Patterico's Pontifications

10/7/2014

Tuesday Night Music

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:13 pm

David Bowie, the musicians’ musician.

Jesse Jackson Finding Another Tragedy To Exploit

Filed under: General — Dana @ 6:19 pm

[guest post by Dana]

So, who is praying with the family of the Ebola patient in Dallas?

Prominent civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson on Tuesday met the family of the man infected with Ebola and fighting for his life at a Dallas hospital, as health officials keep close tabs on those who came in contact with the patient.

“Praying with Thomas Eric Duncan’s mother, sister and nephews,” Jackson said in his Twitter feed as he posted a photo of him with family members, their heads bent in prayer. Jackson also met with Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and is scheduled to meet religious leaders.

The Christian in me hopes he brings some comfort to the family. The cynic realist thinks the man has absolutely no shame. If the family requested his presence, why announce it? When helping, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, keep it secret, respect privacy. God will see and He will know. Shouldn’t that be enough?

–Dana

Ebola: Priorities And Risk

Filed under: General — Dana @ 6:00 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Thomas Sowell considers the president’s response to our country’s fight against the Ebola virus and observes that it’s possible President Obama’s priorities are not what we would expect or hope for.

There was a time when an outbreak of a deadly disease overseas would bring virtually unanimous agreement that our top priority should be to keep it overseas. Yet Barack Obama has refused to bar entry to the United States by people from countries where the Ebola epidemic rages, as Britain has done.

The reason? Refusing to let people with Ebola enter the United States would conflict with the goal of fighting the disease. In other words, the safety of the American people takes second place to the goal of helping people overseas.

As if to emphasize his priorities, President Obama has ordered thousands of American troops to go into Ebola-stricken Liberia, disregarding the dangers to those troops and to other Americans when the troops return.

What does this say about Obama?

At a minimum, it suggests that he takes his conception of himself as a citizen of the world more seriously than he takes his role as President of the United States. At worst, he may consider Americans’ interests expendable in the grand scheme of things internationally. If so, this would explain a lot of his foreign-policy disasters around the world, which seem inexplicable otherwise.

Those critics who have been citing Barack Obama’s foreign-policy fiascoes and disasters as evidence that he is incompetent may be overlooking the possibility that he has different priorities than the protection of the American people and America’s interests as a nation.

In the meantime, we are being informed that the mission of deployed U.S. troops to West Africa will be riskier than originally announced:

Several dozen U.S. troops could come into contact with Ebola while testing for the deadly disease in Liberia, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

The highly trained troops will help operate seven mobile labs, where they could be working with the blood of infected patients, Army Gen. David Rodriguez said. The new details on the military’s response to Ebola reveals a riskier operation than previously announced by the White House, surfacing fresh concerns of troops entering high-risk zones.

The U.S. response did not previously involve military members helping to diagnose patients, though Rodriguez maintained that troops will be adequately protected against the disease.

“I am confident that we can ensure our service members’ safety and the safety of their families and the American people,” Rodriguez, who leads the U.S. Africa Command, said at a Pentagon briefing.

No worries though as Rodriguez gave assurances that military personnel in the labs will be wearing protective suits and are trained at a “very, very high level.”

–Dana

CDC: We Could Have Done a Better Job on Ebola If We Just Had More Money

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:30 am

This story is a few days old, but I just ran across it, and it’s a useful vehicle for a little rant:

The United States government has pledged to send help to West Africa to help stop Ebola from spreading—but the main agencies tasked with this aid work say they’re hamstrung by budget cuts from the 2013 sequester.

On September 16, the Senate Committees on Appropriations and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions held a hearing to discuss the resources needed to address the outbreak. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) asked NIH representative Anthony Fauci about sequestration’s effect on the efforts.

If even modest investments had been made…the current Ebola epidemic could have been detected earlier, and it could have been identified and contained.”

“I have to tell you honestly it’s been a significant impact on us,” said Fauci. “It has both in an acute and a chronic, insidious way eroded our ability to respond in the way that I and my colleagues would like to see us be able to respond to these emerging threats. And in my institute particularly, that’s responsible for responding on the dime to an emerging infectious disease threat, this is particularly damaging.” Sequestration required the NIH to cut its budget by 5 percent, a total of $1.55 billion in 2013. Cuts were applied across all of its programs, affecting every area of medical research.

Dr. Beth Bell, director of the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, testified before the committee, making a case for increased funding. Her department, which has led the US intervention in West Africa, was hit with a $13 million budget cut as a result of the cuts in 2013. Though appropriations increased in 2014 and are projected to rise further in 2015, the agency hasn’t yet made up for the deficit—according to Bell, $100 million has already gone toward stopping the Ebola epidemic, and much more is needed. The United Nations estimates it will take over $600 million just to get the crisis under control.

This is the usual cry of government: we have done a horrible job, so give us more money. We at the IRS have targeted conservative groups and destroyed the evidence. Give us more money. We at the CDC have failed to plan for an inevitable Ebola case in the U.S., and even told quarantined people to go to the store. Give us more money.

I call bullspit. It’s been seven years since Tom Coburn released his 2007 report on CDC overspending, but there is nothing new under the sun, so let’s take a walk down recent memory lane:

A Republican senator Tuesday released a report critical of spending at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), saying the agency “has wasted and continues to waste hundreds of millions of tax dollars, but keeps asking taxpayers for more.”

Sen. Tom Coburn, a practicing physician and ranking member of an oversight subcommittee, issued a 115-page minority office report questioning the CDC’s spending on projects including an employee fitness center with $200,000 in equipment such as zero-gravity chairs and a mood-enhancing light show, and a $1.7 million effort to have accurate medical information portrayed in movies and TV shows.

. . . .

Coburn’s report on the CDC provided details on a massive construction project at the CDC’s headquarters in Atlanta that has exceeded $1 billion.

The new buildings include a $106 million communications center with a 70-foot-wide-by-25-foot-tall wall of plasma video screens for visitors, the report says. The center is named after Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat who was the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee overseeing CDC spending. A video production studio at the center cost $18.6 million, the report says.

The new construction includes a $110 million headquarters building named after Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican who is the former chairman of the subcommittee shaping the CDC budget. Coburn’s report says the CDC spent $9.8 million on furniture for the building.

Things have not gotten much better. Keeping the country safe from the outbreak of a deadly virus is one of the few things the federal government does that falls within the constitutional framework of limited government. Protecting the country is a core function of government — but as Glenn Reynolds notes, the CDC has lost sight of its “one job” (as in: “You had one job!”):

As The Federalist’s David Harsanyi writes: “The CDC, an agency whose primary mission was to prevent malaria and then other dangerous communicable diseases, is now spending a lot of time, energy and money worrying about how much salt you put on your steaks, how close you stand to second-hand smoke and how often you do calisthenics.”

These other tasks may or may not be important, but they’re certainly a distraction from what’s supposed to be the CDC’s “one job” — protecting America from a deadly epidemic. And to the extent that the CDC’s leadership has allowed itself to be distracted, it has paid less attention to the core mission.

In an era where new disease threats look to be growing, the CDC needs to drop the side jobs and focus on its real reason for existence.

Reynolds notes that the CDC admitted letting its guard down on Ebola:

CDC officials acknowledged that widespread hospital awareness didn’t kick in until the recent case in Dallas.

“We let our guard down a little bit,” said Abbigail Tumpey, a CDC spokeswoman, referring to the country’s health-care systems. “We as a health-care system have to make sure not to let our guard down and be vigilant that patients with Ebola could show up at any U.S. health-care facility. . . . Now that we’ve seen this happen, we know now that we need to do more to make people feel prepared.”

What is needed is not more money. What is needed is focusing on the real job at hand — and doing it without whining about needing more money.


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