Saturday, August 16, 2014

"The difference between white and black in America"

MSNBC's Chris Hayes, discussing the racial aspect of the situation in Ferguson, MO, quoted Tony Award winning playwright, August Wilson:
"There's a difference between white and black in America.  A black man unarmed, standing in a vestibule of his house is shot 41 times.   A white man waving a rifle on the lawn of the White House, 150 yards from the leader of the free world, they negotiate with him for 10 minutes and shoot him one time in the leg.   That's the difference in being white and black in America."
Another example:   We only have to think back to last year and the endlessly analyzed and discussed murder trial of George Zimmerman for the killing of Treyvon Martin.   Take the exact same circumstance, but replace Treyvon with a white boy -- he would not be dead.

The list is endless, because new examples happen almost as fast as we can relate those already on the list.

Capt. Ron Johnson, who replaced the local police chief in handling the crowds in Ferguson, had the right idea;  and things were calm for one night.   But then the police chief ruined it at his press conference by selectively releasing certain materials, while withholding others.  The effect was to put the spotlight on Michael stealing a few cigars instead of a police officer shooting him dead.   And the crowd's rage roiled up again.  Whether this was deliberate or simply tone-deaf cluelessness is not clear.   Either way, it was a huge mistake, complicating a devastating wrong.    


The important crime in Ferguson, MO was not stealing cigars

The Ferguson police union's stinging letter of protest against the governor's action -- removing them from the scene and putting Ron Johnson of the state highway patrol in command -- shows they have learned nothing from their failure and the obvious quick success of a very different approach.

In the press conference today, the Chief of Police was obviously trying to shift the focus from the killing and its possible illegality, and onto the character of Michael Brown, the victim.  He did this by:

(1) holding the press conference in front of a burned out store, the only really serious consequence of vandalism from previous nights -- thus exaggerating the very limited violence of these protests;  

(2) releasing the charges and incident report of Michael's apparent theft of cigars from a convenience store shortly before he was killed -- even though this is not why the officer stopped him;

(3) not releasing any kind of incident report about what happened when Michael was stopped by a police officer for walking in the street and 3 minutes later was dead, shot with his hands in the air.   How did the officer report this?   They haven't given a clue, except to say that he didn't know of the theft when he first stopped him.

As Esra Klein, writing about the police shooting of unarmed Michael Brown, says: 
This case is not about whether Michael Brown was One Of The Good Ones. It's not even about whether he robbed a convenience store. 

The penalty for stealing cigars from
 a convenience store is not death. 

This case is about whether Wilson was legally justified in shooting Michael Brown. 
This is a blatantly obvious shield-the-cop and blame-the-shooting-victim ploy.   It's highly unlikely that this police force can ever effectively do its job in Ferguson.


Friday, August 15, 2014

Ferguson, MO police did everything wrong

The wrongful killing by a white police officer of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri has sparked world-wide indignation.   Local police did just about everything wrong -- before, during, and after the fateful encounter.

First, in a city of 21,000 people, 67% of whom are African-American, the police force of 53 has only 3 black police officers.    There is a wide-spread mistrust of the police among this group, based on experience of not being treated equally or fairly.   The simmering rage boiled over following the police shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown, who was reportedly simply walking down the street when he was stopped for an identity check.  It's unclear exactly what prompted the office to escalate to shooting, but two witnesses say that the 18 year old teen had his hands up in the air at the time the policeman first shot him.   And that he shot him additional times after he was already down on the gound.

Eighteen year old Michael Brown's family, local civil rights leaders, and the Rev. Al Sharpton all pleaded with the people to express their feelings in peaceful protest marches and gatherings.   At first it was mainly that.

But then the police took the wrong approach and began to treat the area like a war zone.   After one day of mostly peaceful vigils and gathering, with relatively minor rumblings of trouble, they assembled a police force of 150 officers in riot gear, fully armed with assault rifles, armored vehicles with big guns mounted on top.   They proclaimed that protest assemblies be confined to daylight hours, began clearing the streets, acting provocatively to anyone not moving fast enough.   They acted, not just like bullies, but like brutes, like jack-booted thugs.

Before long, things escalated.   Rubber bullets were fired, tear gas and smoke bombs were thrown into the crowds, people were arrested, including two journalists and a city alderman.

Things were going from bad to worse, when the Missouri governor stepped in.  He removed the local police of the duty and put the state highway patrol in charge.   Most significantly, he put Capt. Ron Johson in command.

Following nights of escalating unrest, things changed dramatically.   Johnson grew up in Ferguson.   His approach was entirely different:   he came with open arms;   he marched at the head of the line along with protesters;   he hugged participants and talked with them.    

Last night was entrely different:   even larger crowds came out to be part of the demonstration, but it was calm and peaceful.   Police were little in evidence.   Those that were, helped direct traffic but generally were supportive of the crowds rather than menacing.   No armored vehicles, no tear gas, few guns in evidence.   Healing had begun.   People began to hope for lasting change.

But then today the local Chief of Police -- without consulting with Capt. Johnson -- held a press conference.   He finally released the name of the officer who had shot Brown -- along with the report and surveillance videos of an earlier incident at a convenience store in which a Michale Brown is seen confronting the store clerk menacingly and walking out of the store with a box of cigars that he allegedly stole.

The family is outraged.   They see this as the police attempt to assassinate the character of their son to excuse the wrongful shooting of Michael.    The police chief acknowledged that stopping him on the street was not initially related to the robbery, but then the officer quickly considered him a suspect for the robbery that had taken place an hour before.

Nothing in this -- no petty robbery of cigars -- can excuse the fact that Michael was walking peacefully along the street.   At 12:01 he was stopped by the policemanat 12:04 he was dead, from multiple gunshots by the policeman.   Two eyewitnesses have given interviews in which they describe no apparent behavior from Michael that would in any way justify him being shot, and that in fact he had his hands up in the air when he was shot.

It's not like this is a rare event.   For black people, it's a constant fear and a threat that they live with.

This police mentality -- act tough, flaunt your firepower, knock a few heads, show 'em who's boss -- is the same as our war hawks in congress and right wing media who think anything short of military force in the world is being wimpy.

The difference in Ferguson on Wednesday night and on Thursday night is simple proof of which approach works best with people who mostly just want to be heard and to voice their protest against mistreatment.    Exactly what the Palestinians want.


The cruelty of anti-abortion zealots

Sarah is a volunteer patient escort at a health center in Boston where, among other medical needs, women go to obtain an abortion.   Sarah and other volunteers act as outside escorts, trying to help patients coming to the clinic make if from their cars into the center against the gauntlet of angry or pleading strangers trying to dissuade them, shame them, and intimidate them into changing their minds.

Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood, shared a letter she had received from Sarah: 
I've seen a lot in my time as a patient escort here in Boston. Protesters shouting at patients or getting close and whispering, which is somehow worse. I've seen patients confronted by protesters consider just turning around and getting back in their cars, . . .  I've heard every sneering slogan, seen every graphic sign. 

But these last few weeks have been something else. First, the Supreme Court overturned the buffer zone law that had at least kept protesters 35 feet back from our doors. . . . 

The protesters came the very same afternoon after the Supreme Court ruled. And you could just see it in their eyes, they felt bolder, more confrontational, like now nothing was holding them back. 

And week after week, I am faced with patients who are reduced to tears, just trying to get the care they need. 

I am proud of the work that I do, and I'm so glad that leaders in Massachusetts are working to protect women in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision. But I am endlessly frustrated that these protections, and escorts like me, are needed at all. And I know that things are even worse in places where lawmakers don't care about defending women's access. We've got to do something.
It's not surprising that the five conservative Supreme Court justices voted that buffer zones in front of abortion clinics violated people's first amendment rights to speak to people in the streets.    What surprised me was that the liberal justices joined them in a unanimous 9-0 decision.  Certainly there are precedents for putting some limits on freedom of speech -- like when it interferes with someone else's rights of privacy, or creates a dangerous situation, like crying "Fire !" in a crowded theater.

The case the court considered was a plaintiff described as a gentle person who just wanted to have what Justice Scalia called a "consensual conversation" with women entering the clinic.   The opinion seemed to assume that was all that was involved in the case;  and the blithe suggestion offered was that, if people are feeling harassed, well, just call the police.

But then, one must ask:  If this sidewalk proselytizing  is so unobjectionable, why are these patient escorts needed?  And why are so many of them needed?  "Consensual conversation" is a cruel jokeIt's more like "screaming sidewalk proselytizing" -- and far worse.

As Emily Jane Goodman wrote in The Nation on July 1, 2014:
"They failed to acknowledge that opposition to abortion, in Massachusetts alone, has led to eight murders, 17 attempted murders, 550 incidents of stalking, plus harassment and other violations of individual privacy of pro-choice doctors, patients, staff and advocates."
We're talking about serious crime.  I'd like to hear Ruth Bader Ginsburg explain what she was thinking.   Undoubtedly she considered it a strong first amendment right issue;    but could not anyone think of another remedy to suggest than "just call the police" -- for a chronic problem all around the country that sometimes escalates to murder?


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Israel's claim about civilian casualties rebutted by former Israeli artillary crew commander

Idan Barir, a former artillery crew commander in the Israeli army during the Second Intifada, wrote this, which was printed on Huffington Post:
". . . Harsh criticism of Israel followed each incident [bombing of the U. N. school and a busy market place] but -- as in the past -- Israel defended its actions, arguing that it was targeting militants and doing its best to avoid civilian casualties.

"I served as a crew commander in the Israeli artillery corps . . . .  and I feel compelled to counter this claim from Israel. . . .  In using artillery against Gaza, Israel therefore cannot sincerely argue that it is doing everything in its power to spare the innocent.

"The truth is artillery shells cannot be aimed precisely and are not meant to hit specific targets. A standard 40 kilogram shell is nothing but a large fragmentation grenade. When it explodes, it is meant to kill anyone within a 50-meter radius and to wound anyone within a further 100 meters. . . .

"It's true that in at least some cases, the army has informed civilians of its plans to attack a certain area and advised them to leave. But this in no way excuses the excessive damage and huge toll on civilian lives.

"I write this with great sorrow for civilians hurt on both sides. Sorrow for our soldiers who have fallen in this operation, and sorrow for the future of my country and the entire region. I know that as I write, soldiers like me have fired shells into Gaza.

"They had no way of knowing who or what they would hit.

"Faced with so many innocent casualties, it is time for us to state very clearly: this use of artillery fire is a deadly game of Russian roulette. The statistics, on which such firepower relies, mean that in densely populated areas such as Gaza, civilians will inevitably be hit as well. The IDF knows this, and as long as it continues to use such weaponry, it will be hard to believe when it claims to be minimizing civilian deaths.

"As a former soldier and an Israeli citizen, I feel compelled to ask today: have we not crossed a line?"
Perhaps the Israeli defense forces feel they have no choice, that the Hamas military forces and weapons are so intertwined with the dense population that it is their only defense.   

Is that not itself an argument for finding a non-military solution?    Israel says that the Palestinians scuttle the negotiations for peace;   but the Palestinians have an equally believable claim that the Israelis refuse to budge on their basic demands, too.

Consider this:   which one has come closer to destroying the other?


PS:   I just read another plea from a former member of the Israel Defense Force, Yehuda Shaul:
" . . . .  Hamas is a cruel and cynical enemy. But what have we become? Is it not a cynical act to bomb Hamas members’ family homes that don’t . . . .  pose an immediate threat to soldiers or civilianswith the knowledge that there are innocent family members who will be harmed inside? Does the fact that a family didn’t heed our telephone request to leave a building grant us the right to sentence them to death?

"I wrote that Hamas controls Gaza, but Hamas isn’t alone. . . .  Israel controls the daily entry and exit of goods from the Gaza Stripprevents access to Gaza from the air and the sea, limiting the fishing area for Palestinians;  Israel even controls the population registry in the region. . . .  Can we as Israelis earnestly shrug off our responsibility to the residents of the Gaza Strip? . . . .

"We must stop sending our friends and our soldiers on operations that will definitively harm civilians. We must end Israel’s protracted control over the Gaza Strip."

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The "temptation" to intervene with military force because we have the capability

AJC columnist Jay Bookman wrote a very thoughtful piece today about our military capability and our presumed obligation to act militarily in other countries.    The Obama administration has been called upon by the more hawkish among us to intervene with military force in:   Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Somalia, Libya, Iran, Pakistan, and a whole host of "Arab Spring" stuggles.    Are we, as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once put it, "the indispensable nation?"  The world's police?  President Obama has tried to move us away from that aspiration in a world that has far too many troubled spots.

Even today, they are struggling with internal debates about how and how much to intervene in Iraq . . . again.   We have been doing airstrikes;  do we go in with ground troops to rescue the refugees on Mount Sinjar?   Is that a slippery slope that we couldn't resist escalating?

Bookman asks:  Does having the capability sometimes get confused with also having the obligation to act militarily?
"Nobody else, for example, has the capability to intervene on behalf of those terrorized people on Mount Sinjar [in Iraq], and with genocide at stake, possessing the capability to act means we have an obligation to act."

"The problem is that overwhelming military power does more than produce an obligation to act.  It also produces the temptation to act.  Time and again, our inability or unwillingness to distinguish between temptation and obligation has gotten us into trouble.  In 2003, to cite the most relevant example, there was no obligation to invade Iraq;  there was merely temptation that was marketed to us as an obligation."
What wiser heads have learned in the past decade seems to have not yet penetrated the thinking of our hawks:  that our military might is not matched by our wisdom and knowledge of other countries and other cultures.   Look what a disaster resulted from the willful ignorance and blithe neglect of Iraqi culture and religions by the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld debacle in Iraq after our successful military toppling of their government.

Bookman writes:
"Having the most powerful military force on the planet does not in any way enhance our foresightto the contrary, the arrogance that it produces can blind us and deceive us into vastly exaggerating our powers to force others to behave as we think appropriate.

"I guess you could say that the closer we get to omnipotence, the further we get from omniscience.   Put in less fancy terms, power can make you stupid, and it's the stupidity that usually gets you."
Fortunately, President Obama and his advisers know this;   so we get an emphasis on diplomacy and economic sanctions and on building coalitions of allies to bring about solutions in these troubled spots of the world.    But meanwhile we have people clinging to a mountainside without food and water and facing certain death if we don't help.  Can we provide humanitarian help without succumbing to the temptation to escalate into another military war?


Worried about Hillary as president #2

Within hours after I posted "Worried about Hillary," I ran across an article in the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz by Peter Beinart, who is a liberal, American Jew who teaches journalism at CUNY.  A former editor of The New Republic, he currently writes for several liberal journals and in 2012 published The Crisis of Zionism.  

Beinart's position is similar to what I have tried to articulate here -- pro-Israeli people;  not so sympathetic to the right-wing movement that supports current policies toward the Palestinians.  His book so angered many in the Jewish community, that his scheduled lecture here at the Jewish Community Center was cancelled.   Another venue was found and he spoke to an overflow crowd.

The title of his current Haaretz article is:  "Israel's new lawyer:  Hillary Clinton."
"Who’s the Israeli government’s best spokesperson? Ron Dermer? Michael Oren? Bibi himself? Nope. It’s Hillary Clinton. In her interview on Sunday with Jeffrey Goldberg, Clinton offered the most articulate, sophisticated, passionate defense of Netanyahu’s conduct I’ve heard from a government official on either side of the Atlantic. Unfortunately, important chunks of it aren’t true."
Beinart takes up each of her claims and shows how she follows the same pattern as Netanyahu and his spokespersons:    Take a grain of truth that favors Israel or Bibi himself and leave out any truths that present the other side of the picture.

A recent example, from her time as Secretary of State, is her claim that:
"'I got Netanyahu to agree to the unprecedented settlement freeze… It took me nine months to get Abbas into the negotiations even after we delivered on the settlement freeze.'

"What’s striking, again, is what Clinton leaves out. The settlement freeze was indeed, unprecedented. Unfortunately, it didn’t actually freeze settlement growth.  . . . the 'freeze' exempted East Jerusalem [and] . . . .  buildings on which construction had all ready begun . . .  settlers spent the months preceding the “freeze” feverishly breaking ground on new construction, on which they continued to build during the ten month 'freeze' . . . .  As a result, according to Peace Now, there was more new settlement construction in 2010 -- the year of the freeze -- than in 2008.  As the Obama administration envoy George Mitchell admitted . . . the Obama administration had wanted a freeze that truly stopped settlement growth but 'we failed'."
Beinart also disputes the claim that Abbas refused to negotiate and offers evidence that Palestinian representatives tried repeatedly to submit official documents detailing key negotiating proposals, which the Israelis were unwilling to even read.   Clinton does not mention this in her interview, even though she claims to have been intimately involved in the process.

After refuting other claims about the negotiations, Beinart writes:
"Why does Clinton again and again endorse Netanyahu’s view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict even when it contradicts long-standing American positions? Because she’s so willing to see the world through his eyes. . . .  U.S. officials should understand, and empathize with, Israeli leaders, even right-wing ones. But what’s missing from Clinton’s interview is any willingness to do the same for Palestinians. If it’s so easy to understand why some Israelis might want perpetual military control of the West Bank, why can’t Clinton understand why Palestinians - after living for almost fifty years under a foreign army - might not want it to indefinitely patrol their supposedly independent state?

"One of the hallmarks of Barack Obama . . . has been his insistence on giving voice to the fears and aspirations of both sides. . . .  In Jerusalem last March, he spoke movingly, and in detail about the Jewish story, but also asked Israelis to “put yourself in their [the Palestinians] shoes. Look at the world through their eyes.” In her interview with Goldberg, that’s exactly what Clinton does not do. Her interpretations of recent Israeli-Palestinian history reflect from a deep imbalance: a willingness to see reality through Israeli eyes and an almost total refusal to do the same for Palestinians. . . . 

“For far too long,” wrote Aaron Miller in 2005, “many American officials involved in Arab-Israeli peacemaking, myself included, have acted as Israel's attorney, catering and coordinating with the Israelis at the expense of successful peace negotiations.” From the beginning, Barack Obama has tried to avoid that
Although [Obama] hasn’t brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace, he has tried to make good on his campaign promise to 'hold up a mirror' to both sides.   In Hillary Clinton, by contrast, at least judging from her interview on Sunday, Israel has yet another lawyer. And a very good one at that."
Exactly.  And that is what worries me about Hillary.   Is she just making tactical political decision to distance herself from Obama?    Or is this evidence of her inability or unwillingness to consider both sides of such important matters?


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Worried about Hillary as president #1

Hillary Clinton is worrying me.   What I didn't like in her 2008 campaign -- too scripted, too cautious, hewing too close to the centrist position on issues where I wish she were more progressive and passionate -- seems to be showing up again, more and more.

What I really want is a blend of Hillary's experience and Elizabeth Warren progressive populism and her ability to simply "tell it like it is."    Hillary is too worried about offending the powers that be and the status quo.

I'm still willing to champion her as the 2016 nominee, because (1) she can win and (2) no one has ever before been better prepared to be president.   In addition, she is very smart and she has a good heart on a personal level.   I'm just not sure she translates it into policy when there are competing groups to appease.

My worry increased another notche a couple of days ago when she openly broke with President Obama's position on Syria, saying she felt we should have intervened.   But then I reasoned:   she needs to make a break with him for political reasons, lest she be painted as running for Obama's 3rd term.    So, ok on that one.

But I got a real chill yesterday when I read that she is spouting Benjamin Netanyahu's propaganda.    I'm fine with her declaring her support for Israel.   I thought it was going a little far to call it a "vociferous defense of Natanyahu," and then she re-iterated what I know to be wrong.   Here's what she told the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg:
"What you see on TV is so effectively stage-managed by Hamas, and always has been. . . What you see is largely what Hamas invites and permits Western journalists to report on from Gaza.  It’s the old PR problem that Israel has. Yes, there are substantive, deep levels of antagonism or anti-Semitism towards Israel, because it’s a powerful state, a really effective military. And Hamas paints itself as the defender of the rights of the Palestinians to have their own state. So the PR battle is one that is historically tilted against Israel.
From what I've heard and read, this is just not true.   Israel is the one winning the PR battle, by far.   All you need do is listen for 2 minutes to Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev (see ShrinkRap on Aug 4th).  Michael Calderone wrote in the Washington Post:
"Some commentators recently suggested Israel was losing the media war . . . .  The reasons they pinpointed weren't anti-Semitism or historical antagonism toward Israel, but that journalists' real-time coverage of devastation and civilian deaths -- including those of hundreds of Palestinian children -- offered a new perspective on the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  

"The Israeli foreign ministry recently highlighted some journalists' allegations of Hamas intimidation, but those journalists appear to be in the minority. Haaretz, a left-leaning Israel paper, reported Friday that there have been "only a handful" of such allegations, despite 710 foreign journalists recently reporting inside Gaza.

"Several journalists, many of whom spoke anonymously to Haaretz, flatly rejected the claim that Hamas intimidated them into not reporting events they witnessed.  One reporter who spent three weeks in Gaza told Haaretz “it’s a phony controversyand an attempt by Israel to claim media bias. . ."
While it is true that we do not see Hamas fighters firing the rockets into Israel, the international journalists themselves explain that rockets are always fired from secret locations, and its true they do not have access.   But the tv news has been full of rockets being blown up in the air over Israel by their Iron Dome system.   There was no secret that Hamas fired the rockets.   

Yes, we've seen endless films of Israeli missiles and shells destroying Palestinian buildings and homes.  Even Netanyahu doesn't claim that there is comparable footage of Hamas rockets destroying Israeli buildings and homes that are being suppressed -- because most of the rockets are destroyed before they cause destruction.   So what does he claim is being censored?

Perhaps the truth is somewhere between the two.   But I certainly don't believe that Hamas is controlling what we see on TV -- nearly as much as Israel is trying to.   The New York Times reported recently that their access to Israeli news sources is dependent on an agreement to withhold what Israel does not want them to publish.

Here's what I think has happened to news coverage.   Journalists have not been denied access by Hamas;  on the contrary they have had unprecedented access to cover the story of Palestinian deprivation and suffering.  

We have seen -- in stark, real-time graphic reality --the effects of Israel's self-defense.  These images, as opposed to Israel's stated intentions is seeking to defend itself -- are what has shocked the world.

Netanyahu -- repeated by Clinton -- has it backwards.  It's more access, not less, that has changed the world opinion of what's happening.  What has become so starkly clear is that Israel's fight is with Hamas -- but the Palestinian people are the ones suffering.  I find little sympathy for Mark Regev's (Netanyahu's spokesman) assertion that, because they put Hamas in power through an open election, the Palestinian people are therefore responsible for their own deaths when Israel defends itself against Hamas.

Again, I want to emphasize that I am not siding with Hamas.   They do some pretty bad things.   But I am strongly in support of the Palestinian people in their extreme deprivation and suffering, as I also strongly support the Israeli people's right to a peaceful existence.   For Hillary to ignore that difference between Hamas and the Palestinian people, in her vociferous defense of Netanyahu's talking points, worries me . . . a lot.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Treating the Ebola victims at Emory

Fearmongers and a few weirdos like Donald Trump have sounded the alarm about bringing the two American health care workers home from Africa to treat their Ebola virus infection at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.   These uninformed alarmists are spreading misinformation about how risky this is, with visions of an epidemic outbreak in the U.S.

The Ebola virus does have a high mortality rate, at least in the poor treatment conditions in undeveloped countries;  but it is not particularly easy to transmit from one person to another.    First, patients are not infectious until after they begin to have symptoms -- which is different from most viral diseases.

Second, there is no an airborne risk;  it is spread through body fluids -- similar to the HIV virus, except that Ebola can be found in all body fluids, not just blood and semen, as in HIV.   

Third, Emory University Hospital has had a specially constructed isolation unit and a staff team trained to deal with such patients for the past 12 years.   The unit was actually part of a deal with the nearby CDC, with an agreement to treat CDC employees with untreatable diseases like SARS, Ebola, and anthrax.

Further, the staff were all eager for this opportunity.   They vied with each other as to who would get to ride in the specially prepared ambulance to pick the patients up at Dobbins Air Force Base.  Four Emory doctors and 15 nurses have volunteered to take care of the patients at Emory.   Two of the nursing staff even cancelled vacation plans. 

So, what is the discrepancy in understanding?    In Africa, with primitive medical treatment conditions, the mortality rate is said to be 60% or as high as 90%.   But, according to one of the Emory doctors, because we lack a cure at this point, the most important factor is first class medical supportive care to give the body time to build its own antibodies to the virus.   

Besides the humanitarian spirit of the Emory health care team, it is an opportunity for them to advance knowledge about new ways of helping sustain such patients through that time.

The other important factor in having the patients here at Emory is the proximity to the CDC to make the best use of its research facilities and hopefully to lead to a vaccine or anti-viral treatments some day.

The main point that people need to know is that those who will have most contact with these patients are the ones most eager to have them in this special unit at Emory University Hospital.

Latest word is that both patients are improving.


Rand Paul's foreign policy dilemma

Fresh from a generally favorable extensive profile in The New Republic, Rand Paul's presidential aspirations to run for president in 2016 are not in doubt.   In fact, the gist of that profile was showing him as a much more formidable candidate for the Republican nomination than his father.

The article even called him a "threat" to both parties, especially his appeal to younger voters, a main strength of recent Democratic victories, as well as a group Republicans need to snare if they are to win.

Paul is obviously tempering his libertarian purism in order to position himself as a possible Republican nominee -- something his father never did, retaining his libertarian principles, even when it led to his becoming the butt of jokes.

Rand Paul has been less isolationist, when it comes to foreign policy;  less Ayn Randian, when it comes to economics;  and less anti-government, when it comes to domestic programs, than his father.

It's the foreign policy differences that set him off most clearly with his mainstream Republican colleagues, who characteristically want Obama to intervene more with military strikes.   Even now, when Obama surprised many with the airstrikes against the ISIS insurgents sweeping through Iraq, John McCain is calling for him to extend these strikes into Syria as well.    There's never enough bombing to suit McCain, it seems.

Which brings us to the point of talking about Rand Paul today.   He so far has remained silent on this latest foreign policy hot issue.    The genocidal and humanitarian nature of this crisis gives it wider support, even among those who lean toward non-intervention.

So it's a tricky issue for Paul.   If he opposes it, it makes him look uncaring;   if he supports it, then it makes his break with the libertarian non-intervention policy concrete and "big news" of a break, which Paul's gradual strategy is not yet ready for.

Will be interesting to watch.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

"Tennessee justice is not for sale. . . ." Justice Sharon G. Lee

Now the conservatives are going after judges they deem too liberal -- in a big way.  Tennessee has the system that's a sort of compromise between judges being appointed and judges being elected.   They are initially appointed by the governor;  then, after a certain number of years, voters decide whether to "retain" them or oust them.

Three members of the Tennessee Supreme Court, including the chief justice, were up for a retention vote.   Conservatives groups spent big money on campaign ads trying to oust them.  All three won their retention votes.    As Justice Sharon Lee said:
"Tennessee justice is not for sale. . . .  They can spend all the money they want -- I think they spent well over #1 million -- but they cannot buy this election.   They cannot buy our system of justice."
That's encouraging to hear.   Unfortunately, it's not always the case.   In 2010, in a similar system, voters in Iowa voted to oust three State Supreme Court justices who had voted to overturn the ban on gay marriage in Iowa.    California ousted three justices back in 1986 over capital punishment.

What's new here is the amount and the sources of the money.  Yes, you guessed it.   A lot of it came from Americans for Prosperity -- meaning the Koch brothers.   The Lt. Governor also kicked in almost half a million from his own political action committee.

These three in Tennessee survived.   But they aren't going to give up easily.  For them, it's just another battleground in their effort to buy the kind of government they want.   Any politicizing of the judicial system is a terrible idea;  we need a better system for choosing judges.