Friday, October 24, 2014

Ebolacare, Or: What's Killing Republican Comedy

In my post below, I mentioned that Nick Muzin's joke didn't really work as a joke because, as I keep saying, ebola is serious business. But on a certain level, it should work. After all, who could take a contention that Obamacare and ebola are somehow connected seriously?  That's just absurd...right?

And then along comes Alan Keyes:

The Obama faction’s plan to import Ebola-infected persons into the United States maintains the outward appearance of and unarmed invasion while in fact introducing into the country what amounts to specialized “armies of one,” each of them carrying a biological weapon of mass destruction. If and when the resulting infections get out of hand (which seems to be happening despite repeated, apparently erroneous, possibly deceitful, assurances of effective containment) what will be made of the resulting health crisis? When, by way of this sly biological warfare, “Obamacare” morphs into “Ebolacare” what will become of the (always suspect) commitment of Obama’s ostensible opponents in the GOP’s elitist faction leadership to roll back the government takeover of the health sector?  
You know, bringing people infected with ebola into isolation rooms to be treated so they get better is probably one of the least-effective means of using what is already a piss-poor bioweapon (sorry/not sorry, Mark Thiessen) I can think of.  Spreading ebola to make Obamacare look good is...special? Does Keyes actually believe something this dopey? That is below the credibility threshold for a comic-book villain.

Oh, and people buy private health care plans on the exchanges. It's really not a takeover of healthcare. That's like saying "Stop" signs  and the DMV are a takeover of traffic.

It might work as satire, in a Daily Currant kind of way--but this is a real person really saying this thing! How do you parody that?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sometimes it's Just Too Soon, Dr. Muzin

You know, sometimes a limit of 140 characters is about 140 characters too many. It's too easy to Tweet something stupid. Now, Senator Ted Cruz' s Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor is a seriously smart man--I mean, a doctor, a lawyer and a political advisor--what a trifecta! But you know what they say. Medicine, law, and politics are easy; comedy is hard. He did the right thing and deleted it and apologized, but I have to admit, the partisan side of me felt all nasty and like, "Yeah, and there was no AIDS epidemic before Reagan." And that one isn't meant to be funny--it's just really true.

But there's this other thing--I really don't see any connection between Obamacare and ebola. I mean, it's like a "Thanks Obama" meme gone all wrong, isn't it? And actually, in the case of the one person who had ebola who died here in the States, I still kind of think he didn't get diagnosed properly because he was uninsured. People being uninsured, ebola or not, is responsible for a lot of mortality, and I would be amazed if a smart guy like Dr. Muzin was unaware of that. Why, it's even projected to be true in Senator Cruz's own state of Texas.

Thousands of people have died of this virus an ocean away from our shore, and Dr. Craig Spencer, the patient who was diagnosed today in New York, went to the hot zone and risked himself to fight this deadly disease. I wish him a lot of luck and am confident he's in good hands. But when people politicize life-or-death issues so glibly, I wonder what kind of hands our political lives are in.

Regarding the Ottawa Shooting

The very shocking and tragic news of the shooting that  killed Cpl Nathan Cirillo has led to a heightened threat alert, coming fairly soon after another possibly-jihad-motivated death of a Canadian soldier, WO Patrice Vincent, in a hit-and-run incident.

It looks, to me, anyway, probable that the shooter, Michael Zahaf-Bibeau, was acting as a "lone wolf" in this scenario, and actually, some of what that last link suggests to me is that he was something like the DC sniper killers or Nidal Hassan--talking about jihad is something tangential to whatever motive really resulted in the rampage. It's like an excuse. There's Christian mass killers and killers of no particular obvious religious bent. It looks to me like sometimes, a person just has a predisposition to do some horrible thing, and they fill in the blanks with whatever mental salve lets them justify it.

Sometimes I think, as a species, our unique ability as reasoning animals is our ability to perform homicide with vast and colorful justifications for it. We do absurd things. Sometimes for religion--or something almost like it. Sometimes for other fantasies--weirder ones.

There may be some reactionaries who will look at this particular incident and single out the Muslim community or say it must be in sympathy with the current jihadist bogeyman of the moment, but frankly, I give a bit of credence to the people who knew this person and thought that he was mentally heading in a bad way--which is a thing that people actually can do. (I am also concerned about his mention of Shaytan--I tend to see "The Devil made me do it" as a universal permission-slip for the homicidally-tended.)  But I don't think these two incidents are a pattern, as such, for terrorism. They are more like the senseless, regular violence we see in the world today.

And no, this is not to excuse it at all.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ben Bradlee and Rick Piltz: RIP; The Truth Matters

The passing of Ben Bradlee, a great figure of journalism, as the editor The Washington Post when one of its most monumental tasks of public informing was done, namely, the detailing of some of the jackassery in office that was the undoing of the political fortune of one Richard Milhous Nixon, reminds me that anyone might have their moment of doing it just right. Sometimes you just know a story is dead right, and you tell it. For the great series of stories that undid a corrupt administration, he deserves a good part of the credit.

Which is why this post is about Rick Piltz.

Rick Piltz was an employee of the federal government, who realized that something very wrong was being done. Politically-connected appointees in the Bush Administration were misrepresenting the science of climate change. What Piltz went on to detail, was that pattern of misrepresentation, editing, muzzling, and interfering with the job of reporting good science, by politically-motivated hacks.

Could Ebola Teach US Americans Geography?

The late journalist Ambrose Bierce commented that "War is God's way of teaching Americans geography." Yeah. As if Americans ever learn geography. Truth of the matter is, that picture to the left probably is where a disturbing number of Americans (well, nortemericanos, anyway) stand with respects to understanding our planet and how she is laid out. (More knucklehead geography is on view at Buzzfeed. [No, but I love Buzzfeed, news and nostalgia and cat videos forevah. It is my #1 time-sink site and I can not lie.])

Basically, even our most elite Americans are totally having Caitlin Upton moments--but particularly about the whole Africa and ebola thing.

No, really:

For instance, at a school in New Burlington, New Jersey, two Rwandan students are staying at home due to other parents’ fear that they will infect other children with Ebola. Rwanda is as close to the Ebola outbreak as New York City is to Seattle.

In Hazlehurst, Mississippi, a school principal’s recent visit to Zambia has led to a lot of parents choosing to keep their kids at home. But Zambia is in Southern Africa, over 3,000 miles away from the Ebola outbreak — the same distance between New Hampshire and Los Angeles.  
A school bus driver in Poplarville, Mississippi who recently visited Ghana is being prevented from returning to work. Meanwhile, in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, some parents kept their kids home when their school hosted two visitors from Uganda.
Seriously? People aren't even Google-mapping where people are from? Can't even do the most basic Wiki research into where folks are and how ebola works and then front that they are concerned? They have the maps--because they have the cell phones. Maps are even on cell phones, now. They have the gateway to non-stupid in their pockets.

So I am thinking the answer is "Nope." Americans will learn geography when the stupid is pried from their cold, dead hands. Or possibly in the case of zombie apocalypse.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

George F. Will is Not an Expert on Things.

One of the amusing things about punditry is it convinces the accepted class of mainstream commenters that their opinions on any and all things are valid and probably pretty damn smart.

George Will is an ancient and accepted pundit--and he is so wrong about stuff that Chris Wallace has to drag his ass up.  He unbelievably tries to say ebola is quasi-airborne because...nothing, on the FOX News Sunday show, and literally cannot be told he is wrong. Even the doctors he thinks he is quoting will go on to say he is wrong.

This is of a piece with his shtick though. Like, regarding climate change, where I have raked him over, he trots out the same things even though better brains than mine have said "Stahp".

He's made a spectacle of himself over rape culture to his detriment, and now, he wants to make a brand new spectacle of himself about ebola?

He is an expert about being a pundit who was mildly relevant in the 1980's. Please, Old Media, stop pretending he's relevant about anything else. He's very uninformed. He's like some 1950's sex manual recommending a cola douche for birth control. It's like, that level of embarrassing.

Are Things Politicians Think Not Part of a Story?

So, a handful of blogs I respect led me to this National Journal piece regarding how, even if she is a really fascinating person and a darn good candidate, Joni Ernst might narrowly lose to Bruce Braley. I think Kilgore's commentary was what got me out of the boat.

I am going to agree with Goldmacher's narrative to an extent--she served our country, she's a mom, she's got a farming background, and the support of Vander Platts and the whole Iowa GOP thing--she's a "good candidate". But the point the folks I've been reading has to carry a little weight--it absolutely does with me, anyway, and is basically what my blog is about--she's a great candidate, but she believes batshit things. And at some point, if we're being honest, now, whether a person is susceptible to believing batshit things matters.

Thinking that zygotes are people (I always say--fine, give 'em the right to vote, but good luck getting them to the polls...) and that the UN is gonna steal our golfs and overthrow the US with clever use of bike lanes is troubling. It isn't a question of whether there is a decent knucklehead constituency out there that believes this nonsense. It's a question of whether it even makes sense to believe it, whether it flies as plausible policy, whether it is worth it to invest trust in people who, given the opportunity, will inject some degree of guanothink into anything they do. I understand why Democratic pols don't directly challenge the guanothink (they should give it the odd try though, even if they don't make a habit of it.)

But there isn't much of a good reason why what a politician stands for should be as much a consideration for a journalist looking at the big picture regarding a candidate, as their "narrative." I might agree with Peggy Noonan about very little, but when she witheringly reduced Sarah Palin's selection as McCain's running mate to narrative, she had a very valid point. Pandering to the base is dumb, and falling for life stories is dumb. There really is a case to be made for recognizing and maybe even trying to encourage competence. The article glancingly has a graph about how Ernst can be characterized as an extremist based on her positions--that she is one is sort of the big old elephant in the room. If Ernst loses because of a Democratic Machine--it was mobilized because, in part, she made moderate Dems' jaws drop. That jaw drop is real. It should be heard.