November 22, 2010

Another Reminder that the Extreme Right is Not Libertarian or Constitutionalist

By Dave
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Today I received another reminder in my email of why Alex Jones and the John Birch Society and other conspiracy fanatics on the far right who claim to be libertarians or at least paleocons are nothing of the sort. (also available in article form.

This took the form of a lengthy collection of links and brief observations drawn from a variety of websites run by Alex Jones and the John Birch Society and other even more questionable folks, focusing on the “invasion” of American towns by private security companies, which is apparently some sort of diabolical plot to advance the police state and implement the dreaded New World Order.

Apparently this horrific development has taken place in exactly two towns nationwide, though the only one they are able to actually name is Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. And although described as an “invasion” it appears to be nothing more sinister than merely contracting out some police services to properly trained private security in order to save money, all of which is self-evident from information provided in the article.

Bizarrely, almost all of the actual complaints against law enforcement raised in the various links accompanying the article refer to abuse of power by actual police officers who work directly for local government and are not private contractors. The only specific activities ascribed to private security firms are “driving around in police patrol vehicles” and “harassing citizens.” Very vague and pretty much what police are supposed to do, so long as the harassing is confined to suspected criminals.

The article also includes a screed against the use of private security contractors and mercenaries in overseas military operations and a grab-bag of typical Bircher lunacy about the NWO using foreign troops to suppress American dissent, FEMA and ATF stormtroopers, etc. Lots of good supporting links to absolute lunacy at infoward.com and the JBS’s newamerican.com.

The content of the email was another reminder of how far these extremist groups are from the real values of libertarianism, ,a philosophy which they often claim to believe in, but seem not to understand at all. It’s also interesting that they claim to advocate traditional American values, yet they seem to be deeply hostile to the capitalism which is the backbone of American economic liberty and their leaders like Alex Jones and Jerome Corsi regularly appear on Russia Today, the external propaganda arm of Russia’s Federal Security Bureau which has as its specific agenda undermining the security and sovereignty of the United States.

For decades real libertarians have widely supported the introduction of more capitalism into areas currently controlled by government. This includes support for the privatization of many government functions, including law enforcement and national security. As a taxpayer and a libertarian I applaud these communities which have taken the initiative to contract out some police services to properly trained security company personnel. This is a move away from a police state, not towards it.

If anything, you are likely to receive better treatment and more accountability from private security which has to keep the citizens happy if they want to have their contract renewed than you are from police officers protected by unions and by an assumption of authority which is likely to make them arrogant. Private companies also do not enjoy the government’s protection of sovereign immunity so you can sue them in civil court, which provides another avenue of redress if there is abuse.

Remember when airport security was private? Was that better or worse than the current behavior of the TSA? Private contractors who did airport screening were respectful and competent because their jobs depended on it. Government-employed and soon to be unionized TSA personnel are arrogant and act as if they are above any law or accountability.

The attack on the use of mercenaries is also amusing from people who often also claim to be “constitutionalists” with great admiration for a document they have apparently never read. While there’s a good argument to be made that the long term deployment of US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan is unconstitutional, what is absolutely clear from Article 1, Section 8 is that it is absolutely legitimate for the government to hire mercenaries for overseas operations. This is specifically what the authorization of “letters of marque and reprisal” refers to. In fact, it was our great civil libertarian President Thomas Jefferson who first used mercenaries under this authority to execute his war with Tripoli.

Sometimes it’s enough to just say that Birchers and Infowarriors are nuts and ignore them, but every once in a while it is important to look at what they preach and what they claim to believe and point out the inconsistencies between the two. Their promotion of conspiracies and hatred of specific groups (jews and foreigners), their hostility to capitalism and their paranoia about government in general are much more characteristic of the early development of totalitarian movements than they are of libertarianism. There are legitimate reasons to fear the growth of government power, but there is nothing government can do to us with private security and mercenaries it can’t already do and do much worse with its existing security apparatus.

The Obama administration is probably going too far when it talks about putting these extremists on terrorist watch lists — there’s already far too much of that going on — but it is quite clear that these purveyors of hate and misinformation are no friends of liberty or the Constitution.

August 13, 2010

Featured Idiot: Andrew Schlafly

By Dave
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When your mother is ultraconservative hatemonger Phyllis Schlafly, I guess it’s not surprising that you would be raised to be inconceivably stupid, and that appears to be the case with Conservapedia founder Andrew Schlafly who has put a page on his site detailing his disputes with Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Of course, it’s not entirely clear that Schlafly even knows what the term “relativity” means. Based on his opening paragraph on the subject he seems to have somehow crossed it up with “relativism” to which it actually has no relationship whatever:

“The theory of relativity is a mathematical system that allows no exceptions. It is heavily promoted by liberals who like its encouragement of relativism and its tendency to mislead people in how they view the world.”

Who would have thought that physics was a liberal conspiracy? Well, maybe the same guy who has a plan to rewrite the Bible to remove the “liberal bias” — perhaps his mother complained that it didn’t have nearly enough stuff about killing homosexuals and he wants to add some more. And if he’s going to remove the liberal bias that’s almost certainly going to require him to remove the most inconveniently liberal person in the Bible, Jesus.

Schlafly actually graduated from good schools and has a law degree, hard though it is to believe. He’s a classic example of what happens when an obsession – in this case about both religion and conservative “values” – runs so out of control that it totally distorts your view of reality. It’s easy to blame his parents for making him the twisted freak he is today, but he’s a grown up and has had enough real world experience that there’s really no excuse for his behavior.

Perhaps most troubling is that his Conservapedia site is a one-stop shopping center for copious scientific and historic misinformation which has to be seen to be believed. I can just see homeschoolers sending their kids there as if it’s a valid educational resource, with the likely result that they’ll grow up just as delusional and bigoted as Schlafly, making the entire nation less intelligent by their existence.

August 8, 2010

Internet Rumor: Muslims in Houston Celebrating 9/11

By Dave
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This is a classic bit of ignorance-based fearmongering which has been making the rounds for about a year.  It’s latest incarnation is in the following hysterical email:

******

UNBELIEVEABLE!! AMERICA MUST STOP BEING STUPID AND STOP THIS INVASION! NO MORE MOSQUES IN AMERICA. STOP THE MUSLIM TERRORIST.

Well,….. We’ve ALL been pretty passive & understanding for all of their special rights up ’til now,…..

so,……. reckon this will tick anybody off ?
IN CASE YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THIS.
PLEASE READ CAREFULLY….
(This is so “Unbelievable”.. )

In Houston,Texas at the Harwin Central Mall:

The very first store that you come to when you walk from the lobby of the building into the shopping area had this sign posted on their door. The shop is run by Muslims.

Feel free to share this with others.
In case you are not able to read the sign below, it says

“We will be closed on Friday, September 11, 2009

to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Ali


Imam Ali flew one of the planes into the twin towers.

(Nice huh? )


Try telling me we’re not in a
Religious war!

THIS HAS NOT BEEN AROUND….SO MAKE SURE IT DOES!

*******

First the truth. The sign did appear in a perfume shop in Houston in September of 2009.  That’s about all there is that’s correct here.

Imam Ali was decidedly not one of the 9/11 terrorists as he was already long dead.  He was Mohammed’s son-in-law who was assassinated  about 1400 years ago and the anniversary of his martyrdom is sacred to muslims, particularly Shi’ites who consider him the first Imam.

The fact that this particular muslim holiday fell on the 11th of September last year was a coincidence and it has nothing to do with terrorism.  It’s always on the 21st day of Ramadan and Ramadan changes dates from year to year based on the lunar calendar.  This year it was on September 1st.

So this inflammatory and factually incorrect email which has been circulating for months despite widespread deb is still out there being forwarded by gullible idiots.  We’re lucky none of them have firebombed the store or beaten up its employees.

Perhaps people should spend more time learning about Islam and less time spreading hate and misinformation. The truth behind this sign can easily be found in any basic text on Islam or even on Wikipedia, and a simple Google search for “Harwin Central Mall” brings up page after page explaining how wrong the interpretation of the sign is.  There’s no excuse for being this ignorant.

Dave

July 11, 2010

Is Conspiranoia the Product of Ignorance or Delusion?

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It occurs to me that perhaps we sometimes look for unnecessarily complicated explanations in trying to understand the mental processes of those who are conspiracy obsessed, Several examples I’ve seen recently lead me to wonder if perhaps many common conspiranoid beliefs are the result of a simple misunderstanding or misreading of a text, or even an inability to parse an English sentence correctly. Or perhaps there is an inclination to read what one expects to see in a text rather than what is actually there – reading between the lines and ignoring the lines themselves.

I recently encountered a textbook example of this in the text accompanying a YouTube video titled “WARNING – Microchipping to Begin in 36 Months Under New Health Bill.” It’s a particularly excellent example because the author actually quotes the text of the Healthcare bill and then proceeds to interpret it in a way which obviously has zero connection to the actual words he’s quoting. Here’s the relevant part of the text:

“The new Health Care Bill, H.R. 3200, just passed by Congress has within it the requirement that all people thereunder shall be microchiped. The plans for this microchipping have been in the hopper going back to December of 2004.

Witness the actual FDA (Food and Drug Administration) document dated December 10, 2004 entitled Class II Special Guidance Document: Implantable Radiofrequency Transponder System for Patient Identification and Health Information. This ten page document may be read on the FDA website at…”

Now, if you go to the FDA website listed, what you find is a standard applicaton for FDA approval of a medical device. Nothing about mandatory implantation, just information about the chips which are a commercial product to help doctors track patient records electronically. Yes, the chips are implanted, which is why they need FDA approval, but there’s nothing there about any kind of government program or mandatory implantation. Just because the FDA is the government, that doesn’t mean that it’s endorsing or mandating this product. It’s just reviewing and ultimately approving its use exactly as it has countless other drugs and products.

The bizarre documentary misanalysis goes on from there:

“Witness the wording within H.R. 3200, Americas Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 found on Congresses House Ways and Means website…On page 1001 is Subtitle C National Medical Device Registry which states,

“The Secretary shall establish a national medical device registry (in this subsection referred to as the registry) to facilitate analysis of postmarket safety and outcomes data on each device that is or has been used in or on a patient.”

In other words, everyone microchipped pursuant to the new Health Care Bill must be registered with the Secretary. The Secretary is defined as the Secretary of Health and Human Services.”

There you have a quote from the document followed by a conclusion which cannot possibly logically result from an accurate reading of the text. The provision in the healthcare bill clearly refers to analysis and registration of the devices. It says nothing at all about registering people or making the devices mandatory. The author just leaps to that conclusion because of his paranoid inclinations.

I think it’s not a coincidence that he then goes on to quote extensively from the Book of Revelation and identifies the microchip as the famous Mark of the Beast. Clearly this very confused individual and what has happened here is that he heard about these microchips on a news report (the video shows that report) and immediately leapt to the irrational conclusion that they were a diabolical plot from a government working for the Antichrist. He then went looking for documentary evidence to support his belief, finding the FDA filing and the section in the healthcare bill which refer to the chips. And then he just assumes that these dosuments support his beliefs, even though they do nothing of the sort.

This is the exact inverse of a normal reasoning process. Normally you would start with evidence and draw conclusions based on the evidence. In this case the writer has started with his conclusions and then looked for evidence to support those conclusions. In the best case he might have found evidence which he could take out of context or shape to fit his conclusions. But in this case he just took evidence which really does nothing to support his conclusions and then points to it victoriously as if it says something which it does not.

This type of inverse reasoning seems characteristic of the thought processes of many conspiracy adherents. Their conspiranoia warps their perception of reality and they literally see and read things which are not there. They can look at video of planes and see guided missiles. They can read a government document and draw farfetched conclusions unrelated to its contents. They can ignore any amount of evidence if it doesn’t fit their predetermined conclusions. My first, charitable inclination is to assume that they just don’t know how to reason properly or can’t understand what they see or read, but given the almost hallucinatory disconnect from reality required to make these leaps of illogic, the less kind but perhaps more accurate conclusion is that this is evidence of an actual mental disorder, and the experts have a term for it – cognitive dissonance.

I’m not a psychologist, but I do have some understanding of the difference between reality and fantasy, and when fantasy supplants reality and you begin seeing things which aren’t there or even reading subtext which is not objectively present in a document, that’s a sign that something is very wrong. The fact that we’re dealing with a shared delusion or some sort of mass hysteria which effects a small but notable segment of the population doesn’t make it any less crazy, though it does make it a greater concern, raising the question of whether this particular mental disease is contagious and if so, how can it be contained?

May 9, 2010

Truther Cited for Commercial Solicitation

By Dave
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In a laughable incident caught on video and then massively overdramatized, a truther was cited for illegally distributing commercial materials in downtown San Antonio by a group of bicycle cops whose silly outfits added to the ridiculousness of a scene which plays rather like the segment in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where an irate and feces-spattered peasant begins ranting insanely that King Arthur is oppressing him when he just asks him for directions.


In the video members of the truther fringe group We Are Change of San Antonio are stopped by bicycle police while distributing copies of two Alex Jones conspiracy videos and one is given a ticket for illegally distributing commercial solicitations in a public place without a permit. Their defense is to claim that they were being oppressed and even “assaulted” by the police and denied their free speech rights because the DVDs they were giving out are protected political speech.

I’m looking forward to seeing this argument tested in court, as Alex Jones videos are clearly works of fiction, rather than meaningful political statements. Because they exist solely to enrich Alex Jones they are also obviously commercial samples rather than protected speech. Now, I admit that I don’t think that San Antonio should have the right to restrict commercial speech or ticket someone for giving out free samples of a commercial product, even if it’s promoting Jones’ particular snake-oil medicine show. However, under the statute as written there’s a very solid argument that these deluded fanatics were just shilling for a commercial enterprise and not really exercising free speech as defined under the statute.

What’s particularly clear from the video is that it’s time for these nutjobs to find a more productive way to spend their time.

April 9, 2010

The Executive Order 13489 Fallacy

By Dave
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One of the spurious claims being circulated by the Birther fringe is that one of President Obama’s first acts in office was to issue Executive Order 13489 (PDF) which they claim was intended to seal away his birth certificate, school records and other evidence that he is not a United States citizen or otherwise unqualified to be President.

However, this executive order is virtually the same as Executive Order 123283 (PDF) which President George W. Bush issued early in his presidency and which it replaced. That executive order is in turn virtually identical to its predecessor Executive Order 12667 which was issued by President Reagan. All of these orders deal specifically with the National Archive and its role in preserving presidential papers and records. The orders refer only to records generated by the office of the President during his administration which have been kept by the National Archive since that institution was created in 1934.

Starting with Reagan it has been the practice of successive presidents to keep their operating records secret until a later date when they are made public as part of the comprehensive record of their presidency. This concern over the secrecy of White House records clearly originated in the aftermath of the Nixon presidency, which explains the discussion of executive privilege in the orders in question. It’s equally clear that none of these prior presidents had any interest in concealing President Obama’s birth records.

However, what none of these Executive Orders have any authority over are documents which were not generated by the President’s office while he was serving. They do not apply to state records like birth certificates or private records like school transcripts. The President does not have the authority to seal those records by executive order even if he wanted to, and nothing in these Executive Orders even attempts to do so.

This is a classic example of people looking at a document with a conclusion already in mind, and mistakenly assuming that the document they are looking at supports their preconceived conclusion solely because of some superficial characteristic which may not actually be relevant. In this case the logical fallacy is the assumption that if President Obama is keeping records secret those records must relate to his birth certificate or school records because you already believe those things to be falsifications which he would want to cover up.

This is an example of the Existential fallacy or Vacuous Truth fallacy which is often demonstrated in the classic False Antecedent Syllogism. In this case:

  • President Obama has a Kenyan Birth Certificate.
  • President Obama is keeping documents secret.
  • Therefore President Obama is keeping his birth certificate secret.
  • To those already inclined to belief this may sound good, but in fact there is no proven foundation for the first assertion and no actual causal link between the second premise and the conclusion. It’s a compound logical error originating with that unproven assumption which the evidence introduced doesn’t actually support despite all claims..

    This problem of misreading documents which have some superficial elements which can be misconstrued by those inclined to look for nefarious meanings is remarkably common. It becomes even worse when the documents deal with legal terms or concepts which the readers are unfamiliar with, or when they use foreign phrases, usually in Latin, which can be easily mistranslated to produce nonsensical or self-serving results.

    Entire pyramids of conspiracy theory are built on this kind of illogic, and their delusional adherents will cling to them relentlessly so that their entire delusional world view isn’t brought crashing down by pointing out their foundational error.

    February 20, 2010

    Alex Jones is Still A Jackass

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    I started out to write an article about an ominous attack on Second Amendment rights which took place here in Austin recently, but on viewing videos of the subsequent protest at city hall as part of my research I got sidetracked with more overwhelming evidence that Alex Jones is a narcissistic douchebag and really no friend of liberty, facts which I have observed before but which just become clearer with each new incident.

    Earnest and passionate local advocates for individual liberty led by John Bush of Texans for Accountable Government organized a peaceful protest rally on Monday afternoon in opposition to the Austin Police Department’s involvement with the BATF in attempts to illegally shut down private gun sales at gun shows in Austin. They had a good turnout and a schedule of speakers including Darwin Bedecker, who was the most recent target of this persecution campaign, and notable local liberty advocates like Jerri Lynn Ward and Catherine Bleish. It was organized on short notice, but it was a well-planned and effective rally presenting a legitimate grievance to the city government with a permit and everything.

    Then, in the middle of it all, Alex Jones shows up with a bullhorn and what can only be described as a gang of thugs, and proceeds to disrupt the entire rally, shouting over the speakers, shutting down the program, and ultimately driving off most of the participants with his obnoxious antics. Not only that, but Jones was rude to everyone, including those who tried to invite him to become a program participant, called Catherine Bleish a “cointelpro” agent provocateur and ranted on and on about the NWO and various issues completely unrelated to the purpose of the protest, while surrounded by his personal videographers and thuglike followers.

    Apparently Jones is incapable of allowing a protest to go on where he isn’t the center of attention, and in order to get that attention he is willing to undermine the effectiveness of the protest, offend potential sympathizers and generally behave like a penis with legs. It’s not surprising that by the end of the event people were accusing Jones of working for the statists to discredit legitimate protesters, and a lot of people came away from the event cured of any prior attraction to Jones’ particular brand of anti-government paranoia. As I’ve said before, Jones is his own worst enemy and he lost a lot of supporters Monday because of his boorish behavior and an attitude which was widely described as “divisive.”

    Jones clearly has Narcissistic Personality Disorder and has all the earmarks of a little Hitler in the making and that type doesn’t like to be left on the sidelines. He has the “rule or ruin” attitude where if he’s not in charge and doesn’t have all eyes focused on him then he will cause chaos and destruction and to hell with everyone else and the important issue which they may have been protesting. For Jones the cause of liberty and the truth are secondary. His goal is self-promotion and probably personal profit as well. Jones can’t just cover a story or add his voice to protesting an issue, because he has to be the story and he has to define the protest or it is of no value to him.

    For more video of this event taken by Catherine Bleish see here and here.

    September 29, 2009

    Stop Listening to Idiots

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    I offer this video as a classic example of delusional people behaving in ways which are sociopathic and which would be embarrassing if they had any sense of self-worth or common sense. To behave so irrationally and to then proudly trumpet your beliefs to the public in a video has to be some sort of mental disorcer.

    If you watch the video you can see exactly where the misinformation this buffoon is spewing is coming from. He starts out with Lou Dobbs, the media’s idiot-in-chief, and as the video goes on he repeats word for word many of the myths and delusions actively promoted by conspiracy-huckster Alex Jones. Note his reference to the mythical North American Union, the nonexistent Amero currency and the dreaded Security and Prosperity Partnership. He tells us to all go out and read about them. And there’s where you know he’s nuts, because if you go and read legitimate sources or read the actual documents he references you realize that his claims about a one-world conspiracy are utterly without merit and probably the manifestation of some sort of paranoid delusion.

    And note Governor Perry’s reaction to mention of the Bilderbergers. Like most people who attend this conference he’s utterly at a loss to figure out why these conspiracy nuts are so obsessed with it, or why Alex Jones is hiding in the bushes outside the conference hall with his video camera. It’s the kind of behavior which ought to get him some time in a nice padded room. The Bilderberger obsession basically comes down to an irrational fear of any group composed of the rich and powerful. If a bunch of politicians and buisness leaders meet in a room they must be plotting something evil. This is a classic example of the logial fallacy I call the Conspiracy of the Ruling Elite which assumes that any coordinated effort by the rich and powerful must have dark motives, whether there is any evidence to support that claim or not. To this mindset, private clubs are cult-like organizations, international conferences are secret planning sessions for world government, and innocent organizations whose real motives are absolutely clear like PNAC and the CFR are the seedlings of a dreaded one-world government. All of this despite the fact that the real activities and beliefs of these groups are widely documented and easily available for anyone who cares to do even minimal research.

    What the truthers and the birchers and other similar conspiracy nuts need to do is stop listening to idiots like Alex Jones and Lou Dobbs who seek to exploit their gullibility to advance their own wealth and their own careers. These freaks need to get a grip, spend some time among real people, and take a course in logic at the local junior college. Until then we’d all be better off if they just mumbled under their breath like the schizophrenic street people with whom they have so much in common.

    September 24, 2009

    The Vaccine Fallacy

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    There’s a lot of hysteria over vaccines and the threat which they supposedly pose to the population because of some of the ingredients and the possibility of government mandated vaccinations against potential pandemics like Swine Flu (H1N!). While as a matter of principle the idea of forced vaccinations is an utterly unacceptable violation of individual rights, the hysteria over the risks of vaccines is based on a fundamental logical fallacy which needs to be exposed.

    Some of the ingredients in modern vaccines can be very scary. Thiomersal is a compound based on EthylMercury which is used as an antifungal perservative. It is supposed to be stable and leave the body quickly, but is beleived to break down and cause neurological disorders incluidng autism. Squalene is a natural compound developed from shark liver oil which is an adjuvant which helps accelerate immune responses and is suspected of causing autoimmune disorders like Gulf War Syndrome. Aluminum is also used as an adjuvant and raises concerns that it may not leave the system and can cause a variety of adverse reactions. Extensive tests have been made on all of these ingredients and have found them to be safe in the tiny amounts included in vaccines, but the fact that they are genuinely toxic in larger amounts raises suspicion about them for those looking for explanations for troubling symptoms.

    For our purposes here we can actually put aside the real or imagined dangers of these ingredients entirely. Let’s just grant for the sake of argument that there’s some real danger associated with some of these ingredients as critics suggest. It’s certainly true that there are things in vaccines which are genuinely dangerous. Flu vaccines are incubated in egg yolks, which many are dangerously allergic to. More significantly, every vaccine includes some form of a virus and those viruses are in and of themselves dangerous. There’s always a small chance of contracting the disease the vaccine protects you from by taking the vaccine. That’s how most vaccines work, giving you a mild exposure so you build up a resistance before you are exposed to the disease itself.

    So yes, vaccines are inherently dangerous. As with almost everything in life making use of them is a calculated risk. Every day when you get in your car you are taking a calculated risk. You’re betting that despite the rather high level of automobile fatalities today won’t be the day you die in a car crash. You act on the assumption that the risk of dying is outweighed by your need to get places and do things. It’s the same with a vaccine. You’re betting that immunity to a serious and potentially fatal disease is worth the small risk of an unpleasant or even fatal side effect. For that to be a good bet, the risk posed by the vaccine needs to be substantially lower than the risk posed by the disease it protects you from.

    The logical fallacy here is that while vaccines are dangerous and may even cause all sorts of terrible things like autism and the occasional death, the chance of dying or getting some other serious side effect from a vaccine is tiny compared to the chance of dying from the disease the vaccine protects you from. Therefore you accept the risk, because it protects you from something worse.

    A lot of the argument about vaccines focuses on the flu vaccine because it is the cause celebre of the moment, but there is a lot of conflicting information because there are so many different strains of flu. To demonstrate how this fallacy applies it is easier to look at the simpler and well documented case of the Human Papilloma Vaccine which protects teenage girls from contracting cervical cancer in the future, and which has stirred up a great deal of controversy in its own right because of alarming side-effects and because in many ways it has proved to be a worst-case scenario in unexpected consequences.

    Cervical cancer kills 2.4 of every 100,000 women in the United States. 23 million doses of the HPV vaccine have been distributed. Statistics suggest that of 23 million woment treated, 552 would have died without the vaccine. Studies of side effects of the HPV vaccine in use found that the most common effect was fainting, which occurred in 8.2 of 100,000 vaccinations, and that the most serious side-effect was abnormal blood clotting in .2 cases per 100,000, leading to strokes and paralyzation and in 32 documented cases it has resulted in death.

    While each of those deaths is tragic, these statistics tell us that a girl not given the HPV vaccine is at least 17 times more likely to die of cervical cancer than a girl given the vaccine is to die from the vaccine. 17 to 1 odds in your favor are pretty good. Even if you take all of the cases of abnormal blood clotting into consideration, it’s still 12 times less likely to happen than death would without the vaccine. Again, 12 chances of dying to 1 chance of a dangerous blood clot is pretty good odds.

    This is the heart of the problem with how many people look at vaccines. They look only at the risks of the vaccine without considering the greater threat which the vaccines prevent. Sure, you can point to the HPV vaccine and say it killed 32 people. But that’s 520 fewer people than would have died had the vaccine not been invented. The same holds true with other vaccines. The only sensible way to look at them is to consider both the risk and the benefits.

    July 28, 2009

    Could the “Birthers” Please Just Shut Up?

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    I don't want to appear to be opposing absolute freedom of speech, but there comes a point when, as a personal favor to sane people everywhere and to reduce the level of national embarrassment, I just have to ask the rat-brained social deviants who think there's a great conspiracy to conceal President Obama's real place of birth to please shut the hell up. I realize that they have no personal dignity or common sense, but out of respect for the rest of us who oppose President Obama for legitimate and rational reasons, couldn't they just crawl into a closet somewhere and close the door behind them so we can't hear them mumbling to themselves in the darkness?

    Lou Dobbs is an idiot. I do enjoy saying that. Lou Dobbs is an idiot. I used to have to explain why I was convinced the giant-headed nativist nutjob had a brain the size of a blighted walnut, but now all I have to do is point out that he lets his birther flag fly relentlessly on his show, featuring the issue again and again, despite pressure from CNN higher-ups who have apparently told Dobbs to drop the subject on the theory the birth certificate was destroyed as part of the routine process of going to electronic instead of paper records in 1991, a good explanation which may not be entirely born out by the facts. This being demonstrated by subsequent statements to the contrary from Dr. Chiyome Fukino the Director of the Hawaii State Department of Health that the original document still exists, reiterating prior statements from Fukino and Republican Governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle.

    Dobbs is not alone in his nuttiness. Even more dismaying than seeing him on a major news network is that the people of Minnesota managed to elect a Birther to represent them in Congress. In an apparent attempt to balance out the blithering left-wing idiocy of Al Franken they have sent Michele Bachman to the House on some sort of demented crusade to expose conspiracies and promote an agenda which combines the worst of the ideas of Alex Jones, Donald Wildmon and the John Birch Society. To her credit, Bachman can make a rousing speech and she sounds just great until you actually think about the things she's saying and realize she's phoning the speech in from the twilight zone. Her latest accomplishment was a desperate effort to derail a bill recognizing the 50th anniversary of Hawaii's statehood because it acknowledged the state as the birthplace of President Obama, which she apparently thought was a plot to legitimize his birth by congressional fiat.

    Then there’s the king of all birthers, bearded legal huckster Philip J. Berg (not to be confused with far more rational and entertaining Dave Berg the late cartoonist for Mad Magazine). Having gone as far as he could with exploiting and abusing the families of 9/11 victims this shyster who has previously been sanctioned for a”laundry list of unethical actions,” has taken up the birth certificate cause with a lawsuit challenging Obama’s eligibility which the court described as “frivolous and not worthy of discussion,” which didn’t stop Berg from trying to get the Supreme Court to issue an injunction to suspend the election, which they ultimately refused to do three times before sending him back to crazyland and a perennial guest spot on the Alex Jones radio show.

    The point these oblivious blowhards seem to be missing is that their crazed ranting is counterproductive. For those of us who are trying to mount a rational opposition to the out-of-control left, the promotion of non-issues like the fantasy that President Obama is secretly Kenyan or Indonesian or a secret Muslim wastes everyone's time and makes the entire political opposition look like a bunch of buffoons. It's a circus sideshow which distracts from real issues and concerns and does more to help Obama than to hurt him, plus it creates opportunities for gross distortions and smear attackes from the radical left. Substantive issues don't get discussed when the media and the pundits of the left can focus on birthers and conspiracy cranks to deflect attention. So please, shut up about the birth certificate and let the debate move on to real issues.