A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Friday, June 01, 2007

Andrew Speaker: I don't want to. I don't care. I'm smarter than you. You can't make me.

And speaking of lawyers, here is an outstanding example of the type of behavior that we all see on a daily basis. Andrew Speaker is the first person to be forcibly quarantined by the federal government since 1963, and it looks like he deserves it. Please note the differences in the way this story has been played in the last few days and today. From the Kansas City Star. Note his comments that I have placed in boldface, which appeared in the news yesterday:
The case of a jet-setting tuberculosis patient might soon shift from the hospital wards to the courts. The patient, Andrew Speaker, an Atlanta personal injury attorney, could sue the federal government for being quarantined on the basis of federal regulations that some scholars see as unconstitutional.

Or Speaker could be sued by fellow airline passengers, especially if any caught the disease from him - which some legal scholars say is much more likely.

"He may be personally liable if someone contracts TB" from being near him on his recent flights to and from Europe, said Peter Jacobson, a University of Michigan professor of public health law. "I can see a jury coming down very hard on someone like that who willfully ignored advice not to travel."

Speaker flew to Europe for his wedding and honeymoon after being advised by health officials not to make the trip because he had TB. Then, while he was in Rome, U.S. health officials told him to stay put because further tests showed he had an even more dangerous, drug-resistant type of TB than previously thought.

The 31-year-old newlywed disregarded those instructions, taking commercial jets to Prague and then Montreal in an attempt to sneak back into the United States.

In an interview earlier this week with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Speaker said he declined to report to Italian health officials because he believed the only lifesaving care for his condition was available in the U.S.

"I'm a very well-educated, successful, intelligent person," he told the newspaper. "This is insane to me that I have an armed guard outside my door when I've cooperated with everything other than the whole solitary-confinement-in-Italy thing."

Yeah, and the not-leaving-the-country thing, and the not-flying thing, and the pulling-your-narcissistic-head-out-of-your-arse thing. Except for that.

Now today, we hear that his new father-in-law WORKS for the CDC specializing in infectious diseases including TB. Dad-in-law is stating that he never encouraged his new son-in-law to fly. And Mr. Speaker, Esquire, after careful lawyerly consideration, is now saying he's sorry for scaring everyone on his flights, and besides, nobody REALLY REALLY REALLY told him he couldn't jet off to Europe:
An Atlanta attorney quarantined with a dangerous strain of tuberculosis apologized to his fellow plane passengers in an interview aired Friday, and said he was told he wasn't contagious or a threat to anyone.

"I feel awful," Andrew Speaker said, speaking through a mask with ABC's "Good Morning America" at his hospital room in Denver. "I've lived in this state of constant fear and anxiety and exhaustion for a week now, and to think that someone else is now feeling that, I wouldn't want anyone to feel that way.

"I don't expect those people to ever forgive me. I just hope they understand that I truly never meant them any harm."

Speaker, 31, said he, his doctors and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all knew he had TB before he flew to Europe for his wedding and honeymoon last month. But he said he was told that he wasn't contagious or a danger to anyone. Officials said they would rather he didn't fly but didn't forbid it, he said.

His father, also a lawyer, taped that meeting, he said.

"My father said, 'OK, now are you saying, prefer not to go on the trip because he's a risk to anybody, or are you simply saying that to cover yourself?' And they said, we have to tell you that to cover ourself, but he's not a risk."

Speaker, his new wife and her 8-year-old daughter were already in Europe when the CDC contacted him and told him to turn himself in immediately at a clinic there and not take another commercial flight.

Speaker said he felt as if the CDC had suddenly "abandoned him." He said he believed if he didn't get to the specialized clinic in Denver, he would die.

"Before I left, I knew that it was made clear to me, that in order to fight this, I had one shot, and that was going to be in Denver," he said. If doctors in Europe tried to treat him and it went wrong, he said, "it's very real that I could have died there."

Even though U.S. officials had put Speaker on a warning list, he caught a flight to Montreal and then drove across the U.S. border on May 24 at Champlain, N.Y. A border inspector who checked him disregarded a computer warning to stop Speaker, officials said Thursday.

The unidentified inspector later said the infected man seemed perfectly healthy and that he thought the warning was merely "discretionary," officials briefed on the case told The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter is still under investigation.

The inspector ran Speaker's passport through a computer, and a warning — including instructions to hold the traveler, don a protective mask in dealing with him, and telephone health authorities — popped up, officials said. About a minute later, Speaker was instead cleared to continue on his journey, according to officials familiar with the records. The inspector has since been removed from border duty.

Colleen Kelley, president of the union that represents customs and border agents, declined to comment on the specifics of the case, but said "public health issues were not receiving adequate attention and training" within the agency.

The next day, Speaker became the first infected person to be quarantined by the U.S. government since 1963.

He was flown by medical transport Thursday to National Jewish Medical and Research Center, where doctors put him in an isolation room where he will be treated with oral and intravenous antibiotics.

Wow. Poor him. Victimized by the CDC. "Abandoned" is a good word, too, very laden with emotional meaning. Like a big-eyed little puppy painted on velvet. A puppy that can give you a debilitating and potentially fatal disease as you breathe recycled air in a big metal tube with him for eight hours.

Who are these people who disregard any concern for anyone else but themselves? Where is a feeling of obligation to the community? And where can we find some border agents who can actually take warnings seriously? I for one certainly feel more safe now that that one agent has been removed from duty. I'm sure that'll solve the problem.

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At 6/1/07, 8:11 AM, Blogger Laura(southernxyl) said...

"The inspector ran Speaker's passport through a computer, and a warning — including instructions to hold the traveler, don a protective mask in dealing with him, and telephone health authorities — popped up, officials said."

But Ms. Cornelius, the border guard wasn't specifically trained to deal with public health matters.

Actually, if they throw the book at him, the other border guards might develop a sudden ability to READ WHAT POPS UP ON THEIR COMPUTER SCREENS, training be damned.

At 6/1/07, 8:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This guy is a selfish, lying SOB who should be behind bars. He put us all at risk and now he wants tears of sympathy. Just goes to show what sleezebags lawyers are.

At 6/1/07, 8:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 6/1/07, 8:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

His story today raises many questions...........if he was diagnosed in Jan, and told his only hope to live was Denver.....why would he leave the US and get as far away from there as possible?? The LAST place I would go is overseas. There are many beautiful places here that you can get married! Why risk it? And they are both on TV today trying to play stupid........they could not be more educated on these things with a TB doctor father and all attourneys to boot? Come on.....this thing stinks to high heaven.

At 6/1/07, 9:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaker's behavior is appalling. He was worried only about saving his own skin. Wouldn't you love to serve with him in a combat situation ... no wonder he didn't finish at the USNA. This guy would never be an 'everyday hero' ... if he saw a burning car with a toddler inside, he'd not rescue the child for fear of burning his arm.

As an attorney and officer of the court, he intentionally and with premeditation evaded authorities and entered the US illegally. At the least, Speaker should lose his law license. I cannot imagine having this guy represent my interests.

At the worst, he should be cured and live to see others with this disease. And just imagine how he exposed his new wife and her 8 year old daughter.

At 6/1/07, 9:31 AM, Blogger Jess said...

I blogged about this one too, a couple of days ago. It's forehead-slapping ridiculous to find out now about the familial CDC link. Honestly, after living for four months with the diagnosis, playing stupid just doesn't cut it.

Points of failure all over the place on this one.

At 6/1/07, 9:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pretty clear how people feel about Andrew's decision to get help for himself while putting other's lives in real danger. The unfortunate thing is that his "intelligence" and arrogance are what enabled him to "grease" by. There could be a special place in purgatory for those who "don't have time" to consider the safety of others while they save themselves. This is reminiscent of the man who dressed like a women to save himself from the sinking Titanic.

At 6/1/07, 9:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 6/1/07, 10:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 6/1/07, 10:18 AM, Blogger Jess said...

Sorry, Ms. C, I know it's not cool to comment on other comments, so feel free to remove this if you like.


Give me a break, anonymous hate-monger. I'm sure there are other people at this law firm--who have nothing to do with any of this--who are just trying to do their jobs. And they really don't need to have people with nothing better to do call them up all day because their boss happens to be an inconsiderate (and possibly criminally negligent) boob.

Speaker is already reaping the fruit of his actions, and it's likely this incident will substantially hurt his career. I don't think his staff (and the local police) need to be tied up with bogus threats and meanness from random people who weren't even personally affected here (because, um...were you on that plane? No? Didn't think so). Let the authorities handle this.

At 6/1/07, 10:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 6/1/07, 11:25 AM, Blogger Dr. Deb said...

What a selfish, narcissistic man.
Simply said, he cared only for his own needs, and not the domino effect he would cause.

At 6/1/07, 11:53 AM, Anonymous Better a lawyer than a teacher said...

Here's hoping that all of you get sued someday - and can't find anyone to take your case.

Here's hoping you all get arrested someday - and can't find anyone to be your advocate in court.

Every profession has assholes - even, or maybe especially, teachers (sex with underage students, anyone? corporal punishment? how many kids have been scarred for life by something a teacher did to them?).

Good luck trying to match the training of a good lawyer when you need one and have to represent yourselves.

At 6/1/07, 11:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wish you had trackbacks! I referenced your post in: http://rofasix.blogspot.com/2007/06/tb-andy.html

At 6/1/07, 12:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This brouhaha is a perfect example of the media ratcheting up the public's fear just to have fun with them. When I put myself in Mr. Speaker's position, I can fully understand why he was desperate to get back to the States. Did the CDC say "Please report to the U.S. Embassy and we will fly you home?" No. They treated him like a criminal. If his wife tests negative, what makes people think that he is contagious to others? The whole thing is ludicrous.

At 6/1/07, 12:22 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Dear anonymous,

Your anti-Semitic foul spew is not worthy of response and unwelcome here in the extreme. Get some therapy.

I am sorry, everyone, that those comments were on my site. I was out doing chores after posting this this morning, and just now checked the blog to find that I'd touched a nerve.

Andrew Speaker is a self-centered jerk. His supposed religion or ethnicity has NOTHING to do with it.

At 6/1/07, 12:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Something just does not jive with this story. Let them find one person on the plane with him to have the same type of TB and you will make a believer out of me. If his affliction is so rare and deadly why is pretty much everyone invited to enter his hospital room to conduct interviews, etc. Quarantine means "a strict isolation imposed to prevent the spread of disease". Seems he is in more of a Quarantine Free, Quarantine. Lets let cooler heads prevail and see how this thing plays out. Its a little too early to start buring people at the stake just yet. What are we in Salem Massachusetts? ;-p

At 6/1/07, 12:32 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Oooh, clever BALTAT! I can definitely say that no matter how much of a legal eagle this twerp is, I would much rather represent myself in court than deal with someone of the moral sliminess of this person.

And who are all these anonymouses?

To the latest one: You'd almost have a point--except for the fact that he knew he had this disease before he went overseas, he was warned against going in the first place, but his put his own plans ahead of the safety of others. Except for that part, you would ALMOST have a point. But he's still wrong when he got on that plane.

And medically, Europe is not some backwater on the Zambezi River, after all. But even if it was, he chose to go there with TB.

At 6/1/07, 12:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The man didn’t realize he was a threat. Everyone needs to leave him and his family alone and let them all get rest for recovery. Why are we all so paranoid all the time. Can’t we see, that these people did not mean intentional harm?!

At 6/1/07, 12:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 6/1/07, 1:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny how all the bleeding heart types sympathize with this obviously pathetic excuse for a human being . Would they feel the same if someone they knew or loved had the misfortune of catching an incurable disease off this bloody idiot . His action is typical of lawyers though , they AL think they're smarter than everyone else and feel they're above the law .

At 6/1/07, 1:03 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Listen, people, I am still appalled by this behavior. But lay off the death threats and spam threats, or your behavior is far worse than his.

Ad I don't buy the "unintentional" argument. If you don't know about how contagious TB can be, and the prevalence of drug-resistant strains, you've got to get educated.

At 6/1/07, 4:30 PM, Anonymous Tammi said...

I’m a bit confused as to why everyone is so angry at Mr. Speaker over this whole incident. How ridiculous! First of all, TB IS TREATABLE, despite what the CDC tries to claim. Eastern medicine has effectively treated it for many years. Secondly, like sheep to the slaughter, we Americans herd our children to the doctor to get a TB vaccine injected directly into the system, which contains live TB. So, Mr. Speaker exposed a plane full of people on accident and we are angry about it, yet we willingly take our children and have them intentionally exposed to it and that’s all right? What is wrong with everyone! If it’s a scapegoat everyone needs, look to the CDC. If it’s a cure everyone needs, do an hour of research on Eastern medicine. Either way, this is not Mr. Speaker's fault and it has nothing to do with him being selfish. People are told they have incurable diseases every day and many of them choose to take the last time given them and do what they feel is important. If Mr. Speaker was told he wasn't contagious, why shouldn't he go? It wasn't until he was already gone that he found out his form of TB was more serious.
Don't get me wrong...I'm all for capital punishment, but only when it is called for. This man made a mistake and the world is calling for his head on a platter, yet most of the posts I've read wish him life-long pain, punishment and financial ruin. Anyone else see the hypocrisy?

At 6/1/07, 5:01 PM, Blogger Captain Haddock said...

Since Speaker is so incredibly intelligent, I'm sure that he understands that as an American citizen visiting foreign lands, he is by proxy a representative of us all. I am also sure that this man's criminal behavior and if he should be treated leniently by our courts will be used as fodder for anti-American sentiment overseas. Unfortunately, this twerp is a caricature of the "Boorish American". As far as I'm concerned, he should be dealt with harshly as a special-case by the federal courts; he has perpetrated a multinational crime, has willfully placed hundreds of innocents' health at risk, and has knowingly evaded an authority he has sworn to uphold.

At 6/1/07, 5:31 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Nowhere did I wish this person any harm, either financially, although that may certainly happen, since I am sure he is familiar through his career with the terms "damages for pain and suffering." In fact, I have been receiving hate mail for my decision to delet posts which urged him harm, probably from the Nazi sympathizer who created one of the comments I removed. (And I will continue to remove offensive and/or violent posts until everyone behaves like civilized people, because it's my blog and I do NOT have to give freaks a forum to spout their hatred.)

But for the rest of us, who are understandably appalled by this person's outrageously anti-social behavior, or even those who honestly defend him, thanks for your comments on my post.

Listen, his comments before today indicate that he knew what he was doing and that he felt completely justified in doing it. I am deeply suspicious of his remorse now that he realizes he could have the pants sued off of himself. He claims he was told he wasn't contagious, too.

How many of us as teachers have had kids come to school with rampant pink-eye or who were radioactive with a fever, or been exposed to measles while pregnant because of this same kind of self-centeredness? And those are far more benign than TB, which could kill anyone with a compromised immune system or lung trouble, for instance.

By his own admission, he had already been told to go to Denver, and yet he went to Europe and then had to SNEAK back into the country. Hardly accidental.

At 6/1/07, 7:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What does this case have to do with nazi sympathizers? They hate National Jewish Hospital for having agreed to treat the guy? What is the hospital supposed to do, only treat nice people?
Anyhow, yes, there are a lot of jerks in the world - people who harass Speaker's law firm are jerks too.
No excuse for Speaker's behavior and lies. People need to save their "compassion" and "empathy" for the real victims, the hundreds of airline passengers whose lives will be full of anxiety for at least the next several months even if nobody catches TB.

At 6/1/07, 7:23 PM, Anonymous T Town Tommy said...

He's an attorney ... need we say more! Great post as always, love the conversation.

At 6/1/07, 9:28 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Yet another anonymous:

It has to do with a post i deleted, and if I explained it, I'd be perpetuating it. It was nasty-- leave it at that.

TTT: Howdy, neighbor!

At 6/1/07, 10:46 PM, Anonymous mreese said...

this guy did nothing short of someone knowing they have herpes that chooses to sleep with people. it's treatable, but could possibly cause others medical illnesses of various types. he obviously thought he was above any ethical reasoning in choosing to board multiple freaking airplanes where he knew he could *possibly* infect others. if it were an eye for eye society this man would be denied treatment--why, you say? because he was told he was not infectious. so why bother treating him. my, how the tables quickly turn. lawyers think they are above the law----but oh! are they so very wrong.
adding insult to injury that our lackluster border efforts make us the laughing stock of the world. thanks to this guy, the terrorists know their next choice of weaponry. hello new suicide germ carriers!
...and his father-in-law is a TB specialist? hmm..something is very fishy here. i smell a rat.

At 6/1/07, 11:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

TB Attorney Speaker story continues
to garner strange "angles" --like
him supposedly being first diagnosed in Jan? Will it take
"professionals" at CDC five months
to discriminate between "bad colds"
& human strain of avian flu? What
is with "videotaping" lawyer Father? Is "new wife"(supposedly not really hitched in Greece afterall) with child a widow or divorcee he met in "Family
Court"? Is she really at Emory Law
School?...obviously they let anyone
in! Appears a dippy whinging woman!
Did he do public or private high
school in Atlanta? Private clubs?
All "angles" contribute to who he is! interested Atlantan overseas

At 6/2/07, 12:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Better a Lawyer (Mr. Speaker):

Can I call you Andrew, I assume I should be able to because since you felt it was ok in your arrogant mind to get as up close and personal with your fellow travelers as you did I should be able to call you Andrew... Andy even. I also assume that since you had the steel ball bearings to try to throw the blame off this moron and defend lawyers it has to be Andy himself talking, or perhaps there is an even bigger piece of filth lawyer walking around out there then TB Andy himself.

At 6/2/07, 1:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He has a creepy blog on his lawfirms' website. It is very weird, he seems to revel in gruesome car accidents, like he has some kind of death fascination. It's been pulled, but it is still in the Google cache-- search for "speakerlawfirm" blog, then click on Cached.

At 6/3/07, 12:19 AM, Anonymous California Mom said...

Angrew Speaker and his father, Theordore Speaker are an embarrassment to the legal profession. Both (from thier public comments) seem to believe they are above the law and should be disbarred by Georgia State Bar. Dr. RC Cooksey (the father in law) is an embarrassment to the CDC--for someone who worked in TB prevention for over 30 years, it appears he only cared about marrying off the single mom daughter to the wealthy lawyer--who cares what disease he has and is spreading around the world! He should be FIRED. Enough special treatment for these CREEPS!

At 6/3/07, 1:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just wanted to let you know that there is not a TB vaccination that someone else spoke about and said we take our children to have it is only a TB test to show if you have TB or not.

At 6/4/07, 3:10 PM, Blogger Ivory said...

The drugs for garden variety TB have to be taken for 6 months after an exposure and for a year after a positive skin test. They are associated with liver toxicity. The drugs for drug resistant TB are harder to administer - some have to be injected daily, again for up to a year.

This was not a trivial event and Mr. Speaker should be held fianacially liable for the medical treatment of each of the people he endangered on that plane. I hope none of them die.


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