SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Government’s Ebola Cover-up: Never Let You See Them Sweat

Refusing to succumb to panic is laudable and rational, and when the infection rate numbers in the single digits here in the U.S., there’s no reason to freak out. But mainstream media organizations and the government are diminishing their already scant credibility when they downplay the threat of Ebola.

Since a Liberian man appeared at a Dallas hospital and subsequently succumbed to the disease on October 8th, public health officials and reporters have repeatedly stated that Ebola is difficult to catch. Echoing widely circulated information about HIV-AIDS, they’ve told the public that the only way Ebola can be transmitted is through direct contact with bodily fluids.

Technically, this is true.

As with the Bush administration’s 2002 buildup to the invasion of Iraq, in which White House officials’ arguments omitted their lack of certainty about Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass instruction, the official line on Ebola is undermined by a lie of omission. Sweat, you see, is a bodily fluid that can carry Ebola. If you touch a drop of sweat left on, say, the armrest of a seat on an airplane, by a carrier, you have been exposed to Ebola.

CDC and Obama administration officials have been reluctant to talk about this.

A rare exception to the perspiration blackout was an October 27th Congressional hearing, during which expert witnesses confirmed that sweat is included among the infected bodily fluids that transmit Ebola. Rep. Thomas Massey, a Kentucky Republican, asked Department of Health and Human Services assistant secretary Dr. Nicole Lurie if Ebola could survive in perspiration left on an inert surface, like a bus seat, for at least 15 minutes, and then be transmitted to another commuter.

Lurie confirmed that the answer was yes: “it [the Ebola virus] can survive.”

At this point, there is no reason to shut down schools, much less airlines or mass transit. But the political class and the media that serves it are too clever by half if they think Americans don’t notice the omissions and inconsistencies in their official narrative.

Ebola is an extremely dangerous and contagious disease that kills about 50% of those who contract it. America’s post-9/11 airport security apparatus, obsessed with toothpaste and what’s inside your shoes, didn’t have the slightest screening system in place to deal with passengers arriving from West Africa, and even now contents itself with a half-assed temperature check that doesn’t even use reliable thermometers. Obama told us that he had this thing under control, that his team was prepared, but they plainly weren’t – and now that they’re finally paying attention, they’re imposing quarantines that are unnecessary, counterproductive – or voluntary, and thus pointless.

Given how poorly and dishonestly the government has communicated about Ebola, is it any wonder the public doesn’t trust them?

Government officials repeatedly state that Ebola is not an airborne disease. (Obama: “This is not an airborne disease. It is not easy to catch.”) However, the doctors and health workers who became infected while treating Ebola patients in Africa followed CDC protocol, wearing head to toe protective gear. They didn’t notice any tears or gaps. Yet they got the virus anyway. How? They don’t know. Many respected epidemiologists – not crazy right-wing conspiracy theorists – wonder aloud whether airborne transmission has already resulted from an as yet undocumented mutation. It isn’t an outlandish concern. After all, there was a 1989 version of Ebola which spread from monkey to monkey in the air, and a 2012 version – Ebola Zaire, involved in the present outbreak – documented to have spread from pigs to monkeys via the air.

And in a press release studiously ignored by corporate media, the CDC recently clarified a distinction without much of a difference: while it doesn’t consider Ebola an airborne-spread virus, it does consider it a “droplet-spread” virus: “Droplet spread happens when germs traveling inside droplets that are coughed or sneezed from a sick person enter the eyes, nose, or mouth of another person. Droplets travel short distances, less than 3 feet (1 meter) from one person to another. A person might also get infected by touching a surface or object that has germs on it and then touching their mouth or nose.”

On the New York subway, no one gets a three foot radius to themselves.

Why are major television networks and print newspaper outlets continuing to tell us that there’s nothing to worry about, and continuing to imply that it’s as hard to get Ebola as it is to contract HIV-AIDS? If I didn’t know better, I’d say it’s because the government and the media care more about keeping the economy and the Ebola-struck transportation industry humming along than about protecting the American people.

Ironically, there’s no better way to spread panic than to be less than completely truthful.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

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Why MSNBC Is In Trouble

Signature evening shows led by Rachel Maddow at 9 PM Eastern are fading. Newly launched programs such as Ronan Farrow are “duds,” reports the New York Times.

Even critically acclaimed favorites followed closely by Beltway denizens in Washington and media mavens in New York alike, like ex-Congressman Joe Scarborough’s chatfest, are losing viewers: “‘Morning Joe’ has been hurt because no one is tuning in to watch the channel now; they go right by,” an anonymous network executive told the newspaper. “The show took its eye off the ball, but you can’t discount the fact that nobody is watching the channel.”

Read the whole essay exclusively at ANewDomain.net.

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: In Defense of Extremism

From The Washington Post: “The cost of turning against the Islamic State was made brutally apparent in the streets of a dusty backwater town in eastern Syria in early August. Over a three-day period, vengeful fighters shelled, beheaded, crucified and shot hundreds of members of the Shaitat tribe after they dared to rise up against the extremists.”

From USA Today: “Contrary to the popular opinion that radical Islam is the primary threat to homeland security, Christianity provides the other four groups with their extremist rationale.”

“Extremism” is the new “terrorism” – a word that so automatically conjures revulsion that its user is under no pressure to justify its use with logic or reason. The U.S. government and those charged with disseminating its propaganda – wait, we’re supposed to call them “talking points” now – in the media like to define themselves as the 50-yard line of politics. Like an ideological Goldilocks, neither too left nor too right but just perfect for this time and place and species, these self-described “centrists” and “moderates” vilify their enemies, opponents, and rivals with the E-word.

Upon examination, however, it becomes clear that few words are less meaningless in political discourse than “extremism.” (At least “terrorism” means something. Terrorism is the use of violence against civilians in order to promote or achieve political ends.)

An extremist is only an extremist in comparison to what is mainstream/centrist/moderate. Whatever system of political, religious or economic belief happens to dominate at a particular moment in time smears its opponents as extreme and therefore beyond normal and acceptable discourse. But that can change. Today’s extremism becomes tomorrow’s moderation under a different system.

(This is even true when the system doesn’t change. In the U.S., 1964 Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater was defeated because he was considered a right-wing extremist. Today, 50 years later, he would be too far to the left to be a viable candidate in the Democratic party.)

In the quote from the Washington Post above, the deeds allegedly committed by the Islamic State are violent, brutal and arguably barbaric. But even within the bounds of ideological discourse of mainstream U.S. corporate media, there is nothing “extreme” about what ISIS did. American fighter jets routinely kill civilians in the Middle East with the same impunity – ironically, sometimes while attacking ISIS – the only difference is the weapons and tactics used to achieve the same result: death.

We should demand that journalists use more specific, useful words than “extremist” to describe ideological opponents of the current system, which can credibly be called extremist in a number of important respects.

It’s pretty extreme, for example, to tell sick, poor and unemployed people that they are on their own, responsible for their own trials and tribulations, and should expect no help from their government. Indeed, very few other societies in the West believe such things. Executing the mentally ill makes the U.S. basically unique in the world. And if the “exceptionalist” American legal doctrine that U.S. law applies in every other country, allowing Americans to violate foreign territory and capture suspects of interest to the U.S. isn’t extreme, I don’t know what is.

The media conflates extremism with purism. Islamic State fighters want to restore the medieval Muslim caliphate and governance by Sharia law; those goals indicate fundamentalism or purism, not necessarily extremism.

One measure of an adjective in politics is, does anyone use it to describe themselves? No one calls themselves a terrorist; no group calls itself extreme. When you see those words in print or spoken by a broadcaster, therefore, you know you are looking at a smear, an insult, lazy shorthand masquerading as argument.

Frankly, anyone who has trouble finding legitimate reasons to oppose ISIS – beyond their supposed “extremism” – doesn’t deserve our attention. For starters: ISIS members believe in God; God doesn’t exist. They massacre innocent civilians to carry out ethnic cleansing; a pluralistic world is more interesting than a homogeneous one. Like the Taliban in Afghanistan, they are ignorant, stupid hicks; who else would behead journalists who were willing to let them tell their story? Stupid hicks shouldn’t be in charge of anything.

Most dangerously, if we accept the framing of the current state of affairs as normal and that of groups and people who want to change it as extreme, few people will ever consider alternatives to the way that we do things now. Many Americans still view communism or socialism as beyond the pale, not because of what those ideologies espouse – many of them don’t know – but because they have absorbed decades of government and media propaganda describing them as fringe, weird, extreme. The result is a remarkably incurious, passive citizenry that accepts the status quo merely because it’s the status quo.

Which is pretty extreme.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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ANewDomain.net Essay: Beware the Invasion of the X-rated iDevice

I wrote the following for ANewDomain.net:

So this is one of those stories that purports to report about A Thing, and there’s really no way to know whether it really is A Thing and if it is, how much of A Thing it is.

Often media stories about these new developments are so over-the-top that it would be a pity not to make fun of them and make sure that everyone who hasn’t heard of it has been made aware of it in the process. This is kind of like what happened a few years back when The New York Times claimed that doga – yoga with your dog – was A Thing, but no one seemed to have ever personally seen it or witnessed it or even seen a listing for it. (Best Wikipedia line ever: “Doga has received some criticism from the yoga community.”)

Well, now The New York Post is reporting that real human females are inserting electric devices into their special places so they can enjoy a secret moment at work, in the subway, wherever. Devices in this new generation of sex toys are controlled remotely, by an Apple iPhone or iPad…

Read the rest here.

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ANewDomain.net Cartoon: Two Wrongs Make Iraq

The New York Times reports that there were indeed proscribed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) – chemical weapons – found in Iraq. However, the Pentagon ordered soldiers to cover them up because they were designed by the U.S. and U.S. troops fell ill upon finding them.

My cartoon is exclusive to ANewDomain.net, so please click here too.

Two Wrongs Make Iraq

 

 

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FALL BOOK TOUR: “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back as Honored Guests”

Here are the current confirmed dates for my tour for AFTER WE KILL YOU:

Sunday, October 26, 2014
11:00 AM
BookHampton
41 Main Street
East Hampton, NY 11937

Tuesday, November 18, 2014
5:30 PM – 8:30 PM

National Press Club Book Fair
529 14th Street NW
Ballroom
Washington, DC 20045

Thursday, November 20, 2014
7:30 pm
Powell’s Books
1005 W Burnside St
Portland, OR 97209

Friday, November 21, 2014
7:00 pm
Elliott Bay Book Company
1521 10th Ave
Seattle, WA 98122

Saturday, November 22, 2014
7:00 pm
Village Books
1200 11th St
Bellingham, WA 98225

Sunday, November 23, 2014
3:00 pm
Orca Books
509 4th Ave E
Olympia, WA 98501

Would you like Ted to speak to your reading group,organization, rally, university, or local store? Click below!
BOOK TED RALL FOR YOUR EVENT

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Millions of Gen Xers Will Be Homeless Before You Know It

Forget terrorism, Ebola or even climate change — the most dangerous threat to this country is an epic retirement crisis.

We will soon see tens of millions of Americans reduced to poverty, bringing an end to the United States as an economic superpower.

Unlike attacks and pandemics, this crisis is an absolute certainty, one with a clear, near start date. But the media is hardly mentioning the imminent retirement crisis. So politicians haven’t even begun to think about it, much less take it seriously.

Actually, “retirement crisis” is a misnomer. The problem isn’t that people won’t be able to retire or will be living on a shoestring, though those things are true. We’re staring down the barrel of an epic old age crisis. For the average American, to be elderly will mean not mere belt-tightening, but real, grinding poverty: homelessness and hunger.

Throughout the last few decades, vulnerable people living from payday to payday have gotten battered by the shredding of the government safety net, a lack of accumulated savings caused by the boom-and-bust cycle of capitalism, and a lackluster real estate market.

Now members of the poor and lower middle class in their 50s and 60s are heading into a retirement crisis created by a perfect superstorm.

Traditional defined-benefit pension plans have been replaced by stingy 401(k)s and similar programs which employers no longer pay into, cap how much you can contribute (assuming you can afford it), take a beating during downturns in the stock market, and allow workers to tap when they’re laid off or run into financial trouble. After years of sketchy raids and outright theft, workers with old-fashioned corporate and government pensions can’t be sure their money will be there when they need it. The first Generation Xers — many of whom never had the opportunity to accumulate wealth due to several long recessions that impacted them particularly hard — will reach the traditional retirement age of 65 in the year 2024.

The facts are brutal:

No savings: The average Gen Xer only has a net worth of about $40,000 — enough to live on for a year. Maybe. In Akron. 36% of Americans don’t have a dime saved for retirement.

Later Social Security: Thanks to that lovable wacky Ronald Reagan, the Social Security retirement age was quietly raised to 67 for Gen Xers born after 1960. When you finally get Social Security, it doesn’t pay enough. The U.S. ranks third to last in social security benefits among developed nations.

Age discrimination: The continuing post-2008 recession hit those in their 50s especially hard; employers want cheaper, younger workers. 25% of Americans over age 55 now have no savings whatsoever.

About those pension plans: When journalists mention the retirement crisis, they focus on problems with the defined-benefit system. But that’s irrelevant to most Americans. 90% of private-sector workers don’t have one. Most government workers do — but 85% of Americans work in the private sector.

401ks suck (if you have one). Three out of four workers have no pension plan. What they might have is a 401k. The average Gen Xer who has a 401k — 69% don’t — has a $63,000 balance.

Financial experts say 92% of U.S. workers fall significantly short of what they’ll need to live decently after retirement. “In the decades to come,” Edward Siedle writes for Forbes, “we will witness millions of elderly Americans, the Baby Boomers and others, slipping into poverty. Too frail to work, too poor to retire will become the ‘new normal’ for many elderly Americans.”

This is about you — not some theoretical lazy Other.

“At some point,” Siedle says, “lack of savings, lack of employment possibilities and failing health will catch up with the overwhelming majority of the nation’s elders.  Let me emphasize that we’re talking about the overwhelming majority, not a small percentage who arguably made bad decisions throughout their working lives.” [Emphasis is mine.]

America’s army of starving old people will drag down younger people too. “Public finances will be pushed to the limit, crowding out other priorities such as education,” Christian E. Weller predicts in The Hill. “Moreover, economic growth will be slower than it otherwise would be because employers will have more workers whose productivity is declining, while many older families, who could start successful new businesses, will forego those opportunities.”

And the pols?

Useless, Siedle concludes. “Conservatives are trying to pare back so-called entitlements that will mushroom in the near future and liberals have failed to acknowledge the crisis or propose any solutions.”

We can hit the streets to demand action now — or we’ll be living on them later.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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