Stores emptying

Considering that neither Iselle nor Julio are expected to be at any more than tropical storm strength by the time they arrive, my fellow residents obviously concluded that their hurricane kits needed updating. And the earlier storm isn’t scheduled to be here till the day after tomorrow! I’m impressed with the pre-planning!

emptyshelves (Photo from HawaiiNewsNow)

It was like that at Safeway and at the Navy Commissary. The Commissary had even sold out of Spam. I did manage to score some cans of tuna, a big jar of peanut butter (Jif Creamy, of course), and a couple of loaves of bread.

Republicans in disarray!

It’s not alliterative, so we most likely won’t see that phrase in any pundit’s written output anytime soon, but it’s certainly true.

…the Republican Party still can’t figure out what to do about illegal immigration.

It’s the issue that vexed Republicans as much as any in their 2012 presidential loss. It’s the one problem the party declared it must resolve to win future presidential races. And it still managed to bedevil the party again last week, when House Republicans splintered and stumbled for a day before passing a face-saving bill late Friday night.

The fiasco proved anew that a small number of uncompromising conservatives have the power to hamper the efforts of GOP leaders to craft coherent positions on key issues — including one that nearly two-thirds of Americans say is an important to them personally, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll released last week.

And those are the ones that Senator Ted Cruz (R-Cruz for President 2016) met with last week and successfully lobbied to defeat Republican “leadership’s” bill to fund a whole 1/5 of what the Administration said was needed to meet the challenge of the kids coming across the southern border.

They owe their jobs to hard-core right-wingers in their districts and know if they weaken they’re almost certain to be primaried from the right. They’d rather keep their jobs than think about what might be best for the country and for those children. Statesmen they are not.

Being anti-everything is stupid

Once the news came that at least one of the Americans infected with the Ebola virus was going to be brought to Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital for treatment, just like clockwork Twitter went off in panic. America’s resident real estate genius Donald Trump let loose with a series of tweets which were epic in their fear and stupidity. Sample:

Now look, Donald and all you other gutless wonders who took to the Twitter machine to show off your ignorance, unless you’re planning to go to West Africa to help, or you’re planning to go to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta to treat Dr. Brantly or Ms. Writebol, you have no chance of contracting this disease. It is spread only through bodily fluids like vomit, blood, or feces. Unless you’re planning to invade the isolation room in which the two patients (Americans, by the way, who have a right to return to their home country) will be treated, you won’t touch them. Likewise, unless you travel to Guinea, Sierra Leone or Liberia to help treat the living or bury the dead, you won’t be infected.

This is yet another example of too many Americans being told by one of our political parties for years and years that scientists lie (see the climate change argument) and can’t be trusted, and that government can’t do anything right and shouldn’t be trusted either (see Reagan: “Government is the problem”). They have stopped thinking for themselves. All the facts about how the disease is transmitted are known and have been known for more than twenty years, as are the methods of treating it (isolation, constant hydration).

As Jim Wright said in a Facebook post earlier today, measles, a disease for which we have a proven vaccine, killed 122,000 people worldwide in 2012. That’s 330 deaths per day, 14 deaths per hour. Or take influenza. WHO estimates “Worldwide, these annual [flu] epidemics are estimated to result in about 3 to 5 million cases of severe illness, and about 250 000 to 500 000 deaths.”

I’ll worry about measles and flu for a long time before I worry about Ebola.

Ted Cruz, Senator-Ted Cruz for President Committee

Senator Cruz, Republican of Texas, hasn’t made many if any friends in the Senate, but he seems not to care. He has, on the other hand, made quite a few friends in the House, particularly among the far-rightest of the right wing there. In the process, he’s made himself de facto Speaker of that particular group, which has caused the putative real Speaker and his leadership team huge amounts of grief.

His latest bomb-throwing exploit has made Boehner (Speaker) and McCarthy (Majority Leader) and Scalise (Majority Whip) pull an immigration bill already only one-fifth the size the Obama Administration identified as necessary from the floor because it couldn’t get the votes of his rump caucus. That meant they couldn’t get the 218 Republican votes needed to pass it on the floor of the House.

This meant they were just going to send everyone home yesterday, but the few moderate Republicans (read: those in somewhat purple districts where they need a few Democrats to vote for them) screeched and said “We can’t leave town without doing something about these kids crossing the border!”

The retreat sparked panic among GOP moderates, who have felt marginalized and bullied during years of warfare with a small but influential tea party caucus. In a remarkable scene Thursday ­afternoon, angry rank-and-file members rushed to the House floor to surround Boehner and McCarthy, waving their arms and jabbing their fingers as they demanded a vote.

So Boehner and company are trying again today.

How are they doing?

Oh, symbolically, they’ve gotten something they can take to the floor. But will it do a lick of good? Probably not. It would “tweak” the 2008 law requiring children from countries other than Mexico be given individual immigration hearings once they arrive in this country. It would provide $659M in additional funds for the agencies who have to deal with the kids. That sounds like a lot of money, but you’re not going to hire a whole lot of immigration judges with it, particularly since it’s only good till the end of this fiscal year. And it would provide $35 million to border-state governors, who would be given broader legal authority to deploy the National Guard. These supposedly well-informed legislators don’t understand that we’re not being “invaded” by these mothers and children; they’re crossing the border looking for Border Patrol officers to surrender to. It’s only in the fever swamps of Fox News and right-wing talk radio that that constitutes an “invasion.”

Meanwhile, Ted Cruz has further cemented his reputation and credentials with the anti-immigration segment of the Republican party, which he’ll want on his side in the 2016 Presidential primaries.

Skirting the issue

I didn’t get a lot of stuff accomplished today, other than a trip to the library to return a book and pick up three that were waiting for me and a trip to the P.O. to mail a Bookmooch request to a fellow member. But by golly I also got the bed skirt off the bed, washed, dried, and put back on. I think there were mud stains on it from our last dog, let alone what Abby’s done by rubbing against it.

It’s clean!

Ebola on the loose

The first time I ever heard of the hemorrhagic virus named Ebola was in the early 1990s. I remember reading The Hot Zone when it was published in 1994 and thinking “this thing is terrifying.”

Well, it’s true. It’s terrifying and it’s on the move. This is the biggest outbreak ever recorded, and it’s spread in four different countries — Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, with a new case in Nigeria. The Nigerian case was a Liberian who carried it on a flight from his home country. That is the worst-case scenario: air passengers carrying the virus throughout the world. Oh, it still has to be passed through bodily fluids to infect another victim, but as it moves it’s harder and harder to quarantine and control its carriers.

The thing that strikes me as the cruelest part of the disease is that those who care for its victims are the most likely to be infected themselves. The early stories of the disease mentioned family members who contracted it from handling the dead body of their loved one, preparing it for burial. That’s hard to take.

So far there are two American health care professionals who’ve been infected while caring for patients in Africa. Let’s hope they recover (apparently if it’s caught early there’s a 40% chance of survival; if it’s not caught early the death rate is up to 90%) along with as many of the others who are suffering from it. It’s a simply horrid way to die.

Stupid or wilfully forgetful?

Mississippi’s Republican Governor Phil Bryant tried to blame the Affordable Care Act as the reason his state is the only one in which the number of people without health insurance has gone up since the Affordable Care Act was judged constitutional in 2012. Fascinating, since Governor Bryant is one of the many Republicans who have refused to expand Medicaid in their states as the law had expected them to do.

Here’s what he said:

“If statistics show that the ill-conceived and so-called Affordable Care Act is resulting in higher rates of uninsured people in Mississippi, I’d say that’s yet another example of a broken promise from Barack Obama,” Bryant said.

Only three Southern states participated in the Medicaid expansion — Arkansas, Kentucky and West Virginia. All three experienced some of the biggest drops in the percentage of uninsured residents — 10.74 percent in West Virginia, 8.35 percent in Kentucky and 7.1 percent in Arkansas.

An estimated 137,800 people in Mississippi were left uncovered by health insurance because the state did not expand Medicaid.

Personally, I think Governor Bryant and his fellow Republicans in the state legislature in Jackson are oblivious. They don’t care what happens to poor people in their state (and Mississippi certainly has a lot of poor people) as long as the elites of the state continue to live high on the hog.

They’re despicable, really. This is not public service as most of us define it. This is a power game played to benefit themselves and their cronies.

Vicarious travel

My sister called this morning to say she was flying to Spokane to see a sick friend, and once she confirmed her flight she wanted me to book a couple of seats for her daughter and grandson too. I agreed, of course. I didn’t realize that I was committing myself to navigating an airline’s website.

Hoo boy. “What flight? Okay, easy. “First class or coach?” Still easy. “Which seats?” Huh? Oh dear, how do I know where my niece and her son might want to sit? And are there still two seats together anyway? Oh, look there are still two seats next to one another! Grab ‘em quick!

“How would you like to pay for this?” Er, a credit card. “Number?” Here. “Expiration Date?” Here. I was prepared for the security number question, but it never came up.

“Refundable ticket? Only $25 more apiece!” Er, no? “Trip Insurance?” Nuh-uh. “Are you sure?” Yeah.

“Trip confirmed.” Okay, where’s the “print” button on this screen? Oh, there it is. Oh wait, there’s an email button next to it. Even better. What’s my niece’s email address? What’s my sister’s?

I remember when you parked your car in the airport garage or somebody dropped you off, you walked to the ticket counter and inquired whether there was a seat on the flight you wanted, paid for it, and walked down to the gate. That seems simpler somehow.