Late Night Horrorshow: Zika Is Coming, Ready or Not

I’m probably gonna get dinged for chicken-littling, because hey, no Ebola outbreak happened in America, right? And yet… “White House Ebola response coordinator from 2014 to 2015” Klain’s Washington Post article:

The good news is that both the House and Senate have finally passed bills that would provide some funding to combat the Zika virus. The bad news is that this action comes more than three months after President Obama requested the aid. Moreover, the House bill provides only one-third of the response needed; pays for this limited, ineffective response by diverting money allocated to fight other infectious diseases; and necessitates a conference committee to resolve differences with the Senate bill, meaning we still do not know when any money will finally get through Congress to fund the response…

As befuddling as Congress’ refusal to approve funds for the Zika response is, perhaps even more of a mystery is why such approval is needed in the first place. If nature was threatening us with serious injury and evacuations via fire, flood or hurricane, the president could use his authority under the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to provide immediate aid without waiting for Congress to act. The fact that epidemic “natural disasters” are the result of disease and not an earthquake or tornado should not constrain the federal government’s ability to provide a timely, comprehensive response…

Speaking of those damaged babies? Once the Zika virus gets established in “our” mosquitos, microcephaly is going to become yet another standard prenatal test for women in the afflicted areas. Or who’ve visited those areas. Or whose male partners were exposed to Zika, even months before the pregnancy. And by the time microcephaly can be diagnosed, it’s too late for a quiet ‘medical abortion‘ — women will need full surgical services, and most will have been visibly pregnant. It’s not going to be easy for ‘fundamentalist’ anti-choicers to find reasons to blame good married Christian white ladies in the Sunbelt for having been bitten by the wrong mosquito… but I’m sure they’re gonna try their damndest.
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Smug versus condescending

Remember that fun couple of months when we were all saving the Affordable Care Act? Something jumped out at me then and I still think it is incredibly salient today. At the very beginning when we started phoning Representatives, their staffs reacted like it was a breath of air to a drowning person. This really puzzled me. This blog has a lot of readers, but not that many. At any given time I don’t think we had more than a couple hundred actively burning up the phone lines. At the beginning when I started hearing this stuff it could not have been more than a couple dozen people. These politicians represent the whole country. If you count just the Democrats at that time they represent a bit over half of it. That’s a bit under two hundred million people. Say around a hundred million old enough to pick up the phone. I know that not everyone does, but enough people still do that often enough that we never should have had the impact we did.

A piece fell into the puzzle when I listened to Keith and Rachel on MSNBC. I have to confess that I don’t enjoy loud partisan entertainment all that much, even when it’s on my side. I think I watched either of them for the first time a few months after the ACA. When Maddow went to credits, what I felt more than anything was kind of smug. I felt great about being on the right side of objective reality but I did not feel like doing much of anything.

Watch an hour of O’Reilly some time, and then check your feelings. Odds are pretty good you will be mad. If you are a liberal you will be mad at all the stupid and misleading things he said about you. If you are a conservative you will feel pretty steamed about the terrible liberals, laughing at you while they wreck everything. Either way you will want to do something. Maybe call FOX and complain about their accuracy, maybe bottle that rage up and save it for Sunday dinner when you can really stick it to that smug liberal nephew. You know what a metric shitload of conservatives do when FOX or some jackass on Clear Channel pisses them off? They call their Congressperson. I know this because Congressional phone volunteers receive what amounts to a nonstop stream of angry invective from FOX viewers and Glenn Beck fans and people who followed the very easy instructions on the all-caps mailer they just got from Tea Party Freedom Fighters Inc., a subsidiary of Koch Industries. It never ends. That is why I think the firebaggers accomplished nothing, despite outpunching this blog by a couple weight classes. A few more anti-ACA phone calls would barely register among a sea of frothy wingnuts, whereas your positive calls were literally the first supportive pro-ACA message some Reps received from the outside world. Their districts were full of liberals who really wanted to see Americans get health care, but none of them picked up the phone.

To me this disparity is one of the most crucial, underappreciated factors in Washington, DC sausagemaking. It helps explain the aggravating headwind that liberal policies always face, where progressive proposals that somehow make it to a bill inevitably get chipped down and lose support over time, whereas conservatives bills if anything pick up steam and constantly get peppered with amendments that make them worse. No matter what the polling says about how popular a policy is, elected Democrats often act like they are fighting a rear guard action against a hostile press and public because in their office it really feels that way. Every one of them gets a daily tally of where that day’s calls and (especially) letters fall on various issues.

So Kevin Drum just weighed in on the old question about whether liberals have a bigger problem with being smug being condescending. Personally, I say why not both. They’re two sides of the same thing anyway. Kevin more or less noodles at the end but that is the part that interests me.

[L]iberals and conservatives have different styles. No surprise there. The question is, do these styles work? Here, I think the answer is the same on both sides: they work on their own side, but not on the other. Outrage doesn’t persuade liberals and mockery doesn’t persuade conservatives. If you’re writing something for your own side, as I am here, most of the time, there’s no harm done. The problem is that mass media—and the internet in particular—makes it very hard to tailor our messages. Conservative outrage and liberal snark are heard by everyone, including the persuadable centrist types that we might actually want to persuade.

I certainly do not want to dismiss the persuadable moderate thing. A dumb person who is outraged at least radiates sincerity, whereas a smug smart person is practically begging for a wedgie, even when you suspect they are probably right. But at the same time the conservative outrage reflex has a much more basic kind of practical advantage. It gets you yelling at some volunteer phone intern, who dutifully makes yet another little check next to Agenda-21-golf-ban-against. Smug doesn’t really compel you to do anything. You are awesome already, even if the world does not appreciate it. I think we could all afford to meditate on that once in a while.



Monday Morning Open Thread: Positive Thoughts

I’m sure Richard Mayhew will be along to tell us about this in much more detail, but this is good news. Per the NYTimes, “Immigrants, the Poor and Minorities Gain Sharply Under Health Act”

LOS ANGELES — The first full year of the Affordable Care Act brought historic increases in coverage for low-wage workers and others who have long been left out of the health care system, a New York Times analysis has found. Immigrants of all backgrounds — including more than a million legal residents who are not citizens — had the sharpest rise in coverage rates.

Hispanics, a coveted group of voters this election year, accounted for nearly a third of the increase in adults with insurance. That was the single largest share of any racial or ethnic group, far greater than their 17 percent share of the population. Low-wage workers, who did not have enough clout in the labor market to demand insurance, saw sharp increases. Coverage rates jumped for cooks, dishwashers, waiters, as well as for hairdressers and cashiers. Minorities, who disproportionately worked in low-wage jobs, had large gains…

Until now, the impact of the law has been measured mostly in broad numbers of newly insured people — about 20 million by the administration’s most recent account. But the Times’s analysis of census data from 2014, the first year the heart of the law was in full effect, provides a finely detailed look at who the newly insured actually are — by race, education, occupation, immigration status, and family structure…

“From the vantage point of the poor and working poor, Obamacare has been profound,” said Jim Mangia, president of the St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, a federally funded health clinic in South Los Angeles that has enrolled 18,000 new patients under the law, nearly all of them Hispanic or black and the vast majority in Medicaid. The clinic reported a 44 percent increase in cervical cancer screenings, a 25 percent increase in tobacco cessation therapy, and a 22 percent increase in the share of patients with controlled hypertension since 2014, the result, he said, of more patients having insurance.

Having insurance does not necessarily mean better health, but experts hope it could start to ease some of the worst disparities that have kept the United States close to the bottom of health rankings of rich countries…

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Apart from cheering improvement, what’s on the agenda as we start another week?



Horror Movie Open Thread: Teach Screen the Controversy!

Zombie lies, they’re not just for economics any more! Per the NYTimes:

In a decision that has dredged up the widely debunked link between vaccines and autism, the Tribeca Film Festival plans to screen a film by a discredited former doctor whose research caused widespread alarm about the issue.

The film, “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe,” is directed and co-written by Andrew Wakefield, an anti-vaccination activist and an author of a study — published in the British medical journal The Lancet, in 1998 — that was retracted in 2010. In addition to the retraction of the study, which involved 12 children, Britain’s General Medical Council, citing ethical violations and a failure to disclose financial conflicts of interest, revoked Mr. Wakefield’s medical license…

On Friday, Robert De Niro, one of the festival’s founders, said in a statement issued through the festival’s publicists that he supported the plan to show the movie next month, although he said he was “not personally endorsing the film,” nor was he against vaccination.

Mr. De Niro’s statement seemed to suggest that this was the first time he has expressed a preference that a particular film be shown at the festival.

“Grace and I have a child with autism,” he wrote, referring to his wife, Grace Hightower De Niro, “and we believe it is critical that all of the issues surrounding the causes of autism be openly discussed and examined. In the 15 years since the Tribeca Film Festival was founded, I have never asked for a film to be screened or gotten involved in the programming. However this is very personal to me and my family and I want there to be a discussion, which is why we will be screening VAXXED.”…

The plan to show the film has unnerved and angered doctors, infectious disease experts and even other filmmakers…

According to the festival’s website, “Vaxxed” will be screened only once, on April 24, the festival’s closing day. A talk with the director and the film’s subjects will follow.

An earlier version of this article suggested that perhaps Mr. de Niro intended to rebut the film during his talk, but that doesn’t seem to be what he’s planning, per Deadline:

[T]he TFF promotional material could easily be taken to endorse Wakefield’s cause. “Digging into the long-debated link between autism and vaccines, Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe features revealing and emotional interviews with pharmaceutical insiders, doctors, politicians, parents, and one whistleblower to understand what’s behind the skyrocketing increase of autism diagnoses today.” Also this: “The most vitriolic debate in medical history takes a dramatic turn when senior-scientist-turned-whistleblower Dr. William Thompson of the Centers for Disease Control turns over secret documents, data and internal emails confirming what millions of devastated parents and ‘discredited’ doctors have long-suspected.”…

One happy effect of De Niro’s statement, according to the LA Times: “The De Niro news does quell reports that actor Leonardo DiCaprio was involved in backing the film — as Wakefield apparently told reporters on a promotional cruise — and even may have been orchestrating its Tribeca screening.”



Open Thread: Media v Corey Lewandowski

My lace-curtain-Irish grandmother, faced with an uncooperative store clerk or a dilatory office assistant, would announce “Like man, like master!” in her most carrying tones. Certain members of the media (too much of which gave Trump a free pass as long as it was only protestors being roughed up) seem to be turning on the Donald’s campaign manager, now that he’s literally manhandled a female Breitbart reporter…

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Balloon Juice Bunker Standoff Update: Won’t Someone Think of the Cows!

Earlier today efgoldman asked about what was happening with Cliven Bundy’s cows.

The short answer is that the BLM, coordinating with the Department of Justice, is trying to figure out what to do with them. They are still under a seizure order from a Federal court due to the unpaid grazing fees and the overdue fines on those fees.

However, BLM has several concerns:
1) There are still Bundys and their supporters at his Bunkerville Ranch and in the surrounding communities that could place BLM personnel at risk.

2) In relation to item 1, Cliven Bundy has sent violently threatening letters to many of the companies that BLM would contract with to do the removal, transport, and/or house the cattle. So none of the companies want to get involved. This is almost a textbook example of the state level crime known as terrorizing/making terroristic threats.

3) The cattle are a special breed of Brahman, imported from India, that can handle high heat, little water, and sparse vegetation. They are also known for having particularly unpleasant dispositions and have been compared to Cape Buffalo. So they are naturally smart and ornery and Bundy has essentially let them go feral. So this isn’t like rounding up the normal, dimwitted cows we often see on TV. Rather it is trying to round up large, nasty, smart, aggressive, feral animals. And trying to do so in harsh conditions with a potential threat of human directed violence against those doing the round up.

4) It is also important to remember that Bundy doesn’t brand his cattle – it is estimated that 3/4 of his herd (approximately 750 out of 1,000 total) are unbranded. Nor has he taken proper care of them. So in addition to being feral, and a specialty breed, because they’ve not had proper veterinary care there is no telling what they are carrying disease wise. This means that bringing them anywhere where they can come into contact with other ranchers’ cattle, or even people, is not a good idea. In order to do this right they would have to a) round them up, b) transport them in a controlled manner to a containment facility – at this point they become temporary property/in custody of the State of Nevada, c) have each cow evaluated by a veterinarian, d) go through a complete course of treatment for whatever they might have, e) be reevaluated to make sure they’re disease free, and then finally to f) be made available for auction with the proceeds going to pay off Cliven Bundy’s outstanding grazing fees and the fines and interest that has accrued on them. That last step of putting them up for auction only comes after Cliven Bundy is given a chance to pay his overdue fees and the fines and the court costs to reclaim his cattle. If he refuses to do so, or fails to do so, the BLM can apply to the State of Nevada Brand Inspector to sell the unbranded cattle. If the application is approved the cattle can then, finally be auctioned, but only the approximately 750 or so without brands. I do not know what happens to the remaining branded cattle.

It is important to keep in mind that Bundy owes over a million dollars in fees, fines, and court costs, but his 1,000 head herd is only valued at around $800,000 and only the unbranded 3/4 (750) can be auctioned or sold to recoup the fees and fines. So that reduces the estimated value of a sale to about $600,000. The estimates of a round up are right around the same price as the estimated value of all of Bundy’s cattle. So no matter what happens he’s going to cost the taxpayers more money than can be recouped in settling the matter. I’ve not seen anyone provide an estimate on damage his cattle has cost, or even how that money could be recouped, but it probably raises the financial stakes here a lot as well.

Since all of the above is a real pain in the tookhas, right now no one is doing anything but monitoring the situation. Some of it is that I’m not really sure anyone really knows the best way to go about all of the above so that Cliven Bundy and his cattle don’t cost the taxpayer any more money than they already have. You’re only other option is to basically slaughter the entire herd where they currently are, which I’m pretty sure is not legal at all.



Bernie Sanders vs. the Magical Math Asterick

I know that every Repub candidate gets a free pass on “then a miracle happens” budget proposals, but that’s strictly IOKIYAR in my experience. From the NYTimes article:

With his expansive plans to increase the size and role of government, Senator Bernie Sanders has provoked a debate not only with his Democratic rival for president, Hillary Clinton, but also with liberal-leaning economists who share his goals but question his numbers and political realism.

The reviews of some of these economists, especially on Mr. Sanders’s health care plans, suggest that Mrs. Clinton could have been too conservative in their debate last week when she said that his agenda in total would increase the size of the federal government by 40 percent. That level would surpass any government expansion since the buildup in World War II.

The increase could exceed 50 percent, some experts suggest, based on an analysis by a respected health economist that Mr. Sanders’s single-payer health plan could cost twice what the senator, who represents Vermont, asserts, and on critics’ belief that his economic assumptions are overly optimistic.

His campaign strongly contests both critiques, defending its numbers and attacking prominent critics as Clinton sympathizers and industry consultants…

“The numbers don’t remotely add up,” said Austan Goolsbee, formerly chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, now at the University of Chicago.

Alluding to one progressive analyst’s early criticism of the Sanders agenda as “puppies and rainbows,” Mr. Goolsbee said that after his and others’ further study, “They’ve evolved into magic flying puppies with winning Lotto tickets tied to their collars.”

Adding $20 trillion to projected federal spending would mean about a 37 percent increase in spending through fiscal year 2026 — close to the 40 percent that Mrs. Clinton suggested. But Kenneth E. Thorpe, a prominent health policy economist at Emory University who advised the Clintons in the 1990s, recently concluded that Mr. Sanders’s health plan would actually cost $27 trillion, not $14 trillion, which would put total spending for all of Mr. Sanders’s initiatives above $30 trillion through 2026…

Mr. Thorpe in recent years helped Gov. Peter E. Shumlin in Mr. Sanders’s home state of Vermont to design a single-payer plan there. It was unsuccessful.

“The problem was that the price tag and the amount of disruption and redistribution was just so enormous,” Mr. Thorpe said of Mr. Shumlin’s efforts, “that he just had to drop it.”

More detail at the link. Again, I don’t have the math skills to argue that Sanders’ plan wouldn’t work — but, given the importance of this election, I don’t want to put the entire Democratic ticket at risk by giving the Media Village Idiots a bonus EvenTheLiberalEconomists! card, either…