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    • How Ebola Aerosolized in Pigs Could Kill Millions
      Up until today I’ve been moderately sanguine about Ebola outside of some poverty struck African countries with compromised health care systems (and places like Greece.)  The main danger is incompetence and austerity, as with the CDC and Texas fumbling their Ebola cases. No more. Ebola is aerosolized in pigs.  This may not seem like a [...]
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Why Ebola spread in Dallas: Americanism

Lorenzetti’s Allegory of Good Government, 1339

We’re number one.  That’s what we always tell each other.

We have the best health care in the world.

Our public safety institutions are number one in the world.

We  are the richest country in the world.

We are supremely over confident.

How many people know that when Dr. Kent Brantley and Nancy Writebol returned from Liberia with ebola that their care was paid for by Samaritan’s Purse?  I’ll bet a lot of us just assumed that the US government picked up the tab for the flight, biocontainment units, ZMapp doses and hospital stays.  Not so.  So, who is paying for the transport and treatment of Nina Pham and Amber Vinson?

Probably a few more of us have questioned whether money was behind the shoddy care that Mr. Duncan got in Texas.  I have.  I’m betting that his lack of insurance and status as a foreign national had a lot to do with why he wasn’t immediately isolated when he first came to the hospital and why he was left in the ER for hours, some nurses say days, before he was transferred to a critical care unit.

As for the best health care in the world, the nurses were very unprepared for ebola.  The biggest chunk of the blame goes to the hospital.  It’s a hospital for the middle class and those who can afford the best health care in the world.  That’s where people go to have their babies and bypass operations.  Maybe they didn’t associate their kind of hospital with an epidemic in a third world country.  Bad things happen to THOSE people over there in Africa.  Not their kind of people in Dallas.  At best, that’s a benign form of American narcissism.  We’re so used to having clean water and streets and good food.  So, why should the hospital get all Girl Scouty and be prepared for a situation that will never happen to it?  Training for such an eventuality takes time from nurses doing their duties and time is money.  It’s the American way.

The CDC seems to have vastly overestimated the outcomes of our educational institutions, especially our K-12 schools, where everyone should have a pretty good understanding as to where Liberia is.  But then again, Liberia was a state created by former American slaves in the 19th century and Texas is a state notorious for trying to rewrite the past when white Americans might have done bad stuff to anyone.  But still, don’t these ER intake people, nurses and doctors watch the news??  At least one nursing supervisor seems to have been on the ball and insisted on moving Mr. Duncan to an isolation unit instead of letting him shed viruses all over the ER but she was shot down by her administration.  Still, you’d think that a hospital so concerned with its reputation and profits would have been more proactive in limiting the damage that his presence was causing.  Not so, apparently.

And what was the hospital thinking when they gave antibiotics to Duncan when they hadn’t bothered to find out whether he  had a bacterial infection that required them?  Does Texas Health Presby Hospital routinely overprescribe antibiotics?  Is this a hospital or a student health center?

What were Republicans and Democrats thinking when they cut the budget for the CDC by 12% and the NIH by 20%?  Friedan said yesterday that $30 million was restored earlier this year in an “anomaly”.  How the hell are you supposed to prepare for emergencies if you never know what your budget is going to be from one year to the next?  We complain about administrators making decisions for our health care instead of physicians but our bigger problem is that we have politicians making decisions for our disease fighting institutions.  Should the CDC and NIH know in advance what diseases are going to become epidemic on some kind of 5 year plan and ask for the right budget money in advance?  Or are their functions compromised by their unreadiness brought on by this reckless political posturing?

And everyone, politicians, journalists and people who should know better, is under some mistaken belief that the private sector is going to step up and perform the tasks in research and disease prevention that the CDC and NIH were created to do.  But they’re too busy trying to reap profits for the shareholders to engage in such money sucking activities like research. Meanwhile, we underfund the NIH and CDC.  Is that so Republicans can point to what a sh*%%y job government does?  Are they paying no attention to how our scientific infrastructure is being dismantled in this country and concentrated on a few narrow therapeutic areas?  They are leaving a gap that no one is able to fill.

This may be the richest country in the world but the riches are hoarded by some pretty selfish individuals and we don’t seem to be able to get our act together to force them to give up their loot for the greater good.

A little ray of hope came through yesterday when I saw that some television content providers are breaking away from the package deals offered by cable companies to allow viewers ala carte channel selection.  That’s great because eventually I will no longer have to subsidize right wing propaganda from Fox News or be forced to pay for Fox to mislead unsuspecting American viewers.  I’m betting that a lot of like minded individuals across the country will drop Fox from their lineup the second they are able to do it.

But the damage may already be done.  The Senate may fall into Republican hands this November and in the next two years, the predators who have been stalking us since FDR got us out of the Great Depression will finally be able to finish us off.   The willfully ignorant elderly and angry white males will finally stick a fork in us, and allow the extremists to carelessly destroy Social Security, roll back women’s rights and plunge us back into recession with unrestrained austerity.  The only thing that will stand between the power extremists and us will be Barack Obama.  That right there is a very depressing scenario.  But maybe he will have the courage to stand aside when we finally pick up our torches and pitchforks.

We have been living a myth of our greatness.  We’ve been in denial about how government works.  We have told ourselves lies about how we can “starve the beast” that once made our country a formidable force of good around the world.

I’m only glad that the ebola crisis here will be under control before the next session of Congress begins and before the gung-ho, American exceptionalists who take over show us just how unexceptional we are to the hunters who prey on the young, old, and weak.

Section from Lorenzetti’s Effects of Bad Government, 1339

 

More speculation and budget numbers at Angry Bear Blog.

Whoo-hoo! Go, Hawaii!

Hawaii lost both of its senators in the last couple of months.  Senator Akaka is retiring and Senator Inouye, who was a senator when I was living there as a child, recently died at the age of 88.  He spent something like 5 decades in the senate.  Amazing.

But do you know what is even more amazing?  In January 2013, Hawaii may be sending not one but *two* women to replace these two senators.  Mazie Hirono is already scheduled to replace Akaka.  And Colleen Hanabusa was Senator Inouye’s preferred replacement for his seat.  She has yet to be appointed by Neil Abercrombie, Hawaii’s Democratic governor but we shall see.

Stop me if this is old news.  I don’t watch cable TV and news of Inouye’s replacement has been scarce.

So that would take us up to how many women in the senate?  Have we cracked 20 yet?

It’s progress.  I’ll take what I can get.

One other note.  Of the Congressional delegation from Hawaii, both Hirono and Hanabusa are Buddhists, first and possibly second ever in the Senate, and the new representative from the second district, Tulsi Gabbard, is a Hindu.

Result: Americans like Gridlock!

Have you seen that electoral map?  That is one scary sea of red.  In actuality, not many House seats changed hands and the ones that are still in dispute this morning are mostly leaning D.  This is what unlimited money will buy you – a lot of red.

And yet, this is a promising sign.  Demographically, the Republicans have seen their high water mark and are now looking at an ebb tide.  With all the money they threw at this election, this is the best they could do.  Even the most carefully crafted legislative districts and poorly educated electorate probably won’t help them next time.

The bright spots last night happened in the Senate with the election of Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin.  It looks like North Dakota will send Heidi Heitkamp to the Senate, bring the total number of women in the senate to 19%.  It’s a shame we couldn’t hit 20% but I’ll take what I can get.  Massachusetts has never had a female senator so this is a step in the right direction.  I wonder if the Democrats couldn’t have won other races if they had run more female candidates.

As for the top spot, well, we were going to get Pete or RePete.  It’s hard to tell which is which.  I didn’t have a dog in that fight.  But it looks like Obama lost a lot of popular support this year, about 10 million people’s worth of popular vote.

The Democrats will incorrectly assume that Americans want more Republican policies. I don’t think that’s what they want. I think they want more forceful Democrats who can cut through all the messaging money can buy. That’s going to be important going forward because the Republican base is going to start to die off in increasing numbers. Democrats and new parties must be ready to go on the attack.  Why not start now?  There is absolutely no reason for Democrats in the House or Senate to yield a nanometer on any kind of “reform” of the social safety net.  The Republicans are stuck.  This House can ram through any stupid thing it wants.  It doesn’t have to go anywhere.

Now would be a good time for the left to get the band back together for 2014.

Warren vs Brown debate: currently in progress

You can watch it here on WBZ.

As Atrios says, document of the atrocities.

International Women’s Day and Chellie Pingree

Gotta make this quick because I have a lot of driving to do today.

Today is International Women’s Day.  I know, I know, it seems like it comes earlier and earlier every year.

So, what did America get for its women this year?  We’re all of 17% of the Senate, which is, by the way, pathetic.  Well, don’t expect that to get any better come November.  Maybe if we’re lucky we can add Elizabeth Warren and we’ll still have only 17%.

In Maine, Representative Chellie Pingree, a liberal Democrat, was disuaded from running for Olympia Snowe’s seat by Angus King, the former governor.  See Digby’s post from yesterday for all of the bloody details.  The summary goes like this: Pingree was going to run for Snowe’s seat but then King decided he wanted to go for it.  The numbers were on her side until King jumped in.  King is going run as an independent.  Pingree did the numbers on a 3 way race and decided it was too risky with King in it.  Sooooo, guess who the Democrats decided to back?

If you guessed Pingree, you would be wrong.  They’ve decided to throw their support behind King.  King has suggested that he will caucus with the Democrats and will become their Lieberman replacement.  Isn’t that special?

To recap: The Democrats had an opportunity to pick up a seat in Maine AND retain one more seat for a woman.  But when they had to make a choice to throw all of their effort behind a candidate, they chose to throw it behind a man who isn’t even in their party.  Folks, you can’t make this stuff up.

Now, a lot of you are going to say that this is Maine and we don’t know Maine and King was a popular governor and the tea leaves were inauspicious, blah-blah-blah.  You know, I just don’t see it that way.  I see this as a horribly missed opportunity to replace a woman in a seat which American women simply can not afford to lose to a man.  Sometimes, bigger ideas and concepts should take precedent over Democratic party expediency.

And I’m not buying the Supreme Court argument.  If Olympia Snowe hadn’t resigned, she would have gone on to keep this seat for the Republicans and the burden of getting that Supreme Court justice protecting seat would have gone to the other Democratic candidates who are running.  In other words, nothing would have changed except there would have been one more woman running for a senate seat.  It’s unlikely that the rabid Republican running for the seat from Maine would have changed that.  He only has one vote and he could only vote for the person the Republicans tell him to vote for.  He doesn’t get to nominate a more radical Supreme Court nominee all on his own.

In fact, it’s surprising that any of us are buying this Supreme Court justification for passing over Chellie Pingree.  More likely, the Democrats are more comfortable with King and not with Pingree.  Pingree would be one more progressive voice, another pro-choice woman who might have expected the party to act like real Democrats.  Can’t have that.  It’s not the first time this has happened either.  Here in NJ-07, the Democrats strongly backed Linda Stender in 2006 when she lost by a mere 4000 or so votes but abandoned her in 2008 when she really needed their help.  NJ-07 is a reliably Republican seat so for a pro-choice, anti-war, liberal Democrat to get so close to winning in 2006 was an extraordinary accomplishment and makes it particularly maddening that the Democrats pretty much left her to her fate in 2008.  NJ-07 is now stuck with Leonard Lance, a Republican.  What’s happening to Pingree seems very familiar.  And let me make it clear: Stender’s case was not a cautionary tale.  It was an example of something ugly that crept into the party in 2008.  This district was winnable but the Democrats went out of their way to ignore Stender and didn’t lift a finger to help her.

I’m really starting to have negative feelings towards this version of the Democratic party and to those of you who are starting to feel increasingly uneasy about what you’re seeing, welcome to the club.  It’s just too bad you are 4 years too late.

So, on this International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate America’s progress as leaders of, oh, hell, let’s just not celebrate.  I don’t feel like it this year.

Elizabeth Warren runs for Senator from Massachusetts

Dave Dayan has a great post on this at FireDogLake.  Check it out.

Here’s Warren’s announcement video:

I have to say that I’m a little bit surprised by the Eeyore comments I’m seeing around the web.  They go something like “she’s a sacrificial lamb” to “it’s the wrong year for her to jump into this”.  The last one doesn’t make any sense at all.  This is almost an open Senate seat.  Scott Brown took Kennedy’s seat when the Senator died of brain cancer a couple of years ago.  Elizabeth Warren can totally take this seat, provided she resists the standard homogenization procedure for Democrats seeking to run for office.

Snagging my comments from myiq’s Crawdad site, here’s why she can pull this off:

Can she make her case in terms easy enough for a Tea Partier to understand? Yep, I think so.
Can she separate herself from the current Obama administration screwups? Well, Tim Geithner hates her guts. That’s a plus.
Is she passionate enough? Heck, did you hear that interview she had on Planet Money with Adam Davidson?
Scott Brown might be a good senator but does he represent the people of Massachusetts as well as she would?
Her strength is that she is genuinely on the side of the middle class.

There’s some weird concern that she’s going to come off looking like an Ivy League elitist.

I don’t see her as an ivy league elitist despite her job. She’s pretty plain spoken, a strong advocate for the middle class and has demonstrated a clear understanding of the challenges it faces.
One other thing is that she won’t be running to represent Cambridge. She’s running to represent Massachusetts.
What potentially makes her candidacy so strong is that no one in congress is representing the failing middle class and in debate, she’s going to wipe the floor with Scott Brown on those issues. She can effectively argue against austerity.
I’m glad she’s running. Her candidacy could be a real plus next year.

Let’s hope that Elizabeth Warren can motivate voters to take control of their government again.  She should be passionate, define the issues and compare/contrast (see Hillary Clinton’s techniques for this), and she must propel voters to put aside their learned helplessness.  Start by pointing out that big corporations can purchase politicians and comandeer the airwaves but they do not have a vote.  Those votes are like Dorothy’s ruby slippers.  Voters have always had the means to take power away from the rich and well connected.  This is the point that Elizabeth Warren has to make.

Oh, and if Warren needs paid help on her campaign, I am available.  ;-)

Hellooo? Paycheck Fairness Bill? Anyone??

For some peculiar reason, the news that there will be a vote on the Paycheck Fairness Bill today has somehow slipped right under the radar.  How could that be??  Where is NOW?  This issue gets second billing on their front page.

Did anyone really buy that crap the Democrats were floating about Lilly Ledbetter?  I’m not saying it’s not an important bill but it’s sort of like the People’s Front of Judea fighting for a man’s right to have babies even though he ” ‘asn’t got a ‘oomb’ “.  Come to think of it, if men wanted to have babies, that bill would probably get passed first.

C’mon people.  Who’s really going to go to HR and ask to see the salaries of everyone in the department?  It’s like branding your forehead with a giant “L”.  HR is there to serve management, not troublemaking upstarts.  And it’s only after you have the information that you know whether there’s a suit worth pursuing.

In any case, the bill is supposed to fall 60 votes short in the Senate.  Are you frickin’ kidding me??  There are a bunch of lame ducks in the Senate.  If they can’t take a stand for women and do something right now, when can we ever expect such a thing?  And this would be a great boost to the economy that wouldn’t cost the government a cent.  Yeah, actually pay women what they’re worth so they can go and buy stuff.  What we really need for the economy to improve is for wages to increase and we’re half the fricking country.  It’s a no-brainer guys.  Even Republican women will love you for it.  You don’t get better political cover than this.

So, what gives?  Why is the concept of Paycheck Fairness, getting paid the same wages for the same work, regardless of your gender, meeting so much resistance in the 21st century?   If there was only one regulation worth passing on business this session, this bill would be it.

And we hear- nothing.

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