mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“When Liars Debate, The Truth Always Loses”: Endless Prevarication Manipulating The Prejudices Of Ill-Informed Voters

Watching the second Republican presidential debate on CNN and its aftermath, millions of Americans learned again what we already know about the candidates: These people embellish, prettify, and fabricate their own biographies without hesitation, from Donald Trump’s much-parodied boasting about his business acumen to Carly Fiorina’s super-selective accounting of her tenure at Hewlett-Packard to Chris Christie’s highly romanticized account of his appointment and record as U.S. Attorney to Jeb Bush’s wildly inflated claims about the Florida economy when he was governor.

But as Christie himself pointed out – in a remark targeted at Trump and Fiorina – why would anybody even pay attention to the tall tales told by these politicians (or the self-styled political “outsiders,” who sound exactly like politicians) about themselves? While the bickering is sometimes amusing and mostly annoying, does anyone believe that it matters?

For these characters to prevaricate endlessly about their résumés and achievements is neither surprising nor important. Of much greater consequence are the bat-winged lies they emit about issues that affect all of our lives, as well as the future of the United States and the world.

Evidently all of the Republicans on the stage at the Reagan presidential library wanted us to believe that Planned Parenthood should be shut down everywhere because its clinics sell post-abortion fetal body parts for profit. That is a false and outrageous accusation, disproved in the same videotapes that they cited as proof. Attacking the venerable women’s health organization, Fiorina went even further, furiously describing a scene in those videos supposedly showing a “fully formed fetus” with legs kicking and heart beating while someone prepares to “harvest its brain.”

Such horrific practices, she declared, “erode the character of our nation.” What erodes the character of our nation, in fact, is Fiorina’s blatant chicanery, repeated by her the next morning on ABC News. The video she claims to have watched does not exist, according to Vox.com reporter Sarah Kliff, who viewed all 12 hours of those videos.

What exist in reality are hundreds of thousands of women who will lose access to health care if fanatics like Fiorina and her fellow Republican candidates ever succeed in wrecking Planned Parenthood. Having “harvested” tens of millions of dollars from Hewlett-Packard for nearly wrecking the company, however, she doesn’t need to worry about medical care for other people.

Nearly every Republican on that stage brayed his or her opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement – and every one of them falsely described that deal. Typical was Senator Ted Cruz, who warned, “We won’t know under this agreement—there are several facilities in Iran they designate as military facilities that are off limits all together…the other facilities, we give them 24 days notice before inspecting them.”

None of what Cruz said is true or relevant. All of Iran’s designated nuclear facilities will fall under continuous video and electronic monitoring in addition to physical visitation by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who will also monitor any movements of nuclear materials or equipment there. Hostile to scientific facts as they are, Cruz and his fellow Republicans are probably unaware of how easily as little as a billionth of a gram of radioactive dust could be detected by IAEA inspectors, as the Center for National Security at Fordham University noted in a factsheet.

These examples represent only a few of literally dozens of mendacious statements about crucial public issues, usually bordering on absurdity, broadcast by CNN with little contradiction on Wednesday evening. Senator Marco Rubio insisted that we can do nothing about man-made climate change without destroying the economy, when every reputable study shows that the economy and the world will be destroyed if we do nothing. Christie promised to “save” Social Security from insolvency by denying payments to wealthy recipients, when that won’t significantly improve the system’s finances – and the “crisis” he touted is overblown anyway. Trump insisted that life-saving vaccines cause autism, complete with anecdotal “proof” from an “employee” whose “beautiful baby” contracted a fever and then “became autistic” after being vaccinated.

Not only did Trump concoct that sad story, but there is little doubt that his own children, including little Barron Trump, have received proper vaccinations. (Manhattan private schools don’t accept the unvaccinated.) Disgracefully, neither of the two physicians on stage, Rand Paul and Ben Carson, had the guts to forcefully contradict him.

Try as they will to reject Trump, he fits in perfectly among Republicans – and not only because he worships money, spews xenophobic nonsense, and encourages callous bigotry. Like them, he relies on fabrications and falsehoods, manipulating the prejudices of ill-informed voters.

The Republican rejection of reality – which these candidates will act out in debate after debate for months to come – inflicts grave costs on this country every day. It is hard to imagine the damage that will be done if one of these deceivers comes to power.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editors Blog, The National Memo, September 17, 2015

September 18, 2015 Posted by | Carly Fiorina, GOP Primary Debates, Planned Parenthood, Women's Health | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Walker Latest To Fall Into London Quicksand”: The British Just Don’t Know What To Make Of GOP Extremism In The 21st century

Eventually, Republicans are really going to have to stop going to London.

When Mitt Romney went to the British capital, it was a disaster. When Bobby Jindal went to London, he became a laughingstock. When Chris Christie crossed the pond, he managed to stumble on vaccinations, of all things.

And so, when Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) arrived in London yesterday, there was a lingering fear: how exactly would he manage to screw this up? Now we know.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) on Wednesday dodged a question about whether he believes in evolution. Speaking at the Chatham House foreign policy think tank London, Walker was asked: “Are you comfortable with the idea of evolution? Do you believe in it?”

“For me, I am going to punt on that one as well,” he said. “That’s a question politicians shouldn’t be involved in one way or another. I am going to leave that up to you.

If you watch the video of the exchange, note that the interviewer prefaces the question by saying the issue is of particular interest when posed to “senior Republicans when they come to London.” The subtle – or perhaps not so subtle – implication is that the British just don’t know what to make of GOP extremism in the 21st century.

Indeed, after Walker refused to answer the question about whether he’s comfortable with modern biology, the interviewer, clearly taken aback by the governor’s reticence, responded with genuine incredulity. “Really?” he said when Walker “punted” on the issue. The interviewer quickly added, “Any British politician, right- or left-wing, would laugh [at the question] and say, ‘Of course evolution’s true.’”

As well they should.

And while I can appreciate the British curiosity about American Republicans, it’s worth emphasizing that the UK simply doesn’t have a major political party as far to the right as today’s Republican Party. It’s no wonder they marvel at the oddity of the GOP’s extremism.

Closer to home, let’s not overlook the fact that the recent Republican track record on scientific issues has been quite woeful of late. Just over the last few months, we’ve seen prominent GOP officials balk at climate science, contraception, vaccinations, post-bathroom hand-washing, and now evolutionary biology.

I shudder to think what the party will come up with next, though if gravity becomes a partisan political issue, all bets are off.

Postscript: I’d just add that Walker’s response to today’s question is obviously unsustainable. If he and his staff aren’t working on a real answer for American journalists who’ll soon press the governor for a batter response, they should be.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 11, 2015

February 12, 2015 Posted by | Evolution, Science, Scott Walker | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Stupid Pills”: The Politics of Fraudulent Dietary Supplements

One pill makes you smarter. One pill makes you thin. One pill makes you happy. Another keeps you energized. And so what if tests conducted by scientists in New York and Canada have found that the substances behind these miracle enhancements may contain nothing more than powdered rice or houseplants. If enough people believe they’ll be healthier, well, it’s a nice racket.

Nice, to the tune of $13 billion a year in sales. And here in Utah, which is to the dietary supplement business what Northern California is to marijuana, a huge industry has taken hold, complete with a network of doctors making unproven claims, well-connected lobbyists and entrenched politicians who keep regulators at bay.

If you want to know how we came to be a nation where everyone is a doctor, sound science is vilified and seemingly smart people distrust vaccinations, come to Utah — whose state flower should be St. John’s wort. Here, the nexus of quack pharma and industry-owned politicians has produced quite a windfall: nearly one in four dollars in the supplement market passes though this state.

We’re not talking drugs, or even, in many cases, food here. Drugs have to undergo rigorous testing and review by the federal government. Dietary supplements do not. Drugs have to prove to be effective. Dietary supplements do not.

These are the Frankenstein remedies — botanicals, herbs, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, dried stuff. They’re “natural.” They’re not cheap. And Americans pop them like Skittles, despite recent studies showing that nearly a third of all herbal supplements on the market may be outright frauds.

The labels say Ginkgo biloba, or ginseng, or St. John’s wort. But testing announced by the state of New York this week found that the Ginkgo biloba sold by Walmart, for example, contained no Ginkgo biloba DNA — it was a mixture of rice, mustard, wheat and radish.

Some of the country’s largest retailers are selling junk in a pill, a step removed from sawdust. Counting on the stupidity of consumers, the big chains don’t seem to care. As of Thursday, four days after Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York State attorney general, asked retailers to pull the tested products from their shelves in his state, you could still go to Walmart online and buy the allegedly fraudulent products.

So, there is Spring Valley echinacea — with a bold label reading: Immune Health — selling for $8.98 a bottle on Walmart’s website. It comes with a handy “customer review,” touting an “Excellent quality product!” This about a substance that contained no echinacea, according to the attorney general.

Too bad it takes Canada, or the maverick work of someone like the New York attorney general, to get at the truth of this industry, because it is so well-insulated from federal government oversight. Schneiderman’s investigation was prompted by an article in The New York Times Science section, reporting on Canadian findings that some of the most popular supplements were nothing but cheap fillers.

To understand how we got here, you have to go back to 1994, when Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah midwifed through Congress a new industry protected from all but minimal regulation. It is also an industry that would make many of his closest associates and family members rich. In turn, they’ve rewarded him with sizable campaign contributions.

Even though serious illnesses, and some deaths are on the rise from misuse of these supplements, Hatch is determined to keep regulators at bay. “I am committed to protect this industry and the integrity of its products,” he told a gathering of potency pill-pushers and the like in Utah last fall.

In the past, Hatch has been remarkably blunt about helping his family and friends in the fake drug trade. “I do whatever they ask me to do many times because they’ve never asked me to do anything that is improper,” Hatch said in 2011. He was referring to the firm of his son, Scott Hatch, a longtime lobbyist for the supplement industry.

That’s the political side, an all-too-familiar story of mutual beneficiaries born in the halls of Congress. But what about the medical implications? These pills and powders can’t, by law, make specific claims to cure anything. So they claim to make you healthier. The consumer is left playing doctor, reading questionable assertions that course through the unfiltered garbage of the Internet.

“There’s a lot of wrong information out there,” warns the American Cancer Society, in its tutorial on these products. “Even for those who are usually well informed, it can be hard to find reliable information about the safe use and potential risks of dietary supplements.”

And there was this finding reported in the authoritative Annals of Internal Medicine: “Enough is enough: Stop wasting money on vitamin and mineral supplements.” Oh, those elites at the American College of Physicians, what do they know?

So, the industry keeps growing, with 65,000 dietary supplements now on the market, consumed by nearly half of all Americans. The larger issue is mistrust of authority, a willful ignorance that knows no political side. Thus, right-wing libertarians promote a freewheeling market of quack products, while left-wing conspiracy theorists disdain modern medicine in favor of anything sold as “natural” or vaguely countercultural. These are some of the same people who will not vaccinate their children.

Everyone wants to live longer, to be happier, to have better sex. And, if you think you can do it without exercise, or eating enough vegetables, or getting regular sleep, there are a thousand pills for you, sold not far from the candy counter. It’s all based on the honor system. If you trust them, go buy some possibly Ginkgo biloba-free Ginkgo biloba, and thank Orrin Hatch for the unfettered right to be a sucker.

 

By: Timothy Egan, Contributing Op-Ed Writer, The New York Times, February 6, 2014

February 7, 2015 Posted by | Big Pharma, Dietary Supplements, Orrin Hatch | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Parents Own The Children”: Libertarians Have A History Of Horrifying Views On Parenting

In a recent CNBC interview, Senator Rand Paul tempered some of his recent remarks about the alleged horrors of vaccination by claiming that he only opposes vaccine mandates because they infringe upon parents’ freedom. When confronted with the question of whether or not discouraging vaccination is a threat to children’s health, Paul launched into a meandering consideration of public health and liberty that concluded with the assertion that “the state doesn’t own your children, parents own the children.”

Paul’s bizarre rendering of the parent-child relationship as unilateral ownership is not the most unhinged thing a well-regarded libertarian has ever said about children. In fact, libertarians exhibit a historical inability to adequately explain how parents should relate to their children, why parents are obligated (if at all) to care for their children, and whether or not moral nations should require that parents feed, clothe, and shelter their children within a libertarian frame.

Consider Lew Rockwell, former congressional chief of staff for Rand’s father, Ron. Rockwell, who may or may not have had a hand in composing the now infamously racist and homophobic slew of newsletters sent out to Ron Paul fans between the late ’70s and early ’90s, is a professed fan of child labor. Complaining of laws that prevent, among other things, second-graders from operating forklifts, Rockwell opines that “we are still saddled with anti-work laws that stunt young people’s lives.” Like Rand Paul on vaccine mandates, Rockwell sees child labor laws as government overreach. “In a free and decent society, decisions about these matters are for parents, not bureaucrats,” Rockwell writes, referring to whether or not schoolchildren should be breadwinners. The type of society Rockwell envisions here hardly seems “decent,” but it would certainly be “free” in the way Paul imagines, and in that sense it is perfectly libertarian.

Rockwell’s mentor, Murray Rothbard, one of the twentieth century’s more famous libertarians, was similarly fond of kids in the workplace. Rothbard imagined that laws against child labor were passed in order to artificially inflate the wages of adults, who viewed children as competition capable of underbidding them. “Supposedly ‘humanitarian’ child labor laws,” Rothbard remarks in his book The Ethics of Liberty, “have systematically forcibly prevented children from entering the labor force, thereby privileging their adult competitors.” While the real impetus behind child labor laws was child welfare, it is telling that Rothbard tended to look upon kids with a suspicious eye, and his ethics bear out this cold approach. Later in The Ethics of Liberty, Rothbard, in keeping with the libertarian exaltation of personal freedom, argues that “no man can therefore have a ‘right’ to compel someone to do a positive act”that is, because all people are free, by his account, your rights cannot impose positive actions on others. This means, Rothbard goes on, that a parent “may not murder or mutilate his child, and the law properly outlaws a parent from doing so. But the parent should have the legal right not to feed the child, i.e., to allow it to die.” He concludes that “the law, therefore, may not properly compel the parent to feed a child or to keep it alive.” To do so, for Rothbard, would be pure government overreach.

Such dark fantasies are not restricted to the weird world of libertarian academia. Williamson “Bill” Evers, formerly a libertarian candidate for congress and advisor to the McCain 2008 campaign, also argues that there should be no laws preventing a parent from, say, starving an infant to death. In an article published in the Journal of Libertarian Studies, Evers concludes, “We have considered the hypothesis that there should be an enforced legal duty of parents to support their minor children. Having found the various reasons advanced in support of this duty inadequate, we can only conclude that no such duty exists … one has to regard the notion of a legal duty of parents to support their children as without merit.” Evers allows that parents might be morally obligated to do something for their children, but also that morals should not be legally enforced. Therefore, vaccination, labor, and finally whether or not to give one’s children the necessities of life ultimately comes down, for these classic libertarian thinkers, to the free will of the parents.

Libertarianism rests on the whimsical notion that all people are isolated, entirely free agents with no claims on others except those that they can negotiate through consensual contracts. The very existence of children flatly disproves this; any moral intuition indicates that children come into the world with claims on their parents at the very least, and their entire societies considered broadly. To avoid a hellish death spiral of infectious disease and neglect, we would all do well to reject Paul and his cohort on the subject of child rearing.

 

By: Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig, The New Republic, February 4, 2015

February 6, 2015 Posted by | Libertarians, Public Health, Rand Paul | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“That ‘My Private Choice’ Thing”: What Kind Of Parent Wants To Protect Their Kid From Vaccines But Not Disney?

I went to Disneyland once. I didn’t like it. I like it even less now that 70 people, including five employees, have been infected in their measles outbreak.

I didn’t like Disneyland because I don’t like rides, but also because I don’t like fantasy of any kind – especially the fantasy that a bunch of adults waving and sweating under 800 pound carcinogenic masks only to go home with barely enough money to buy the gas it took them to get to work and maybe three gallons of Sunny Delight counts as a “magic kingdom”.

But I really don’t like the fantasy in which vaccinating your children is a private choice that you get to make for yourself and your family.

Here’s the big news flash for people who don’t vaccinate their kids: you don’t live on an island in the middle of the woods in the middle of whatever century Laura Ingalls Wilder was born in which, if you wanted pork chops, you had to fatten the hog first. Having a cartoon drawing of your family on the back window of your Honda Element doesn’t make you and them the only people in the world. Look around you. Those things with the heads and the arms and the legs are other human beings.

Some of the people around you have legitimate reasons for not being vaccinated – like they have HIV, or they recently had chemo, or they’re just old. And some of them have been vaccinated and may get sick anyway. (I hesitate to mention that because you’ll probably pretend that’s “proof” that vaccines don’t work, and they do work. The whole “vaccines working” thing is proven by the fact that in in 1953, the year the polio vaccine was developed, 35,000 Americans got polio. By 1961, there were only 161 polio cases. Saying vaccines don’t work is like dropping a casserole on the kitchen floor and throwing up your hands and saying “See, cooking doesn’t work!”.)

Also: you see those tiny little things that some of those people are carrying around? Those are what we call Other People’s Infants. (I know you know what Your Infant looks like because you have a picture of it on the same phone you use to read stupid crap written by absolute morons like Jennie McCarthy and Melanie Phillips while taking up a space in the Whole Foods parking lot.) Anyway, infants also can’t get vaccinated. This means that, if your children aren’t vaccinated, they could infect an infant (not your infant though, of course! Your infant is safe in your phone!) and it could die, and it would be your fault.

I have said this many times to people – “an infant could die, and it would be your fault” – and they look at me like I just told them it’s raining. And then they go back to the “my private choice” thing, and I am left chilled to the bone with the knowledge that whatever kind of anti-vaxxer freak they are – whether they’re the hippie “I think bone broth cures everything” kind or the urban “I’m so hypereducated that I’ve lost touch with reality” kind – they really just don’t care that their actions might hurt other people.

The thing that I don’t get about this whole Disneyland thing is this: who even are these people? In order to not vaccinate, you have to be someone who fundamentally distrusts The System, who thinks that the Government and the Scientists and Big Ag are all in collusion with Big Vaccine to plunder your children’s well-being. You’d think these parents would be kind of worried about a huge, terrifying company that mostly traffics in antiquated gender roles and the plastic that gets wrapped around them. I just don’t understand how there exists a person who says to herself, “My child’s blood is going to be as pure as the driven snow to the detriment of basic public health standards and all that modernity holds dear”, and a minute later is like, “Let’s go all the way with this Frozen thing and let’s go to the Mothership to do it”. If you’re going to be an iconoclast, at least make it make sense. It’s bad enough to put the public health at risk; now you also have to hurt everyone’s brain while we try to figure out what kind of crazy you are?

No matter how many times you sing “Let It Go” alone in the car, it won’t change the fact that being anti-vaccine is sad and fundamentally violent. Yes, violent: it’s one group of people causing physical harm to others. If you’re that antisocial, that divorced from reality, and that incapable of understanding that there are other humans in the world, just stay home. The lines are shorter, and it’s a lot safer for the rest of us.

 

By: Sarah Miller, The Guardian, January 23, 2015

January 25, 2015 Posted by | Public Health, Science, Vaccines | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: