Swine Flu Advice and Such

Hilzoy brings us a wonderful guest post by the Ruths Karron and Faden:

At this point, it is impossible to predict whether we are on the brink of an influenza pandemic. The threat is real, however, and governments across the globe are working hard to mitigate the potential impact of swine flu.

This is right and proper. Our government has an obligation to protect the public’s health, which it exercised responsibly by declaring a national public health emergency on Sunday. This declaration is the public face of countless actions that federal, state, and local health authorities are now undertaking on our behalf. But these are not the only actions that will be needed. There are also actions that we as citizens must undertake to minimize the swine flu threat that will help us protect ourselves and our families. These actions are not only prudent; they are a matter of moral and civic responsibility. Just as our government has an obligation to protect the public’s health, we too have an obligation to our country and to our fellow human beings to do our share to minimize the burdens of this influenza outbreak.

What can each of us do?

Their list is simple, sensible, and a perfect way to assuage any panic you might find creeping up on you and yelling “BOO!”

In other news, Michael Steele has shared his own infinite wisdom with us. I’m sorry, did I say wisdom? I meant whining:

Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele defended GOP opposition to pandemic preparedness funding in the stimulus bill in an interview with CNN Tuesday, saying the party had no way of knowing that such a threat might actually materialize. “Did we know this at the time of the vote?” Steele asked. “Don’t come back and make this link six months after the fact … we don’t know what tomorrow holds.”

Really, Michael? We had no way of knowing such a threat might materialize? Do you not know Google-fu?

Apparently not.

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

Hold on to your drinks, my darlings. The Cons have become so extreme they just turned Sen. Arlen Specter into a Democrat:

Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, facing a primary challenge next year he’s almost certain to lose, will switch parties today and become a Democrat. Seriously.

From a press statement issued by the senator’s office about 25 minutes ago:

“I have been a Republican since 1966. I have been working extremely hard for the Party, for its candidates and for the ideals of a Republican Party whose tent is big enough to welcome diverse points of view. While I have been comfortable being a Republican, my Party has not defined who I am. I have taken each issue one at a time and have exercised independent judgment to do what I thought was best for Pennsylvania and the nation.

“Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans. […]

“I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary.”

Specter will become the 59th member of the Senate Democratic caucus, which will become 60 once Norm Coleman gives up in Minnesota.

Welcome to the party, Sen. Specter. Not that it’s going to be a primrose path – once the excitement of sticking a thumb in the eye of the Republicons wears off, people are going to start to realize we’ve got a Republican in Dem’s clothing, and happiness will not abound. But, for now, most of us are thoroughly enjoying this.

It’s especially fun watching Cons react. Here’s Michael Steele in a whining snit:

In response to Sen. Arlen Specter’s switch out of the Republican party, RNC chairman Michael Steele put out a statement saying that the senator “left to further his personal political interests.” Later in the day, however, Steele went on CNN and unleashed his grievances against Specter, who never alerted him to his decision. Angry at being left out of the loop and relegated to irrelevance, Steele invoked all sorts of schoolyard insults:
STEELE: Look, you can tweak my nose and you can step on my toes and you can pull my hair. At some point enough is going to be enough. … Sen. Cornyn went out on the line for this man. For the senator to effectively flip the bird back to Sen. Cornyn and the Republican Senate leadership — a team that has stood by him, who went to the bat for him in 2004 — to save his hide, to me is not only disrespectful, but it’s just downright rude. I’m sure his mama didn’t raise him this way, and it’s a shame that he’s behaving this way today.

Aw, poor baby. And all because Sen. Specter didn’t think you were worth informing.

Mitch McConnell thinks this is the end of the world as we know it:

Mitch McConnell, leader of a Republican minority that is now even smaller, suggested Tuesday that Sen. Arlen Specter’s defection endangered not just the party, but the entire country.

“I think the threat to the country presented by this defection really relates to the issue of whether or not in the United States of America our people want the majority to have whatever it wants without restraint, without a check or a balance,” McConnell said Tuesday.

Heh heh. Aren’t they adorable when they’re shit-scared? He hasn’t got much to worry about. While Specter assured President Obama he supports his agenda, he hasn’t changed anything more than the letter after his name. He’s opposed to confirming Dawn Johnsen for OLC, refusing to back the EFCA, and you can imagine there’ll be plenty of other items where his old Republican side will come out. But, again, it’s not what kind of Dem that’s of concern right at the moment, it’s the fact he’s become one that’s so much fun.

There’s good reason for him to jump ship. After all, moderates aren’t treated kindly in GOP ranks:

The Politico has an item this afternoon with a headline that reads, “Moderates blame conservatives.” It’s about centrist Republicans who are most unhappy about colleagues like Arlen Specter no longer feeling welcome in the party.

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) … slammed right-wing interest groups for pushing moderates out of the party.

Specter switched parties Tuesday after a recent poll showed him badly losing a Pennsylvania Republican primary next year to Club for Growth founder Pat Toomey. Toomey’s staunchly fiscally conservative political action committee backs only those Republicans who support a low-tax, limited-government agenda and comes down hard on those who break with party orthodoxy.

“I don’t want to be a member of the Club for Growth,” said Graham. “I want to be a member of a vibrant national Republican party that can attract people from all corners of the country — and we can govern the country from a center-right perspective.”

“As Republicans, we got a problem,” he said.

That’s probably true, but isn’t the fact that Lindsay Graham considers himself a GOP moderate part of the problem?

You know, I do believe it is. And considering it’s not likely to get better, we should probably keep an eye on Sen. Olympia Snowe – she may be next.

This news has kind of pushed everything else into the background, but let’s not lose sight of the blazing stupidity still evinced by the (now smaller) Con party. Guess who they’ve chosen to join their little “energy solutions” club? Go on, guess:

Last month, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) announced the creation of the House GOP American Energy Solutions Group, meant to “work on crafting Republican solutions to lower energy prices for American families and small businesses.” Helping lead the way toward finding those solutions? Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), who yesterday announced her appointment to the group…

[snip]

If Boehner and the House GOP were truly interested in promoting real solutions to America’s energy and environmental crises, Bachmann should be their last pick for the group. After all, she has made a name for herself by constantly repeating the most nonsensical, misleading, radical untruths

about energy and the environment:

“[T]here isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows carbon dioxide is a harmful gas. There isn’t one such study because carbon dioxide is not a harmful gas, it is a harmless gas. Carbon dioxide is natural. It is not harmful. It is part of Earth’s life cycle.” [4/22/09]

“And the science indicates that human activity is not the cause of all this global warming. And that in fact, nature is the cause, with solar flares, etc.” [3/22/09]

[snip]

Bachmann is hardly the only member of Boehner’s “solutions” group who is untethered to reality. Rep John Shimkus (R-IL) declared that capping CO2 would be “taking away plant food from the atmosphere,” and called such caps “the largest assault on democracy and freedom in this country that I’ve ever experienced.” Rep. Mike Pence (R-IA) called cap and trade “an economic declaration of war on the Midwest.”

Interesting picks for the group that’s supposed to help Cons recover the lead on energy policy. Methinks this may not work out well at all. But it’ll be hugely entertaining.

Almost as entertaining as Sen. Specter’s new identity.

Poem o’ the Day

There’s a story behind Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan.” You might have heard it:

At the time of its publication, Coleridge subtitled it “A Vision in a Dream. A Fragment” and added a prefatory note explaining its unusual origin. The poet remarked that after taking some opium for medication, he grew drowsy while reading a passage from Samuel Purchas’s Pilgrimage. concerning the court of Kubla Khan. In his semi-conscious state, Coleridge composed a few hundred lines of poetry, and when he awoke, immediately began writing the verses down. Unfortunately, a visitor interrupted him, and when the poet had a chance to return to his writing, the images had fled, leaving him with only vague recollections and the remaining 54 lines of his unfinished poem.

Been there, done that. Well, aside from the opium and the few hundred lines of poetry… Anyway, the moral of the story is: don’t interrupt the writer at work. Who knows what this poem may have been were it complete?

Kubla Khan

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And here were gardens bright with sinuous rills
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!

And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced;
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And ‘mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And ‘mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!

The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves:
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight ‘t would win me
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

We Are Bound by the Convention We Signed

In 1984, Ronald Reagan made this country a signatory to the U.N. Convention Against Torture. Since it appears that some people, our President included, think that prosecuting torturers is optional, it might be a good idea to have a peek at some articles of the Convention, with some particularly juicy bits emphasized:

Article 1

1. For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

2. This article is without prejudice to any international instrument or national legislation which does or may contain provisions of wider application.

Article 2

1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.

2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

[snip]

Article 4

1. Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture.

2. Each State Party shall make these offences punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature.

Article 5

1. Each State Party shall take such measures as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction over the offences referred to in article 4 in the following cases:

(a) When the offences are committed in any territory under its jurisdiction or on board a ship or aircraft registered in that State;

(b) When the alleged offender is a national of that State;

(c) When the victim is a national of that State if that State considers it appropriate.

2. Each State Party shall likewise take such measures as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction over such offences in cases where the alleged offender is present in any territory under its jurisdiction and it does not extradite him pursuant to article 8 to any of the States mentioned in paragraph I of this article.

3. This Convention does not exclude any criminal jurisdiction exercised in accordance with internal law.

Article 6

1. Upon being satisfied, after an examination of information available to it, that the circumstances so warrant, any State Party in whose territory a person alleged to have committed any offence referred to in article 4 is present shall take him into custody or take other legal measures to ensure his presence. The custody and other legal measures shall be as provided in the law of that State but may be continued only for such time as is necessary to enable any criminal or extradition proceedings to be instituted.

2. Such State shall immediately make a preliminary inquiry into the facts.

[snip]

Article 7

1. Upon being satisfied, after an examination of information available to it, that the circumstances so warrant, any State Party in whose territory a person alleged to have committed any offence referred to in article 4 is present shall take him into custody or take other legal measures to ensure his presence. The custody and other legal measures shall be as provided in the law of that State but may be continued only for such time as is necessary to enable any criminal or extradition proceedings to be instituted.

2. Such State shall immediately make a preliminary inquiry into the facts.

I’m no lawyer, but there would appear to be no wiggle room involved. Either we prosecute, or we extradite our war criminals so another nation can prosecute for us. We signed the Convention. We’re bound by it.

Prosecutions. Now.

(Tip o’ the shot glass to Ed Brayton)

That Old Christian Compassion

I know that not all Christians use their faith as an excuse to be total fucking assholes. I know not all of them are homicidal fucktards. But there’s plenty who are, and it’s disgusting watching them use their religion to cloak their hate in righteousness:

Uber-wingnut Gordon Klingenschmitt is now praying — in Jesus’ name, of course — for God to strike down Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. You can listen to the prayer here. It’s what they call an “imprecatory prayer,” the same thing Southern Baptist Convention officer Wiley Drake did against Barry Lynn and others before. It’s basically a curse, praying to God to kill those you pray against. Here’s a transcript:

“One-Minute Prayer: Let us pray. Almighty God, today we pray imprecatory prayers from Psalm 109 against the enemies of religious liberty, including Barry Lynn and Mikey Weinstein, who issued press releases this week attacking me personally. God, do not remain silent, for wicked men surround us and tell lies about us. We bless them, but they curse us. Therefore find them guilty, not me. Let their days be few, and replace them with Godly people. Plunder their fields, and seize their assets. Cut off their descendants, and remember their sins, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Cute how he’s asking God to find him not guilty. Seems like he’s afraid someone might think he’s guilty. I wonder if he wonders if his magic sky-daddy might be a little bit upset at him for wishing ill on another human being, eh?

The Incredible Shrinking GOP

Looks like 21 isn’t just a winning hand in Blackjack anymore:

Yes, it’s true: the Republican Party is leaderless except for Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney which hasn’t worked out very well as new polling shows that Americans are turning away from the GOP in droves.

The new Washington Post/ABC news poll has all sorts of intriguing numbers in it but when you are looking for clues as to where the two parties stand politically there is only one number to remember: 21.

That’s the percent of people in the Post/ABC survey who identified themselves as Republicans, down from 25 percent in a late March poll and at the lowest ebb in this poll since the fall of 1983(!).

It’s a great thing to know that only 1/4 of my country is batshit fucking insane.

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

So, my stepmother emails me today to say I might want to reconsider that trip to Mexico I’m planning, WHO’s issued a phase-4 alert, and swine flu’s on everybody’s mind. Let’s check in on the Cons and see how they’re reacting.

Of course, in their world, everything happens for a reason, and Dems are always to blame:


Revealing that her understanding of public health alerts has not evolved from the Bush-generated panics over color-coded terror alerts and anthrax attacks, the head of Concerned Women for America, Wendy Wright, says “some people” blame the Obama Administration for the political timing of the swine flu alert, since it happened one day before tomorrow’s cloture vote on the nomination of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius to head HHS, a critical department.


“Some people think that declaring a state of emergency about the flu was a political thing to push the Sebelius nomination through,” said Wright. She pointed to news stories that ask whether the slow-walking of the Sebelius choice will hurt the response to the flu. “If there’s even a hint that [Department of Homeland Security] is manipulating the health situation to push a political appointee through, well, it almost defies imagination that they’d be willing to that.”The GOP has allowed a critical department to remain without a leader, when they haven’t the votes to stop the nomination and are simply making noise to appease their forced-birth base. But pointing out that fact as America confronts a possible flu pandemic is “political.”

My, my. What a surprise. As Steven Benen notes:


The right is responding to the public health emergency about as you’d expect. Some are accusing the administration of deliberately overreacting. Others see an elaborate conspiracy to get Americans to “respond to government orders.” Others still see a different conspiracy to get Kathleen Sebelius confirmed. Just another day in conservative political discourse.

It’s pathetic that this is the expected reaction from the rabid right – and that the rabid right includes ostensibly mainstream conservatives.

And let’s not forget, it’s Cons who decided we didn’t need no stinkin’ funding for a pandemic:


On February 5, Karl Rove took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to argue against President Obama’s Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act because, in his view, the spending was not targeted to create or preserve jobs. In particular, Rove complained about the fact that the bill included “$900 million for pandemic flu preparations.” He contended that such spending was unnecessary because the health care sector “added jobs last year.”

Rep. David Obey (D-WI) included the pandemic preparation funding in the package because he believed “that a pandemic hitting in the midst of an economic downturn could turn a recession into something far worse.” But Rove was not concerned with the actual substance of the funding.

[snip]

Indeed, like Rove, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) was apparently unwilling to be seen as endorsing such “funny” sounding priorities as flu “preparedness” in an economic recovery package. Perhaps in an attempt to prove her fiscal conservative bona fides, Collins repeatedly insisted that Obey’s pandemic preparedness funding did not belong in the bill:

COLLINS: There’s funding to help improve our preparedness for a pandemic flu. There is funding to help improve cyber security. What does that have to do with an economic stimulus package? [CNN, 1/31/09]

[snip]

After the funding was stripped, another moderate Republican attempting to appear tough on “unnecessary” spending in the recovery package, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), endorsed Collins’ crusade against the pandemic preparedness funding on Fox News:

MS. KELLY: Okay. $780 million for pandemic flu preparedness, in or out?

SEN. SPECTER: Out. Very important projects, I took the lead along with Tom Harkin on some massive funding for pandemic flu, but it belongs in our regular appropriations bill.

Well, in retrospect, it seems that stripping that funding from the stimulus might not have been such a great idea after all. There’s just this thing about massive pandemics – when everybody’s sick, dying, or staying home, the economy sorta kinda takes a hit. And if the Cons hadn’t spent the last eight years destroying the CDC, it might not have been so necessary to have that funding in the stimulus in the first place, because we would’ve already been prepared.

Oops.

I think Paul Krugman said it best when he said:


So Bobby Jindal makes fun of “volcano monitoring”, and soon afterwards Mt. Redoubt erupts. Susan Collins makes sure that funds for pandemic protection are stripped from the stimulus bill, and the swine quickly attack.

What else did the right oppose recently? I just want enough information to take cover.


Ditto. They may be a bunch of outright fucking idiots, but it seems their record’s very good on predicting disasters by refusing to fund them.

Of course, going back to our original point, these fucktards aren’t going to see this as a wake-up call. After all, their prominent voices are already screeching about how Obama caused this whole outbreak, and their paranoid little minds probably will tie this neatly together with Erick Erickson’s insane post:

It’s always been impossible to take Erick Erickson, RedState’s editor, seriously. When we last heard from the fairly prominent conservative blogger, he was writing about violence against elected public officials who were regulating chemicals in dishwasher detergent.

It gives one a sense of the guy’s credibility and level of seriousness.

Today, Erickson was in rare form, accusing President Obama of taking active, deliberate steps to encourage a deadly terrorist attack against the United States. He wasn’t kidding — Erickson seriously seems to believe the president wants terrorists to kill Americans.


The best strategy would look something like taking a band-aid off
quickly. Get the pain over fast. And if an attack happens quickly enough into the new administration, they can blame Bush.

So the Obama administration is working hard to release all the memos on interrogations, change all the policies Bush implemented, and clear out the old as fast as possible. Never mind that if it were done slowly over time, our terrorist enemies might not be so incited to attack.

If your working premise is that they are going to attack anyway, get them incited quickly, get it over with, and blame Bush. There is no other justification for so quickly making us less safe.

When this truly insane idea sparked some criticism, Erickson, apparently playing by junior-high-school rules, “Truth hurts I guess.”

Let’s also not forget that Erickson is not a fringe, obscure right-wing blogger, but a prominent conservative voice and a writer popular in the Bush White House.

Anyone taking bets on how soon we’ll see prominent Cons spinning stories about some al Qaeda plot to give us all the swine flu at Obama’s bidding? My money’s on the next thirty seconds.

Poem o’ the Day

You all know I buggered off to watch House last night. And that’s the inspiration for today’s poetry. I’m not a huge fan of William Butler Yeats, but I have to admit that hearing this one read aloud was delightful:

Her Praise

She is foremost of those that I would hear praised.
I have gone about the house, gone up and down
As a man does who has published a new book,
Or a young girl dressed out in her new gown,
And though I have turned the talk by hook or crook
Until her praise should be the uppermost theme,
A woman spoke of some new tale she had read,
A man confusedly in a half dream
As though some other name ran in his head.
She is foremost of those that I would hear praised.
I will talk no more of books or the long war
But walk by the dry thorn until I have found
Some beggar sheltering from the wind, and there
Manage the talk until her name come round.
If there be rags enough he will know her name
And be well pleased remembering it, for in the old days,
Though she had young men’s praise and old men’s blame,
Among the poor both old and young gave her praise.

That, of course, inspired me to read a few more poems. And I found one that I like very muchly:

On Being Asked for a War Poem

I think it better that in times like these
A poet’s mouth be silent, for in truth
We have no gift to set a statesman right;
He has had enough of meddling who can please
A young girl in the indolence of her youth,
Or an old man upon a winter’s night.

Cujo Takes Obama to the Woodshed

Go. Read. Now:

If you want an example of how disconnected our federal government is from the world that the rest of us live in, you can’t do much better than to contemplate the case of Alyssa Peterson and then contrast it with the behavior of the Congress, the Senate in particular, and the President over the last few days.

Read the rest. And then let Cujo know if you’ve got a massage therapist you can recommend – I’m sure his arm needs one after that energetic session with the Smack-o-Matic.