Saturday, October 25, 2014

RUSH LIMBAUGH BLAMES "ANTI-AMERICA" MEDIA AND SCHOOLS FOR TERRORIST ATTACK IN ... UM, CANADA

You know that every bad thing that happens anywhere is the fault of liberals who hate America, right? Apparently, according to Rush Limbaugh, liberals who hate America are even responsible for the terrorist attack in Canada by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau:
... That's his preferred name, by the way: Abdul Zehaf. So much for the narrative that he was a recent convert to the religion of peace. He wasn't recent. He'd be a convert to the religion of peace for quite a while now....

He was not a lone wolf in any way, shape, manner, or form.

This then takes us to the hatchet suspect back to New York, and once again we're being told that this guy is a lone wolf, and he's a one-off.

... we already know that his name is Zale Thompson and that he was a strict Muslim who condemned the US and called for attacks on soldiers and police. And I have the posts on Facebook right here in my formerly nicotine-stained fingers to prove it! It dovetails back with exactly what we were talking about yesterday, is how the hell are young people in this country becoming to radicalized?

Who is telling them things that make them want to take action against people in this country and the country at large?

What are they learning?

What are they learning about this country that they end up hating it for?

Who's teaching them this stuff?

And I'm telling you it's the education system. They're not lone wolves. They are members of a radical sect, and they are doing what the radical sect openly says that it's going to do. I believe they have been radicalized by our own anti-America news media. I think they have been radicalized by our education system which features its own, if not anti-America, I don't want to mis-convey something here -- but if you sit in a classroom from kindergarten on up and you have a professor or teacher after teacher that tells you what a rotten place this is because of the way we treated women, the way we treated blacks, slavery, and what we did to the Native Americans and how the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer and the power base is stealing from the poor, what do you do?

If that's all you hear from the first moment of your exposure to formal education, quite likely you're gonna end up filled with rage and hatred. And those who also share those emotions who are recruiting people like you, you might find it attractive to join 'em.
That's right -- a guy who was born in Montreal and lived in Calgary and Alberta committed an attack in Ottawa because he learned in school that America was evil because of slavery.

And terrorism is Canada is also linked to the "Democrat Party":
The five years of pummeling of George W. Bush and the military in this country during the years of Iraq, 2003 to 2008, drove a portion of the Democrat voter base literally insane with rage and hatred. And the hatred didn't confine itself just to George W. Bush. It expanded into just hatred for the country as founded.

This is the kind of chaos and disquietedness and discomfort that the Democrat Party feeds on, and it isn't healthy.
I know Limbaugh would say that he's referring there to the perpetrator of the hatchet attack in New York. But he brought up the Ottawa attack -- I didn't. And there have been three such attacks this week -- two of them in Canada by native-born Canadians. But it's all the fault of "anti-America" media and schools and it's linked to the "Democrat Party." Right. Got it.

*****

Bonus idiocy from Limbaugh, in reference to the New York incident:
At a news conference at a hospital where one officer was being treated for a serious head wound, the commissioner, William Bratton, said that investigators were still trying to confirm the identity of the assailant and to determine a motive.

Naturally, they don't want to jump to any conclusions....
That was Limbaugh broadcasting yesterday. There are no quote marks in the transcript, but he's quoting from a story published the night of the attack. Here's a somewhat less selective quote from that story -- emphasis added:
At a news conference at a hospital where one officer was being treated for a serious head wound, Police Commissioner William Bratton said that investigators were still trying to confirm the identity of the assailant and determine a motive....

Asked if the attack could be related to terrorism, Bratton didn't rule it out. He cited the fatal shooting of a soldier in Canada earlier this week -- what officials there have called a terror attack -- as reason for concern.

"This early on, we really cannot say yes or no to that question," Bratton said.
Limbaugh held forth on this subject yesterday. Also yesterday, Bratton announced his conclusion:
A hatchet attack on New York police officers was a "terrorist act" carried out by a self-radicalized Muslim convert who had been in the military and browsed Al-Qaeda websites, police said Friday.

"This was a terrorist act," police commissioner Bill Bratton told a news conference on Friday, one day after the attack, saying he was "very comfortable" describing it as a "terrorist attack."
Twenty-four hours of due diligence is too much for these wingnut vultures.

Friday, October 24, 2014

JEB AND RAND REALLY DON'T WANT TO WIN IN 2016 (BUT I KNOW HOW THEY COULD)

As if Jeb Bush's support for immigration reform and Common Core weren't enough to disqualify him for president in the eyes of the GOP voter base, now there's this:
CNN's Peter Hamby reported that during a speech Thursday night at a South Carolina fundraiser, Bush "singled out Fox News" while expressing "annoyance with the polarizing fights and constant negativity of the political news media."

Bush reportedly said that he only watches Fox "for a few minutes a day before switching over to SportsCenter."
Jeb doesn't like Fox? The main source of news for 47% of "consistent conservatives," according to Pew? A news source trusted by 88% of those "consistent conservatives"?

It's just more evidence to the angry base that Jeb isn't one of them -- and more evidence to all of us that, unlike John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012 (and since), Jeb has no interest in tossing red meat to the angry base. So forget it -- he has no chance of winning the Republican nomination.

****

The same is probably true for Rand Paul. He just delivered what's said to have been a major foreign policy address -- Vox's Zack Beauchamp breathlessly described it as "one of the most important foreign policy speeches in decades." (Do GOP primary voters don't read Vox? Um, I don't think so.) At The Washington Post, Paul Waldman is less gobsmacked, but he thinks Paul may have done a fine job of needle-threading in the speech. I have serious doubts about that.
If you took out the five Reagan references and changed some words and phrases here and there, the speech Paul gave could have been delivered by Barack Obama. The difference between a Republican and a Democrat, apparently, is that the Republican says that we should always be prepared for war, but war should be a last resort, while the Democrat says that war should be a last resort, but we should always be prepared for war. Paul also added the controversial ideas that American values lead the world, and we're stronger abroad when our economy is stronger at home. And also, Reagan Reagan Reagan.

The interesting thing is that, despite the similarity of Paul's ideas to those of Obama, Paul's speech showed that it probably isn't all that hard to give GOP voters what tey want on foreign policy. All it takes is a little dexterity to push the right buttons, as Paul does in this passage:
Although I support the call for defeating and destroying ISIS, I doubt that a decisive victory is possible in the short term, even with the participation of the Kurds, the Iraqi government, and other moderate Arab states.

In the end, only the people of the region can destroy ISIS. In the end, the long war will end only when civilized Islam steps up to defeat this barbaric aberration.
He takes a policy position many Republicans will disagree with, but leavens it with the mention of "the long war" and "civilized Islam," giving a nod to the clash-of-civilizations sentiment so common on the right. Mission accomplished.
"Mission accomplished"? Seriously?

Look at the quote -- "only the people of the region can destroy ISIS"? "The long war will end only when civilized Islam steps up"? The base hates Muslims. The base doesn't believe that there is such a thing as "civilized Islam." The base doesn't want to hear that this war will be a stalemate for the foreseeable future -- that's weak-kneed, quisling, Obama talk. The base wants Ronald Reagan talk: "We win, they lose."

At Vox, Beauchamp writes,
The real target of Paul's speech were the neoconservatives: the wing of the GOP that believes that American foreign policy should be about the aggressive use of American force and influence, be it against terrorist groups or Russia. Paul's unsubtle argument is that this view, dominant in the GOP, is a departure from what a conservative foreign policy ought to be.

His tactic for selling this argument is innovative. He's reframed arguments with neoconservatives as arguments with Obama, banking on the idea that he can get everyday Republicans to abandon hawkishness altogether if they see Obama as a hawk.
He can't. Apart from hardcore Paulites, no one on the right could ever be persuaded that Obama is a hawk -- or Hillary either. The belief that all Democrats are disloyal, spineless, metrosexual love-bead wearers is bone-deep in Republicans' consciousness.

Unless you think all the older Republicans are going to stay home while under-35s do all the voting, this is a recipe for failure in the GOP primaries.

****

I'll say this, though: 2016 might be the year when a third-party movement could elect a president. This time, though, it would be an extremely right-wing third-party movement -- just not quite as right-wing on every issue as, say, Ted Cruz.

I think if Jeb Bush or Rand Paul decided to abandon the GOP to the Ben Carsons and Ted Cruzes, both the Chamber of Commerce and the mainstream media could flock to the breakaway candidacy. Jeb or Rand could be just as extreme on taxes and spending and abortion and guns as the most right-wing Republican, but the press would sigh and say "moderate" a lot, and declare this the best opportunity ever for America to break free of the two-party system. There'd be talk about how well Jeb or Rand might work with both parties in Congress -- no more gridlock! Compromise on everything! And a lot of voters, I think, would fall for this nonsense (especially if the running mate were a Democrat -- y'know, Joe Lieberman, Leon Panetta, Joe Manchin).

It won't happen -- but if it did, the press and a lot of centrist voters would be stupid enough to fall for it.

****

UPDATE: I love this, from Laura Ingraham:



"Left-leaning ESPN"?
CAN YOU IMAGINE FOX NEWS IF THIS WERE OBAMA?

If this had been President Obama, and not a prime minister who's a conservative and who therefore gets a free pass from the U.S. right-wing media, we'd never hear the end of it from wingnuts:
Stephen Harper spent about 15 minutes hidden in a Parliament Hill closet after a gunman stormed Centre Block where he and the rest of the Conservative caucus were guarded by MPs who'd fashioned sharp spears from flagpoles, sources say.

After they heard gunfire outside their meeting room door Wednesday, members of Parliament snapped close to 15 flagpoles to make weapons.

Some positioned themselves on risers that flanked doors, ready to attack an assailant.

"There were 15 flags up at caucus and all but two were taken down," one MP recalled.

"These guys were up there holding these spears ready to impale anyone who came in," the source said....

Mr. Harper, meanwhile, had been whisked into a closet in the Centre Block room shortly after the gunfights outside began....
A closet? A closet? Oh, man, the words "Obama" and "closet" would be linked in the righties' minds till the end of time. Yes, lefties would respond that George W. Bush was flown around the country in a desperate attempt to keep him away from the events of 9/11, but it wouldn't matter: the image of legislators sharpening spears and the sergeant-at-arms killing the gunman while the head of state cowered in the closet would be indelible.

And that's on top of this:
The Canadian police acknowledged on Thursday that the gunman who traumatized the capital in a deadly shooting rampage had not been identified as a security threat despite his criminal record in three cities, embrace of extremist ideas and intent to travel to Syria.

The police also conceded that they did not even know that the gunman, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, had been in the capital for nearly three weeks....

"The R.C.M.P. did not even know Mr. Zehaf was in Ottawa," Commissioner Paulson said during the lengthy news conference. "We need to look at all operations to deal with this difficult and hard-to-understand threat."

The police, he said, had only learned about Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau's Syrian travel plans from his mother after his death. Nor was he among the 93 people that the national police forces monitor as being likely to travel abroad to join organizations recognized as terror groups under Canadian law.
(In earlier posts, I was wrong about that last point.)

Oh, and Stephen Harper may have called the attack terrorism, to the delight of right-wing American pundits, but Canadian police are talking about motives other than MUSLIM MUSLIM MUSLIM EVIL EVIL EVIL:
All the commissioner could offer as explanation for the violence of Wednesday was a combination of Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau's growing frustration over delays in his passport application, his apparent sympathies for radicalism and his "difficult circumstances," which appeared to include drug use, unemployment and mental health problems.
"ISLAMIC EXTREMISM"!!! WHY WON'T YOU JUST SAY IT?!!!!

Right-wingers in America portray Obama as willfully perverse because he doesn't act and speak the way they demand he does. Well, here are Stephen Harper and the Canadian police acting in ways that fit American righties' caricature of Obama and his administration. Where's the mockery?
YOU'LL HAVE TO DO THE PANICKING FOR US, DOUG

A New York doctor named Craig Spencer has returned from Guinea infected with Ebola, and even the New York Post doesn't seem to be trying to stir up panic -- its lead story is measured, there's a "10 facts about Ebola" list that's reasonable and responsible, and the Ebola editorial avoids hysteria, and takes only a mild swipe at the Obama administration. If that's the worst we get, we're going to be in good shape.

There's far less fearmongering out there than I would have expected -- though Doug Powers, at Michelle Malkin's site, seems to be rooting for fear:
Number of people saying 'do not panic' about Ebola might be about to drop now that it's in NYC

... The MSM's approach is about to swing wildly:

Actually, no. It's not going to happen here -- at least it's not going to happen among people who aren't trying to stir up panic for political gain, which even the Post isn't doing yet. We lived through 9/11. We lived through anthrax. You watched those moments on TV in the breakfast nook, Doug and Michelle. So shut the hell up.

Maybe it's not that we're so tough -- we're just dealing with something that's become real for us. Fearmongering is easy when you're sending fear out into a population you're not a part of. The on-air personalities at Fox can cynically stir up viewers' fears because the Foxers themselves don't really lose sleep worrying that Ebola-infected undocumented Mexican-Muslims will overrun their cushy suburban homes and then vote illegally on absentee ballots obtained by the New Black Panthers and ACORN. It's a remote fear for them, so they can callously stir it up. The same goes for the usual CNN fearmongering -- it's out there. But this is real in New York, and the normal human reaction is kicking in: we're seeking answers, we're looking for reassurances, and we're sharing the best information we have. Our sense of fellow-feeling is kicking in.

And we actually want our leaders to do a good job (even Giuliani-haters rooted for him after 9/11). It's not like the last six years of American politics, when right-wingers wanted the government to fail, and wanted the economy not to recover for ordinary workers, because that served their purposes and they assumed they wouldn't suffer any negative consequences as a result. We know there's a slightly elevated risk for ourselves and our neighbors. We want the public response to be a success.

We'll be fine. Now you go panic.

****

UPDATE: Back in 2007, Barbara at the Mahablog told Michelle Malkin what she could do with her effort to turn New Yorkers into quivering cowards on the subject of terrorism. Go read.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

WHY DO RIGHT-WINGERS HATE PRIVATE PROPERTY?

Yes, this story, from the Wichita Eagle via the Kansas City Star, is technically accurate:
Homeland Security confiscates Royals underwear in Kansas City

Peregrine Honig says she just wanted to help celebrate the hometown team when she designed Lucky Royals boyshorts.

The panties, with "Take the Crown" and "KC" across the bottom, were set to be sold in Honig's Birdies Panties shop Tuesday. But Homeland Security agents visited the Crossroads store and confiscated the few dozen pairs of underwear....

"They came in and there were two guys" Honig said. "I asked one of them what size he needed and he showed me a badge and took me outside. They told me they were from Homeland Security and we were violating copyright laws."

She thought that since the underwear featured her hand-drawn design that she was safe. But the officers explained that by connecting the "K" and the "C," she infringed on major league baseball copyright....
I think the word thst both Honig and this story's author are looking for is "trademark," not "copyright." But that's not the aspect of the story right-wing bloggers are picking up on. They're upset because OMIGOD THIS IS BEING DONE BY HOMELAND SECURITY!!!1!1!

From PJ Media:
Did you know that the war on terrorism is over, there are no threats to us whatsoever, and peace has broken out across the entire world?

I didn't either, but if that hasn’t happened, I'm at a loss to explain this.
From Reason's Hit & Run blog:
The Department of Homeland Security has a $39 billion annual budget. It is fighting the fight against our invisible enemies, and taking on the unknown threats of the future.

By confiscating baseball-themed women's underwear from enthusiastic local retailers.
From The American Spectator:
Last I checked, DHS wasn't listed as the enforcement arm for the US Patent and Trademark Office (or for the MLB for that matter), but given that the DHS now has a whopping $40 billion dollar budget that they aren't spending on anything important, perhaps there was a switch they failed to inform the American people of.
That's either disingenuous or ignorant, because last time I checked -- by going to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website a few minutes ago -- Customs was part of the Department of Homeland Security. Maybe that's crazy, but that's what the federal government settled on when DHS was created (under a Republican president) a dozen years ago. And Customs has been pursuing goods that feature unlicensed logos for a long time now.

You can argue against that, and you can argue that a small producer of logo wear shouldn't have to fear this kind of thing -- but hey, since when do conservatives not regard private property rights as sacred? Corporations certainly see their trademarks as lucrative private property.

And the liberarians at Reason? Even they don't think trademarked logos should be protected? Ayn Rand wept:
Ayn Rand, founder of Objectivism, supported copyrights and patents, noting in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal:
Patents and copyrights are the legal implementation of the base of all property rights: a man's right to the product of his mind. Every type of productive work involves a combination of mental and of physical effort: of thought and of physical action to translate that thought into a material form. The proportion of these two elements varies in different types of work. At the lowest end of the scale, the mental effort required to perform unskilled manual labor is minimal. At the other end, what the patent and copyright laws acknowledge is the paramount role of mental effort in the production of material values; these laws protect the mind's contribution in its purest form the origination of an idea. The subject of patents and copyrights is intellectual property.... Thus the law establishes the property right of a mind to that which it has brought in existence.
Rand apparently didn't mention trademarks specifically, but do you really think she'd want the right to use them to be held (ick!) in common?

So this is a two-fer from the right. First, they're trying to fool you about the involvement of the DHS (or maybe they really don't understand its makeup). Then they're revealing a heretofore unacknowledged belief that trademarks should be forced into the commons. Who knew they thought that?
JONI ERNST, GUNS, AND TWO DIFFERENT ASPECTS OF WHITE PRIVILEGE

You've probably read about this:
Joni Ernst, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Iowa, said during an NRA event in 2012 that she would use a gun to defend herself from the government.

"I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere," Ernst said at the NRA and Iowa Firearms Coalition Second Amendment Rally in Searsboro, Iowa. "But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family -- whether it's from an intruder, or whether it's from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important."



In an obvious way, the fact that Ernst can say this and still be the favorite to win a U.S. Senate seat is a clear example of white privilege. Imagine a pronouncement like this being greeted with shrugs (as it almost certainly will be in Iowa on Election Day) if it had been uttered by a left-leaning black candidate a couple of years prior to running for office.

But there's another way this is an example of white privilege. At The Washington Post, Paul Waldman asks:
... if Ernst is talking about some hypothetical situation in which government's disregard for her rights may necessitate an armed response it's fair to ask her: What exactly is it? Is she saying that when law enforcement officers come to arrest her on some trumped-up charge, instead of submitting and fighting the charges in court she'll shoot those officers? Who else is an appropriate target here? Members of Congress who pass laws taking away her rights? FBI agents? Who?
Here's the thing: Generally speaking, she thinks there's no such circumstance. Ernst feels free to make this reckless statement, to a crowd that didn't find it the least bit objectionable, because she feels pretty safe in the assumption that she'll never be called to back those words up with actions. That's because she lives in a country where, regardless of all the hotheaded rhetoric, the government never really tyrannizes people like her and her audience, i.e., heartland white people of some means.

If Ernst and the crowd she was addressing were African-American, and had to get used to staggeringly high incarceration rates, as well as routine stop-and-frisk episodes and traffic stops for themselves and their children, they'd have to ask themselves if they were really so damn brave that they'd take up arms against the government. But they don't have to worry about that. So Ernst can just let loose this way with a barrage of irresponsible talk about insurrection.

Oh, sure, there was that crazy David Koresh a generation ago, and there was Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge shortly before that. But in this century there's been one situation of this kind involving conservative white people: the standoff at Cliven Bundy's ranch. And in that situation, Bundy and his pals didn't actually have reason to put a bullet in anyone because the Bundyites were conservative heartland whites, and a government run by a widely despised black guy, and with an even more loathed black guy as attorney general, was never really going to risk messing with them.

Whether they'll admit it or not, white right-wing heartlanders know that the jackbooted government thuggery they have Walter Mitty fantasies about resisting happens to them only after they engage in the most extreme provocation. So they talk the talk, knowing they won't ever to have to walk the walk.
IF THE ATTACKS IN CANADA HAD HAPPENED HERE, THERE'D ALREADY BE CALLS FOR OBAMA'S IMPEACHMENT

The right would be howling for Obama's head if the two attacks in Canada this week had taken place here, and not just for the general reason that the right is always howling for Obama's head.

This is the reason:
Federal sources have identified the suspected [Parliament] shooter as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a man in his early 30s who was known to Canadian authorities.

Sources told The Globe and Mail that he was recently designated a "high-risk traveller" by the Canadian government and was unable to secure the appropriate travel documentation, thus blocking his attempt to travel abroad. The circumstances are similar to that surrounding the case of Martin Rouleau-Couture, the Quebecker who was shot Monday after running down two Canadian Forces soldiers with his car.
More:
... on Oct. 8, Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced that they were investigating 63 national security cases linked to terrorism and involving 90 individuals -- that was the day after the Canadian parliament voted to join anti-ISIS air strikes in Iraq.

The attack in the capital on Wednesday is the second of its kind since that vote.
That's why there'd be calls for Obama's impeachment if this happened here: because the authorities had both assailants on a watch list, and the two were still able to carry out attacks.

The authorities (as Rachel Maddow explained last night) were already on alert for the possibility of what an NBC report said were possible "knife and gun" attacks, specifically on soldiers, whose faces the government didn't want photographed by the media. In spite of this, the government was unable to prevent a car-ramming attack on two soldiers (by a man who was later reportedly seen holding a knife after a high-speed chase), and then didn't prevent a gun attack on a soldier yesterday, followed by a shooting attack on Parliament.

The perpetrators had been monitored, but they were able to kill anyway. Can you imagine the response from the right in America if that had happened here?

By contrast, this is at Fox Nation right now:



But Harper's a conservative, of course, so letting two assassins of soldiers slip through a dragnet in one week is totally cool.

****

UPDATE: News Hounds notes that Sean Hannity is using Harper as a stick to beat Obama with because Harper has used the magic "t" word:
But to Sean Hannity, the fact that Canada had nonetheless not stopped the shooter before he killed was of no significance next to the fact that Harper used the word "terror." And Hannity was ready to use that against President Obama who is more circumspect with that terminology....
Compare and contrast for us if you can, the Canadian prime minister -- no hesitation, immediately identified this as likely terror and our own president once again is reluctant and resistant. Why?
If there's an attack like these attacks on U.S. soil, and President Obama immediately defines them as terrorist attacks, you think Hannity will praise him?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I SUSPECT THE TERRORISTS IN CANADA DIDN'T CROSS THE U.S.-MEXICO BORDER

You're probably aware of this:
... a man with a rifle shot a soldier standing guard at the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa, before seizing a car and driving to the doors of Parliament Hill's Centre Block nearby.

MPs and other witnesses reported several shots fired inside Parliament, and a gunman has been confirmed dead inside the building, shot by the House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms, according to MPs' eyewitness accounts....

Ottawa Civic Hospital confirmed two people have been taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, one with a gunshot wound.

Ottawa police confirmed shots were also fired in three locations: the war memorial, inside Centre Block and near the Rideau Centre east of Parliament Hill, although earlier reports of shots inside the shopping mall have been denied by police. The downtown area remains in police lockdown....
This follows an incident in Quebec in which a man rammed a car carrying two Canadian soldiers, one of whom later died. The assailant, who was shot dead by police after he reportedly approached them brandishing a knife following a high-speed chase, was a convert to Islam who'd begun expressing radical Islamist views and had tried leaving Canada for Turkey. (Early this month, Canadian authorities were expressing concern about ISIS-inspired "knife and gun" attacks.)

Now, we've been told by a lot of blowhards in America -- hello, Scott Brown -- that ISIS members are going to attack Americans after crossing into the country via the Mexican border. We've also been told that the reason we need to fear Americans traveling to ISIS-held territory is that Americans are likely to acquire fighting skills they'll subsequently use against Americans.

We don't know who's responsible for the shootings in Ottawa today. We do know that the car attack on the soldiers wasn't by someone who slipped into Canada illegally, and wasn't by someone with "battlefield experience" -- the assailant was a Canadian national named Martin Couture-Rouleau, who owned a pressure-washing company that was struggling. He wasn't a soldier, and he seems to have been prevented from fighting with ISIS.

Maybe the assailants today have military experience -- but it isn't necessary if you want to do some harm. Nor is sneaking over a border. The ISIS message crosses borders digitally. We fear the wrong things.

*****

I wonder how we can quell the desire of at least some young people to fight for ISIS, overseas or in their own countries, as long as ISIS (at least in some people's eyes) offers an idealistic, optimistic vision of a better life, and possibly a materially better life. I'm absolutely not saying that I believe that message -- I'm saying that some people find it plausible. You can blame them for falling for this message, but I'm not sure you can blame them for wanting to think there's a better life somewhere. Apart from the global rich, how many people right now, anywhere on earth, are satisfied with their lives? How many people like their governments? Who are the admirable political leaders right now?

The New York Times has a story today about Tunisians who are disillusioned with their government four years after the Arab Spring. Large numbers of them -- many unemployed or underemployed -- are leaving to go to ISIS-held territory. They seem to think the streets are paved with gold there:
In interviews at cafes in and around Ettadhamen, dozens of young unemployed or working-class men expressed support for the extremists or saw the appeal of joining their ranks -- convinced that it could offer a higher standard of living, a chance to erase arbitrary borders that have divided the Arab world for a century, or perhaps even the fulfillment of Quranic prophecies that Armageddon will begin with a battle in Syria....

Mourad, 28, who said he held a master’s degree in technology but could find work only in construction, called the Islamic State the only hope for "social justice," because he said it would absorb the oil-rich Persian Gulf monarchies and redistribute their wealth. "It is the only way to give the people back their true rights, by giving the natural resources back to the people,” he said. “It is an obligation for every Muslim."

Many insisted that friends who had joined the Islamic State had sent back reports over the Internet of their homes, salaries and even wives. "They live better than us!" said Walid, 24.

Wissam, 22, said a friend who left four months ago had told him that he was "leading a truly nice, comfortable life" under the Islamic State.

"I said: 'Are there some pretty girls? Maybe I will go there and settle down,'" he recalled.
Some are coming back disillusioned after experiencing the reality of life under ISIS:
Imen Triki, a lawyer at a nonprofit that has represented more than 70 returning Tunisians, ... estimated that as many as 60 percent of those who come back profess disappointment at the strife between the Islamic State and its former partner, the Nusra Front, the Qaeda-affiliated Syrian rebel group. "They never thought there would a fight between Muslims," she said. "They find that they have been deceived and sold like mercenaries."

Charfeddine Hasni, 30, an information technology worker who said he backed the Islamic State, acknowledged that friends had returned dismayed. "They thought it would be like joining the side of the Prophet Muhammad, but they found it was divided into these small groups with a lot of transgressions they did not expect, like forcing people to fight," he said, recalling one friend killed by his own fellows in the Nusra Front. "But they are not a real army, so they are hard to control, and these are personal mistakes," he added.
But they want a better life. Who else, in a sink-or-swim post-crash world, offers any reason for optimism? ISIS is awful, but to some people it's the only ray of hope. You want to beat ISIS? Offer a real ray of hope.

****

UPDATE: The shooter in Ottawa today was Not a border-crosser, apparently:
Law enforcement and U.S. government sources tell CBS News the dead shooting suspect is Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, born 1982, and he is believed to be Canadian-born.

AND: The shooter is a Canadian convert to Islam who (like Couture-Rouleau) had his passport seized by the Canadian government, which regarded him as a "high-risk traveler." So no border-crossing and no "battlefield experience" in this case, either.
HEATHER MacDONALD IS JUST KEITH ABLOW WITH INTELLECTUAL CRED

Heather MacDonald, a right-winger widely respected as an intellectual, has now weighed in on Ebola, and her conclusion is just a seemingly high-minded version of what Keith Ablow was ranting about last week: she believes that we're at risk of Ebola exposure because the public health field is lousy with anti-colonialism, or something very similar:
The public-health establishment has unanimously opposed a travel and visa moratorium from Ebola-plagued West African countries to protect the U.S. population. To evaluate whether this opposition rests on purely scientific grounds, it helps to understand the political character of the public-health field. For the last several decades, the profession has been awash in social-justice ideology. Many of its members view racism, sexism, and economic inequality, rather than individual behavior, as the primary drivers of differential health outcomes in the U.S. According to mainstream public-health thinking, publicizing the behavioral choices behind bad health -- promiscuous sex, drug use, overeating, or lack of exercise -- blames the victim.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Healthy Communities Program, for example, focuses on "unfair health differences closely linked with social, economic or environmental disadvantages that adversely affect groups of people." CDC's Healthy People 2020 project recognizes that "health inequities are tied to economics, exclusion, and discrimination that prevent groups from accessing resources to live healthy lives," according to Harvard public-health professor Nancy Krieger....

The public-health profession has a clear political orientation, so it's quite possible that its opposition to a visa and travel moratorium is influenced as much by belief in America's responsibility for the postcolonial oppression of Africa, and suspicion of American border enforcement, as it is by a commitment to public-health principles of containment and control.
MacDonald starts by telling us that a couple of CDC health programs don't want to address the problems caused by certain personal behaviors -- but if you look at them, you see that they're very much focused on overeating and lack of exercise. What they're not focused on is blaming individuals for eating poorly, or for not being active. The point of the programs is to nudge people toward healthier habits, and make exercise options and better food more readily available. I'm not sure exactly how a finger-wagging focus on "individual behavior" would work -- public shaming? scarlet letters? signs hung around fat people's necks in the public square? -- nor do I understand how it would improve public health. But it sure would help divide the country into the worthy and the unworthy, which is the kind of sorting that's the basis of all modern conservatism.

MacDonald goes on to discuss other ways in which the evil liberals of public health have failed to sort the citizenry into the saved and the damned:
During the height of the AIDS epidemic, the public-health profession abjured any focus on abstinence as a means of stopping the spread of the disease. This silence was contrary to decades of public-health response to venereal disease, which stressed individual responsibility, as well as contact tracing, to prevent further infections.
Oh, right -- instead of recommending safe sex, the public health community should have told high-risk groups to give up sex altogether -- presumably forever, since it's a quarter century after the first AIDS diagnosis and we still don't have a cure. I assume this would include entire entire African heterosexual populations, although I assume MacDonald is thinking more about those awful gays.
The American Journal of Public Health recently published a study coauthored by Columbia University professor and longtime police critic Jeffrey Fagan arguing that young black men who have been stopped and questioned by the New York Police Department suffer from stress and anxiety. The more times an individual gets stopped, Fagan claims, the more stress he may feel. The study did not consider whether individuals who have been stopped numerous times by the police may be anxious because they are gang members operating in a world where retaliatory shootings are common.
Right -- all Those People are in gangs, so stress them out as much as you want. It's cool. They're used to it.

The idea undergirding all this is that authorities should respond to every societal problem by punishing someone, a necessity liberal squishes just don't recognize. In the case of travelers from West Africa -- the overwhelming majority of whom are disease-free -- I guess the "individual behavior" they're being punished for is not having the moral fiber to be born in a white First World country.
I TOLD YOU THERE'D BE NO CONSERVATIVE CRACK-UP

Least surprising news imaginable, from The Hill:
Tea Partyers have learned to play nice after a cycle of knockdown, drag-out fights with the Republican establishment that have gotten them nowhere.

Sensing a GOP majority in the Senate is within reach, conservative groups have put down their bombs and are working together with establishment actors to make that happen -- even backing formerly sworn enemies in some races.

In New Hampshire, Tea Party Patriots (TPP) has launched a ground effort to help elect Republican Scott Brown, who has drawn the ire of conservatives for backing stricter gun control in some cases. In North Carolina, TPP and others are actively supporting Republican Thom Tillis, who was far from being the conservative pick in his primary. He faces Sen. Kay Hagan (D).

The Tea Party Express (TPE) is now actively backing Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) -- little liked among Tea Partyers -- and former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds (R), for Senate.

At the very least, Tea Partyers are showing a willingness to "hold their nose and vote," as FreedomWorks Executive Vice President Adam Brandon put it, because of the understanding that a Republican-controlled Senate with some impurities is better than nothing at all.

"Our members have told us that right now, having a Republican-controlled Senate and firing [Majority Leader] Harry Reid (D-Nev.) are their top priority," Jenny Beth Martin, TPP president, told The Hill....
What did I tell you a year ago?
Trust me, these folks are going to work this out. First of all, crazy-base disappointment with the GOP is not exactly new. Crazy-base voters thought John McCain was a pathetic RINO. Did they bolt for a third party? No. They felt the same way in 2012 about Mitt Romney. Did they bolt then? No. They never bolt, because they hate liberals, Democrats, and the Democratic voter base as they perceive it (i.e., non-white moochers) far more than they hate one another.
They fall in line -- and they vote. They vote every time.

Republicans have found their sweet spot -- establishment figures are (or eventually learn to become) just like teabaggers except on issues that become embarrassing to the GOP in polite circles, like shutting down the government and playing games with the debt ceiling, while the teabaggers stay pure on everything. The chattering classes think teabaggery has been tamed and the Republican Party is now reasonable, and the teabaggers themselves see that they're succeeding in dragging the party even further to the right. And on Election Day, it all comes together -- until the Democratic base gets a clue and learns to turn out in non-presidential years. But when will that ever happen?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

FOX NEWS ADDS "HELL IN A HANDBASKET" QUESTION TO MAKE OBAMA'S ISSUE RATINGS LOOK WORSE

Fox News reports a key result from its latest poll:
The world's "going to hell in a handbasket," according to a majority of voters in the latest Fox News poll.

And that's draining support for President Obama’s policies.
This is true -- but not quite in the way Fox wants you to think it is.

Yes, it's true that, according to the poll, "58 percent of voters feel things in the world are 'going to hell in a handbasket,'" while 35% of respondents say that "everything will be all right." (No choice in the middle was offered.) This is just the latest in a series of push-poll-y questions in Fox surveys. (An example from a while back: "Do you think the Democratic Party should allow a grassroots organization like Moveon.org to take it over or should it resist this type of takeover?")

But it's the placement of this question that's important here. In a 42-question survey, this was question #4, right after questions about approval of Obama and Congress and a question asking about the direction of the country.

Why put the "hell in a handbasket" question near the front of the survey? Presumably so it will influence respondents' answers on questions starting with #5:
Do you approve or disapprove of the job Barack Obama is doing on the following issues?
5. Handling the Islamic extremist group ISIS
6. Foreign policy
7. The economy

8. Do you think the country is better off or worse off today than before Barack Obama was elected president?
And so on.

In 2009, in reference to a similar planting of a provocative question in a Fox poll, Nate Silver wrote,
... when you ask biased questions first, they are infectious, potentially poisoning everything that comes below. I don't particularly care if Fox News wants to ask leading or even outrightly biased questions -- but they have to ask them after any questions they expect the policymaking community to take seriously.
Pew and other pollsters have told us about question-order effects. The National Council on Public Polls warns journalists to take note of question order when considering poll results:
Sometimes the very order of the questions can have an impact on the results. Often that impact is intentional; sometimes it is not. The impact of order can often be subtle.

During troubled economic times, for example, if people are asked what they think of the economy before they are asked their opinion of the president, the presidential popularity rating will probably be lower than if you had reversed the order of the questions. And in good economic times, the opposite is true.

What is important here is whether the questions that were asked prior to the critical question in the poll could sway the results.
Fox knows this. Fox knows this very well.
HEY, NOTHING RACIST ABOUT THIS, RIGHT?
(updated)


From the "Daily News Briefing" at Herman Cain's "Best of Cain" site:




I have no words.

****

UPDATE: Oh, of course:



EXPOSING A CONSPIRACY THEORIST DOESN'T REALLY HELP IF PEOPLE DON'T KNOW WHY THE THEORIES ARE CRAZY

I'm glad David Corn of Mother Jones is reminding us of this, but I wonder how much good it will do once the presidential campaign gets under way:
As [Senator Rand Paul] moves toward a White House bid, journalists scrutinize his every wiggle and whisper. But one core component of his political personality has largely escaped exploration: The senator is close to being a full-blown conspiracy theorist.

In 2010, before winning his Senate seat, Paul sat for an interview with Luke Rudkowski, a libertarian YouTube personality who specializes in quizzing political leaders about the plot to establish a "one-world socialist government." Rudkowski asked what Paul knew of the Bilderberg Group, a collection of government and business leaders whose annual conference is a favorite target of conspiracy-mongers. Paul replied, "Only what I've learned from Alex Jones." That's right: Alex Jones, the radio host who claims that Bilderberg is a key part of a global plot to create a "scientific dictatorship" that will exterminate the "useless eaters," a.k.a. 80 percent of the human population.

Paul described the group to Rudkowski in unequivocally Jonesian terms, as "very wealthy people, who I think manipulate and use government to their own personal advantage. They want to make it out like world government will be good for humanity. But guess what? World government is good for their pocketbook." The previous year, Paul had appeared on Jones' radio show, noting that he had watched his host's videos and expressing support for the effort to "expose people who are promoting this globalist agenda." (In turn, Jones urged his listeners to send money to Paul's Senate campaign.)
Here's the problem with bringing this up: Most Americans don't know what the Bilderberg group is, and don't know why believing the Bilderbergers are at the epicenter of a globalist conspiracy is crazy. For that matter, they don't know who Alex Jones is -- or maybe they know him just as that guy who got into a one-sided shouting match with Piers Morgan on the subject of guns shortly after the Sandy Hook massacre. (Nothing Jones said was very different from the NRA's own propaganda, or the gun utterances of most Republican officeholders, so while he came off as a hothead, I don't think he came off as a conspiratorialist.)

When the public doesn't already understand that a crazy idea is crazy, it's hard to use belief in that idea against a candidate. That's why Joni Ernst is a slight favorite to win the Senate race in Iowa, even though she's said delusional things about the UN's Agenda 21. Hardly anybody knows what Agenda 21 is. Hardly anyone understands that it's innocuous. You can't tell voters that Ernst believes a cockamamie conspiracy theory when they don't know it's cockamamie.

Corn goes on to tell us that Rand Paul has worried about the imminent formation of a "North American Union" with a single currency:
Paul also has embraced one of the conspiracy theories promoted by his father, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul: that leaders from the United States, Canada, and Mexico are seeking to merge their countries into a socialist megastate that would issue the "Amero" currency to replace US and Canadian dollars and the Mexican peso. (Anti-feminist campaigner Phyllis Schlafly and Jerome Corsi, who led the 2004 Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign, are among the key proponents of this idea.)

At an appearance for his father's 2008 presidential campaign in Bozeman, Montana, Rand Paul was asked what steps his dad would take to thwart the scheme to impose a North American superstate. The first thing to do, he said, was "publicizing that it's going on" and pushing Congress to "stop it." He insisted the Amero push was "a real thing" but cautioned, "If you talk about it like it's a conspiracy, they'll paint you as a nut. It's not a conspiracy, they're out in the open about it. I guarantee it's one of their long-term goals -- to have one sort of borderless mass continent." He did not specify who "they" were.
But people don't know that's crazy. We have NAFTA. What's the difference? Why is NAFTA real and this is crazy? People don't understand. It would be hard to get them to understand. And no one's really tried.

You're not going to get a careful, detailed story debunking conspiracy myths about Agenda 21 or the North American Union or the Bilderbergers from The Washington Post or The New Republic or The New York Times Magazine or CNN -- maybe stories would appear if a high-profile candidate invoked one of these theories in the heat of a closely covered campaign, but that's not what's happening. (Rand Paul, as Corn notes, stopped talking about these conspiracies once he became a serious Senate candidate. That's also what Ernst has done.)

As long as these ideas are under the elite press's radar, there won't be debunkings. Even Vox, which sells itself as the site where everything you might see mentioned in the news gets explained, has nothing about the Bilderberg group or the Amero. The phrases "Agenda 21" and "North American Union" have never appeared at Vox.

If the mainstream media won't deign to debunk these myths because doing so feels like slumming, the myths will fester -- and the public won't know that candidates who've taken the myths seriously are engaging in crazy talk. Ernst is skating; unless the media's approach to conspiracies starts to change, Paul will, too.

Monday, October 20, 2014

BELTWAY JOURNALIST AND GOP AGREE: REPUBLICANS ARE MORE POPULAR, EVEN WHEN THEY LOSE

National Journal's Shane Goldmacher has just published a gushy, breathless puff piece on Joni Ernst, Iowa's Republican Senate candidate:
What the Republicans ... have going for them this year is Ernst herself, a folksy state senator and lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard who has emerged as one of the breakout stars of 2014. She burst through a crowded Senate GOP primary with an ad touting her farm-girl roots castrating hogs. "Let's make them squeal!" she said of Washington spenders. The ad drew national attention (627,000 YouTube views and counting) and a deluge of donations.

Most recent polls have shown Ernst narrowly ahead and her supporters more energized. She is more liked than disliked by Iowa voters, while Braley's favorability rating is underwater in most surveys....

"She's become a rock star, certainly among Republicans," says [David] Oman, her finance director....

Ernst has excited not just GOP insiders but Iowa voters. A recent NBC/Marist poll showed a huge enthusiasm gap, with more than 60 percent of Ernst backers saying they were actively supporting her, versus 34 percent who were more opposing Braley. The reverse was true for him. More than 60 percent of his supporters were mostly opposed to her, rather than actively for him.
And according to Goldmacher, anyone who thinks Ernst is extreme or fringe-y is just trying to ruin everyone else's sense of delight in her wonderfulness:
Democrats have tried to cut Ernst down with a campaign to cast her as an extremist. They have some politically potent fodder, including video of her speaking about the possibility of privatizing Social Security and her support for "personhood" legislation, which could ban some forms of birth control (Ernst says she is in favor of birth-control access). She's suggested that states could nullify federal law and raised the specter of impeaching Obama. She also suggested that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, before trying to backtrack.
Ed Kilgore is outraged at the notion that calling Ernst an extremist is somehow out of bounds, given the positions she's embraced, and he notes that Ernst's embrace of the insane Agenda 21 conspiracy ought to be disqualifying all by itself. BooMan also finds it appalling that Goldmacher allows her to skate on these matters.

But I want to point out another aspect of Goldmacher's argument. He flatly calls Ernst a "better candidate" than Democrat Bruce Braley -- but he needs an explanation for why she's not running away with the election. His explanation is this:
... Iowa Republicans [are] still smarting from two straight cycles of defeat that they blame on superior Democratic infrastructure. "The Obama machine, organization -- whatever you'd like to call it -- took us to school in 2008 and again in 2012," says David Oman, who cochaired Mitt Romney's Iowa campaign last cycle.

... as they are in Senate races across the country -- Colorado, Alaska, North Carolina, to name a few -- Democrats here are hoping smart tactics can offset a national mood that favors Republicans. And in Iowa, fears of the Democratic machine lurk not far below the surface....
Right. If Braley wins, it's not going to be because that's a genuine expression of Iowa's popular will. He's going to win because Democrats always gin the system with their mysterious, sinister get-out-the-vote tricks and wiles.

This line of argument dovetails nicely with Republican vote trutherism (Democrats win because of massive voter fraud!) and its lite, polite variants (Democrats win because they give so much free stuff to moochers! Republicans lose some elections in the overall vote count, but win the votes of the right people, so, really, the GOP wins!). Either way, America -- or "real Americans," at least -- prefer the GOP no matter what the vote totals say. Democrats don't have a mandate to govern even when they win (because they don't really win), and Republicans have a mandate even when they lose.

EBOLA-FREE NIGERIA DIDN'T SEAL ITS BORDERS

Time's Alexandra Sifferlin reports good Ebola news:
The World Health Organization declared Nigeria free of Ebola on Monday, a containment victory in an outbreak that has stymied other countries' response efforts....

For the WHO to declare Nigeria as Ebola-free, the country had to make it 42 days with no new cases ..., verify that it actively sought out all possible contacts, and show negative test results for any suspected cases....

Nigeria had 20 cases of Ebola after a Liberian-American man named Patrick Sawyer flew into Lagos and collapsed at the airport. Health care workers treating Sawyer were infected, and as it spread it ultimately killed eight people, a low number next to the thousands of cases and deaths in other countries....
Sifferlin notes that Nigeria did a lot of things well, getting doctors trained early (by the World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders) and declaring a health emergency immediately.

But Nigeria didn't seal its borders:
Keeping borders open. Nigeria has not closed its borders to travelers from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, saying the move would be counterproductive. "Closing borders tends to reinforce panic and the notion of helplessness," Shuaib said. "When you close the legal points of entry, then you potentially drive people to use illegal passages, thus compounding the problem." Shuaib said that if public health strategies are implemented, outbreaks can be controlled, and that closing borders would only stifle commercial activities in the countries whose economies are already struggling due to Ebola.
Let me just remind you that Nigeria shares a continent with eleven other countries where Ebola has been detected:



We share a continent with no such countries. In fact, there are no such countries in the Western Hemisphere.

And yet the majority of Americans want the borders sealed. It wasn't done in Nigeria -- and it wasn't necessary.
THE HEADLINES FADE, THE FEAR LINGERS

Politico just conducted a poll of states with competitive Senate races and competitive House districts. The results could have been a lot worse for Democrats. The respondent pool skews a bit more rightward than the country as a whole: of the 17 states surveyed, 10 voted for Mitt Romney in 2012; 32 of the 62 House districts are currently represented by Republicans. Within the respondent pool, 38% call themselves "conservative" (in line with national numbers), but another 12% are moderates who say they lean conservative, so half the pool is at least somewhat conservative. And 40% of respondents consider themselves born again or Evangelical (Pew puts the nationwide percentage at 26.3%). And yet 47% of respondents "strongly" or "somewhat" approve of President Obama's job performance. What's more, when asked to choose between the Republican and Democratic candidate (or the independent in the case of the Kansas Senate race), Democrats win, 41%-36%. With leaners, it's still Dems, 44%-41%.

And yet fear persists. I understand Ebola fear being on people's minds, but this seems really irrational:
Eighty-four percent of voters say the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant poses a "serious" threat to the U.S. homeland, including 43 percent who say it poses a “very serious” threat. Just 12 percent said the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, is not a serious concern....

And the same pool of voters that expressed intense resistance to U.S. military intervention overseas in a July POLITICO poll now say they are more concerned about terrorism against the homeland (60 percent) than the possibility of another "drawn-out U.S. war in Iraq" (39 percent.)
More than a month ago, we saw ISIS members beheading Westerners in their sphere of influence. Fearmongers told us that ISIS was sending people into America, or had already done so. The Mexican border was invoked. Ebola was mentioned.

So, um, where's the stateside ISIS terrorism?

Here's the thing: We don't notice when things we fear don't happen. When we're on alert, we don't notice the seemingly unremarkable, even when it's relevant to our concerns.

It's somewhat like Sherlock Holmes's incident of the dog in the night-time:
Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"

Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."

Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."

Holmes: "That was the curious incident."
In the Conan Doyle story "Silver Blaze," a dog doesn't bark when a famous racehorse is abducted. Sherlock Holmes knows that the person who moved the horse was not a stranger to the dog. But it's a detail everyone else overlooks.

We're missing the dogs that aren't barking. ISIS isn't killing people in America. Ebola isn't spreading, and the vast majority of people exposed to it here are still in good health. But once fear is stirred up, it lingers. Reassuring news doesn't have anywhere near the same impact.

Republicans stoke fear all the time because they know this. They've had a lot to work with lately. But their direst predictions aren't coming true.

Too bad we won't notice -- soon we'll just let them scare us about something else.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

IT'S TIME FOR THE PRESS TO START TELLING US WHO DOESN'T HAVE EBOLA

In comments yesterday, Never Ben Better posted a disheartening story from Maine:
A teacher at Strong Elementary School was placed on a 21-day paid leave of absence after parents told the school board they were concerned that she might have been exposed to Ebola during a trip to Dallas for an educational conference....

Jackie King, a spokeswoman for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, said the Dallas conference is being held at the Hilton Anatole Hotel, where participants also are staying....

The hotel where the teacher stayed is about 10 miles from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where the first case of the virus was diagnosed....

About 363,000 passengers arrived on international flights into Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in August, the latest month for which statistics are available. About 5 million domestic travelers passed through the airport in the same month....
In addition to telling us that this town is in a panic despite the fact that the teacher in question stayed ten miles away from the hospital where Thomas Eric Duncan was treated, the story recounts other incidents of Ebola panic:
A Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist for the Washington Post, who photographed Ebola victims in Liberia in September, was disinvited from a photojournalism workshop at Syracuse University even though he showed no signs of the disease for 21 days after his return to the United States.... In Hazelhurst, Mississippi, a crowd of parents pulled their middle school students from class Friday after learning that the school's principal recently had traveled to attend a family funeral in Zambia, which is in southern Africa and about 3,000 miles from the outbreak in West Africa.
And here's a guy named Matt Dexter who has a child in that Maine teacher's classroom, and who, in his ignorance, probably reflects the way much -- most? -- of America is thinking right now:
"I'm really tired of people telling everyone, on the news, starting at the national level, 'zero risk, low risk,'" he said. "The bottom line is that there is risk. Are we more capable of handling this than Africa? Sure, but why walk around blind and jam people into hot spots we can't control? It all comes down to personal responsibility."
I know the press wants to report on what is happening, and speculate on what might happen, but it's obvious now that what the public needs from the press is a reminder of what isn't happening.

Thomas Eric Duncan flew from Monrovia, Liberia, to Brussels, Belgium, on September 19, then flew from Brussels to Dulles Airport in D.C. The next day, September 20, he flew from D.C. to Dallas.

He arrived in Dallas -- infected with Ebola -- 29 days ago.

The incubation period is, at most, 21 days.

There are no Ebola cases in Belgium. There are no Ebola cases in the D.C. area. The only people with Ebola in Dallas have been Duncan and two nurses who treated him when he was unquestionably gravely ill, and when the nurses may not have mastered the protocols for protecting themselves from a highly contagious patient, or may not have had adequate protective gear and other safeguards.

The point is, we know that Thomas Eric Duncan did not communicate Ebola to anyone in his travels -- no one on any plane he flew on, no one in any airport he passed through. The people he had contact with until he was finally admitted to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on September 28 -- 21 days ago -- have shown no signs of Ebola, and that includes his relatives and his fiancee -- who seems fine, by the way, but can't get anyone to rent her an apartment.

I know that, by now, much of America probably thinks that "we don't really know" what the incubation period is, just as they think "we don't really know" how Ebola is transmitted. But no matter what they think, they need to be reminded that there are no non-medical personnel who've contracted Ebola via Thomas Eric Duncan. Not his relatives. Not his fiancee. Not the people at the apartment complex where he was staying. Yes, it's true that the people who delivered food to Duncan's family after his hospitalization and later cleaned the apartment are still not past the 21-day maximum incubation period-- though they've had time to develop symptoms, and none have.

If the authorities are lying to us about how Ebola is transmitted, where are all the other cases?

With some people, it's probably hopeless to point this out -- they'll say there are other cases, but they're being covered up. (So why weren't the cases of Duncan and his nurses covered up? Why aren't the scares all over the country being covered up?)

But I have to think that some people would understand if they were reminded that the disease is being transmitted pretty much exactly the way the authorities have always thought it's transmitted, and isn't being transmitted ambiently, just as the experts told us.

Ebola was discovered in 1976. Do most Americans know that -- know that scientists have had 38 years to figure out what it does? Could the press please remind the public of the fact that this virus hasn't been a mystery to scientists for decades?

I have hope, because I lived in New York, which was an epicenter of AIDS as the disease was emerging. People panicked about casual transmission of HIV -- but, eventually, they didn't. Increased understanding can happen -- but people need to see what the virus does and doesn't do. The press needs to report the latter as well as the former -- and, by the way, so does the Obama administration.

****

MORE: I wonder if we need someone like Oprah to make this case. It's easy to imagine Oprah in her heyday flying down to Dallas, meeting with Duncan's fiancee and others who'd had contact with him -- and hugging some of them on camera, while also bringing on an expert to explain the transmission process and incubation period. Everyone in America would know that Oprah hugged a close contact of an Ebola patient. She'd say she had no fear because the incubation period was up, and then we'd see that she didn't get sick. A celebrity interviewer who did this now woul be doing America a world of good.