life to tackling the issues others often shy away from.

So there you have it. Michelle Malkin is now officially one of the best and the brightest of conservative journalism. Seriously.

I don’t know if staying quiet is Gov. Deal’s political suicide but…Students organizing Georgia integrated prom: Governor’s silence is ‘political suicide’

Interesting background on Ray Charles and Georgia’s State song:  The Late Movies: “Georgia on My Mind” | Mental Floss

WOW, Superman Turns 75: Did You Notice? by Danny Tyree

I am Spartacus! Check out this latest review of Pinning Down Spartacus by Mary Beard | The New York Review of Books

Let’s end this with something pretty.

This is beautiful…Milky Way over Crater Lake | Today’s Image | EarthSkyMilky Way over Crater Lake captured by our friend Ben Coffman Photography during the Lyrid meteor shower.  View larger.  This photo was taken last Saturday night, April 20.  Thanks Ben!  Visit Ben Coffman Photography on Facebook.

Have a great day, and share what you are thinking and reading about today.

(…btw, if you find any errors in the above post, sorry. I am fighting off a sinus infection…and spent all day yesterday making 244 little Scachatta  Sicilian pizzas. With all the cold meds and dopamax, I am seeing stars everywhere I turn. 😉 )