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“Rand Paul’s Recklessness Spins Out Of Control”: To Assume Paul Has More Credibility Than Legitimate Medical Experts Is A Mistake

A couple of weeks ago, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) started making appearances on far-right radio, questioning Ebola assessments from the actual experts, blaming “political correctness,” and raising threats that seemed plainly at odds with the facts.

Soon after, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who directs the Allergy and Infectious Diseases Institutes at NIH, appeared on CBS and was presented with the Republican senator’s assessment. “I don’t think that there’s data to tell us that that’s a correct statement, with all due respect,” the doctor said.

At the risk of putting too fine a point on this, it’s no longer clear just how much respect Rand Paul is due. My msnbc colleague Benjy Sarlin reported yesterday from New Hampshire, where the senator appeared eager to move the public conversation backwards.

Rand Paul had a message for students at Plymouth State University who had gathered for a pizza party with the Kentucky senator on Thursday: Ebola is coming for us all and the government is hiding the truth about the deadly disease. […]

“This thing is incredibly contagious,” Paul said. “People are getting it, fully gowned, masked, and must be getting a very tiny inoculum and they’re still getting it. And then you lose more confidence because they’re telling you stuff that may not be exactly valid and they’re downplaying it so much that it doesn’t appear that they’re really being honest about it.”

On CNN, Paul added, “If someone has Ebola at a cocktail party they’re contagious and you can catch it from them. [The administration] should be honest about that…. You start to wonder about a basic level of competence.”

Yes, if there’s one person who has standing to whine about “a basic level of competence,” it’s the often confused junior senator from Kentucky – the one who’s deliberately contradicting medical experts, confusing the public at a difficult time.

To reiterate a point from our previous coverage, because Rand Paul has a medical background, some may be more inclined to take his concerns seriously on matters of science and public health.

With this in mind, let’s not forget that the senator, prior to starting a career in public office four years ago, was a self-accredited ophthalmologist before making the leap to Capitol Hill.

To assume Paul knows what he’s talking about, and that he has more credibility that legitimate medical experts, is a mistake.

Stepping back, though, there’s a larger context to consider, especially as the senator prepares for a national campaign. When the pressure is high and conditions get tense, the public can learn a lot about a potential leader. Do they maintain grace under fire or do they start to crack? Can they remain calm and responsible in the face of fear or do they run wild-eyed in misguided directions? Do they maintain their composure and keep a level head or do they encourage panic and anxiety?

The past couple of weeks have told us something important about Rand Paul, but none of what we’re learning casts the senator in a positive light.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 17, 2014

October 18, 2014 Posted by | Ebola, Public Health, Rand Paul | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Are You Ready For Some Terror?”: The Irrational Republican ISIS-Ebola Brigade

I don’t know if Ebola is actually going to take Republicans to victory this fall, but it’s becoming obvious that they are super-psyched about it. Put a scary disease together with a new terrorist organization and the ever-present threat of undocumented immigrants sneaking over the border, and you’ve got yourself a putrid stew of fear-mongering, irrationality, conspiracy theories, and good old-fashioned Obama-hatred that they’re luxuriating in like it was a warm bath on a cold night.

It isn’t just coming from the nuttier corners of the right where you might expect it. It’s going mainstream. One candidate after another is incorporating the issue into their campaign. Scott Brown warns of people with Ebola walking across the border. Thom Tillis agrees: “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got an Ebola outbreak, we have bad actors that can come across the border. We need to seal the border and secure it.” “We have to secure the border. That is the first thing,” says Pat Roberts, “And in addition, with Ebola, ISIS, whoever comes across the border, the 167,000 illegals who are convicted felons, that shows you we have to secure the border and we cannot support amnesty.” Because really, what happens if you gave legal status to that guy shingling your roof, and the next thing you know he’s a battle-hardened terrorist from the ISIS Ebola brigade who was sent here to vomit on your family’s pizza? That’s your hope and change right there.

Nor is it just candidates. Today the Weekly Standard, organ of the Republican establishment, published an article called “Six Reasons to Panic,” which includes insights like “even if this Ebola isn’t airborne right now, it might become so in the future,” and asks, “What’s to stop a jihadist from going to Liberia, getting himself infected, and then flying to New York and riding the subway until he keels over?” What indeed? This follows on a piece in the Free Beacon (which is the junior varsity Weekly Standard) called “The Case For Panic,” which argued that the Obama administration is so incompetent that everything that can kill us probably will.

Even if most people aren’t whipped up into quite the frenzy of terror Republicans hope, I suspect that there will be just enough who are to carry the GOP across the finish line in November. When people are afraid, they’re more likely to vote Republican, so it’s in Republicans’ interest to make them afraid. And you couldn’t come up with a better vehicle for creating that fear than a deadly disease coming from countries full of dark-skinned foreigners. So what if only two Americans, both health care workers caring for a dying man, have actually caught it? You don’t need facts to feed the fear. And they only need two and a half more weeks.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, October 17, 2014

October 18, 2014 Posted by | Ebola, Republicans, Terrorism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Despite The Non-Stop Coverage”: Surprise; Americans Are Confident In Government’s Ability To Handle Ebola

This morning the White House announced that Ron Klain, who was formerly the chief of staff to Vice President Biden, will coordinate the government’s response to Ebola. Klain will be the “czar” Republicans were asking for, I suppose because they had to demand the administration do something it wasn’t yet doing (thus is the nature of opposition). Which seems like a perfectly reasonable idea — you can never have too much coordination, and Klain is generally respected for his organizational skills.

But as much as Republicans have been arguing that everything is spinning out of control and the government isn’t protecting us from a deadly disease that might just bring about a zombie apocalypse, it turns out that the public isn’t going quite as crazy as you might think.

Don’t get me wrong — there are plenty of people who are reacting irrationally to a disease that has so far infected a grand total of two people in this nation of 316 million, both of whom were health care workers treating a man dying of Ebola (if that doesn’t describe you, you’re safe). But the growing number of Ebola polls shows that the public actually has a pretty good amount of confidence that the government can handle this.

That’s not what you might think if you tuned into the panic-a-thon that is cable news, or even much other news. Every evening news show is leading with Ebola every night, and every newspaper has multiple stories every day about the disease. There’s a danger that we could create a self-fulfilling prophecy, one in which the public is portrayed as losing their collective minds, which makes it more likely that they will end up doing so.

But let’s look at what they’re actually saying. It turns out that on some questions, partisanship has a big impact, which is actually encouraging in a way. It tells us that Ebola is much like other issues, where politics provides the filter through which things are being viewed. Whether it’s the economy or health reform or national security, Republicans are always going to be less likely to express confidence in the ability of a government run by Democrats to do anything right (and vice-versa).

So, via Eric Boehlert, in the latest Washington Post poll, 62 percent of respondents said they were very confident or somewhat confident in the government’s ability to respond to an Ebola outbreak. Among Democrats, the number was 76 percent, while among Republicans it was a still-healthy 54 percent. A Pew Research Center poll taken two weeks ago found something similar:  69 percent of Democrats said they had a great deal or fair amount of confidence in the government’s ability to handle Ebola, while 48 percent of Republicans agreed. Pew pointed out that in 2005, when George W. Bush was president, the same question was asked about bird flu and the numbers were reversed (with Democrats then expressing even less confidence than Republicans do now).

That tells a story not of widespread public hysteria but of rather ordinary partisanship. And a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll also shows a more reasonable public than you might expect if you were just watching the panic-a-thon on cable news. Among the questions Kaiser asked was this:

Which do you think is more likely: Ebola will spread and there will be a widespread outbreak in the U.S.; or Ebola will be contained to a small number of cases in the U.S.?

Ebola will be contained: 73

There will be a widespread outbreak: 22

And people in both parties expressed confidence in the Centers for Disease Control, with 79 percent of Democrats and 70 percent of Republicans saying they’d have confidence in the CDC to contain the disease and prevent if from spreading if there were a case of Ebola in their area.

As a news story, Ebola lends itself perfectly to sensationalistic, ratings-grabbing news. It’s mysterious, threatening, dramatic, and carries the theoretical potential for global disaster. But so far, despite the non-stop coverage and Republicans’ insistence that chaos reigns, most of the public seems to think that our government is capable of handling it.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; The Plum Line, The Washington Post, October 17, 2014

October 18, 2014 Posted by | Cable News, Ebola, Federal Government | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rick Scott’s Epic Blunder”: Directly Insulting The Very People Whose Support He Needs

The dust-up over Charlie Crist’s portable fan at the Florida gubernatorial debate has degenerated into a war of words over which side violated the pre-negotiated rules. The truth of who plugged in what device, and on whose authority, may forever remain lost in the murk of Sunshine State politics.

But the issue here is not who is right and who is wrong. The issue is that Governor Rick Scott, by not taking the stage for seven minutes, lost the battle. And he did it in a way that is spectacularly tone-deaf. Non-participation in a debate requires solid justification, especially once the candidates are already on-site and waiting to take part, as was the case in Florida. Whatever the particulars of Crist and his Vornado Air Circulator, the annoyance did not merit the Defcon One response that Scott and his handlers accorded it. In making the event about his own petulance, Scott created a blunder that enters the annals of what not to do in a campaign debate.

Debates are frequently won and lost on the little things. Rick Perry’s “oops” moment. Mitt Romney’s $10,000 bet. Obama’s “You’re likable enough, Hillary” line. George H.W. Bush glancing at his watch. Richard Nixon’s flop sweat. Al Gore advancing inappropriately on George W. Bush and Rick Lazio invading Hillary Clinton’s space to demand that she sign a pledge. The list goes on.

Such mishaps tend to fall into three predictable categories: cosmetic problems (Nixon), strategic miscalculations (Gore, Lazio), and inadvertently self-inflicted wounds (Perry, Romney, Obama, Bush and the watch). Obviously, no candidate ever sets out to damage himself, but in the live arena of a debate, mistakes are easy to make and difficult to undo.

Rick Scott ought to have known that showing up late could only be perceived as an insult to the audience — not just those in the hall but the extended viewing audience as well. Politicians too often fail to take into account the popularity of debates among voters, and the proprietary feeling viewers bring to these programs. Debaters who show disrespect for the institution — say, by refusing to step onstage — are directly insulting the very people whose support they need.

By granting Charlie Crist several minute of valuable airtime alone on the debate set, Scott essentially handed his opponent a huge gift of free advertising. As a number of commentators have pointed out, Scott passed up a golden opportunity to upstage his rival, to use Crist’s vanity against him. Instead, Crist got to grandstand, Scott came off as pissy, and Florida politics — once again — looked nuts.

The high drama of that opening few minutes worked against Scott on a number of levels. Although the moderator backed up the Scott campaign’s point about a rules violation, he also directly attributed Scott’s absence to the fan, planting the issue front and center in the public spotlight. The catcalls of the live audience lent an air of anti-Scott sentiment to the proceedings before the debate had even started. And a cutaway shot of the fan in question, whirring innocently behind Charlie Crist’s lectern, further reinforced the absurdity of Scott’s overreaction.

The key thing about debates, and the reason politicians dread them, is that they are live. Which is to say, the participants get no do-overs. That Governor Scott could not anticipate the damaging effect of seven minutes of dead airtime speaks ill of his judgment. When the candidates reconvene for the final debate on October 21, Rick Scott had better be on time.

 

By: Alan Schroeder, Professor of Journalism, Northeastern University; The Huffington Post Blog, October 17, 2014

 

 

October 18, 2014 Posted by | Charlie Crist, Florida, Rick Scott | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Callous, Dumb Policy”: Scott Walker’s Minimum Wage Argument Is Even Dumber Than You Think

The minimum wage is causing a bit of campaign drama, notably in Wisconsin, as John Nichols reports. Republican Governor Scott Walker, running neck and neck against Democrat Mary Burke, inflamed the debate this week when he rejected complaints that the state’s $7.25 an hour wage floor was too low. “I don’t think it serves a purpose,” Walker said of the labor standard.

One of the most bizarre points in the Walker administration’s argument for why $7.25 is a living wage (it’s not) is that some low-wage workers supplement their earnings with public assistance. It’s true that even many full-time employees in Wisconsin and elsewhere rely on government aid—because their wages are too low. Walker, meanwhile, is no supporter of social programs. If he had his way, there would be an even smaller safety net for workers to fall back on.

Walker isn’t the only candidate digging in his heels against efforts to raise the minimum wage while simultaneously bashing public aid. This isn’t just callous—it’s also dumb policy. There are lots of reasons to raise the minimum wage, like the fact that it will boost the economy and that 80 percent of Americans support it. But one reason in particular should get conservatives’ attention: it will help people get off government aid programs and save the government money.

How many people? About 1.7 million, according to a brief released Thursday by the Economic Policy Institute, which examined the implications for public-assistance enrollment of raising the federal wage floor to $10.10 an hour.

Nearly half of all recipients of government aid work full time, but because lawmakers have let the minimum wage stay low while the cost of living rises, many workers can’t get by on their earnings. The result is that roughly half of all workers making hourly wages below $10.10 rely on public assistance directly or via a member of their family, according to EPI. And about half of all the funds for the six main types of government support—food stamps; the Earned Income Tax Credit; the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program; Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants, and Children; the Section 8 Housing Choice voucher program; and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families—go to people working for less than $10.10 an hour.

Those programs were designed to provide temporary support to people who were down on their luck, noted David Cooper, an economic analyst at EPI and the brief’s author, on a call with reporters. “They were not intended to act as long-term subsidies to employers so businesses could get away with paying poverty-level wages,” he said. As it stands now, the government is essentially giving a $45 billion handout every year to companies that pay less than $10.10 in order to patch the gap between what they pay their employees and what those workers need to survive.

It’s important to note that raising the wage floor wouldn’t justify cuts to the safety net. Even $10.10 is below a living wage in many cities, and there are still an awful lot of people without full-time work. “Given the extraordinarily high rates of poverty and child poverty that persist in the wake of the Great Recession, there is every reason to think that current levels of spending on these programs are woefully inadequate to truly combat poverty and lift living standards for program participants,” Cooper wrote.

But raising wages would free up money that could be used to benefit those who aren’t directly affected by the increase. Cooper estimates that lifting the wage floor to $10.10 would save the government at least $7.6 billion annually—money that could be used to strengthen and expand safety net programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit or be invested in infrastructure projects that create jobs.

 

By: Zoe Carpenter, The Nation, October 16, 2014

October 18, 2014 Posted by | Minimum Wage, Poor and Low Income, Scott Walker | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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