I Haven’t Pissed Off Any Liberals For a While…..

and my wallet is getting empty.  Remember, Big Pharma.  My address is still the same.  I’ll be awaiting my payment.  Ahem, it was two in the morning when the rhinoceros sneezed at the wombat.  Wink, wink.  (God, I hope the password phrase is still the same.  I’d hate to be typing this for nothing.)

While Avenue Q makes the claim that the internet is for porn, anyone spending time online knows that the internet is also for online lists, preferably online lists that spread misinformation, disputed “facts,” and outright lies.  (Okay, I admit that the internet is used for other things as well, but statistics show that a full 92.6 percent of internet content is made up of porn and misleading Listicles.*)  One such online list can be found at Modern Alternative Mama: 12 Mainstream Vaccine Lies You Probably Believe.

Now I do not have the space or the time to properly disembowel this travesty of misinformation, but luck would have it that is exactly what Orac does over at Respectful Insolence.  I urge everyone to stop over and read his thorough deconstruction of this dangerous post.  The anti-vax movement is anti-science with a body count that needs the light of reason focused on it constantly until it fades back into the shadows.  But before you all rush over to Respectful Insolence, I’d like to point out, with Orac’s help, some of the more egregious items on her list.

4. Safe treatments for these diseases don’t exist.


While our medical knowledge 50 or 60 years ago was clearly more limited, we have made great advances now. We’re now able to treat many illnesses with simple, non-invasive means. Vitamin A supplementation is used to prevent complications of measles. Mullein is an herb that’s excellent at treating pertussis (along with vitamin C) and other illnesses. We know so much more now. And alternative medicine often has an answer!

Plus, if you’re concerned about polio, read up on that.

“Alternative medicine often has an answer.”  You know, I’m willing to concede that point, as long as she isn’t claiming the answer is correct.  Seriously, do you know what alternative medicine that works is called?  Medicine.  As for mullein to treat pertussis…

That’s pertussis.  Not even a bad sounding case, actually, just one I found where the infant lived.  Dig around on Youtube for some of the really nasty sounding ones.   You really want to treat that in your child with an evidence-free herb and vitamin prescription from an “alternative health” practitioner?

Of course the comment on polio and the provided link should immediately cause anyone with working brain cells to ignore this person.

Here’s Orac’s take on point 4.

This is, of course, utter nonsense. There are not “safe and natural” treatments for serious diseases, as much as naturopaths and useful idiots like Tietje argue otherwise. As for polio, in her article linked to, Tietje basically argues that polio isn’t dangerous and even going so far as to dismiss all those pictures of iron lungs thusly:

As for those iron lungs, they’re outdated medical technology, pure and simple. Doctors today have much more sophisticated machines that they use when someone is struggling to breathe. So, even if the absolute worst did happen — no, we would not see a recurrence of iron lung machines.

Yes, she really said that. To her, just because we now have positive pressure ventilators and long-term tracheostomies for people who can’t breathe on their own, it’s damned deceptive to be showing iron lungs because we don’t use them anymore. Sorry, Kate old bean, but that’s history, and, quite frankly, while being hooked up to a modern ventilator via a tracheostomy is better than being stuck in an iron lung, it’s still plenty bad.

The rest of her article cites nonsense like the claim that lead arsenate pesticides and DDT are the actual reason polio epidemics started occurring more frequently in the 1930s through 1950s. It’s dangerously ignorant misinformation I’ve deconstructed at length before.

Alternative Mama plays the dishonest “those diseases weren’t all that bad” card with point 11.

11. The diseases we vaccinate for are incredibly dangerous

Thankfully, no.

Most of these diseases were normal childhood illnesses and were a very uncomfortable week or two, but were not dangerous for healthy children. Read more about measles, a risk-benefit analysis, and pertussis. It’s not to say that there aren’t a small number of children who were seriously ill or died in the past, but medical knowledge has advanced quite a bit since that time, and we still haven’t answered the question which is truly safer for our children long-term, the vaccines or the illnesses. That’s important.

This is just so face-slappingly bad, and is so related to why I don’t even try to argue with most anti-vaxxers anymore.  Actually we have answered the question which is truly safer.  It’s the vaccines.  Just because the science didn’t confirm Alternative Mama, Jenny McCarthy, and the anti-vax movements pet hypothesis (refuse to give it the credit of a theory) doesn’t mean we don’t have an answer.  What, do they claim that we need more tests, more studies?  If the data fell the other way, and the research implicated vaccines something tells me these people would be shouting from the rooftops that the science was in, not asking for more studies.

That paragraph she wrote “debunking” point 11 reads simply like the words of someone who, thanks to vaccines, never had to worry about those diseases.  Listen to the sound of an infant with pertussis and tell me it’s no big deal.  People die of the measles, and as soon as we reach a certain threshold number of cases, people will die again from the disease.  Orac’s take:

This is just so wrong it’s not even wrong. Hepatitis B, for instance, is incredibly dangerous. For measles, as I discussed in the wake of the Disneyland measles outbreak, actually hospitalizes a significant proportion of children who get it, while one in a thousand can develop encephalitis. When tens or hundreds of thousands of children get measles, the number of children who develop encephalitis or die becomes significant. Measles is not benign, and benefits of the measles vaccine actually go beyond preventing measles because measles suppresses the immune system and children die of other diseases at a higher rate in the two years after having the measles. When weighing the risks and benefits, there’s no doubt: Vaccination is far safer than the diseases

That’s all the space I’m going to give this post, but I once again urge you to go read Orac’s complete take down.  Far too many progressives buy into the anti-vax movement, and it is a trend that needs to be stopped.  It’s the right, with their creationism/intelligent design and climate change denial that are supposed to be the anti-science side.  Don’t remain silent while the vaccine preventable body count rises.



*On a somewhat related point, statistics also show that fully 98.1 percent of statistics quoted online are made up while being typed.  The more you know….

ABC Decides to Kill a Couple of Kids for Ratings

Are they going to feed them into a wood chipper?  Unleash a pack of rabid dogs on them?  Force them to watch endless hours of Extreme Weight Loss, The Bachelorette, and Celebrity Wife Swap until they can’t take it anymore and commit suicide?

Nah, they are just going to make Jenny McCarthy a co-host on The View.  You see, Elisabeth Hasselbeck decided to leave The View for a spot on Fox and Friends, Fox New’s insanity filled morning news show, which apparently opened up the “hot blond with crazy opinions” spot on ABC’s morning talk show.  Now while Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s crazy opinions were your garden variety right wing conservatism that you can find all over the TV dial, Jenny McCarthy’s crazy opinions are a bit more dangerous.  Jenny believes that vaccines cause autism, and has been an outspoken champion for the anti-vax movement.  She has appeared on Oprah to spout her insanity, appeared at anti-vaccine rallies, wrote for anti-vaccine websites, supported disgraced “researcher” Andrew Wakefield even after the truth of his “study” linking the MMR vaccine to autism was exposed; Jenny McCarthy is the celebrity of the anti-vaccine movement, and she has dedicated a large amount of effort to promoting a link between vaccines and autism and questioning the safety of vaccines in general.

And Jenny is free to have these views.  If she wants to believe that vaccines caused her son to grow an invisible third arm out of the top of his head, that is her right.  And that belief would have about the same scientific backing as her belief that vaccines are harmful and cause autism.  This is not an open scientific question.   There is no debate in the medical community.  On one side you have Jenny McCarthy, discredited “researchers” like Andrew Wakefield, and a few people either out of their area of expertise, or with very questionable conflicts of interest.  On the other side, you have the rest of the medical community and all published research.

And yet, Jenny has these views.  And now she will have a national television audience, and she will use her platform on The View to express these views, because she has used every other possible platform to express them in the past.  And even if the rest of the co-hosts argue with her and say that vaccines are safe and do not cause autism, it will still have the appearance of an open debate, not the closed scientific question that it actually is.

And some people watching will listen to her.  And they will not vaccinate their children because of what she says.  Why would they listen to her?  *shrug*  They will.  As ThinkProgress writes:

It’s easy to dismiss the idea that McCarthy’s work on autism and vaccines has an impact–celebrity activism often gets accorded outsized importance or treated with utter contempt, when it’s a much more complicated phenomenon. But a University of Michigan survey of parents found that 24 percent of them were willing to place some trust in figures like McCarthy on the question of the link between vaccines and autism, which is a much higher level of credibility than the average person’s going to be able to elicit from the general public.

And even if it is only a small number of people who listen to her and make that choice because of her, well….

And even a small number of parents who decide not to vaccinate on the word of someone like McCarthy, or Andrew Wakefield, the doctor who wrote the initial paper linking autism and vaccines, and has since been banned from practicing medicine in the UK, can have significant public health impacts. California saw a spike in whooping cough in 2010 that resulted in a number of deaths. Wakefield’s work contributed to a rise in measles cases in the United Kingdom. And fears of vaccines in general have lead to suspicion of the HPV vaccine, which is a critical way to help girls reduce their risk of certain kinds of cancers.

Some children will get measles, and whooping cough, and other vaccine preventable diseases because their parents decided not to vaccinate them due to baseless fears sowed by Jenny McCarthy.  And those children will give those disease to children who are either too young to be vaccinated, or who can not be vaccinated due to compromised immune systems or allergies.

And some of those children will die from those diseases.

And some of those children who die will die because ABC decided to give Jenny McCarthy a national platform for her anti-vaccine lunacy.

Which leads to the title of this post.

Way to go, ABC.

I’ll close with this from the ThinkProgress article:

But while it’s possible to debate many sides of many issues, one of the benefits of medicine is that there’s actual evidence that some ideas and right and others are wrong. McCarthy’s are wrong, and continuing to defend them with that other standby of people who like to advance conspiracy theories without evidence, that she’s just raising questions, doesn’t make her decision to stick to her discredited ideas any more admirable. And it doesn’t give The View cover, either. This is not a vital debate in American society in which McCarthy’s position has been historically underrepresented, or a polarity along which it’s important to have multiple perspectives in order to make for a lively conversation. It’s a hoax, on par with McCarthy’s original belief, before her son’s autism diagnosis, that her son was an “indigo child,” a New Age theory that tries to comfort parents of children with autism and learning disabilities by convincing them that their children actually represent a new stage in human evolution.

Maybe Jenny McCarthy has a range of other opinions that ABC, which airs The View, thinks will be valuable to its audience. But the company is a news organization in addition to an entertainment company. And ABC should consider the damage McCarthy’s done to the public interest against whatever else she might have to offer.



Why, Chicago Sun-Times? Why?

The Chicago Sun-Times has hired the queen of the “mommy instinct,” the graduate of “Google U,” the fear-mongering, evidence be damned, “vaccines do to cause autism because I say they do” face of the anti-vaccine movement, Jenny “Too Crazy for Jim Carrey” McCarthy as a columnist and blogger.  That sound you just heard was the entire scientific community slamming their heads against their desks.  From Reportingonhealth.org:

McCarthy may be famous for a lot of reasons – Playboy playmate, actress, ex-girlfriend of Jim Carrey – but she is roundly criticized by health experts and many journalists for her views on autism. As a celebrity parent of an autistic son, McCarthy is a leading and sadly influential voice in the discredited movement to blame vaccines for autism. Public health experts fervently wish that she would just shut up.

Predictably, the online reaction to her hiring was swift and brutal:

Jenny McCarthy Signs Deal to Endanger Children via Chicago Newspaper – goo.gl/YeLRf via @patheos

— Melody Hensley (@MelodyHensley) October 19, 2012

Journalist Seth Mnookin, author of The Panic Virus, which examines the viral growth of the myth that vaccines cause autism and other developmental disorders, has previously blasted the Sun-Times for giving McCarthy a forum for her anti-vaccine, anti-science views. Here is an excerpt of the Panic Virus that deals with McCarthy.

Now the Sun Times has given McCarthy an even bigger platform, and that’s a travesty.

Much more after the jump……

Continue reading

I’ve Overdosed on Politics, Anti-Vax to the Rescue!

Even the most addicted political junkies need to take a break every now and then.  Let’s take a gander out west to California, where comedian Rob Schneider is apparently running to replace Jenny McCarthy as the anti-vaxxers celebrity lunaticspokesperson.  (If it was actually an election, I could just see his campaign slogans: “Vote ¡Rob!: Less Attractive, More Stupid, Just as Irrelevant!) Now Rob has his knickers all twisted over California Bill AB 2109, which has now been passed and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.  What is Bill AB 2109?  Let’s go to the super computer Orac for the answer:

it’s a bill that was proposed as a means of addressing the increasing problem of non-medical exemptions to school vaccine mandates because religious and philosophical exemptions are too easy to obtain. Boiled down to its essence, AB 2109 would require parents to see a pediatrician or health care practitioner for a discussion of the benefits and risks of vaccines and, more importantly, the risks of not vaccinating. You’d think that the antivaccine movement wouldn’t have a problem with a bill that in essence requires informed consent before an exemption from the school vaccine mandate would be granted. After all, they’re always harping on informed consent, claiming that parents aren’t given adequate informed consent because they aren’t told that vaccines can cause autism and all the other complications antivaccinationists fervently believe they can. That’s because what antivaccinationists really want is what I like to call “misinformed consent.” AB 2109 in essence turns the tables on the antivaccine movement by using its own tactic against it. You want “informed consent,” more states seem to be saying, well, then we’ll give you informed consent. To get a philosophical exemption from vaccination, you’ll need to speak to a doctor and have him or her sign an attestation that you’ve been counseled. You can’t just sign a form yourself anymore. That’s what Washington did, and that’s what AB 2109 does.

So if you want to be a leech on society and benefit from herd immunity without vaccinating your child, you can still get your philosophical or religious exemption, you just have to have a doctor explain the risks to you.  (I’d support a stronger AB 2109 that allowed the doctor to smack some sense into you as well as explaining the risks, but I doubt it would get out of committee.)  (And yes, liberals who read my blog for the politics and haven’t paid attention to my few science posts, I did just call people who take philosophical or religious exemptions from vaccinating their children “leeches.”  If that caused you to clutch your pearls, you may just want to leave now, because it will get worse before it gets better.)

Anti-vaxxers have been all up in arms over this bill.  (Ohnos!  The evil government wants me to talk to a doctor before I make an incredibly stupid medical decision!  The tyranny!)  None more so than that font of medical knowledge, Rob “When’s Adam Sandler Going to Shoot a New Movie?” Schneider.  Deuce Bigalow the guy from the Hot Chick Adam Sandler’s flunky  ¡Rob! has spoken at an Anti-AB 2109 rallywent full Godwin comparing the sponsors of the bill to Nazis, and even made the idiotic case that vaccine mandates are against the Nuremberg Code.  ¡Rob!, you are making Jenny so proud.  Next thing you know, you’ll be posting over at Age of Autism, sending Andrew Wakefield money, and taking off your clothes for Playboy attacking Dr. Paul Offit.

Well, I’m not sure about the last two, but he sure is posting at Age of Autism.  And as Orac points out, it is a classic:  (Bolding is mine, as always)

This is Rob Schneider. Aung San Suu Kyi is the female Nobel Prize Winner from Burma. Recently, she gave some advice for Americans. She said, “America, protect your freedom!” Now Ms. Kyi know a thing or two about freedom. In Burma she had been under house arrest for almost 21 years. She is also the recipient of the highest civilian honor our country has, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

So when Ms. Kyi says America protect your freedom, she is not saying it lightly. From the Patriot Act, where our Gov’t no longer needs a court order to spy on own citizens, to the assassination of Americans abroad without due process, Freedom is under attack.

But by far the most insidious of all Government intrusions is the one happening right now in America by Big Pharma in their collusion with our representatives in Government. Government coercion to force parents to make their children take any invasive medical procedures (vaccination of their children) is something out of an Orwellian nightmare or Nazi Germany. Just remove the word vaccine and replace it with an other medical procedure and you will begin to see how regressive and criminal this is.

Well, as long as we’re being rational about this…..

Vaccines, unlike any other drug, is a one size fits all nightmare. The Vaccine makers insist ALL VACCINES MUST BE TAKEN BY EVERY ONE IN THE SCHEDULE THAT WE DECIDE! Name one other drug that is given such impunity. Every person is different and their precious immune systems don’t react the same way. 49 doses of 14 different Vaccines before the age of 6 is mandated by Doctor convenience and Big Pharma profits not patient wellness or sound scientific reasoning.

Sigh.  Orac, tear this trash down:

If you don’t think that antivaccinationists view themselves and their children as precious little snowflakes, just take a gander at Schneider’s reference so every person being different and “their precious immune systems don’t react the same way.” They might not react exactly the same way, but they react similarly enough that the type of “individualization” that antivaccinationists demand is not necessary. There are medical contraindications to vaccination, and those are followed. They are contraindications based on science, not the fevered fears of antivaccinationists who use “individualization” as an excuse not to vaccinate.Mr. Schneider seems to have a penchant for comparing his band of pseudoscience-loving antivaccinationists to freedom fighters. It’s a penchant he shares with all too many, who think themselves to be some sort of brave rebel alliance fighting against a galactic pharma empire led by an unholy alliance of pharma and government. This leads him, of course, to go straight to Godwin, once again comparing vaccine mandates to Nazi Germany.

Because requiring safe and effective vaccines before children can enter school and requiring parents to be given as close to true informed consent as possible about the risks and the benefits of vaccination as well as, even more importantly, the risks of not vaccinating is exactly like the sorts of medical atrocities the Nazis committed.

Checking out Schneider’s activity over the last few months, I can’t help but wonder if he’s auditioning for the job of Jenny McCarthy’s replacement. After all, McCarthy has been mighty quiet lately. Sure, she showed up at the antivaccine quackfest Autism One, as she does every year, but it’s been quite a while since I’ve seen her in the media promoting the idea that vaccines cause autism. Perhaps she realizes that such nonsense is bad for her career. Schneider doesn’t appear to have much of a career anymore; so he can let his antivaccine freak flag fly high.

Something tells me the anti-vaxxers would rather have Jenny.  Sure, Jenny McCarthy is an idiot of biblical proportions, but some find her attractive and her “mommy instincts” and promotion by pseudoscience queen Oprah made her a semi-effective face of the anti-vax movement.  Mr. Schneider, on the other hand, is…well….¡Rob!.



Shillin’ Like a Villain

Guess it’s time to appease my paymasters from BigPharma* once again.

I wonder if Jezebel gets their checks on time, because I still haven’t received one yet.  Anyway, have you heard of the hottest trend for babies this year?  It’s the fucking measles!

Are you a baby? Did your parents make the jerky decision not to vaccinate you? Well, then are you in for some fevery, itchy, rashtastic fun! Measles is back!

Thanks to modern medicine and mass immunization, by the year 2000, measles was considered all but eliminated from the US. But then along came Jenny McCarthy’s tinfoil hat theories that vaccines caused autism, and dick parents who assumed that other kids’ immunity would protect their kids and that vaccines were government mind control drugs made out of cancer proliferated.

And, as a result, 2011 clocked in the highest number of measles cases in the last 15 years. While 222 doesn’t sound like a big number, consider what happened in France, another country that, for all its good qualities, contains a large number of assholes who chose to forego vaccination. According to LiveScience, France experienced from 30 to 40 cases of measles from 2005 to 2007, about 1,000 cases in 2009, and about 15,000 cases in 2011. Last year, 30,000 people in mainland Europe came down with the measles.

The whooping cough has enjoyed an upswing in popularity thanks to non-vaccination; in Fraser Valley, British Colombia, about 250 people have come down with The Whoops, and in Wausau, Wisconsin, about 100 people have recently gotten sick. Whooping cough, like measles, can be deadly to babies and people with weakened immune systems.

Don’t be an asshole. Vaccinate your kids.

Parents?  Vaccines do not cause autism!  I don’t care what Jenny McCarthy’s “mommy instincts” or “google-fu” says, and I care even less what Donald Trump’s toupee thinks.

There, that should be good for a week or two.

*Note:  All comments about BigPharma paymasters is satire based on the number one response from anti-vaccine wackaloons when confronted by actual science.  My views on vaccines are based on science and evidence.  If any BigPharma company feels the need to cut me a check, by all means, get in touch.  It wouldn’t change my views, but it would definitely change my bank account.  And yes, that was also satire. *wink wink*  Get in touch.

Time to Shill, Gotta Pay Those Bills

The hilarity of the Republican primaries has stolen away most of my attention recently and the blog has taken a decidedly political flavor.  I have other issues I want to cover, but Rick Santorum!  Seriously.  Rick “Ol’ Frothy” Santorum is a serious candidate!  How can you look away?

But I haven’t received any hate mail for a while, so I guess it’s time to pull on the lab coat and shill for Big Pharma again.  (Note: I am not actually a shill for Big Pharma, although if Big Pharma feels the need to pay me, I will gladly cash their checks.  Seriously.  Get in touch.  I’ll let you know who to make it out to. *winky face*)

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship have a great article up at CounterPunch;  Vaccination Nation :When The Next Contagion Strikes  It discusses why vaccinations are important and how dangerous the anti-vax movement actually is.  Of course, anti-vaxxers sounded the alarm, and Age of Autism’s Media Editor Anne Dachel posted An Open Letter to Bill Moyers on When The Next Contagion Strikes.

Shine the Orac symbol!  We need some Respectful Insolence!

I’m referring to a post on Age of Autism by its Media Editor Anne Dachel entitled An Open Letter to Bill Moyers on When The Next Contagion Strikes. Apparently, Dachel is very, very unhappy with Bill Moyers for an excellent article he co-wrote with Michael Winship a week ago entitled When the Next Contagion Strikes: Vaccination Nation. In the article, Moyers used the movie Contagion as a backdrop to discuss why vaccination is so important and why the antivaccine movement is such a danger to public health. In particular, Dachel is very angry with Moyers because he quite forcefully argued against various forms of nonmedical vaccine exemptions and has information and opinion against it posted on his website. AFter complaining long and loud about all this, in particular a video on Moyer’s website showing officials from the CDC and Paul Offit discussing the antivaccine movement and declining vaccination rates:

I kept going back to your dismissal of the vaccine-autism controversy as being “largely debunked.” Debunked by whom? Have you ever looked into the web of financial ties between the vaccine makers and medical organizations, health officials, and the media? Have they ever looked into who funded those studies?The Frontline video asks, “Why is it so hard for some Americans to embrace this communal aspect of vaccines?” Parents were interviewed about the question and it was all academic about parental choice.

A pediatrician on the video blames the media and the Internet for parents’ concerns about vaccines. The whole issue seems to be, do parents have a right to exempt their children from recommended vaccines? The underlying message is, Vaccines are safe, vaccines save lives.

Correct. Vaccine are safe. Vaccines do save lives. It is only antivaccine activists who dispute this, and they dispute it not based on science, but pseudoscience and fear mongering. Oh, and conspiracy mongering, too. Notice how Dachel doesn’t start out her argument with science. Instead, she tries to cast doubt on the safety of vaccines by casting doubt on the trustworthiness of the government, medical organizations, and pharmaceutical companies. It’s very much an ad hominem argument. Dachel doesn’t say, “The science doesn’t support vaccine safety and efficacy, and here’s why.” Rather, she says, “Everyone who supports vaccine is a bastard with a massive conflict of interest.” Even if it were true that everyone who supports vaccines as safe and effective were, in fact, a bastard with a massive conflict of interest, that would not mean they were wrong. Vaccine safety and efficacy is a question that is based on science; it doesn’t much matter who makes the argument. Oh, sure, knowing that someone making an argument has a financial COI is important because it allows you to put what he’s saying in context, but in the end the data are the data, and the science is the science.

Go read Orac’s full takedown.  It’s effective.  Nothing Dachel writes hasn’t been dealt with time after time before, and it is nothing we won’t hear again in the future.  It’s useless arguing with “true believers” like Dachel because nothing is going to change their minds.  No matter what science shows, to her and those like her, it will always be about the vaccines.  And the only victims are the parents who have to deal with the misinformation from the anti-vaxxers, the children whom well meaning parents refuse to vaccinate, and the children who depend on herd immunity for protection from disease. As Orac finishes his post:

To antivaccine cranks like Dachel, it is, first and foremost, always about the vaccines. Any health-related issue among children will be seen through the prism of her antivaccine views, and she will try to find a way to relate it to vaccines. Because to the antivaccinationist, vaccines are the root of all evil and must be stopped. Their words might say otherwise with milquetoast caveats that “vaccines can save lives” but we’re vaccinating just too much, but their actions say otherwise. Nothing–no evidence, no science, no data–can convince her or the other antivaccine cranks at AoA that vaccines are safe and effective and do not cause autism. To them, it really is a religious belief that is unfalsifiable.

I feel for the children.