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Tuesday: Influenza as Infuence-ah

I waited for my mom to call yesterday.  Any minute now, I thought.  She was in hysterics over the bird flu epidemic that never materialized a few years back.  At the time, I had to patiently talk her off the ledge:  There are many steps from chickens to people.  First, it has to be virulent in the bird population.  Then it has to be transmissible to humans, no mean feat.  It helps if you live on a poultry farm.  Do you live on a poultry farm, Mum?  No?  Well, that’s a relief.  Then, when it jumps to humans, it could simply stop there.  That’s right, it doesn’t have to go any further.  To be transmissible *between* humans, it has to mutate again.  And to be really deadly, it has to be spread really easily.  More mutations.  I mean, Bush is jumping the gun but if you’re really worried, you can track the mutations of the virus sequence  on one of the federal health sites.

That calmed her down for about 2 days before the next *ping* from the department of homeland security.  She called yesterday afternoon at about 2:30pm with some chit chat about Memorial Day plans before she hit me up on the Swine Flu Panic of 2009.

This flu is different.  First of all, it helps if you keep swine in your backyard.  Boyfriends do not count.  It looks like it can be spread to people but in the end, it’s still just flu and despite the fact that it seems to be out of season and somewhat more debilitating, the standard rules apply:  Wash your hands, stay away from people who are sick, do not touch surfaces of things a sick person might have touched, if you get sick, see your doctor for any available anti-viral meds, blah, blah, blah.  The vaccine manufacturers are probably already on it.

So, it’s a health problem.  But a worldwide catastrophe of Armageddon like proportions with the horseman of death stalking the rolling green hills of central Pennsylvania?  Probably not.

What it may be is a way for Obama to get his HHS nominee appointed as quickly as possible without the Republicans sitting on the nomination and pointing out more culture war related inconveniences.  As the NYTimes reports in its editorial today:

While health officials scramble to keep up with the fast-moving virus, it is deeply disquieting that the Obama administration has few of its top health officials in place. The Senate, delayed by Republican objections, is finally scheduled to debate the confirmation of Kathleen Sebelius on Tuesday to be secretary of health and human services. And the White House has yet to announce a nominee for director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those are two of the most important positions for dealing with an infectious disease epidemic.

Ok, this is ridiculous.  It is nearly May.  Obama was elected in November.  In six months, he hasn’t even got his cabinet in place?  He doesn’t have a head of the frickin’ CDC?    Please.  Do not tell me that this economic crisis has consumed so much of his time that he hasn’t put together a roster of people to fill the remaining slots.  He should have gotten that together back in June of last year.  What the hell is going on here?

So, this is what he’s reduced to: panicking the citizenry, just like Bush used to do, in order to get his way and leapfrog over the confirmation process.  Don’t get me wrong.  Republicans are reprehensible when they hold up nominations like this over trivialities and put us all at risk for a really serious problem.  But this is not a well run executive branch if its cabinet positions are still pending after 6 months.

Still, I’m only mildly surprised.  I never did have much faith in government by shmooze.

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64 Responses

  1. I’m beginning to think that Obama and Axelrod are like Bush and Rove in that they never planned past winning the election.
    In a related note when the dems were in the minority they complained they didn’t have the power to curb Bush’s lust. Now that they have it they still can’t get anything done. why is that?

    • I’m beginning to think that Obama and Axelrod are like Bush and Rove in that they never planned past winning the election….

      I think ” the plan” post selection , in both cases, was looting our grandchildren’s money and destroying our form of government …..but actually governing , was and is not part of the plan. imo

    • Oh nonono. They have a very clear plan. It is articulated over two axles: Transnationalism and New World Order.

      The problem is that both imposed much more attention to be given to International social issues than the actual management of national issues. In their idea of grandor, the US per se is only of secondary importance.

      O says it all the times. The US has to take its place back in the International community. The caveat is that for him it means be a nation of EQUAL importance as any other nations and therefore not having a leading position in any respect (comsumption of ressources, the dollar as the golden standard, Wall Street as the financial mecca, etc.) That vision of the US contradict a lots of our national interests as you and I might see them.

    • They don’t want to get anything done. It’d interfere with the looting and pillaging of the taxpayer coffers for their own benefit. Kabuki is much much more effective. I can’t wait to hear their latest reason why even though taxpayers are demanding at the very least a discussion on why single payer is “off the table” they can’t have that discussion. It’s sure to be almost as interesting as Cheney’s claim that torture works complete with his two reports as anecdotal evidence(evidently we are supposed to be stupid enough to believe only 2 people were tortured and that the others who were that are not being offered up as proof “torture works” don’t really count, just the ones who give the conclusion Cheney wants. Grrrrrrrrrrr). Have I mentioned how much I hatre the political theater that both parties seem to offer?

      • cwaltz, I do not want to go in the debate of justifying or not torture, but what AMAZES me is the innocence of the American people when I read things like your comment implying (or saying outright) that torture does not work.

        The abomination of it is THAT TORTURE DOES WORK. (take it from somebody who has absolute proof it does). If it did not work the debate would be on saddism!!!

        • What evidence do you have? I’m relatively certain that all of the psychological evidence indicates that it doesn’t.

          Hell, are you suggesting that in the witch trials women were accurately confessing to witchcraft, and pointing fingers at their fellow witches? Because that’s what you get when you torture people- whatever you want, so long as you don’t care about accuracy. It’s like reading the horoscopes, except EVIL instead of inane.

          • Sandra, torture professionaly applied does work. UNFORTUNATELY. I will not go into details on how I know. but I do with absolutely no doubt whatsoever. Unfortunaltely.

            If torture did not work, the subject matter would have been off the table a long long time ago.

            And for your example of the Salem witches, the difference is that they had nothing to confess, so upon torture they confessed what ever was expected from them.

            Please before going into semantics on psychogical so-called evidence why don’t you read a little history and testimonies of people who actually talked under torture. That would put things in different light for you.

        • How exactly can one tell the difference between someone with nothing to confess saying whatever they think will set them free and someone with something to confess telling the truth? Or from someone with something to confess Lying for that matter?

          Forensic psychology is an imperfect science. Lie detectors merely measure stress levels. Torture works in theory as a means of compelling people to reveal information by making it extremely unpleasant to be questioned. In practice, it is impossible to tell the difference between lying and telling the truth under those circumstances, unless you already know what is true and what is not and you are using torture merely for confirmation. Even then, confirmation bias says that you’ll believe what they say when it agrees with your assumptions and disregard it when it disagrees. This makes torture fundamentally useless as a means of gaining information. It would only be reliable when you had a simple factual question to ask and you already knew the answer to the question (example: What is 2+2?), and under those circumstances there is no reason other than simple sadism to engage in torture. Except that it might conceivably demoralize the opposition’s troops.

          And unless you can actually PROVIDE evidence, it doesn’t count as evidence.

  2. Here in the Los Angeles tv market, the local news is just in hysterics… I’ve been in the hospital for days tending Old Mother and her broken hip… as far as I can tell, no one is even sneezing…

    I keep thinking, “this has got to be a joke, right?”

    • Huge, fast traveling respiratory flu has gone through Seattle twice in the past 2 months. Everyone I know got it both times. No one died.


    (eventually, and probably not from the Swine Flu)

    • Run over by a speeding tour bus loaded with people who come to see the Aimish?

      • I live in California, so statistically I’m more likely to get run over by an coked-up anorexic actress.

        (every region has it’s own hazards)

        • The real embarrassment would be getting run over by a speeding out of control buggy driven by an Amish teen.

  4. Blame Blago for the unfilled Cabinet – thanks to him Obama can’t use the “Chicago way” (aka “highest bidder” method) for selecting people.

    (and Democrats who pay their taxes are apparently hard to find too)

    • You mean “Democrats” in the loosest term right?

      I think the actual term you want is Corpocrats. Those that came from places like Goldman Sachs or lobbied (forgive me I mean “liasoned)on behalf of places like CVS.

    • nah, they’re probably just waiting for the next round of layoffs at Citi to fill the positions

  5. “delayed by Republican objections”? yeah, right. I suppose the pick of Tom”I’ll do everything opposite of Clinton” Dashle is also GOP’s fault.
    Meanwhile, NYC tabloids at least were bound to have some fun with 9.11 photo op quest

  6. I am in moderation? help!

  7. I’m wondering about the sudden swine flu immersion news we’re getting…

    Did you read a lot over the weekend about the World Bank/IMF spring meetings?????????
    Well, they happened and the IMF is going to issue bonds…
    Also, did you know that the “banker for the poor” is now doing business in the U.S.? So next time you hear that the U.S. is becoming a 3rd World country…well, maybe that’s a sign!

    The Money Goddess picture says it all…

    Money Matters: “Banker to the Poor” In Impoverished Countries Now Lending in U.S.; “Money Goddess” Advises Obama Administration; IMF Bonds Update


  8. OT

    Police Arresting Angry Members of the Disabled Community Who Are Picketing White House

    Police have started to arrest some of the disabled protestors picketing outside the White House right now. Almost all of the 400 demonstrators are in wheelchairs.

    “Shame on you, Obama is a liar! Shame on you, Obama is a liar!” some are chanting.

    They’re here from all over the country — Texas, Montana, New York, Pennsylvania — to protest what they see as President Obama not sufficiently supporting the Community Choice Act, a bill that would amend the Social Security Act to provide those with disabilities and older Americans the ability to use federal funding for community-based attendant services instead of just for nursing homes.

    ADAPT wants the Community Choice Act to be included as part of the overall health care reform package. The White House says that President Obama supports CCA, but whether or not it’s part of the overall health reform effort hasn’t been decided.*

    “The President supports CCA and was in fact a co-sponsor of it when he was in the Senate,” says the administration’s spokesperson for health reform, Linda Douglass. “He hasn’t signed it into law because there is nothing to sign yet. It was introduced at the beginning of the year and has been referred to the Energy and Commerce Committee.”

    “Take me inside with you right now and I’ll call Obama a f—— liar to his face,” says Peggy Dougherty, 69, from Easton, Penn, who has handcuffed herself to the White House gate.

    Dougherty, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, has an Obama/Biden pin on her purse. She voted for the Democratic ticket, she says. “He made a promise and he broke it,” she says.

    Continues the action alert: “In response to the Obama administration’s refusal to demonstrate leadership, ADAPT activists have chained and handcuffed themselves to the Whitehouse fence. They are refusing to leave until President Obama fulfils his campaign commitment to support passage of the CCA. ADAPT is demanding that President Obama create the change that Americans with Disabilities need: the Community Choice Act!”

    “This is about choosing to live in our homes in our communities instead of nursing homes,” says Milagros Franco, from the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled.

    “I’m a survivor of a nursing home,” says Eileen “Spitfire” Sabel. “I could tell you stories that would curl your hair.”


    • This was yesterday, April 27, 2009 2:09 PM, and it’s the first I’ve heard of it!! Thanks, Downticket.

    • Good on 69-y.o. Peggy and all the others! She’s got it right; he is a liar.

  9. The panic is getting ridiculous. It’s the flu. I’ll hold off my panic until I see evidence that it’s really going to be a pandemic. So far the people who have gotten it in the U.S.–even the ones who caught it in Mexico–haven’t been seriously ill.

    • it gets every one’s minds off Pakistan, the economy, Rocket Man Kim, and mexican drug wars, and the fact most of the head dems knew just about as much about the torture memos as Cheney did and went along with it …

      nothing like a good homeland security mission to keep the panic level high and the intention span low

    • Several thousand Americans die every year from complications of the “usual” influenza. They are usually either young, older, or otherwise have weakened immune systems. It doesn’t usually get much attention.

  10. why does this remind me so much of the color terror alerts?

  11. OT

    Monday, April 27, 2009
    The Media Elite’s Secret Dinners

    Last Tuesday evening, Rahm Emanuel quietly slipped into an eighth-floor office at the Watergate.

    As white-jacketed waiters poured red and white wine and served a three-course salmon and risotto dinner, the White House chief of staff spent two hours chatting with some of Washington’s top journalists — excusing himself to take a call from President Obama and another from Hillary Clinton.

    As the journalists hurled questions and argued among themselves, Emanuel said: “This feels a lot like a Jewish family dinner.”

    For more than a year, David Bradley, the Atlantic’s soft-spoken owner, has hosted these off-the-record dinners at a specially built table in his glass-enclosed office overlooking the Potomac. And the guests, from Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to Jordan’s King Abdullah II, are as A-list as they come.

    “It’s just a joy for me,” Bradley says. “These are reflective, considered conversations, which is hard to do when you’re going after headlines for the next day’s publication.” While the guests seem quite open, says the businessman who bought Atlantic a decade ago, he is new enough to journalism “that I can’t tell the difference between genuine candor and deeply rehearsed candor.”

    Emanuel says he enjoyed the chance to “put aside the adversarial. . . . I tried to be honest and frank and hope they felt that way. They want context, they want thinking. You’re not selling, you’re presenting.”

    Among those in regular attendance are David Brooks and Maureen Dowd of the New York Times, Gene Robinson and Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post, NBC’s David Gregory, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, PBS’s Gwen Ifill, the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, Vanity Fair’s Todd Purdum, former Time managing editor Walter Isaacson and staffers from Bradley’s Atlantic and National Journal, including Ron Brownstein, Andrew Sullivan and Jonathan Rauch.

    The Bradley dinners are different because of their regular nature — a floating group of 12 to 16 journalists, with specialists added depending on the subject matter — and the rarefied level of access. Others who have dined include General Electric chief executive Jeffrey Immelt, former Bush White House aide Karl Rove, Gen. David Petraeus, White House economic adviser Larry Summers, former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.



    • Amazing….it’s the party that is always in power and is neither Left or Right, but UP

    • I liked this bit from the article: “Bradley, a native Washingtonian, had long been intrigued by the Sperling breakfasts, the 35-year ritual conducted by the Christian Science Monitor’s Godfrey Sperling until his retirement. But those were on-the-record affairs open to any hungry journalist, while Bradley’s dinners are both uber-exclusive and decidedly discreet. “

  12. The only one of my kids I e-mailed about this was my son in college…living in the germ-filled dorms. Told him to wash his hands a lot and use the anti-bacterial gel I left in his first aide kit. He’ll ignore me, of course, cuz that’s what teens do best.

  13. Mom was right : wash your hands!

  14. B-b-but RD…CBS/NYTimes poll shows he has a 68% approval rating, and Zacharia at Newsweek says his first 100 Days is enviable to ANY president! He’s just sooooo Wonderful!

    And you’re bumming us out with all this detailed wonky stuff. Can you just focus on the parties, the “copter,” the dog and MO’s arms please? Sheesh.

  15. Just was this at PUMA Pac. I wonder who it is. I think it is a good investment.

    Hunter College gets $5 million from mystery donor to female-led schools

    Hunter College said Monday it had scored a $5 million anonymous gift – making it the latest school led by a female president to announce it got a big-bucks mystery donation.

    The City University of New York school received the gift, its biggest ever, last fall, and realized only in recent days that at least 14 colleges nationwide have received similar donations.

    “It’s such an important gift we were extremely excited to get the letter,” said Hunter College President Jennifer Raab. “It was surprising to us to hear about the other schools.”

    Hunter’s gift included $4 million for scholarships and $1 million to use at Raab’s discretion. It was particularly welcome because it came just as the financial crisis hit.

    “It couldn’t have come at a better time,” Raab said.

    So far, Hunter has offered $1 million in scholarships to accepted minority-group and female students.

    It will use Raab’s discretionary $1 million to update the library and give students more group study space and technology.

    About $70 million in similar gifts has been received by colleges thus far.

    Among the other female-led schools that got the unsolicited donations are the State University of New York’s Binghamton University and Montclair State in New Jersey.

    The checks all came through a third party with the stipulation that the colleges should make no effort to track down the donor.

    Raab said she’s happy to respect those conditions and has no idea whom the donor might be.

    “It’s wonderful that there are people who feel it’s about the project, not themselves,” she said.


  16. The media thrives on drama and fear. I am so glad I only hear about it peripherally now, because it is utter garbage. Every channel repeats the same stories over and over again, until the next source of hysteria (or fawning or novelty) comes along, and they pound that into exhaustion. I don’t miss it all, but it’s hard to be completely free of it, because others are always regaling me with the latest “it” story. This morning, my mother informed me that “They” all give Obama a 72 for his first 100 days.

    Me: Who is “they?”

    Mom: THEY do…that’s what THEY are all saying. (She’s equally disgusted, being a die-hard PUMA, but she tortures herself by watching that crap.)

  17. More on that mystery donor. Someone is trying to make a point – Invest in women.

    Anonymous donor makes $70M in gifts to women-run colleges and universities

    It’s a big-bucks mystery: Who’s flooding some of the nation’s universities with millions in anonymous gifts?

    At least 13 schools have received gifts totaling nearly $70 million from an unknown deep-pockets philanthropist.

    He – or she – insists on remaining anonymous. But there’s a tantalizing common thread to all gifts: They’ve all gone to schools led by female presidents.

    The schools are spread across the country and range from smaller liberal arts schools like the University of North Carolina at Asheville to mid-sized institutions like Montclair State in New Jersey and giant universities like Purdue in Indiana.

    Melissa Berman, CEO of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors in New York, thinks the donor might be “a woman who maybe grew up in an era in which the opportunity to go to college was not taken for granted by women.”

    She said the donor may feel that “women in leadership positions are important motivators for women to be able to achieve their potential.”

    So is it Oprah? A spokeswoman for the talk-show queen said no. A representative for real estate baroness Leona Helmsley’s estate – which gave away $136 million Tuesday to hospitals, foundations and the homeless – also denied involvement.

    The latest school to reap the women-only windfall is Michigan State, which announced a $10 million gift Thursday. Binghamton University also got $6 million this week, stunning the upstate college.

    All of the gifts arrived with the same stipulation: The donor must remain anonymous – and not even the college can know who it is.

    In each case, a bank executive called administrators and said to expect a cashier’s check with a letter explaining how it should be spent.

    Brian O’Rourke, director of development at Clemson University in South Carolina, believes it might be a group of like-minded women, not just one woman.

    “My gut tells me it’s a group of people sitting around saying, ‘Let’s just make a huge difference,'” he said.


  18. Hello, I just wanted everyone to know that The New Agenda, a bipartisan group for women published one of my blog posts.


    Yes we can work together as women!!!
    Please join the New Agenda!!!

  19. Actually, I’m not too surprised that Obama can’t get his administration staffed. Have you seen the form that applicants are required to fill out? (Click here for it.) Most people I know get ticked off over having to sign a release for their credit rating when they apply for a job. I’m sure a lot of people see the demands for their personal diaries or any e-mail that might embarrass the administration and just say the hell with it.

    • Yeah, right. All those detailed questions….yet, he selected plenty of people who obviously didn’t fill in the form, or lied on it!

      That form is intended to do what the visit to the Chicago Tribune succeeded in doing. “I’m here to tell you everything so there’s no need for your reporters to go looking for information on me.”

      They put the form out there to show the vetting process would be so tight, no need to question their choices. It didn’t work.

  20. Does anyone know how long most Presidents take to get all or more of their cabinet in place? I’m just wondering how Obama’s track record compares to Presidents elected over the past 30 years or so.

    Considering the number of huge issues we’re facing (and most were apparent either before of during the primaries and general election), you would think filing key positions would be a priority. (Didn’t Hillary keep on saying there was no time for on the job training?)

    • I like this part

      In March, Specter issued a statement saying there is no way he would switch parties.

      “To eliminate any doubt, I am a Republican, and I am running for reelection in 2010 as a Republican on the Republican ticket,” he said at the time.

      I wonder if he would state the major differences in the parties that have led to him changing his mind about being a republican.

      • The major difference is that he was going to lose the primary to his republican challenger.

  21. Please God No!:

    HUMAN EVENTS has learned from staff sources that Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa) is about to announce his switch to the Democratic Party.

    If true this is more proof there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the parties.

    • That’s no news. He’s only doing in fact what he’s been doing in practice for years.

    • Shouldn’t the people who elected him now have the right of refusal? They elected a Republican for a reason, and they should be allowed to recall him if he can’t deliver on what they believed he stood for.

  22. Whaddya mean No?

  23. This is off topic, but I just found an amazing video that Denninger posted at market-ticker (linked under the economic blogs). It’s an interview with Janet Tavakoli about the current financial crisis. It’s very long, but she’s good at explaining complex investment terminology and providing a history of exactly how we ended up where we are.

  24. Swine Flu- Closed Captioned

    Standard precautions? I just placed my order for masks and sanitizers and most of the standard masks are on back order, even the ‘plus’ ones. Hemm….

    Sanitizing stations are still available and Purell too.

    Nearly a thousand bucks for masks…hemmm All the pharmacies are out, and we are working with our usual stock on hand. Hemm??? Did you know that the government is expecting business to provide them to their employees…hemmm…just heard that on a report on NPR.

    Have you prepared your 72 hour kits for emergencies?

  25. Swine Flu-

    In this video, Dr. Joe Bresee with the CDC Influenza Division describes swine flu – its signs and symptoms, how it’s transmitted, medicines to treat it, steps people can take to protect themselves from it, and what people should do if they become ill.

    Swine Flu- Closed Captioned
    CDC Streaming Health

    My apologies for the double post, but I don’t know what happened to the video link. 🙄

  26. This flu is different. First of all, it helps if you keep swine in your backyard. Boyfriends do not count.


    (OT, but just to let folks know: my computer blew up rather spectacularly, so I’m deep in formatting and filesystems and data recovery. Interesting times. I’m on a strange machine right now for some needed respite!))

  27. RD!

    ps: I’m so glad I know a scientist like yourself — who can give us the scoop as it unfolds?


    you crack me up — but I so love it when you get serious, too….

    What we need are scientists like you!

  28. boyfriends don’t count.whewwwwwwwww! thats a relief..

  29. Swine flu –much ado about nothing? Not if you have a pregnant relative. Over a hundred dead in Mexico and they are not the usual elderly &/or weakened immunity system deaths. These are young healthy people so don’t scoff. Who has O nominated for Surgeon General—last to turn it down was Sanjay Gupta of CNN. Can’t blame no confirmations if there aren’t any nominees.

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