mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Beware Of Voting Based On Fears Stoked By Politicians”: Ebola, ISIS, The Border; So Much To Fear, So Little Time!

If there’s a pandemic or crisis that we should really be worried about, it’s this relentless election-time fear-mongering.

If you’re not afraid, you are clearly not paying attention. So much to be fearful of, so little time!

If there is a pandemic to be actually worried about, it’s the pandemic of fear as we approach the midterm elections. Election time almost always is a time for fear-mongering, but this particular season seems to be more so than in the past.

Ebola, a horrific disease for sure, is surely threatening all the people of the United States, despite the tiny number of people who have contracted it while treating people who actually have it. However, the fear of Ebola has infected vast numbers of Americans who will never have the opportunity to come into contact with someone who actually has it. But be afraid!

ISIS, the more common name for the so-called Islamic State, is a threat to everyday Americans. After all, I heard it on Fox News! Although this group of barbaric and inhumane humans is having a tough time conquering the geography they actually inhabit, their real goal is to come after us. And they will do so by simply walking across our Southern border with Mexico, because, you know, that border is so porous and unprotected.

Which brings us to undocumented people in this country. You should be afraid of them too!  They’ll take your jobs (never mind that you don’t want to do the burdensome and humble jobs they are willing to do)!  They are only here to reap the rewards of the American safety net (such as it is) and thereby raise your taxes.

And in a sleight of hand mindboggling in its absurdity, politicians are combining these three fears into one by getting you exercised over ISIS terrorists coming into the United States from Mexico, infected with Ebola. All because this president (who has presided over more deportations in his first term than George W. Bush did in his entire presidency) refuses to take these fears seriously, as does the entire Democratic Party.

And just for good measure, why don’t we add on our fears about race? It’s interesting, isn’t it, that these Ebola-infected ISIS terrorists are only a threat from our brown-skinned Southern border, not from the white-skinned northern border with Canada?  White people, after all, just couldn’t be this bad. The tragic death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the subsequent reaction to it, only underscores the threat of a non-white population that is seething with anger and ready to get back at the white population that oppresses them. So much to be afraid of here.

Religion is not immune from fear-mongering either. The famous New England preacher Jonathan Edwards is perhaps most noted for his “sinners in the hands of an angry God” sermon, in which he had people collapsing out of fear of a God who dangles them over the burning fires of hell, held by a spider web-thin strand of hope. One gets the impression that God would take great delight in letting them go. Modern religion is no different. Many conservative religionists believe that “they” are coming to get us, to force their secular beliefs on us, and win the so-called War on Religion.  Much of the evangelical church seems bent on raising their members’ paranoia and anxiety about the culture that is hostile to them. And it sure does fill the coffers on Sunday morning.

Fear is not necessarily a bad thing. It is indeed the human being’s natural and appropriate response to danger. Jews were right to fear the Nazis. Bicycle riders are prudent to fear being clipped by a passing car. The unemployed have a right to be anxious about the ravages on their families exacted by their unemployment. Americans have a right to fear over-zealous and unwarranted surveillance by the NSA.

Oddly, though, Americans are not fearful enough when it comes to real threats. Humans seem to be the only species that fouls our own nest, perfectly willing not to fear the environmental calamity our present course of inaction will surely wreak on the entire world, unless we reduce our carbon emissions, or entirely deny the science that foretells it.  Smokers (I am one) seem entirely willing to live with the danger of self destructive behavior, in hopes of escaping its devastating consequences. Racism, income inequality, and a rising political and financial oligarchy threaten the very existence of American democracy, yet we are paralyzed when it comes to talking honestly about these issues.

But fear of something that is not actually a threat is not rightful fear, but rather paranoia.  Feeling under attack may be a great way to raise money in churches and political races, but it’s a terrible way to solve the problems that actually face us. But in order to discern the difference between things that rightly should be feared, and those that shouldn’t, we need to be willing to talk about our fears and face into them. Which brings us to FDR’s first inaugural speech assertion that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.”  Indeed.  Nothing may actually threaten America more than our own fears.

Perhaps the worst fallout from all this is that when we are gripped by fear, we usually make terrible decisions. Like in elections. All of us should be going to the polls to vote this week. It is the most important civic duty we have as citizens, and in some ways, it’s the our only shot at changing things for good. But beware of voting based on the fears stoked by politicians for their own political gain — on both sides. It’s a terrible way to make the important decisions about whom to vote for.

And know this:  No politician is going to take away your fear and anxiety. If you’re already fearful about contracting Ebola, finding an ISIS terrorist at your door, or the anxiety you feel when you encounter a person of color, you won’t find any relief on the day after the election. That’s work you and I have to do for ourselves, every day. We need to separate trumped-up fears from the legitimate ones.  The state of the nation and the state of humankind may depend on it. Now that’s something to be fearful about.

 

By: Gene Robinson, The Daily Beast, November 2, 2014

November 3, 2014 Posted by | Ebola, Fearmongering, Midterm Elections | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Forcible Isolation”: Are Mandatory Ebola Quarantines Legal?

The coercive mandatory quarantine of Kaci Hickox, the nurse placed in what amounts to Ebola jail after returning to the United States from West Africa, raises troubling questions about the power that state and federal governments have to forcibly isolate individuals.

Hickox, who told CNN that her “basic human rights have been violated,” was only released Monday, two days after testing negative for Ebola. While quarantined, she was seemingly powerless to challenge her banishment to a tent in Newark.

The nurse’s treatment, as well as the quarantine policies of New York and New Jersey, have been roundly criticized as heavy-handed. A top National Institutes of Health official called the quarantines “draconian.” And former Ebola patient Rick Sacra, a doctor infected in Liberia, likened the mandatory quarantine for returning health-care workers in New York and New Jersey to a “police state approach.”

So is it legal for the government to quarantine individuals or groups of people?

State and federal officials do have the power to quarantine or isolate individuals suspected of having an infectious disease, according to a dizzying patchwork of laws. But beyond the general authority, there are many questions about how quarantines should be implemented.

At the federal level, much remains undefined defined: What would be the basis for quarantining individuals? Where would they be quarantined? What recourse would they have to prove that they should be eligible for release? What access to communications would they be given during quarantine?

“I’ve long been concerned about the quarantine authority because it is so broad, not easily subject to challenge, and exceedingly absolute,” Scott Gottlieb, a physician and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told The Daily Beast.

Gottlieb, who served in the Food and Drug Administration under President George W. Bush, had a hand in a previous effort to set out clearer parameters for quarantine policy.

New quarantine regulations were proposed in 2005, amid fears of the pandemic flu and bioterrorism.

Those rules compelled airlines to keep records that would allow health officials to keep track of passengers. They also introduced the concept of a “provisional quarantine” that would have allowed the federal government to detain individuals for up to three days, with no method for appeal, if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believed that a person was infected with certain illnesses.

“It didn’t work because once you start to debate these things, people were so uncomfortable about the answers to these questions they decided not to answer them,” Gottlieb said.

The rules were withdrawn in 2010 by the Obama administration, after civil-liberties organizations protested and airlines complained about compliance costs.

Today governments have the right to put individuals in quarantine before they have the right to argue that they shouldn’t be placed there. Suspicion of exposure to Ebola, for example, is sufficient to justify mandatory isolation.

“That is lawful due to the sheer nature of public-health powers,” said James Hodge, a professor of public-health law at Arizona State University. “You don’t have to let them off the plane, circulate around… and then proceed to a courthouse… You can isolate now and provide due process after.”

The federal government is responsible for quarantining individuals traveling from outside the United States or between states, while state and local governments have control over individuals who are traveling only locally.

The nurse who had traveled to West Africa to fight Ebola became caught up in the quarantine policies issues by the state of New Jersey. She was held in a presumptive quarantine that rounded up an entire class of people—in this case health-care workers who battled the infectious disease in a hot zone—and forcibly segregated.

Overreaction is still a concern that worries public-health experts. For Gottlieb, the disaster scenario is an outbreak of an infectious disease in a major city that overwhelms local health authorities, who then quarantine dozens or even hundreds of people in crowded facilities.

“That’s not far-fetched,” Gottlieb said. “In that kind of scenario, they will over-quarantine people.”

There are still legal limits to how far quarantines could extend. Entire towns or neighborhoods could not be targeted for quarantine, Hodge said.

“Courts have been very reticent to let health authorities at any level to simply rope off a community,” he told The Daily Beast, adding that exposure does not mean simply proximity to infected individuals. “Just because you’re in the vicinity of someone who was infected doesn’t mean you’re exposed.”

Quarantining passengers who have been exposed to a dangerous infectious disease on a plane or a group of children who have been in the same classroom with an infected patient, for example, would be situations with stronger legal standing.

In order to maintain constitutional compliance, Hodge explained, the quarantine or forced isolation needs to be limited to those who were infected or known to be exposed to Ebola; the quarantined individuals need to have access to due process; and the government needs to justify the restrictions placed on these individuals.

Legal challenges to quarantine also could be based on these standards. The recently released Hickox is considering suing over her mandatory quarantine, her lawyer’s office told The Daily Beast on Monday. If she files a lawsuit, the New Jersey state government would have to defend its actions and perhaps, in the process, come up with improved quarantine protocols.

 

By: Tim Mak, The Daily Beast, October 28, 2014

November 1, 2014 Posted by | Ebola, Mandatory Quarantine, Public Health | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Losing Services Of Many People”: The Media’s Overreaction To Ebola Is Sending A Chill Through My Coworkers At Doctors Without Borders

One of my colleagues is ill with Ebola that he contracted while working in West Africa for Medicines Sans Frontiers, otherwise known as Doctors Without Borders. Dr. Craig Spencer is having a hard enough time fighting the disease, but it’s only been made worse for him and his family by the criticism and outrage that was heaped upon him by the press, including The New Republic. It has sent a chill through other MSF field workers, whose job is challenging enough without the added burden of facing similar treatment upon return home.

It is neither fair nor accurate to accuse Dr. Spencer of moral failings for not quarantining himself on his return. He did not run about New York while “sick,” as Julia Ioffe contends, and did not put people in danger. As has been made clear since the beginning of the outbreak, only people with symptoms can transmit Ebola. At the first sign of illnessa fever on October 23, when he still would have represented only a minimal risk of contagionhe contacted the MSF office, which then alerted city health authorities. He was then taken directly to Bellevue Hospital, well before he posed a threat to the public.

Armchair physicians note that a couple days before this, Dr. Spencer was feeling “sluggish.” This is not the onset of Ebola, this is the normal condition of those who have been working around the clock for weeks in a stressful setting prior to travel across several time zones. Nor should one read into his abstaining from work a need to protect his patients. He needed rest. MSF advises all aid workers back from the field to get rest before going back to work, and it goes further with people working in Ebola projects, mandating that they not return to work for three weeks to reduce their exposure to sick people from whom they might catch something that might be confused with Ebola and cause unnecessary alarm.

Howard Markel implies that Spencer presumed he would never get Ebola and therefore took a risk with himself and others. MSF does not send people like that to the field. Everyone who departs on an Ebola mission with MSF is made very aware of the risks involved and how to manage them. What’s more, Dr. Spencer worked with a team that had seen people dying from Ebola every day, and this includes MSF staff. MSF has lost thirteen staff members during this outbreak, and two international staff members like Dr. Spencer had to be evacuated from the field after contracting Ebola. No one who works for MSF in the field thinks Ebola could not happen to them or is unaware of its risks to others. No one.

Noam Scheiber is mistaken in writing that “it’s become our policy in this country to quarantine anyone who had direct contact with an Ebola patient.” This was not federal or state policy when Scheiber wrote his story, nor is it MSF policy. If the public feels that things should have been done differently, they should direct their complaints at MSF, not at Dr. Spencer. We are happy and ready to have this conversation. MSF have been bringing people back from Ebola outbreaks for almost 20 years, and we have an evidence-based policy for how they should protect the public on their return; it does not involve self-quarantine. The World Health Organization does not mandate quarantine for their staff, either. Nor does the CDC feel this is warranted. Only now, after Dr. Spencer’s diagnosis and the excessive reaction to it, are some states beginning to require this, even though public health experts know this is a bad idea. Our colleague Kaci Hickox had the misfortune of arriving back in the U.S. just as the new quarantine requirement was announced, and her haphazard and harsh treatment will not be encouraging to others.

Thus far, MSF has had great fortune finding people willing to go to West Africa to fight Ebola. They have set aside fears, reassured their families, and obtained leave from their ordinary responsibilities to join us. This speaks to the character and commitment of the people who work with uspeople like Dr. Spencer and Kaci Hickox. If they are discouraged by the prospect of three weeks of near total isolation on their return, we may lose the services of many good people. That will damage the effort to counter the outbreak at its epicenter, which remains the best way to protect the public at large, in any country.

 

By: Dr. Armand Sprecher, Public Health Specialist at Médecins Sans Frontières in Brussels; The New Republic, October 30, 2014

October 31, 2014 Posted by | Doctors Without Borders, Ebola, Health Care Workers | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Paging Dr. Christie, Dr Cuomo”: When Did Chris Christie And Andrew Cuomo Go To Medical School?

Just when you thought the Republican slime-ballers had run out of muck, you discover, no, they have more mud to throw at honorable people. And they are not just smearing Barack Obama. This time, they are disparaging the doctors and scientists at the National Institutes of Health and depicting them as weak-willed tools of the Democratic Party. If Americans fall for this, they may get the government they deserve—stripped of honest science and trustworthy decisions.

Republicans are not stupid, but they are shameless. They know people are rattled by the stealthy emergence of Ebola and that media hype has reflexively pumped up the danger and public confusion. NIH experts calmly explained what has to be done to defeat the disease and assured nervous citizens that healthcare teams are on the case. The GOP saw opportunity in unfolding tragedy and rushed to exploit it.

A political hack named Ed Rogers, corporate lobbyist and White House insider under Republican presidents, chortled gleefully over the political twist. His op-ed in The Washington Post hailed the brave governors of New York and New Jersey—Democrat Cuomo and Republican Christie—for intervening with a common-sense response. Any doctor or nurse who had gone to West Africa to treat Ebola victims should be automatically locked up in quarantine when they return home.

Rogers boasted, “If there is a Republican wave in the elections next Tuesday, pundits may well claim that it fully formed when Christie and Cuomo decided to go their own way with an Ebola strategy, despite objections from the White House.” People will be reassured by their common-sense intervention, he said, because “voters don’t trust the president to do the right thing and they are less likely to vote for those who echo the president’s blasé response.”

Actually, this know-nothing attack was launched by two well-known cynics of politics, both of whom lust after presidential ambitions. What Ed Rogers left out of the slime ball aimed at Obama is that it actually smeared some of the most experienced, knowledgeable and principled employees of the federal government. The real question at stake is whether the GOP demagoguery will succeed in destroying yet another citadel of advanced science and public values.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who played a significant role in the successful war against AIDS/HIV, has explained patiently and repeatedly why rigid quarantines of healthcare workers would actually increase the dangers. “The best way to protect the US is to stop the epidemic in Africa and we need those healthcare workers so we do not want to put them in a position where it makes it very, very uncomfortable for them to even volunteer.”

If political pollsters were more devoted to the public interest than their political clients, they would ask people this question: Whom do you most trust to handle the battle against Ebola—Dr. Fauci, the longtime leader of the national Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, or Chris Christie, the author of political vendettas against Jersey mayors who failed to support him? Or do people think Andrew Cuomo knows more than Anthony Fauci about how to organize the global counterattack against this dread disease?

The questions sound ludicrous, but they need to be asked. Once these guys finish with New York and New Jersey, they want to run the country. Let me restate the question in a harsher way people can understand: Who do you think will manage to kill more people with Ebola—Dr. Fauci or Governors Cuomo and Christie, the political twins?

Senator Elizabeth Warren, as she often does, is pushing back hard against the irresponsible politicians. On CBS This Morning, she said Christie “should bring out his scientists who are advising him on that because we know that we want to be led by the science. That’s what’s going to keep people safe—science, not politics.”

She went further and suggested the Republican party may have blood on its hands because it has pushed hard to cut NIH spending and thus research on the Ebola virus. “So now we’re in a position where instead of making those investments upfront, we wait until people die and now we’re going to spend billions of dollars and some real risk to our country.”

Good question. Why don’t reporters ask Dr. Christie and Dr Cuomo?

 

By: William Greider, The Nation, October 29, 2014

October 31, 2014 Posted by | Andrew Cuomo, Chris Christie, Ebola | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Stop Bashing The CDC”: Government Is The Enemy Until You Need A Friend

After a rough start dealing with America’s first Ebola cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention appear to be getting the problem under control. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be more incidents; a health care worker was diagnosed with the virus in New York yesterday after returning from West Africa. But the CDC now seems better able to control secondary infections, particularly among health care workers, who are at the greatest risk.

As the 21-day incubation period lapses without new infections in Texas, dozens of people are being cleared from the watch list. But Ebola lingers as a reminder of how easily safety organizations can weaken and what we must do to keep them effective.

“Government is the enemy until you need a friend,” said former Secretary of Defense William Cohen. Government organizations like the CDC, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Aviation Administration exist mostly to be our friends when we need protection from harm.

Unfortunately safety organizations like these don’t get much love in between disasters. They get attacked by those who covet their budget. They get attacked by those who hate government in general. They get attacked by corporations that don’t want to spend the money to comply with regulation. And they face political pressure to paper over potential problems that could embarrass some elected official. It’s hard to retain talent under conditions like that.

When we don’t take care of our safety organizations and don’t listen to them, they atrophy. Then disasters happen, and whoever is on watch ducks the blame. The person on watch always uses words like “Nobody could have foreseen …” For example: “Nobody could have foreseen” that the Army Corps’ levees in New Orleans would crumble during Hurricane Katrina. “Nobody could have foreseen” that terrorists might hijack an airplane and fly it into a building on 9/11. “Nobody could have foreseen” that dismantling Glass-Steagall Act protections would lead banks to gamble with taxpayer-guaranteed deposits. Not true. In most cases, agency staff anticipated the problem and tried to warn their bosses, but the boss didn’t pay attention because it was politically inconvenient or too expensive.

Frankly it’s a wonder that our safety agencies work as well as they do. The CDC is a case in point; they got many things right after their original poor response:

  • They quickly acknowledged that procedures were not working.
  • They didn’t circle the wagons. They listened to international medical organizations that had more experience in handling Ebola in the field.
  • They rapidly rolled out new procedures and equipment for protecting staff and training people in the proper use of the equipment.
  • Without succumbing to hysteria and political pressure, they updated travel regulations to ve rify the health of travelers from Africa while allowing essential aid workers to move unimpeded.

CDC did not do what so many agencies and private sector entities do in similar situations: Deny the problem, conceal data, refuse to change and retaliate against critics. The CDC responded and recovered more quickly than most. For example, they responded even more quickly than the U.S. Army did in giving our troops adequate protection against improvised explosive devices in Iraq.

Whatever the mistakes of government safety organizations, private sector safety organizations – the ones that exist inside corporations – are often much, much worse. Halliburton Co. and their contractors undercut internal safety processes in the prelude to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and four years later, they’re still fighting over who’s to blame. American International Group Inc.’s internal risk-management processes failed dismally in the subprime mortgage crisis, and rather than accept responsibility, they’re still arguing over the terms of the taxpayer bailout that saved them from bankruptcy.

Fast recovery is perhaps the best we can realistically ask of any safety organization, public or private, which faces infrequent, catastrophic risks. If we want these organizations to do the job, we need to treat them right. We need to give them the budget they need to conduct drills and stay sharp. We need to give them professional leadership and not put political appointees in charge. And we need to drop the hypocrisy of treating them as the enemy in between those rare but inevitable moments when we need them to save us. Far from failing, the CDC performed well under the circumstances. We won’t always be so lucky.

 

By: David Brodwin, Economic Intelligence, U. S, News and World Report, October 24, 2014

 

October 29, 2014 Posted by | CDC, Ebola, Federal Government | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: