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Hurricane Katrina 8th Anniversary - Emma Margolin - 08/29/2013

Lazy labels are a poor substitute for substance

10/17/14 10:10AM

It was only a matter of time. Conservative media, and even some journalists who should know better, have decided Ebola is -- you guessed it -- "Obama's Katrina."
 
How many "Katrinas" are we up to? The media has been rather cavalier in throwing the label around in recent years, applying it to healthcare.gov, Superstorm Sandy, the 2010 midterms, the BP oil spill, migrant children from Central America, AIG bonuses, swine flu, and the Haiti earthquake. Dave Weigel and Judd Legum have found others.
 
Dylan Scott's response rings true.
Other legacy-defining crises -- Obama's Katrinas, if you will, and that's been used now with Ebola, too -- have come and gone. The media has hyped those as well. Now, Americans need level-headed information so that they know that their lives aren't imminently at risk because of Ebola. But you can't expect them to understand that if this is how the situation is being presented to them.
Right. It's not that the Ebola threat is meaningless, because the opposite is true. We're talking about a legitimate danger that requires the nation's -- and the world's -- public-health infrastructure needs to respond deliberately and effectively. By all appearances, officials recognize the seriousness of the situation, and as Dylan put it, "The entirety of the U.S. public health apparatus is now being concentrated on keeping it to a quite literal handful of cases."
 
But that's all the more reason to avoid lazy political labels that tell the public nothing of value.
 Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) walks on stage before speaking at the 2014 Values Voter Summit Sept. 26, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty)

Rand Paul's recklessness spins out of control

10/17/14 09:17AM

A couple of weeks ago, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) started making appearances on far-right radio, questioning Ebola assessments from the actual experts, blaming "political correctness," and raising threats that seemed plainly at odds with the facts.
 
Soon after, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who directs the Allergy and Infectious Diseases Institutes at NIH, appeared on CBS and was presented with the Republican senator's assessment. "I don't think that there's data to tell us that that's a correct statement, with all due respect," the doctor said.
 
At the risk of putting too fine a point on this, it's no longer clear just how much respect Rand Paul is due. My msnbc colleague Benjy Sarlin reported yesterday from New Hampshire, where the senator appeared eager to move the public conversation backwards.
Rand Paul had a message for students at Plymouth State University who had gathered for a pizza party with the Kentucky senator on Thursday: Ebola is coming for us all and the government is hiding the truth about the deadly disease. [...]
 
"This thing is incredibly contagious," Paul said. "People are getting it, fully gowned, masked, and must be getting a very tiny inoculum and they're still getting it. And then you lose more confidence because they're telling you stuff that may not be exactly valid and they're downplaying it so much that it doesn't appear that they're really being honest about it."
On CNN, Paul added, "If someone has Ebola at a cocktail party they're contagious and you can catch it from them. [The administration] should be honest about that.... You start to wonder about a basic level of competence."
 
Yes, if there's one person who has standing to whine about "a basic level of competence," it's the often confused junior senator from Kentucky -- the one who's deliberately contradicting medical experts, confusing the public at a difficult time.
David Perdue speaks during a forum in Atlanta, Jan. 27, 2014.

Georgia's Perdue fears voters 'really don't understand'

10/17/14 08:40AM

In the latter half of September, eight polls were released publicly on Georgia's U.S. Senate race, and each one showed Republican David Perdue in the lead. Over the last week, however, three statewide polls have come out in Georgia, and Perdue suddenly isn't leading in any of them.
 
Roll Call reported yesterday that the National Republican Senatorial Committee confirmed the party is "looking at a tougher race in Georgia," where the contest between Perdue and Michelle Nunn (D) "has tightened up."
 
It's not lost on officials in either party that Republicans may come up short in their bid to control the U.S. Senate because of Georgia, Kansas, and South Dakota, even if voters in Colorado and Iowa go with surprisingly right-wing candidates.
 
There are competing explanations for developments in Georgia, but the most obvious is Perdue's outsourcing problem -- the conservative Republican has boasted, more than once, about his controversial private-sector background, which includes significant job losses through outsourcing, on top of factory closings, consolidations, and reduced work hours at U.S. facilities.
 
Last week, pressed on his outsourcing record, Perdue told reporters, "Defend it? I'm proud of it."
 
A couple of days ago, facing a new round of questions, the GOP Senate hopeful got a little defensive. Laura Clawson flagged this Perdue quote, which was all he would say on the subject.
"You know, the criticism I've gotten over the last few weeks is coming from people who really have no business background and really don't understand, um, you know, what it takes to create jobs and create economic value, which is really what this free enterprise system is based on."
Hmm. According to Perdue, if the people of Georgia, living in the state with the highest unemployment rate in the country, are bothered by outsourcing, it's because they're ignorant?
 
The video of his comments help drive home the political significance.
Republican senatorial candidate State Sen. Joni Ernst, speaks during the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition fall fundraiser on Sept. 27, 2014, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Justin Hayworth/AP)

A radical ideology comes into sharper focus

10/17/14 08:00AM

In last night's debate in Iowa, Senate hopeful Joni Ernst (R) made two observations that connect in an important way. The right-wing state senator argued in support of a constitutional amendment that would require a balanced federal budget, before adding that she wouldn't raise any tax under any circumstance.
 
Whether the Republican Senate hopeful understands this or not, the practical implications of these two positions are extraordinary: Ernst would effectively be required, under her own misguided constitutional mandate, to dismantle most of the federal government.
 
Then again, from Ernst's perspective, that may very well be a feature of her plan, not a bug. Greg Sargent reported yesterday on a newly uncovered 2013 speech in which Ernst details her "rather stark views about the relationship of Americans with their government."
In it, Ernst claims that we have created "a generation of people that rely on the government to provide absolutely everything for them," and that wrenching them away from their dependence "is going to be very painful." [...]
 
In the audio, Ernst came out for a balanced budget amendment, said that would require "severe cuts," reiterated her desire to eliminate the Department of Education, vowed a "good, hard look at entitlement programs," and said electing a GOP Senate majority would be a key step towards all of this. She also said we are "encouraging people" to get on food stamps.
Though the far-right Iowan wasn't quite as explicit as Mitt Romney was in his infamous "47 percent" video, the parallels matter. Ernst, in Romney-esque terms, complains that "a generation" of Americans "rely on the government to provide absolutely everything for them." She vows to rectify this in a "very painful" way, presumably with the most acute pain imposed on those who can afford the least.
 
It is the very height of anti-populism -- the Republican U.S. Senate candidate is convinced that families already struggling to get by simply have it too easy, with the public sector lavishing expansive benefits on them. For those who are just barely keeping their heads above water, relying on America's safety net to survive, the right-wing Iowan has a bleak and punitive message to offer: you've had it too easy for too long, and Joni Ernst has a "very painful" future in store.
 
If struggling families in Iowa turned out in significant numbers this year, Ernst would be facing a landslide defeat.
 
What's more, the GOP candidate's message on health care was just as striking.

Ebola czar? and other headlines

10/17/14 07:54AM

Pres. Obama may name 'Czar' to oversee Ebola response. (NY Times) 

U.S. monitors health care worker aboard cruise ship. (AP)

Sen. Rand Paul: Ebola 'incredibly' contagious. (AP)

Ebola, abortion central in final Iowa Senate debate. (Bloomberg Politics)

Rick Scott faces the 'Fangate' heat. (Politico)

How older voters will decide your future. (Daily Beast)

Giffords gets aggressive on gun issues. (National Journal)

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Best US Ebola care remains limited in scale

Best US Ebola care remains limited in scale

10/16/14 10:59PM

Rachel Maddow tallies the number of beds available at elite U.S. medical facilities best prepared to treat Ebola patients (nine total, five remaining) and wonders what it will take to expand that level of care across the U.S. in the event of an outbreak. watch

US ramping-up readiness of elite Ebola care

US ramping-up readiness of elite Ebola care

10/16/14 10:57PM

Dr. Brad Britigan, dean of the containment unit at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, talks with Rachel Maddow about how quickly U.S. specialized care capacity can be ramped up to accommodate a potential Ebola outbreak. watch

Grenade accident rescue marked by bravery

Grenade accident rescue marked by bravery

10/16/14 10:49PM

Rachel Maddow tells the harrowing story of the rescue efforts that went into removing what was believed to be a live grenade from a man's leg, involving paramedics, military members, and a doctor who put themselves at great personal risk. watch

Ahead on the 10/16/14 Maddow show

10/16/14 07:46PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Colleen McCain Nelson, Wall Street Journal White House correspondent
  • Dr. Brad Britigan, head of the containment unit at the University of Nebraska Medical Center
  • Marc Caputo, Miami Herald political reporter

After the jump, executive producer Cory Gnazzo gives a look ahead:

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Thursday's Mini-Report, 10.16.14

10/16/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Dallas: "An official at the Dallas hospital where two nurses contracted Ebola told Congress on Thursday that emergency staff were not trained this summer on how to handle the virus, despite warnings from health officials about the outbreak in West Africa."
 
* National Guard: "President Obama on Thursday authorized the Pentagon to call up members of the National Guard to active duty to help combat the spread of Ebola in West Africa."
 
* Naming names: "Allies like Australia and Canada can also expect escalating U.S. pressure. And officials say China ought to contribute [to the Ebola response] in a way that befits a rising world power. The 'top disappointments are France and Italy -- (they) top the list of 'talk most, do least,'' a senior administration official told Yahoo News."
 
* A disappointing reaction: "Schools in Texas and Ohio were closed on Thursday after officials learned that students and an adult had either been on the flight with the nurse, Amber Joy Vinson, or had contact with her while she was visiting the Akron area."
 
* Ferguson: "A stream of eyewitnesses has been testifying in secret before a grand jury considering whether to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of teenager Michael Brown near the Canfield Green apartments in Ferguson."
 
* Seems reasonable: "House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is calling for appropriators to 'return to Washington immediately' to provide additional funding for the Ebola response."
 
* On a related note: "Federal health officials are giving a small biotech company nearly $6 million to speed up development of another vaccine against Ebola, the third in a pipeline of vaccines to fight the virus."
State Sen. Joni Ernst waves to supporters at a primary election night rally in Des Moines, Iowa, June 3, 2014.

Ernst attempts a flip-flop-flip on personhood

10/16/14 04:59PM

In 2014, many conservative Republicans are perfectly comfortable opposing reproductive rights in general, but as we discussed last week, "personhood" has become something of a third rail. Given recent developments, it's understandable -- personhood measures wouldn't just ban all abortions, they'd also block common forms of birth control.
 
And Republicans clearly realize that opposing birth control in the 21st century, when the party is already struggling with the gender gap, isn't a credible option.
 
With that in mind, longtime personhood champions, including Colorado's Cory Gardner, Kentucky's Rand Paul, and North Carolina's Thom Tillis, have all begun to hedge on the radical proposal. Laura Bassett reports, however, that one personhood supporter is choosing a different course.
Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst said she would support a federal bill that gives legal personhood rights to fetuses from the moment of fertilization, effectively wiping out legal abortion in the United States.
 
Ernst voted for a fetal personhood amendment in the Iowa State legislature in 2013, and she told the Sioux City Journal editorial board on Wednesday that she also would support a federal personhood measure if she were elected to the U.S. Senate.
 
"I will continue to stand by that. I am a pro-life candidate, and this has been shaped by my religious beliefs through the years," she said. "So I support that."
If the Huffington Post piece is correct, it's certainly a provocative move for the right-wing Senate candidate. Ernst is in one of the nation's most competitive and closely watched U.S. Senate campaigns, and for her to endorse federal legislation that would ban access to common forms of birth control, as well as eliminating all abortion rights, is an usual tactic three weeks before the election.
 
Indeed, it also raises curious questions about Ernst's ideology. The Iowa Republican believes a federal minimum wage law is "ridiculous," but a federal personhood law is the sort of thing she can support.
 
But there's another lingering concern that's worth keeping in mind: does Ernst fully understand the policy she's endorsed?

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