The Widdershins

Good Thursday, Widdershins.  Welcome to the big, wide, wonderful world of Level 4 pathogens.

Ebola is not new – the first cases were described in 1976.  June of 1976 brought an epidemic in the Sudan;, then another erupted in August in Zaire, which is now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The Ebola virus is named according to various sites where the various epidemics began.  The Ebola River contributed the name of the virus, then Bundibugyo (BDBV), Tai Forest (TAVF), Sudan (SUDV), Reston (RESTV), and Zaire (EBOV) lent their name to the five known types.  All but the Reston can infect humans with varying degrees of severity. Ebola Zaire is the worst of them, and sadly is also the one currently running rampant in West Africa.

EBOV has the highest mortality rate, averaging 80-90% in previous epidemics.  Since many of these episodes occurred in less than desirable medical settings, I cannot help but believe that a more controlled environment would have better results.  Nigeria has eradicated the problem by using barrier nursing and proper burial techniques.

Please understand that EBOV is spread through contact with body fluids from an actively infected person.  Body fluids include urine, feces, blood, saliva, and stomach contents.  In an abundance of caution, many also include sweat and tears in this list.  Essentially, EBOV is spread the same way as AIDS and Hepatitis, but there is a much shorter period before the disease becomes apparent, and a much smaller window of opportunity for treatment.  You will not get Ebola because you sat next to someone whose cousin’s next-door neighbor’s best friend sat three rows behind a person who later developed Ebola,  (Don’t laugh.  I used to get calls at the hospital of a similar stripe whenever meningitis came to town.)

So here we find ourselves with the index case having already died, and a contact en route to the hospital with some early symptoms.  Clearly, the home team fumbled the kick off and need to regroup.  As a nurse who spent twenty or so years at triage, I am still shaking me head over the first ER visit, when Thomas Eric Duncan spoke to the triage nurse at Dallas Presbyterian.  The nurse apparently documented that he had a history of foreign travel, sent the chart and the patient back for treatment, and things went downhill thereafter.  Now, the earliest symptoms of EBOV are generic – fever, abdominal pain, general malaise – and could be a zillion other things, but Mr. Duncan’s point of departure was a really big red flag that somehow got missed.  Of course, the hospital initially blamed the nurse (it’s always either the bloody nurse or the will of God), then made the horrifying discovery that she had documented appropriately.  Then it was the fault of the EMR that the screen did not interface with the physician’s, then it was something else.  Of course, I have to ask myself why the nurse never followed up on this.  I can absolutely promise you that if I thought I had triaged an Ebola patient, I would have been on that phone asking questions at regular intervals.

It all goes downhill from there.  Mr. Duncan’s poor family needed intercession from CDC and PHD to get him re-admitted to the hospital, at which time they found themselves trapped in an apartment full of contaminated linens, towels, floors and the like without the supplies to clean it up.  Of course, that would presume that they had the knowledge base to knew how to do a terminal disinfection.  We don’t think that the virus lives all that long outside of a host, but it can’t be terribly pleasant.

Nursing staffs should know how to care for an Ebola patient, as they are taught from the time that they are students how to maintain Secretion Precautions.  We cover our hair, wear long disposable gowns with snug cuffs, double gloves and a mask.  In these cases, a mask with an eyeshield would be even better, as eye splashes are a nasty way to transmit pathogens.  What nurses are currently objecting to – and most strenuously – is that they see staff members at Emory as well as decontamination techs suited up like a casting call for Ghostbusters while someone hands them a paper gown and a box of gloves. I can’t blame them one bit.  Someone is going to have to pony up the funds for top quality gear, or we will have few nurses. There’s already a shortage, so if we make them sick/kill them off/scare them away, it will be really counterproductive.  A police sergeant who never touched anything while delivering an order of quarantine has developed some symptoms, so the old “abundance of caution” principle is now in high gear and he has been hospitalized.

We had a similar sideshow in Miami over the weekend.  A twelve year old who had arrived from Africa to go on a cruise developed flu-like symptoms and presented to a local hospital for treatment.  Said local hospital decided to rule out Ebola and transferred him to Jackson Hospital.  A number if my friends still work there, and told me that everyone got all suited up at 8 am, then waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Seems that the Mayor of Miami Beach and the Governor needed to make speeches prior to transfer, and Fire Rescue decided to line their unit with plastic.  Somewhere around 2 the patient arrived, just before the initial – and negative – blood test came in,  Chalk it up to a drill, folks.

Here’s the problem, as I see it.  Hospitals, health departments and CDC have all had funding slashed. All have fewer people working harder.   CDC is now worrying about seat belts and auto safety as well, rather than spending full time concerning themselves about controlling disease.  They virtually eradicated malaria, so we know  they can do it.  We have no Surgeon General because the Repubs are horrified that the nominee has the temerity to consider gun safety a health issue.  The whole thing looks ominously like the early days of AIDS when we missed the bus completely, only now we’re not even certain who’s driving.

There’s also the tiny problem of how to treat this.  There are few effective remedies, but some show promise.  The initial cases were treated with convalescent serum and an Ebola-specific antiviral.  They did well, but there apparently is no specific anti-viral left.  Convalescent serum is gleaned from the blood of someone who has made a recovery from Ebola, and I doubt that there is a current donor pool of any size. There is another drug which failed Mr. Duncan, but may have better results if used earlier in the course of the illness.   It’s a good opportunity to track the pharmacology, establish a treatment protocol, and strive to establish a good supply of whatever seems to work best. .  A vaccine would be even nicer, but a high level of cooperation between drug manufacturers and government will be needed, and recent history suggests that this may not go so well.  A nurse in Spain has died from EBOV, which demonstrates that the virus has found its way into Europe.  This will not make screening any easier. As of now, traveler’s from West Africa are screened and asked to see a doctor if they develop symptoms within 21 days. Adding travelers from Europe to the mix will blow those numbers through the roof.

For now, let’s just cross our fingers and hope that this brings out the best in mankind.

This is an open thread.

monopoly-guy

Just in time for the “holiday season”, Wal-mart decided it couldn’t wait to hand out the lumps of coal to its employees.  The company has decided it can no longer afford to offer health insurance coverage to its part-time employees.  Further, they decided they also needed to increase the cost of coverage for their employees who will still have coverage.

The world’s largest retailer said it would raise health insurance premiums for its entire U.S. workforce beginning in January. In addition, Wal-Mart will end coverage for employees who work fewer than 30 hours a week, a change that will impact 2 percent of U.S. workers, or about 30,000 people.

Okay…fair enough.  The company says it is experiencing “higher health care costs” and also “It said more people than expected had enrolled in its plans and its annual forecast for health care costs had risen by 50 percent.”.  Okay, I think I get this now:  Wal-Mart offered health care coverage to its employees…employees signed up for that coverage…Wal-Mart goofed and didn’t expect that many employees to sign up. (?)  Huh..what?  The largest retailer in the world doesn’t employee HR or finance people smart enough to guestimate how many folks would sign up for their health care plans?  Well I certainly think heads should roll, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of their rank and file employees.

The decision to reduce coverage came a week before the company’s chief executive, Doug McMillion, is due to face fund managers and analysts at an annual meeting for the investment community. Wal-Mart has been struggling to boost profits, with U.S. same-store sales flat or declining for the last six quarters.

Wal-Mart said the move would bring it in line with many of its competitors. Target Corp and Home Depot Inc recently announced cuts to benefits in light of the Affordable Care Act.

Ah yes, the good ole A.C.A., aka Obamacare.  Well I guess they had to blame it on something.  Now, reading the article I could not help but laugh out loud at this:

Wal-Mart’s Welborn [senior vice president of global benefits] said on a conference call that the company had not yet figured out how much it would save by cutting benefits. The company said in August it expected to spend $500 million on U.S. healthcare this year, up from its estimate of $330 million just a few months earlier.

The yahoo article points out that the decision “would primarily hurt lower-income workers, many of whom are being left behind in the economic recovery.”.  And that brings up another interesting little fact that I’m sure some of you are are aware of,, either by personal experience or stories from family members and it’s called the great wage slowdown.

The typical American family makes less than the typical family did 15 years ago, a statement that hadn’t previously been true since the Great Depression. Even as the unemployment rate has fallen in the last few years, wage growth has remained mediocre. Last week’s jobs report offered the latest evidence: The jobless rate fell below 6 percent, yet hourly pay has risen just 2 percent over the last year, not much faster than inflation. The combination has puzzled economists and frustrated workers.

The Times article goes into a lot of economic stuff which I’m just about totally unfamiliar with.  The writer does say Obama gave a speech touting the unemployment drop and that surely good times will be here again soon.  One thing I found ironic from the Times piece was this little nugget:

As for the other entry in the ledger, the biggest reason to think economic growth may translate more directly into wage gains is the turnabout in health costs. After years of rapid increases, they have slowed sharply in the last three years. Mr. Obama likes to give more credit to the 2010 health care lawthan most observers do, but he’s not wrong about the trend’s significance.

Ohhhhhkay then.  So health costs have gone down (sharply?) yet they are high enough that Wal-Mart must stop offering coverage for some of its part-time employees.  My head is spinning here.  I guess the good thing for the Wal-Mart employees affected is that they will be able to look for health care on the exchanges since they won’t have company-sponsored insurance any longer.  After all, Wal-Mart has got to watch that bottom line, especially if any of the Wal-Mart heirs still have company stock.  And speaking of those Wal-Mart heirs…

When people speak of the uber-rich, they surely have the Wal-Mart heirs in mind.

Consider the Wal-Mart heirs: Since 1983, their net worth has increased a staggering 6,700 percent. According to a report released last week by the union-backed Economic Policy Institute, here’s how many American families earning the median income it would have taken to match the Waltons’ wealth in a given year:

  • In 1983, the Walton family’s net worth was $2.15 billion, equivalent to the net worth of 61,992 average American families, about the population of…Peoria, Arizona
  • In 1989, the Walton family’s net worth was $9.42 billion, equivalent to the net worth of 200,434 average American families, about the population of…Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • In 1992, the Walton family’s net worth was $23.8 billion, equivalent to the net worth of 536,631 average American families, about the population of…San Antonio, Texas
  • In 1998, the Walton family’s net worth was $48 billion, equivalent to the net worth of 796,089 average American families, about the population of…The State of New Mexico
  • In 2001, the Walton family’s net worth was $92.8 billion, equivalent to the net worth of 1,077,761 average American families, about the population of…Chicago, Illinois
  • In 2013, the Walton family’s net worth was $144.7 billion, equivalent to the net worth of 1,782,020 average American families, about the population of…The State of Louisiana

I just have to wonder if that’s what Mr. Sam had in mind.

Okay, this is an open thread.  Talk amongst yourselves (if you wish!).

 

 

 

Good afternoon Widdershins. It is my sincerest hope the week holds good and glorious things for you. Without fear of contradiction, today’s post won’t be one of those things. I’m reminded of Yogi Berra quote, “You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.” So read on if you dare venture to the place I probably won’t recognize when I pass it by.

Michelle eat your heart out...

Michelle eat your heart out…

Last Thursday night I watched Sunset Boulevard all the way through for the first time. What a great movie! So many great lines! Like Norma Desmond saying, “I’m still big, it’s just the people who got small.“ Or, “See that floor — used to be hardwood, but I had it torn out to put in tile. Valentino said the tango is best on tile.“ And when it comes to Norma Desmond’s crazy eyes, just imagine Michelle Bachmann dialed up to eleven.

Norma had defined her reality — it just wasn’t a reality anyone else could see — a reality without a basis in objective fact.

At times it feels like we have jumped through the looking-glass and are living in NormaWorld. It’s a world where the media is absolutely giddy about an Ebola case on American soil. It’s a world where fear trumps any semblance of reality. It seems to be a world where news executives probably pray for a full-blown Zombie apocalypse.

Stephen Colbert’s explanation of this world seems to rule: If it feels like a fact then it is a fact. I know that’s right because my pre-existing opinion feels factual and it is a fact that I feel.

With just about a month before the midterms, there are three issues where it seems reality has been pissed to the wind and NormaWorld prevails with its tenuous grasp on reality.

The first is the A.C.A. or Obamacare as it is known in NormaWorld. Remember the omens of the cows going dry, the locusts eating the crops, and just about all the other plagues being visited upon us by the passage of Obamacare. Its passage resulted in the slovenly sluggards who currently call themselves Congress.

Here’s a flash you won’t see on the teevee: Obamacare is working and working quite nicely thank you. Health care access it way up. Cost of the program is way down. Competition is up. Choice is up. The rate of hospital cost increases is down. More private insurers are joining state exchanges. Are there problems? Yes, but on balance the positive benefits of Obamacare far outweigh the negative so far.

In NormaWorld, you never hear about these things. They don’t exist in the alternate factual reality.

Median Household Income 1989 to PresentAnother example is the quantitative easing monetary policy by the Federal Reserve. I know, the name itself makes your head explode, but the short explanation is this: The Fed dropped interest rates and then turned around and bought up the Treasury bonds in order to resuscitate the economy. Remember the gnashing of teeth by the Republican/trickling down crowd — it was end-of-times stuff. “Inflation!” they whined and moaned. “Buy gold!” was the cry bellowed and belched from Limbaugh, Hannity, Fox, and every other fear channel in NormaWorld without so much as a whimper about gold being one of their primary advertisers.

Truth is inflation didn’t happen and shows no sign of happening. Unemployment is down below 6.0% and growth might be up to over 4% for the year. Huge positives, but have you heard about it? Of course we haven’t heard about it because the 1% crowd is always more worried about inflation because inflation can eat away at the returns on their sanctified investments.

What really blows is this: According to Economics 101, the only real threat of inflation would come from increasing the purchasing power of the middle class and working poor. In other words, raising salaries to ensure the working classes experienced an increase in real purchasing power.

Name any proposal to do just that — increasing the minimum wage, paycheck fairness, an infrastructure jobs bill, reauthorizing some of the million plus jobs axed by the sequestration debacle — and the Tea Party tricklers have blocked any such proposal. So simply put, the one good policy initiative by the Federal Reserve would have been blocked by the Tea Party tricklers had they had their way.

The other issue is the effort to thwart the corporate inversions. Corporate inversions are where corporations change their corporate address to a foreign country in order to avoid U.S. taxes. All we hear in the bent reality ofNormaWorld is lowering the corporate tax rate from 35%. The reality is this: No corporations pay the 35% rate because of loopholes and tax code carve-outs. A full third of Fortune 500 companies play less than 10% and the average tax rate is somewhere between 12% and 19%.

Essentially the same amount cut from food stamps by the Tea Party crowd...

Essentially the same amount cut from food stamps by the Tea Party crowd…

Have you heard or read much of anything about the efforts to stop inversions through Executive Orders? Of course not because that doesn’t fit within the NormaWorld reality. The corporations renouncing their U.S. citizenships want the benefits of U.S. talent and the U.S. market but not the responsibilities. Government funded research is the reason many of these corporations got so big — initiatives like the Internet, GPS, voice recognition, pharmaceutical research, biotech research, and any number of other innovations were developed through such research upon which these businesses capitalized and profited.

What these deserting companies want amounts to increased corporate welfare. They want the benefits without helping to pay for it. They don’t want to contribute through taxes while at the same time they fail to increase wages or expand jobs domestically.

These three issues touch a majority of the electorate — that is if the electorate knew they were issues. We pitied Norma Desmond because she had constructed an alternate reality for herself. Isn’t it more pitiable to allow others with their Möbius strip thinking to construct a reality to which we don’t object?

There’s a month until the midterms. There’s an old political saying, “Everyone has ten votes,” — in other words everyone can influence ten voters. Influence your ten voters. We can’t let the self-serving opinions cooked up in the echo chambers define our reality. If we do, we are no better than crazy-eyed Norma Desmond.

This is an open thread.

Good Monday, Widdershins! Wow, that was an active sports weekend here at TW. I hope you all had fun with football and baseball! (My husband says October is the best month of the year because of the World Series and the end of Chat’s Dark Times, and it sounds like most of you agree.)

Something else happened over the weekend which combined both of my passions: feet-on-the-street activism and classical music, so I thought I’d post about it today.

Just after intermission, about 50 people interrupted the St. Louis Symphony’s performance of Brahms Requiem on Saturday night, singing “Justice for Mike Brown.”

As symphony conductor Markus Stenz raised his baton to begin the second act of German Requiem, one middle-aged African-American man stood up in the middle of the theater and sang, “What side are you on friend, what side are you on?”

In an operatic voice, another woman located a few rows away stood up and joined him singing, “Justice for Mike Brown is justice for us all.” Several more audience members sprinkled throughout the theater and in the balcony rose up and joined in the singing.

Those in the balcony lowered white banners about 15 feet long with black spray-painted letters that said, “ Requiem for Mike Brown 1996-2014” and “Racism lives here,” with an arrow pointed to a picture of the St. Louis Arch. Another banner said, “Rise up and join the movement.”

I am very comfortable saying, at this point, that I believe Michael Brown was shot and killed for WWB (Walking While Black). This is completely unacceptable. It’s the equivalent of Saudi Arabian Wahhabis killing women because their burqas slipped and exposed a wrist or an ankle. Really, Ferguson police? Is this the example you want to follow? I’ll bet if you asked those men who shot Michael Brown what they thought of radical Islam, they would respond with a sense of moral superiority. From where I’m standing, I see not superiority, but similarity.

Of course, the organizer of the protest was a woman.  A white one, in fact. (Take that, Third Wavers.)

The St. Louis American tracked down and interviewed the organizer of the event – Sarah Griesbach, 42, a white woman who lives in the Central West End. She said that the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed teen who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, has opened her eyes to the inequalities that exist in St. Louis. She has been protesting since Brown was shot on Aug. 9.

“It is my duty and desire to try to reach out and raise that awareness peacefully but also to disrupt the blind state of white St. Louis, particularly among the people who are secure in their blindness,” said Griesbach.

[snip]

The group of demonstrators was…a mix of African Americans, Latino and white residents – from college kids to college professors, she said. There were “representatives” from Clayton, Webster Groves, South St. Louis, Central West End and Ferguson. Although she lives in the Central West End, her children attend school in Clayton. As a mother, she has been deeply affected by Brown’s death.

“This cannot be just a Ferguson issue,” she said.

Here is the video of the protest. I hope that someday soon, the murderers of that young man will be jailed for life.

This is an open thread.

wacko criminal lineup

And I’d still like to know what that little Scottie in the lineup did to get him placed there.  ;-)

So once again we’ve had a week full of drama with hearings on the assault on the White House and the Secret Service agents…doing what?  A host on one talk show asked if they were allowed to carry their iphones on duty and hinted that maybe they were busy gaming or chatting when the crazy guy vaulted the fence and strolled around inside the White House.  So, let’s take a break and look at some odd or unusual things I’ve found on the internet.

Can we all say “Thank God for Mississippi” once again?

All of us in the South have always been able to say “Thank God for Mississippi” when studies have show how badly some Southern states do at certain things.  Good ole Missisip would always be there at the hind end of the numbers.  Well now some English guy Fraser Nelson (probably just having a first name of Fraser means something bad is coming and it would be even worse if this Fraser too had a brother named Niles) found some numbers and crunched them.  And when he was through with the crunching he discovered that if Britain somehow left the E.U. and decided to join us in the U.S. it would be the 2nd poorest among the states.  He explained his methodology this way:

You take the US figures for GDP per state (here), divide it by population (here) to come up with a GDP per capita figure. Then get the equivalent figure for Britain: I used the latest Treasury figures (here) which also chime with the OECD’s (here). A version of this has been done on Wikipedia, but with one flaw: when comparing the wealth of nations, you need to look at how far money goes. This means using a measure called Purchasing Power Parity (PPP).

Hunter Schwarz took the data and put it into a bar graph you can see here.  Now you’ll have to click in on the graph to be able to scroll down, but do scroll down and you’ll see there’s the United Kingdom:  right behind Alabama… but ahead of Mississippi.  Now if we enterprising Widderhins folk got together, perhaps we could publicize that info in the U.K.,explaining about the gret stet of Mississippi, then we could produce and market tee shirts with the Union Jack on it saying “We aren’t Mississippi either”.  Well it’s a thought.

Yeah, everyone wants their money’s worth
but maybe just not here and in this way

Oh the delights of going to a stripper bar.  I personally have only been to a couple of these establishments on Bourbon Street and it was years ago when even the dives were better than what’s on the street now.

So William McDaniel decided he wanted to visit Sagebrush Sams, located in suburban Butte Montana.  Suburban Butte?  I had no idea there was even an urban Butte.  So William was at Sams and plunked down $350 for a private dance in a backroom.  Will thought the private dance should include sex and when the dancer told him otherwise, he just got all worked up and called 911.  Well the cops arrived, they heard the story and then decided to arrest ole Will on a charge of soliciting.  Will didn’t get a refund and after being arrested he had to pay a bond of $550 so Will’s trip to Sams cost him almost a cool $1000.  And as you can see Sagebrush Sams seems to definitely be lacking in, uh, the appearance department.  Yep, it’s the building there that looks like a barn or something.

“Officer I’d help you find my daughter, but I have to get on stage”

A scene in the revised “All about Eve”?  Perhaps an ingenue in her first play on The Great White Way?  Nah.  It was Bobbie Joe Boucher who had to do her dance at the “jiggle joint” where she worked.

The young girl was last seen Wednesday evening when Boucher dropped her off at a barbecue on her way to work at Calendar Girls in Hudson. The child was meant to come home after the dinner, but hadn’t been seen for four hours, the girl’s grandmother told police.

Cops then called Boucher on her cellphone to get more information on the child. While the mom said she was the last person to see her daughter, she was apparently too busy to offer more help.

“I have to get on stage,” the woman told cops before hanging up the phone, police said.

When they asked Bobbie Joe about the hang up she said she tried to answer another call and lost the call with the police.  The police didn’t by and arrested her for obstructing the investigation.  Her daughter was found a short time later.  Sometimes the show should not go on; or at least it could wait a little bit.

It must be really dull in Idaho

Because when this is what passes for fun, it’s time to move.

A rollover crash on a suburban Idaho road that sent three teenagers to the hospital was the result of a fiery prank gone wrong when one of the passengers used a lighter to ignite the armpit hair of the driver.

(I’m trying to figure out where the driver’s arm was that enabled a passenger to be able to get a lighter near the said armpit hair)  I’m wondering and doubting if the driver had his hands at the 10 and 2 positions on the steering wheel!

When police first responded to the mangled wreck early Sunday outside Boise, the driver, 18-year-old Tristian Myers, told cops he lost control of his Ford Bronco when he swerved to avoid an animal in the road.

But once Ada County Sheriff’s Office deputies spoke with all five teens a different story emerged. A 16-year-old boy admitted to lighting Myers’ armpit hair on fire, deputies confirmed. None of the five teens in the SUV were wearing seat belts and police said two people – girls, ages 16 and 17 – were thrown from the vehicle in the resulting 5:30 a.m. crash.

Myers was citing for inattentive driving [I'm sure he was!  He was trying to put a fire in his armpit hair!] while the boy with the lighter got a citation for interfering with the driver’s safe operation of a vehicle.

Some assorted youtube clips

Do you remember the first Prancerise video I put up here?  If not, you can find it here.  She certainly had some interesting ideas about how to dress in her sweats(?), or rather how they fit on her, shall we say.

Well, she’s back with a new and improved Prancercize!  In a big ole field with horses!  With better music and a partner this time!  And what can we say about the partner?  How ’bout what someone put in a comment on youtube: what is the name for a male camel toe?

Here’s an Onion clip that a teenager’s parents could identify with.

Awright, the guy has a booorring job.  March up here – stop.  Turn around.  March down there – stop.  Turn around.  Can’t blame him for wanting to liven things up just a bit.  It’s cute and he cuts a move at around 2:25 or so in the clip and then a few seconds later.

Lastly, this cat just really enjoys being vacuumed!  Funny to watch.

Okay Widdershins, that’s it for the day and until Monday.  This is an entirely open post so throw in your comments on anything you want to.

Good Thursday, Widdershins.  It has been an interesting week – again.  I have spent much of the past few days watching the Congressional hearings regarding the latest Secret Service snafus and the public excoriation of now ex-Director Julia Pierson.

Ms. Pierson, you may recall, was promoted in order to stifle the “frat boyz” of the Secret Service after the hotel/prostitutes scandal in Cartagena.  To her everlasting credit, we have not heard so much as a whisper of sexual misconduct in the workplace since she assumed the directorship.  Unfortunately, there have been a number of bungles that have occurred during her watch.

I think that we can all agree that Obama is likely to take all of the records for threats against his life,  We can belabor the “hows” and the “whys” and a “wherefore” or two, but I suspect that we should just pass on that one.  One would therefore assume that the Secret Service would be on heightened alert at all times.  Maybe they have been, but it sure doesn’t look like it from here.  There was the famous shooting episode that was “thoroughly investigated”, except for the fact that it was the maid who found the evidence while cleaning the family quarters.  Then there was the armed contractor in the elevator with the Prez at the CDC who turned out to be a felon.

Now, there are all kinds of felonies.  I know one man who is a great guy and also a convicted felon.  His crime?  He stopped payment on a check to a mechanic who had not really fixed his car and would not make it good.  Nonetheless, in Florida this is a third degree felony,  Hopefully, the armed individual at CDC was of that particular ilk, but apparently the Secret Service was blissfully ignorant of the entire situation.  I always thought that anyone who was to interact with the US President was to be vetted prior to the occasion, but this was apparently not the case.

The final blow came with the man who made it over the gate, across the lawn, through the open front door through the White House to the East Room, which is almost to the base of the staircase to the family quarters prior to being tackled by an off-duty Secret Service agent.  There are so many lapses here that I’m not sure where to even start.  He whizzed by several sets of agents and an undeployed canine before entering the unlocked White House and cruising through a number of equally unlocked rooms.  This particular crasher got through an amazing number of rooms, and our Friends at Fox began reporting immediately:

The revelation that the intruder made it much farther than originally known came on the eve of a scheduled House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing that will address the breach, as well as lawmakers’ “concerns” about the Secret Service’s security protocols.

A series of what one source called “catastrophic” security failures apparently allowed the intruder to get deep into the White House.

The Secret Service did not follow basic protocols during the incident to protect the White House, the president and the first family and the agency still does not know why, a source intimately familiar with details of the investigation told Fox News.

And so begins the Congressional input.  Now, I grant you that Ms. Pierson appeared overwhelmed and underprepared for the Congressional onslaught.  Normally even-keeled Reps like Elijah Cummings were upset about what they were hearing.  Of course, Darrell Issa and Jason Chafitz are all over this.  Chafitz wants to authorize deadly force and Issa plans to form a committee to further investigate, etc. etc, etc.  There really should be record low unemployment in the District courtesy of all of Issa’s committees.  However, two questions leap immediately to mind:

(1) What will Congress do?  Who knows, and really who cares?  The USSS works for the Department of Homeland Security, which is a function of the Executive Branch.  Congress has the Capital Police Force, the Justice Department has the US Marshals and the FBI.  Government is divided, and I’m pretty certain that Congress would be righteously indignant should the marshals invade the Senate building.  I guess they can advise through the Homeland Security Committees, but I’m not certain that their recommendations come with a full set of teeth and I’m even less certain about how Congress fits in with the separation of powers concept.

(2) Is it even possible that this is revenge of the Frat Boyz?  Ms. Pierson is the first woman to ever lead the USSS, and she was appointed to keep the boyz in line.  Hmmmm……..  Anyone who has ever worked in a bureaucracy is keenly aware that  it is possible to make their boss look like a star or a failure with a wee bit of coordinated effort.  Now, I’m not saying that this is what happened, but it sure would be a dandy way to ascertain that it’s a long, long time before another woman sits in that chair again.

This is an open thread.

cha-chingor shall we ask what does it cost to investigate and have a look-see at, say, police documents, or some emails or records about Michael Brown and his shooting by a Ferguson police officer?  Well apparently in Ferguson Missouri it costs a lot.

Press organizations and others are asking for copies of  public documents, which should be released in compliance with state public records request laws.  And indeed, Missouri does have a public records request law.  It is codified in their Missouri Revised Statues and in their case, Missouri refers to them as Sunshine laws.

Now getting back to Ferguson, it seems that officials there are charging up to 10 times the cost of some of their employees salaries just to do some xeroxing for folks.  After the Associated Press made an inquiry with the state Attorney General, he in turn contacted the city attorney in Ferguson to see what was going on.  Well what is going on is pretty simple:  If you arbitrarily jack up the price of providing copies of again, public records, you then make it difficult for some press organizations and civil rights groups to obtain the funds needed for their requests.

The city has demanded high fees to produce copies of records that, under Missouri law, it could give away free if it determined the material was in the public’s interest to see. Instead, in some cases, the city has demanded high fees with little explanation or cost breakdown.

No explanation needed if the only purpose is to discourage people from requesting such documents.  Now I’m sure our good Prolix can attest to the need to break down costs when he’s been in some legal tangles of one sort of another  Attorneys in their meticulousness will break down the cost of a page of paper that goes into the copier that provides copies, say, in a lawsuit…or so I’ve heard.  ;-)

As stated in the linked article, the city of Ferguson billed the A.P. $135 an hour :

for nearly a day’s work — merely to retrieve a handful of email accounts since the shooting. That fee compares with an entry-level, hourly salary of $13.90 in the city clerk’s office, and it didn’t include costs to review the emails or release them. The AP has not paid for the search because it has yet to negotiate the cost.

As Rick Blum, who coordinates the Sunshine in Government Initiative, a coalition of media groups that advocates for open government says:  “The first line of defense is to make the requester go away.”  He said charging hefty fees “to simply cut and paste is a popular tactic.”

In another instance:

The Washington Post was told it would need to pay $200 at minimum for its requests, including city officials’ emails since Aug. 9 discussing Brown’s shooting, citizen complaints against Ferguson officers and Wilson’s personnel file. The website Buzzfeed requested in part emails and memos among city officials about Ferguson’s traffic-citation policies and changes to local elections, but was told it would cost unspecified thousands of dollars to fulfill.

When asked about pubic records requests, the city attorney, Stephanie Karr, declined to respond to repeated interview requests from the AP since earlier this month.  And then finally, through a spokesperson,  Karr said Missouri law can require fees but she didn’t address why charges specific to the AP’s request were nearly tenfold the lowest salary in the city clerk’s office. Karr said searching emails for key words constitutes “extra computer programming” that can bring added costs.

This however, was the best or worst excuse I read in the article and I’ll just copy it in here.

In late August, the AP asked Ferguson officials for copies of several police officials’ emails and text messages, including those belonging to Wilson and Chief Thomas Jackson. The AP sought those records to reveal the city’s behind-the-scenes response to the shooting and public protests.

Ferguson told the AP it wanted nearly $2,000 to pay a consulting firm for up to 16 hours of work to retrieve messages on its own email system, a practice that information technology experts call unnecessary. The firm, St. Louis-based Acumen Consulting, wouldn’t comment specifically on Ferguson’s contract, but said the search could be more complicated and require technicians to examine tape backups.

So I really have to ask:  What is it you are trying to hide, city of Ferguson?  Were your actions and responses in the aftermath of Michael Brown’s shooting so bad that you have to cover them up by making them unaffordable to obtain by press and civil rights organizations?  I can assure you those actions and responses will come out eventually.

It’s an open thread so talk amongst yourselves as you wish.

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