10/28/2014 archive

Ebola: Health Care Heroes Become Political Football

Epidemiology experts agree that there is no medical reason to quarantine asymptomatic health care workers who have been exposed to Eboli. Despite all the information available about how this virus is spread and the fact that it is not airborne, the governors of several states have decided to err on the side of panic that has been fostered by some media outlets, imposing unnecessary, and quite possibly, detrimental 21 one day quarantines on health care workers returning to the United States from regions of the world where they may have cared for patients with Ebola virus disease.

On Friday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) rolled out aggressive policies requiring quarantines for individuals who have had direct contact with Ebola patients in Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea. After federal officials and the medical community slammed the policies as scientifically unnecessary, the governors clarified on Sunday that the 21-day quarantine could be completed at home.

Though New York and New Jersey have received the most press attention, they’re not the only states that have done an about-face recently. Illinois, which on Friday implemented a mandatory stay-at-home quarantine policy, clarified on Monday that the policy excludes “medical workers who wore protective clothing,” the Chicago Tribune reported. But high-risk medical workers who have had direct contact with the skin or bodily fluids of an Ebola-infected person are still required to stay home in quarantine. [..]

Not all states have moved to a mandatory policy. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) announced on Monday that the state would be actively monitoring travelers from West Africa, but said quarantine for high-risk patients is voluntary for now.

That some states are going above and beyond the CDC’s recommendations certainly hasn’t escaped Frieden’s notice. On Monday’s call, he offered a word of caution about unintended consequences. Quarantines, he argued, would end up discouraging health care workers from going to West Africa in the first place. And should the disease continue to ravage that part of the globe, “the risk to us will increase,” he said.

“We will only get to zero risk by stopping it at the source,” said Frieden.

Since then the governors of Florida, Maryland and Maine, where Nurse Kaci Hickox, who has tested negative for Ebola lives and will be confined, have imposed similar draconian, irrational policies. Two weeks ago Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy declared a health care emergency giving  the state’s public health commissioner broad power to quarantine anyone exposed to or infected with the Ebola virus. Why? Because, you know, it’s an election year. It is a despicable tactic playing on the unfounded fear that something might happen. This is making the heroes in the battle to save lives and halt the epidemic in West Africa pariahs. If this sounds familiar, it is. It is precisely what happened after 9/11. The fear that there would be another terror attack let to Americans forfeiting many of their freedoms in the name of some false security.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow described the confusion over Ebola quarantine policy for people returning to the US from countries crisis with Ebola as state governors abandon science-based recommendations and scramble to appease irrational public fears.

Ryan Boyko, a Yale student quarantined by order of the state of Connecticut despite having tested negative for Ebola and having no symptoms of the disease, talks with Rachel Maddow about inconsistent and irrational Ebola quarantine rules in the U.S.

Unfortunately, as Peter van Buren points out in his article at FDL’s The Dissenter, this is all legal under the Commerce Act of the Constitution and the Public Health Service Act:

The federal government derives its authority for isolation and quarantine from the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Under the Public Health Service Act, the Secretary of Health and Human Services is authorized to take measures to prevent the entry and spread of communicable diseases.

The authority for carrying out these measures is been delegated to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Under 42 Code of Federal Regulations parts 70 and 71, CDC is authorized to apprehend, detain, and examine people arriving to the United States and traveling between states who are suspected of carrying communicable diseases. [..]

That said, the power to detain and quarantine often is left to the states, and both New York and New Jersey law provide for it. New York allows the decision to be challenged in a magistrate court; New Jersey does not have a similar law, though technically any form of detention can be broadly challenged under habeas corpus. But good luck with that- the Florida Supreme Court laid down the precedent in saying “The constitutional guarantees of life, liberty and property, of which a person cannot be deprived without due process of law, do not limit the exercise of the police power of the State to preserve the public health so long as that power is reasonably and fairly exercised and not abused.”

Peter also points out the ineffectiveness of this quarantine and the obvious political ploy to gain votes from a panicked public:

The New York and New Jersey quarantine laws at present only apply to a) health care workers b) returning from African “hot zone” countries through c) only two airports, JFK and Newark who d) had contact with ebola. That’s a very select group, chosen largely because New York’s sole ebola patient fit that exact profile. Persons such as regular travelers who fit the same profile,or persons who just flew internationally with the profiled individuals, are not included.

In addition, the New York and New Jersey plans seem to rely 100 percent on individuals who fit the profile self-identifying themselves for the mandatory quarantine. Anyone who wished to avoid it, especially a health professional who knew s/he was not an active carrier based on clearly identifiable and well-known symptoms such as a high fever, could just dummy up at the airport. Alternately, s/he could route flights to land somewhere else and take the bus home to Manhattan. [..]

Quarantining actually infectious people, who may indeed be a danger to public health is one thing. But like taking off our shoes and other security theatre that followed 9/11, the quarantine plan seems designed more for show than any hint of practicality.

Is it just a political ploy to garner votes from a panicked public?

Oh my yes. All of the state governors who pushed the plan through without the endorsement of the CDC or New York’s mayor are in election battles. The governors of New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Florida are up for reelection in about a week, and New Jersey governor Chris Christie is famously testing the waters for a possible 2016 presidential run. New York’s mayor is not up for reelection for years.

Fear-mongering works; ask any politician who has beaten the drum of “9/11, 9/11, 9/11″ since, well, 9/11. People are scared, mostly based on ignorance fanned by media who themselves seek to profit from fear.

That sort of disease seems more dangerous in the long run than a handful of ebola patients.


Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

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New York Times Editorial Board: The Dangers of Quarantines

Ebola Policies Made in Panic Cause More Damage

With good reason, Americans are deeply confused about the risks of Ebola. It is a frightening disease, made more so by dueling theories about how best to deal with people arriving from West Africa and by wildly different messages – based partly on erroneous information given out by New York City officials – about whether the doctor who returned to New York from treating patients in Guinea and came down with the disease was or was not a danger to others when he moved around the city.

To make matters worse, two ambitious governors – Chris Christie of New Jersey and Andrew Cuomo of New York – fed panic by imposing a new policy of mandatory quarantines for all health care workers returning from the Ebola-stricken countries of West Africa through John F. Kennedy and Newark Liberty international airports. There is absolutely no public health justification for mandatory quarantines.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: GOP Betrays Social Security-Cutting Dems: Who Could’ve Seen It Coming?

Who could’ve seen it coming?

Progressives could be forgiven for developing something of a Cassandra complex when it comes to the Democratic Party’s economic stances. Here’s the latest case in point:

The Washington Post and Politico have warned us that Republicans, led by Karl Rove’s dark-money outfit, are attacking Democratic candidates for supporting the “bipartisan” cuts to Social Security that were all the rage in Washington for a few years.

Amid what the Post‘s Lori Montgomery calls “charges of hypocrisy,” Dems like Sen. Kay Hagan are being slammed for supporting increases in the retirement age and cuts to future benefits.  Adding insult to injury, Republican ads are mocking the once-revered, supposedly “bipartisan” Simpson-Bowles deficit proposal as a “controversial plan” that “raises the retirement age.”

It is both those things, of course. It does raise the retirement age, and it is controversial — controversial enough to be opposed by most Republicans, as well as overwhelming majorities of Democrats and independents, according to polls.

But the conventional wisdom has insisted for years that Democrats who endorse cuts to their party’s signature programs will be handsomely rewarded, with both the gratitude of voters and the fraternal support of their Republican colleagues. Instead they’re being pilloried for taking unpopular and economically unsound positions.

Who, oh who, could have predicted it?

Dean Baker: The Ebola Vaccine, Traffic Congestion, and Global Warming

With large numbers of people now shivering in fear over Ebola, it has occurred to many that it would be nice if we had a vaccine against the deadly virus. If we had a vaccine, people in the countries where the disease is prevalent and the health care workers who care for the sick could get the vaccine and quickly bring the disease under control. The threat of Ebola would soon be history.

The interesting part of this story is that we could have had a vaccine, if the government had been willing to put up the money. The New York Times reported last week about a vaccine that was developed nearly a decade ago with funding from the Canadian government. According to the article, the vaccine was 100 percent effective in protecting monkeys exposed to Ebola from contracting the disease. [..]

However, it was never tested in humans. The cost of doing such testing would run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. It could be as high $1 billion. To put that in context, this would be roughly $3 per person in the United States, assuming that there was no international sharing of development costs. Over the course of a decade, that would be a bit more than 30 cents per person per year, or 0.003 percent of what the federal government has spent over the last decade.

But the government wasn’t willing to spend the money. Undoubtedly politicians would have expressed outrage over spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a vaccine to prevent a disease that primarily affected people living in Africa.

Jeb Lund: This year’s hot new liberal strategy: just download the GOP hive mind!

If Democratic candidates refuse to stand up for their own party’s ideas, maybe these people don’t deserve to win

he Republican party has, reliably, been going more crazy for nearly a quarter century. So it’s been fairly easy for Democrats to guarantee a chunk of votes simply by standing still or inching rightward, while pointing at the loons and saying, “That’s not me.” Which is fine as a principle, but the only person Not Me will be dragging to the polls on a boring midterm election, is Billy from the Family Circus.

However, the closer Democrats get toward said crazy at which they’re pointing, the less saying “That’s not me” means to anyone – because it clearly doesn’t mean much to the candidates either.

Nothing brought home the depressing similarities quite like the final Florida gubernatorial debate between sitting Republican governor Rick Scott and Democratic candidate (and former governor) Charlie Crist on Tuesday night. Scott lied in his first statement, mischaracterizing something Crist had said – not on the trail, but literally seconds before, on the stage, in front of the audience. Both men made accusations and counter-promises like a couple of student body presidential candidates saying, “My opponent promised to take seniors to Big Kahuna’s Water Park for graduation and failed. I’ll take us to Six Flags.” The whole slapfight had less dignity than the Batley Townswomen’s Guild’s reenactment of Pearl Harbor. [..]

Rationalizations are easier to sell than platforms – which is why the latter are only constructed with great labor and reluctance, and the former are free and abundant. It’s true that the GOP turns out the vote better during midterms. But Republicans can only engineer so much crazy to create distinctions for Democrats to point and laugh at, and those distractions don’t mean much at the polls (or to encourage people to go to them) if liberal candidates refuse to stand up for their own party’s ideas, and instead cozy up to the Republican platform and employ the same dirty campaign tactics. What liberal voter wants to show up to witness that?

Robert Reich: Empathy Deficit Disorder

Commenting on a recent student suicide at an Alaska high school, Alaska’s Republican Congressman Don Young said suicide didn’t exist in Alaska before “government largesse” gave residents an entitlement mentality.

“When people had to work and had to provide and had to keep warm by putting participation in cutting wood and catching the fish and killing the animals, we didn’t have the suicide problem,” he said. Government handouts tell people “you are not worth anything but you are going to get something for nothing.”

Alaska has the highest rate of suicide per capita in America — almost twice the national average, and a leading cause of death in Alaska for young people ages 15 to 24 — but I doubt it’s because Alaskans lead excessively easy lives. [..]

Suicide is a terrible tragedy for those driven to it and for their loved ones. What possessed Congressman Young to turn it into a political football?

Dave Bry: The decline of interest in baseball is a harbinger of waning American power

An America that worships football and ignores baseball is one choosing its worse angels over its better ones

Long considered the country’s “national pastime”, baseball reflects the very best qualities of the American spirit, the higher values upon which our society was (theoretically, at least) founded: freedom, independence, tolerance. Football is a violent, territorial sport that rewards brute strength over everything else and symbolises, at its base level, imperialism, bloodlust, and corporate capitalism’s tendency to flatten any and all eccentricity into bland, cog-in-the-machine homogeny.

Sadly, it’s more than clear at this point that Americans don’t much like baseball anymore, at least compared to how much we like football.

This is a deep – and worsening – flaw in our collective character, as telling a sign of American decline as our terrible math skills, our tragic and preventable high infant mortality rate or the depreciation of our GDP vis-a-vis China.

The Breakfast Club (No Pain Inside)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

The Statue of Liberty is dedicated in New York; Benito Mussolini takes control of the Italian government; The Cuban Missile Crisis ends; Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and actress Julia Roberts are born.

Breakfast Tunes

On This Day In History October 28

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

October 28 is the 301st day of the year (302nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 64 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1893, Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Pathetique, the last symphony written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is premiered in St. Petersburg. Nine day s later, Tchaikovsky died suddenly at age 53 possibly from cholera but others have theorized that he might have committed suicide. Tchaikovsky was homosexual and often suffered from bouts of depression and doubts about his creative talents throughout his life. At one point while composing the 6th, he tore up the manuscript and discarded it.

Tchaikovsky dedicated the Pathetique to Vladimir “Bob” Davydov, his nephew While the relationship was apparently never consummated, Davydov was reportedly one of the great loves of Tchaikovsky’s life.

The theme in this first movement is most familiar since it has been frequently used in movies and songs.

The second theme of the first movement formed the basis of a popular song in the 1940s, “(This is) The Story of a Starry Night” (by Mann Curtis, Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston) which was popularized by Glenn Miller. This same theme is the music behind “Where,” a 1959 hit for Tony Williams and the Platters as well as “In Time,” by Steve Lawrence in 1961. All three of these songs have completely different lyrics.

British progressive rock band The Nice covered Symphony No. 6 on their album Five Bridges.

Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony has proved a popular choice with filmmakers, with extracts featuring in (amongst others) Now, Voyager, the 1997 version of Anna Karenina, Minority Report, Sweet Bird of Youth,Soylent Green and The Aviator.

Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony has also been featured during the 2010 Winter Olympics closing ceremony, being danced by Russia’s national ballet team.


No, not the one that has the Tea drinker’s panties in a bunch.

Another actual real scandal that will be largely ignored because somehow it’s not as sensational as bleeding from the eyes or that post the head sits atop of.

IRS Whistleblowers: Agency Executives Behind Multibillion-Dollar Corporate Tax Giveaways

By Nafeez Ahmed, Truthout

A 10-year veteran Internal Revenue Service (IRS) attorney has demanded a congressional audit of the IRS to investigate the agency’s alleged role in allowing US corporations to illegally avoid paying billions of dollars in taxes even as it cracks down on individuals and small businesses.

In a letter to Treasury secretary Jacob Lew, IRS commissioner John A. Koskinen and IRS chief counsel William Wilkins, Jane J. Kim, an attorney in the IRS Office of the Chief Counsel in New York, accused IRS executives of “deliberately” facilitating multibillion-dollar tax giveaways.

a former IRS attorney in the Office of the Chief Counsel for over 15 years, said on condition of anonymity – for fear of retaliation from the agency – that Kim’s allegations are not isolated, but represent a deep-rooted trend: “The problem is the IRS upper management don’t want a big case going forward. They are purposely not working big cases. Employees are quietly encouraged not to expedite them, and to settle or dismiss them. I’ve seen the IRS sit on straightforward billion dollar cases for years, and then decide not to pursue.”

So, just like the case of the Fed being super deferential to the banks they are supposed to be regulating. Move along people, nothing to see here.

TDS/TCR (Yee Haw)


Laboratories of Fiscal Disaster

Oh, you mean our WMD.

The real news and this week’s guests below.