ebola

The Szubin Question (Forty-Seven Rise Again Remix)

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) speaks with reporters before the Senate luncheons in the Capitol, 15 May 2012. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

“It’s grossly irresponsible of McConnell and his colleagues to keep government from doing what they say it should do: operate efficiently and protect its citizens.”

Jonathan Bernstein

Perhaps some recall an occasion not so long ago when the United States faced such a potential health crisis that small-government conservatives, Republicans who purport to disdain the idea of an American czar, called for President Obama to appoint a new policy czar to deal with Ebola.

The White House, Democratic supporters, and many others pointed out that the Senate could start by simply confirming the nominated Surgeon General; Vivek Murthy’s nomination languished for over a year because Republicans objected to the idea that gunshot wounds are a health issue.

With a potential health crisis pitching Republicans into panic, they sought another executive-appointed czar, instead of confirming a qualified nominee to lead the uniformed service whose job it is to respond to public health threats.

The president already has a “czar” to deal with Daa’ish; his name is Brett McGurk, and last month he replaced Gen. John Allen (USMC, Ret.) as Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL”, but he also needs his Undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial crimes, currently occupied as an interim appointment for over two hundred days because Senate Republicans refuse to slate his confirmation hearing.

Szubin’s nomination got a hearing before the Senate Banking Committee on Sept. 17, and Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) praised his past work in countering terrorist financing during his time with both Republican and Democratic administrations.

“He is eminently qualified for this,” Shelby said at the time.

But Szubin’s nomination hasn’t moved since. There’s no clear reason why, beyond trying to make it difficult for President Barack Obama to fill administration posts.

“Treasury must have in place an experienced watchdog, with the know-how and authority to lead U.S. efforts to track and choke off the financial lifeblood of terrorist organizations,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), the top Democrat on the Banking Committee, said Wednesday. “Republicans in Congress need to stop holding our national security apparatus hostage to political demands, and allow Adam Szubin and other national security nominees to be approved as soon as possible.”

A Shelby spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

Don Stewart, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), noted that Republicans recently lined up a confirmation vote on a separate nominee, Gayle Smith, for USAID administrator, but couldn’t say when Szubin might move.

Stewart dinged Democrats for “politicizing Paris” with this week’s push on stalled national security nominees.

(Bendery)

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A Reminder of the Stakes

Steve Benen considers one of the quieter, yet more important stakes on the table in today’s midterm election:

We’ve probably all seen comparisons between the 2014 elections and “Seinfeld” – it’s the campaign cycle about “nothing.” The analyses are understandable, given just how little focus there’s been on anything resembling substance. Quick quiz: name the defining issue of this year’s elections.msnbc

If you said, “Ebola-carrying terrorists hiding in Mexico,” you appreciate just how vapid much of this campaign season has been.

But for many Americans, a great deal is at stake today. These families may not get a lot of attention, and they may not be as fascinating to political reporters as Bruce Braley’s neighbor’s chickens or Alison Lundergan Grimes’ 2012 presidential preference, but they’re probably wondering today whether the election results will allow them to receive affordable medical care.

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Benen, Steve. “Medicaid expansion on the line in many key races”. msnbc. 4 November 2014.

A Matter of Scale and Perspective

Detail of Tom Tomorrow, 'This Modern World', 3 November 2014 (via Daily Kos)A hollow wind; the light-footed dance of tumbleweeds across a dusty street.

Yes, one of those moments.

Detail of Tom Tomorrow, This Modern World, 3 November 2014 (via Daily Kos).

A Note About Iowa

Joni Ernst

One might wonder, given the polling out of the Hawkeye State, what the hell is wrong with Iowa. The idea that cowardice, ignorance, and tinfoil paranoia are Iowa values might strike many as strange, but that’s the thing: It is a question for Iowans.

No, really. It is perfectly within the rights of Iowa voters to send to the United States Senate a candidate who is incapable of distinguishing fact from opinion.

Ben Terris opens his glimpse into the Ernst campaign with a brief description of something rather quite expected:

Depending on the time of year, Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst (R) either thinks President Obama is an president that who refuses to lead, or is an overzealous “dictator” who is constantly “overstepping his bounds.”

We’re at the part of the Goldilocks story where the president is too small.

“We have an apathetic president,” she told a crowd in Newton, Iowa, as part of her 24-hour get out the vote tour around the country. It’s a different message from the time in January when she suggested that the president should be impeached for enacting parts of his agenda without Congress’s approval.

After the event, Ernst elaborated without elucidating exactly what she meant.

“He is just standing back and letting things happen, he is reactive rather than proactive,” she said. “With Ebola, he’s been very hands off.”

Contradiction is one of Ernst’s talents, which in turn makes her sound as if she has no clue what she is talking about. In Iowa, this sort of cluelessness is apparently a virtue.

What follows, though, might seem a bit excessive, even for Iowa: (more…)

Your Burden

Detail of Tom Tomorrow, <em>This Modern World</em>, 27 October 2014. (via DailyKos)While it is quite easy to grow weary of the sickness we might perceive permeating this modern world around us, the truth is this is the only world we have. We’re stuck with it, at least until we decide to do something about the problem. Life goes on. Well, for the living. That part is important to note.

Your Tweet of the Day

Meanwhile, in other news about the #GamerGate terror movement, we might look to The Stranger, an alternative tabloid newspaper in Seattle, where an anonymous contributor to the weekly column, “I, Anonymous”, asks the obvious question:

Who the fuck calls in a bomb threat at GeekGirlCon?

The rest of the rant is worth a read.

And in case you might be wondering what GeekGirlCon means, you can always check out their website. Or perhaps peruse Nicole Dieker’s review of this year’s event. Meanwhile, the countdown is on. 351 days until GGC’15.

The soul of #GamerGate.To the other, if you’re wondering what #GamerGate means, Clickhole recently attempted to explain the issue to readers, and, frankly, we’ve a couple of bits in our own archive. But setting aside our own egos, the Clickhole version is the least stomach-churning explanation for what’s going on.

The bottom line, though, is that Jack-o’Dantern, being a masculine-sounding name, is in pretty good shape when it comes to cracking wise about #GamerGate. So are we at This Is. That is to say, we’re men. And #GamerGate, as much as they like threatening to rape women to death, is afraid to fight with other men. Presesntly, the best guess is that their delusions include some manner of belief that other men support them. And why not? So far, the software industry has been pretty quiet; it would be bad for business to piss off gamers.

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Jack-o’Dantern. “I’m not associated with Gamer Gate”. Twitter. 23 October 2014.

Anonymous. “You Can’t Keep a GeekGirl Down”. The Stranger. 22 October 2014.

Dieker, Nicole. “GeekGirlCon is an oasis of acceptance”. BoingBoing. 21 October, 2014.

“A Summary Of The Gamergate Movement That We Will Immediately Change If Any Of Its Members Find Any Details Objectionable”. Clickhole. 22 October 2014.

Stuart, Keith. “Brianna Wu and the human cost of Gamergate: ‘every woman I know in the industry is scared'”. The Guardian 17 October 2014.

A Fallacy in Motion

The President of the United States, Barack Obama.

Charles Lipson is a walking fallcy, a professor of political science who prefers to use that credential that he might promote crackpot theses that ignore the details. To wit:

Charles LipsonWhen presidents become unpopular, they are no longer welcome on the campaign trail. They’re trapped in Washington, watching their party abandon them. It happened to Lyndon B. Johnson, whose presidency collapsed amid protests over Vietnam. He left Washington only to visit his Texas ranch and assorted military bases, where he gave patriotic speeches to silent battalions. Richard Nixon, drowning in Watergate, was confined to Camp David and a few foreign capitals, where he was greeted as a global strategist. Jimmy Carter, crushed by the Iranian hostage crisis and a bad economy, stopped traveling beyond the Rose Garden.

Now, the same oppressive walls are closing in on President Barack Obama. He is welcome only in the palatial homes of Hollywood stars and hedge-fund billionaires or the well-kept fairways of Martha’s Vineyard.

Well-written, indeed, if it was listed as fiction. But it’s not, and that means it’s a fraud.

The simple fact is that President Obama is avoiding states where Democrats are running competitively but against the odds. To wit, why would Alison Lundergan Grimes want President Obama onstage with her? She’s running against one of the most powerful Republicans in the country, Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader who has so botched his handling of the Senate Republican Conference that Grimes can even run close.

Lipson’s criticism about palatial homes is unusual; most political science professors would suggest it very unwise to ignore rich donors during an election season, but Lipson would prefer you believe otherwise because it helps his poisonous narrative. Christopher Keating noted that Obama’s second trip to Connecticut in a week—a scheduled rally—was cancelled because, well, he’s the president and has a job to do. You know, ebola and all that. The palatial home Lipson refers to would appear to be in Greenwich, where Obama spoke at a fundraiser for Gov. Malloy.

The president is also welcome in Wisconsin, hoping to boost support for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke.

One wonders what the political science would say of someplace like Kansas? Would the president’s presence in the Sunflower State help or hurt Democratic gubernatorial challenger Paul Davis? Given that the incumbent Republican presently has the slightest edge in an otherwise dead heat (less than a percent), the question might be how Gov. Sam Brownback found himself in such a weakened position that he must actually face the possibility of losing. Then again, it’s not much of a question: Brownback and his Republican allies have wrecked the states finances.

In that context, it’s hard to lose faith in Obama if one never had any.

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A Little Heavy Humor

"Would people care more about climate change if we called it Globola?  The planet is burning up with fever, spread by emissions of its bodily fluids."Pretty straightforward. But perhaps we should try pornography, instead. Oh, wait. Raincoats. After all, what’s a little disease compared to wearing a condom?

Never mind. Condoms only make pornography even worse.

That is to say, while it is easy enough to stand for the idea of pornography against the various complaints of obscenity and misogyny, given the potential for the (ahem!) “art form” to show us the naughty bits without all the vileness, well, there is a difference between theory and practice.

So then, rather than offering a critique of the difference between stylized gangrape pornography and some random couple that wants to spice up their sex life by releasing video of his sac and pucker bouncing up and down on the screen while he drills her, maybe it would be best to simply skip it all and go back to fretting about ebola. Or climate change. Or … or … well, right.

Or maybe we could just mix it all up—disease, the effects of climate change, and pornography—smoke a bowl, and listen to some Bad Company, instead.

Ebola Humor, or, the American Discourse

There are those who would readily suggest that laughter is the best medicine, but we’re told that doesn’t apply to appendectomy recuperation. Nonetheless, perhaps there would be some benefit in considering the potential of laughter as a public health issue.

That is to say, it really is not appropriate to wish ill onto others. That is to suggest one ought not hope their inverse-favorite hypocritical Congressman or U.S. Senator who wailed and cried about how the president had too many policy czars and even went so far as to introduce legislation to sunset every appointed czar on a timetable and regardless of conditions on the ground and then went on to demand an Ebola czar because it was easier than explaining why Republicans refuse to confirm the nominated Surgeon General should actually have to come face to face with an ebolite suicide bomber wearing Daa’ish colors, while also acknowledging that yes, there are actually people in the world who would laugh if that happened and it’s not exactly hard to understand why.

Oh, yeah.  It's triggered by pessimistic assumptions.I don’t know, is that sentence going to collapse on itself like the World Trade Center?

What’s that? Too soon? Okay, okay, okay. But it’s true that some sort of unfortunate, ghoulish, cruel joke really does seem needed here. So … er … ah … right.

Or maybe chuckling over the idea that, say, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA1) wants a promotion to the U.S. Senate.

Actually, that’s a pretty fun joke right now; he took out Rep. Paul “Pit of Hell” Broun (R-GA10), who is vacationing away the waning months of his Congressional tenure while fearmongering ebola in order to pitch for a conservative super PAC. And polling averages show Kingston trailing his Democratic opponent, Michelle Nunn, by two points.

Still, though, wait ’til November to laugh. The polling data is thin, and this is Georgia, after all.

Oh, right. Jokes. Humor. Laughter. Public health.

You know what would be great for public health during this ebola crisis? If everyone just laughed at people like Jack Kingston. You know, break the tension, blow some steam, so we can get back to serious considerations.

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Huber, Adam. “You Can’t Spell ‘Pandemic’ Without ‘Panic'”. Bug Martini. 16 October 2014.

Maddow, Rachel. “GOP forgets anti-czar nonsense, calls for Ebola czar”. The Rachel Maddow Show. msnbc. 17 October 2014.

Haberkorn, Jennifer. “Rep. Paul Broun: Send money, stop Ebola”. Politico. 17 October 2014.

Cowardice, Hypocrisy, and Lies, or, Your Republican Party

Dr. Vivek Murthy, nominated by President Obama to serve as Surgeon General, cannot get a vote in the Senate.

Congress knows more than doctors can about the healthful ways of man?

It’s the old joke, again: How do you know when a Congressman is lying? His lips are moving.

Follow the bouncing Benen:

Last week, as public anxiety over Ebola grew, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) issued a statement demanding that the White House withdraw Dr. Vivek Murthy’s nomination to be Surgeon General. “Now more than ever, our nation needs to have an experienced and effective Surgeon General to help coordinate the government’s Ebola strategy,” the GOP senator argued. “It has been clear for almost a year that the president’s nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy is not the right person for this consequential job.

Except, it’s not “clear” at all.” Congressional Republicans seem to agree that it’s in the nation’s interests to have a Surgeon General, but they don’t want to take responsibility for derailing a qualified nominee. On the contrary, they now seem eager to blame President Obama for their knee-jerk obstructionism.

It really is this simple: The NRA does not like Dr. Vivek Murthy because he is among an overwhelming majority of doctors over 90%—who believe firearm violence presents a public health issue. Therefore, because the NRA disdains Dr. Murthy, he must not be properly qualified.

The Republican response has been about as predicted: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has a hold against Murthy’s nomination.

This weekend, Chuck Todd even went so far as to inquire of Sen. Roy Blunt about the holds. Benen notes the Missouri Republican’s attempt to blame President Obama:

On “Meet the Press” yesterday, for example, Chuck Todd asked Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) about the vacancy in the Surgeon General’s office. “This seems to be politics,” the host noted. “The NRA said they were going to score the vote, and suddenly everybody’s frozen. That seems a little petty in hindsight, does it not?”

Blunt replied, “Well, you know, if the president really ought to nominate people that can be confirmed to these jobs, and frankly, then we should confirm them.”

See what he did, there? If only President Obama would nominate a qualified nominee ....

Except, of course, for the obvious. He already has.

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