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Push to Cut CDC’s Vaccine Funds Could Harm CA’s Health

March 22nd, 2011 by Celeste Fremon

Mother Jones lays it all out. Here’s the deal:

In the past year, California has experienced the worst whooping cough outbreak in more than 50 years, an epidemic that has killed 10 infants and resulted in 6,400 reported cases. But even as the state’s public health officials have struggled to curb the disease, Republicans in Congress have proposed slashing millions in federal funding for immunization programs. Public health advocates warn that these cuts threaten efforts across the country to prevent and contain infectious and sometimes fatal diseases. And they add that lower vaccination rates could eventually result in more outbreaks that endanger public health at a major cost to taxpayers.

The House GOP’s 2011 budget would chop $156 million from the Centers for Disease Control’s funding for immunization and respiratory diseases. The GOP reductions are likely to hit the CDC’s support for state and local immunization programs, the agency’s ability to evaluate which vaccines are working, and its work to educate the public about recommended vaccines for children, teenagers, and other susceptible populations. The CDC especially focuses on serving lower-income families who receive vaccines at state and local health offices and community health clinics, rather than a private doctor’s office.

“When there’s less money, fewer kids get vaccinated,” says Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association….

Is everyone losing their minds? We can’t cut defense spending, and had to extend the Bush tax cuts, but we’re going to slash federal funds for low-cost immunization for kids? Really? Does that seem like a smart thing to do?



Joshua Benton at the Neiman Journalism Lab reports that:

The New York Times paywall is costing the newspaper $40-$50 million to design and construct, Bloomberg has reported.

And it can be defeated through four lines of Javascript.

Read the rest.



As Jay Rosen pointed out, What Nic Roberston is basically saying here is that the Fox crew in Tripoli is too scared to leave their hotel… Watch it.

Posted in media, National politics, Public Health | No Comments »

WORDS MATTER 2: The Consequences of Eliminationist Rhetoric

January 10th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon

There are all kinds of other topics that need discussing, but they will have to wait until Tuesday as, for better or for worse, the Tucson shooting, and the issues that swirl around it, still demand to be front and center.

In his Monday column Paul Krugman talks about what he calls “eliminationist rhetoric.”

I don’t know if he coined the phrase or has just appropriated it. Whatever the case, it goes to the heart of what is problematic in a certain kind of political speech that has come out of the weeds and into the open these past few years. It is not the fiery rhetoric that has been part of politics since the country’s founding, rather it is another darker strain of partisan vitriol that characterizes one’s opponents, not as the loyal opposition, but as monsters.

Here’s a clip from Krugman’s column:

….As Clarence Dupnik, the sheriff responsible for dealing with the Arizona shootings, put it, it’s “the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business.” The vast majority of those who listen to that toxic rhetoric stop short of actual violence, but some, inevitably, cross that line.

It’s important to be clear here about the nature of our sickness. It’s not a general lack of “civility,” the favorite term of pundits who want to wish away fundamental policy disagreements. Politeness may be a virtue, but there’s a big difference between bad manners and calls, explicit or implicit, for violence; insults aren’t the same as incitement.

The point is that there’s room in a democracy for people who ridicule and denounce those who disagree with them; there isn’t any place for eliminationist rhetoric, for suggestions that those on the other side of a debate must be removed from that debate by whatever means necessary.

The NY Times Monday editorial has this to say:

Jared Loughner, the man accused of shooting Ms. Giffords, killing a federal judge and five other people, and wounding 13 others, appears to be mentally ill. His paranoid Internet ravings about government mind control place him well beyond usual ideological categories.

But he is very much a part of a widespread squall of fear, anger and intolerance that has produced violent threats against scores of politicians and infected the political mainstream with violent imagery. With easy and legal access to semiautomatic weapons like the one used in the parking lot, those already teetering on the edge of sanity can turn a threat into a nightmare.

Last spring, Capitol security officials said threats against members of Congress had tripled over the previous year, almost all from opponents of health care reform. An effigy of Representative Frank Kratovil Jr., a Maryland Democrat, was hung from a gallows outside his district office. Ms. Giffords’s district office door was smashed after the health vote, possibly by a bullet.

And there is this from the Wall Street Journal:

Jim Gilchrist, who founded the immigration-law enforcement group Minuteman Project, said he sensed a “violent streak” in American politics and brought a bodyguard to public events. “I am in fear of my life from people like this who are on my side of the argument,” as well as from extremists “from the ultra-left,” Mr. Gilchrist said.

As signs emerged that the alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, was a disturbed loner, party leaders weren’t suggesting any direct link between specific political statements and his actions. Authorities haven’t commented on possible motives.

But the shootings appear to be yielding the kind of ruminations on civility and violence not seen since domestic terrorists blew up the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Some lawmakers and liberal activists implored President Obama to use the moment the way President Bill Clinton did in 1995, not only to call for national unity but to denounce a political culture of violence…..

….In the run-up to the November elections, Nevada Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle talked of “second amendment remedies” to voter frustrations.

Candidate Allen West, now a Florida congressman, said during the campaign of his Democratic opponent: “Let me tell you what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to make the fellow scared to come out of his house. That’s the only way that you’re going to win.”

And finally this from E. J. Dionne at the Washington Post:

Let’s begin by being honest. It is not partisan to observe that there are cycles to violent rhetoric in our politics. In the late 1960s, violent talk (and sometimes violence itself) was more common on the far left. But since President Obama’s election, it is incontestable that significant parts of the American far right have adopted a language of revolutionary violence in the name of overthrowing “tyranny.”

It is Obama’s opponents who carried guns to his speeches and cited Jefferson’s line that the tree of liberty “must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

…The point is not to “blame” American conservatism for the actions of a possibly deranged man, especially since the views of Jared Lee Loughner seem so thoroughly confused. But we must now insist with more force than ever that threats of violence no less than violence itself are antithetical to democracy. Violent talk and playacting cannot be part of our political routine. It is not cute or amusing to put crosshairs over a congressional district.

Liberals were rightly pressed in the 1960s to condemn violence on the left. Now, conservative leaders must take on their fringe when it uses language that intimates threats of bloodshed. That means more than just highly general statements praising civility.

Quite honestly, other lives may depend on it.

Posted in National issues, National politics | 114 Comments »

WORDS MATTER: Thoughts on Violent Rhetoric & the Tucson Shooting

January 9th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon

Surely we will know more in coming days
about what combination of crazy thoughts and imaginings could have caused an obviously disturbed 22-year-old Jared Lee Laughner to reportedly bring a Glock 9mm pistol to a Tucson Safeway supermarket on Saturday, then to wait in line until he was close enough to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords to shoot her in the head—and begin blasting wildly at others, hitting 18 more people, six of whom he killed, including federal judge, John McCarthy Roll, and 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green.

To tie Laughner’s acts directly to the flaming rhetoric of this or that politician or media host is almost certainly going to turn out to be an inaccurate and disingenuous exercise in partisan blame and opportunism. Whatever his final emotional trigger—according to his writing, videos and the observations of some of his Pima College instructors—Laughner seems to have been showing alarming if undifferentiated signs of mental illness for quite some time now.

Yet, all that said, one cannot escape the plain fact that words matter. Extremely polarizing and fear-inducing rhetoric repeated over and over again by those with big microphones can create a collective mental climate that has an effect—both obvious and subtle—on behavior. To say otherwise is is to deliberately blind oneself to human nature.

The violent and demonizing political imagery that has become coin of the realm in the past few years, may have exactly zero to do with Laughner’s actions. But this moment is an opportunity to have the discussion about words and consequences that is long overdue.

With that in mind, below you’ll find some of the thoughts of those opining on Sunday
that you might want to read further. The first is from George Packer, comes the closest to representing my own thoughts on this cool Sunday afternoon in LA about the tragedy in Tucson:


Judging from his Internet postings, Jared Lee Loughner is a delusional young man whose inner political landscape is a swamp of dystopian novels, left- and right-wing tracts, conspiracy theories, and contempt for his fellow human beings. He refers to the gold and silver standard; that doesn’t make Ron Paul responsible for the shootings. He is fond of “Animal Farm”; George Orwell didn’t guide the hand that pulled the automatic pistol’s trigger. Marx and Hitler produced a lot of corpses, but not the ones in Tucson.

But the plate-glass window of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’s office was shattered last March after the final health-care vote. Judge John Roll, who was among the dead, had received death threats and spent a month with a protection detail. Roll was apparently a bystander to Loughner’s intended target—and maybe the gunman had no idea why he was aiming for Giffords either, maybe he didn’t know how she voted on health care or what her position on Arizona’s draconian immigration law was. It would be a kind of relief if Loughner operated not out of any coherent political context but just his own fevered brain.

But even so, the tragedy wouldn’t change this basic fact: for the past two years, many conservative leaders, activists, and media figures have made a habit of trying to delegitimize their political opponents. Not just arguing against their opponents, but doing everything possible to turn them into enemies of the country and cast them out beyond the pale. Instead of “soft on defense,” one routinely hears the words “treason” and “traitor.” The President isn’t a big-government liberal—he’s a socialist who wants to impose tyranny. He’s also, according to a minority of Republicans, including elected officials, an impostor…..


That’s the further political ramification here. We don’t know why the Tucson killer did what he did. If he is like Sirhan, we’ll never “understand.” But we know that it has been a time of extreme, implicitly violent political rhetoric and imagery, including SarahPac’s famous bulls-eye map of 20 Congressional targets to be removed — including Rep. Giffords. It is legitimate to discuss whether there is a connection between that tone and actual outbursts of violence, whatever the motivations of this killer turn out to be. At a minimum, it will be harder for anyone to talk — on rallies, on cable TV, in ads — about “eliminating” opponents, or to bring rifles to political meetings, or to say “don’t retreat, reload.”


The problem here doesn’t lie with the activists like most of those who populate the Tea Parties, ordinary citizens who are doing what citizens are supposed to do — engaging in a conversation about the direction of the country. Rather, the problem would seem to rest with the political leaders who pander to the margins of the margins, employing whatever words seem likely to win them contributions or TV time, with little regard for the consequences.

EZRA KLIEN, THE WASHINGTON POST (posted the day before the shooting)

Given the extremism of the rhetoric at the top, is it any wonder that there is incredible fear trickling down to the grass roots? If those are the stakes, then of course criminalizing any implementation of the [health care reform act] makes sense. Frankly, if those are the stakes, then violent resistance might be required.

Those aren’t the stakes, of course. They’re just the words. And words slip sometimes. Things come out too angry, or too quickly, or too sharply. I’ve had my share of experience with this. But words matter. And the Republican Party hasn’t been slipping up: It’s been engaged in a concerted campaign to scare the population into opposing health-care reform. That may be good politics, but it can have bad consequences.


…But while we wait to learn the motivation behind Saturday’s shooting, which killed six, including federal Judge John Roll, nine-year old Christine Taylor Green and Gabe Zimmerman, Giffords’ community outreach director, is it really controversial to suggest that the overheated anti-government rhetoric of the last two years, with its often violent imagery, ought to be toned down? Really?

I’ll post more as I find it.

In the meantime….what these people said.

Posted in Life in general, National politics | 24 Comments »

To Clueless UC Execs & Tyranical Fillibuster Fanatics: OH, SHUT UP!

January 4th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon


Hendrick Hertzberg at the New Yorker writes about the wild outside chance that the havoc-wreaking filibuster rules might possibly get reformed. (Please, please, please, let it be so!)

Here’s a clip:

Our two-year election cycle leaves little time for long-acting changes to ripen and be judged fairly. That basic structure has its pluses as well as its minuses, of course. Anyway, we’re stuck with it. But there’s one big obstacle—almost as big as the rest put together—that has no pluses whatsoever, and that we don’t have to be stuck with: the arsenal of senatorial death rays that goes by the quaint name of filibuster.

In the nineteenth century, filibusters were rarer than visible comets. For most of the twentieth, they were still rare—about as frequent as solar eclipses—and reserved for special occasions, such as killing civil-rights bills. Now they and their bastard offspring, the secret “holds” that allow a single senator to pigeonhole a bill or a nomination, are as common as sunsets—and as destructive as tsunamis. It is taken for granted that without the support of sixty of the hundred senators, the number needed to invoke “cloture,” nothing emerges from the Senate alive. The minority can’t quite rule, exactly, but it can, and does, use the rules to ruin. Even when something does get through, the marginal cost of that fifty-ninth or sixtieth vote is severe. In the absence of the filibuster, the health-care law would offer a public alternative to private insurance, the financial reform would be strong enough to close off the likelihood of another meltdown, and the very rich (and their heirs) would pay something closer to their fair share of taxes. Nearly two hundred qualified nominees for executive and judicial offices would be on the job instead of in limbo. And a climate-and-energy bill, a bill to require corporations to be open about their political spending, the DREAM Act, and dozens of other worthy measures—all of which passed the House and had majority support in the Senate—would now be the law of the land.

Read the rest.


Should THE UC system’s executives be forced to renegotiate their retirement deal like the rest of UC employees? Or should they get the phenomenally cushy retirement package they were planning on, along with their nicely cushy salaries while everyone else takes hits and the students are asked to pay ever higher tuition fees?

Hmmm. Let’s see. Tough one. (NOT.)

On Monday, Patt Morrison had a show on the issue featuring Nanette Asimov, the reporter who broke the story for the SF Chron.

In addition, papers like the Sacramento Bee and the Press-Enterprise have written scathing editorials on the topic now that the execs have threatened to sue to get their inflated retirement $$.


I said Monday that I was glad that outgoing Gov. Schwarzenegger reduced the sentence for Fabian Nunez’s son, Esteban.

Today, I take that back.

There are young men and woman in prison who are doing 25 to life because they were present at age 14 or 15 or 16 when someone else committed a murder. Esteban Nunez was 19 when he and his friends picked a fight that left one young man dead, two others stabbed—and Nunez gets 7 years?

Maybe I’m missing something, but how does that work exactly?

Photo from

Posted in crime and punishment, criminal justice, Economy, Education, National politics | 1 Comment »

Of Ethics & WikiLeaks: “The Job of the Media is Not to Protect Power From Embarrassment”

November 28th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

What everyone now knows
(or ought to know) is that, on Sunday five newspapers—The New York Times, the Guardian of the U.K., Germany’s Der Spiegel, France’s Le Monde and Spain’s El Pais—began publishing carefully vetted excerpts from 250,000 diplomatic cables leaked to the publications by the now infamous website WikiLeaks.

It is, as WikiLeaks itself puts it, the largest set of confidential documents ever to be released into the public domain.

The U.S. government is—surprise, surprise— mighty upset by the leaks, and loudly condemned them as “reckless.”

So what are the ethics of such leaks in general and these leaks in particular?

On this topic many are opining like crazy. Among those most worth reading are the following:

1. Simon Jenkins writing for The Guardian. (Jenkins is a columnist/author/BBC commentator who has previously been the editor for both the Evening Standard and the London Times. In other words, he’s a not a trifler in the world of British journalism.)

Here are some clips:

Anything said or done in the name of a democracy is, prima facie, of public interest. When that democracy purports to be “world policeman” – an assumption that runs ghostlike through these cables – that interest is global. Nonetheless, the Guardian had to consider two things in abetting disclosure, irrespective of what is anyway published by WikiLeaks. It could not be party to putting the lives of individuals or sources at risk, nor reveal material that might compromise ongoing military operations or the location of special forces.

In this light, two backup checks were applied. The US government was told in advance the areas or themes covered, and “representations” were invited in return. These were considered. Details of “redactions” were then shared with the other four media recipients of the material and sent to WikiLeaks itself, to establish, albeit voluntarily, some common standard.

The state department knew of the leak several months ago and had ample time to alert staff in sensitive locations. Its pre-emptive scaremongering over the weekend stupidly contrived to hint at material not in fact being published. Nor is the material classified top secret, being at a level that more than 3 million US government employees are cleared to see, and available on the defense department’s internal Siprnet…..


The job of the media is not to protect power from embarrassment. If American spies are breaking United Nations rules by seeking the DNA biometrics of the UN director general, he is entitled to hear of it. British voters should know what Afghan leaders thought of British troops. American (and British) taxpayers might question, too, how most of the billions of dollars going in aid to Afghanistan simply exits the country at Kabul airport.


The money‑wasting is staggering. Aid payments are never followed, never audited, never evaluated. The impression is of the world’s superpower roaming helpless in a world in which nobody behaves as bidden. Iran, Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, the United Nations, are all perpetually off script. Washington reacts like a wounded bear, its instincts imperial but its power projection unproductive….

Read the whole thing. It’s worth it.

2. The New Yorker’s senior editor, Amy Davidson, essentially agrees with Jenkins

She writes:

Timothy Garton Ash, who writes that he has been taking “dives into a vast ocean” of cables for the Guardian, says of the cache,

It is the historian’s dream. It is the diplomat’s nightmare….a multi-course banquet from the history of the present.

And that sounds right: the Times, in its summary, managed to work in a “voluptuous blonde” Ukrainian nurse whom Muammar Qaddafi kept near him and a wedding in Dagestan with “drunken guests throwing $100 bills at child dancers.” (Garton Ash called that “highly entertaining” cable “almost worthy of Evelyn Waugh.”) It also has accounts of attempts to gain control the Pakistani nuclear arsenal (for insight into that matter, see Seymour M. Hersh’s 2009 piece), warnings about Iran’s plans in that direction, and contingency planning for the collapse of North Korea. (One suggested measure to prepare for that last one: help the Chinese make money there.) There are so many anecdotes and so much color that one might forget where it all tends, and what one ought to do about it.

It is, for example, intriguing to read in a cable the Times highlights, about the day Afghanistan’s vice president arrived in the United Arab Emirates carrying fifty-two million dollars in cash with him (how much luggage space would all those bills take up?); but it’s also devastating. The cable said that he “was ultimately allowed to keep [it] without revealing the money’s origin or destination.” What are the options for its “origins”? Drug money, bribes, a straight theft of American taxpayer dollars meant to support our effort there? Here as in many cables, the strong narrative only throws into relief the incoherence of our Afghan policy, which remains a story with no obvious end….


….maybe the government, if it expects the word “secret” to constitute a clear warning about the potential for danger to one’s country, should think hard about what the word means. The White House’s protests Sunday, in response to the release, that “President Obama supports responsible, accountable, and open government at home and around the world, but this reckless and dangerous action runs counter to that goal,” would be more persuasive if the Administration hadn’t, for example, recklessly invoked the states secrets privilege itself.

That brings us back to Garton Ash, and the idea that the documents present a historian’s dream but a diplomat’s nightmare. Between the two, one’s sympathy is with the former—because what historians dream of is, more often than not, what voters in a democracy require.

3. Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Russell Adams and Jessica Vascellaro, don’t take a side, but give a round-up of what others have said.

Read the cables themselves here.

Pre-scribbled bucket image by Thomas Saur

Posted in media, Must Reads, National issues, National politics | 3 Comments »

Um, yeah. What He Said.

October 30th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

Posted in American voices, media, National issues, National politics | No Comments »

“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true…”

March 20th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

As most of you likely know by now, on Saturday afternoon, on the eve of the health care reform vote,
Obama spoke to the Democratic caucus who listened with uncharacteristically silent attention. There was no pep rally atmosphere.

Obama centered the speech around a Lincoln quote: “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. We are not bound to succeed, but we are bound to let whatever light we have shine.”

It was a very smart, very emotional, very carefully crafted speech—and worth listening to in its entirety.

Posted in health care, medical care, National issues, National politics | 55 Comments »

The Boxer Blimp & the Texas Textbook Turmoil On the Filter

March 16th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

Monday, night I was on KNBC’s The Filter, which has rebooted after hiatus. The two topics were Carly Fiorina’s new political video, and about the conservative revisions to Texas’s text books—changes that may affect California’s school texts as well.


In early February, Carly Fiorina-–the ex-Hewlitt Packard CEO who wants Barbara Boxer’s senate seat—ran a truly odd and unintentionally hilarious political ad depicting her primary opponent, Tom Campbell, as a demon sheep. The ad, (which is jaw-droppingly bizarre,), resulted in a jump in Campbell’s fundraising and his poll numbers.

Now Fiorina and her ad guy, Fred Davis, are taking aim at Boxer—with a new 7-plus minute commercial that depicts Senator Barb as a gigantic blimp. It’s pretty funny.

But will it help Fiorina? That’s what we talked about on the segment.

And then we went on to…..


The second topic was the conservative fact-revision spree by the Texas Board of Education, which has a 10/5 Republican majority. The conservative cabal happily fiddled with the state’s curriculum guidelines. Here’s what the NY Times reported.

Republicans on the board have passed more than 100 amendments to the 120-page curriculum standards affecting history, sociology and economics courses from elementary to high school. The standards were proposed by a panel of teachers.

Among other things, say those opposed to the edit, the board dropped the reference to one of the most influential political philosophers in American history — Thomas Jefferson.

(By the way, a report about the Texas revisions on Fox News claims that the panel of teachers who originally set the standards, cut such figures such as Christopher Columbus and Thomas Edison out of the curriculum. I checked the teachers’ recommendations and most of what Fox makes a fuss about—didn’t happen. Check for yourself.)

The Texas Freedom Network live blogged the board meeting here.

Even the Dallas Morning News has an editorial that says the Ed Board has gone too far.

Posted in Education, National politics | 72 Comments »

Alan Grayson’s Public Option

March 15th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

Last Wednesday, Florida Congressman Alan Grayson introduced H.R. 4789—the version of the public option.

It would give any American the opportunity to buy into Medicare.

Here’s how the West Orlando News explains it:

The bill would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish enrollment periods, coverage guidelines, and premiums for the program. Because premiums would be equal to cost, the program would pay for itself.

“The government spent billions of dollars creating a Medicare network of providers that is only open to one-eighth of the population. That’s like saying, ‘Only people 65 and over can use federal highways.’ It is a waste of a very valuable resource and it is not fair. This idea is simple, it makes sense, and it deserves an up-or-down vote,” Congressman Grayson said.

It is only four pages.
And it has caused a lot of comment on both the left and the right. You can read the bill here.

Here’s Grayson’s own statement.

By Friday, there were 50 sponsors, 47 of them voting members.

Meanwhile, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee says that 51 senators will vote for a public option through reconciliation if the House passes it first.

In case you’d grown weary with all of the mechanizations and hadn’t notice
d, I thought you’d like to know.

Posted in health care, National politics | 2 Comments »

What He Said

January 21st, 2010 by Celeste Fremon
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Mass Backwards
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis

Look: I’m trying to forgo commenting on issues that are purely national news, but this sums the events of Tuesday up so well (inhaler-necessitating wheezes and all) that I cannot possibly avoid posting it.

Also, the above clip demonstrates once again why an entire generation looks to Jon Stewart as their primary news source—as opposed to the purported actual news sources.

Posted in elections, media, National politics | 15 Comments »

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