The Politics of Stupid


by Roxanne Tellier

I know exactly how long I’ve been in lockdown, but what I don’t know is how long I’m gonna have to remain cooped up. 

It is weird, this faux normal. This kind of societal disruption is generally associated with tanks in the streets, burned out houses, and people running down roads while screaming and tearing out their hair. At the very least, you’d think, every one should be carrying some sort of weapon to use against marauders and zombies.

Instead, the people on my street are quiet and thoughtful. At 7:30 pm every evening, some of them open their doors and bang on pots and pans to signal their appreciation for those who are working in the stores, in transportation, and in hospitals, so that they themselves can stay at home, watch Netflix, and complain about how governments are handling an unprecedented, unique, multi-pronged attack on everything we once thought we knew and understood.

I’m guessing those workers would better appreciate a raise. Funny how those exposing themselves to danger every day, who are called ‘essential workers’ still have to beg for decent pay, or even a minimum wage with which they could pay their bills.  

Speaking of zombie apocalypses (apocalypti?) don’t those preppers seem unhappy these days? All those years of preparing for a civil war, a nuclear attack, or the aforementioned zombies, and all they get is this slow motion, invisible enemy.

Wrapping your head around our faux normal is tough, because the time line for personal harm is just too long for most of us to conceptualize. Our DNA and responses are wired to fight or flight events. We’re expecting to fight off immediate threats, things that come at us in a matter of minutes or days. Things we can punch, stab with a knife, or shoot with a gun. 

But that’s not how this particular threat operates.  It’s more like heart disease or type 2 diabetes, those things that stop you in slow motion, years after you’ve enjoyed the ingestible that would, in time, do the mortal damage.   

If I venture to the grocery store, and Covid Cathy has had her hands all over the items I want to buy, I’m not gonna know about it until days later. Maybe I’ll have a serious bout of COVID, or maybe I’ll just feel rotten for weeks. But I won’t know where or how I got the bug. That makes it hard for most of us to wrap our heads around continuing to stay at home, particularly as the warm weather nears.

Bill Maher had an interesting fellow on his RealTime show this week, a Dr. David Katz, who is a preventive medicine and public health specialist. Dr Katz lamented that this crisis was being mishandled by many governments, and said that things would be improved were there grown-ups in charge. He explained that our immune systems are revved up by a healthy lifestyle, and that we’d all be in better shape if there were daily breaks advising the nation on how to keep fit and healthy, instead of the dog’s breakfast of a briefing/Nuremburg rally we now ‘enjoy’ every day at dinner time.

 Sadly, our appetizer nightly is the senile musings of a POTUS who really needs to get more rest – specifically in the time period when specialists, scientists, and actual doctors are advising the American people on how to stay safe during COVID 19.

Exhibit A:  President Trump offered his idea for a cure in the White House briefing room Thursday after a presentation that mentioned disinfectants can kill the novel coronavirus on surfaces and in the air. 

“I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute,” Trump said during Thursday’s coronavirus press briefing. “And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets inside the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.” (Washington Post)

Now, before you say that nobody … but NO BODY … could be stupid enough to act upon the president’s dangerous, and potentially fatal advice, I present

Exhibit B: “In Maryland, the Emergency Management Agency received over 100 calls inquiring about the president’s suggestion, forcing the service to issue an alert to remind citizens that “under no circumstances should any disinfectant product be administered into the body through injection, ingestion or any other route.” Washington State’s Emergency Management Division similarly issued a public statement to remind people to not “drink bleach” or “inject disinfectant.” 

More concerning, though, is the number of people who actually went ahead with the suggestion. In New York City, the Daily News reported that the Poison Control Center saw 30 cases of “exposure to Lysol, bleach and other cleaners in 18 hours after Trump’s suggestion” that cleaning products might be used to treat coronavirus. NYC Poison Control saw only 13 such cases in a similar period last year.”

In truth, 330 million Americans look to their POTUS for advice, and many of those good citizens, bless their hearts, are not very bright.  

Exhibit C: Cipolla’s five fundamental laws of stupidity:

  1. Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
  2. The probability that a certain person (will) be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
  3. A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.
  4. Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places and under any circumstances to deal and/or associate with stupid people always turns out to be a costly mistake.
  5. A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.

(For more on this subject, I recommend https://advanced.jhu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/The-Basic-Laws-of-Human-Stupidity.pdf )

Desperate times strip away society’s veneer, and expose the truth. Our private faces may be hidden by n95 masks, but the lack of sanity, reason, or common sense in many countries will be on display, and revealed in technicolour in the annals of history. Assuming we have one.

……………………………….

Shawn O’Shea is a talented musician, entertainer and songwriter, and is the alter ego of lead vocalist Macky of the heymacs. In the nearly 40 years that I’ve known him, he’s never been one to be kept down by circumstances beyond his control – like a global pandemic. On April 20th he woke with the structure, chords, and most of the lyrics to a song dancing in his mind, and within days, he had recorded the tune, and added my dulcet tones to the duet. 

Last week I put out a call on Facebook, asking that anyone who was interested in being involved in the recording send me a photo of themselves, holding a photo of someone or something they miss, or a photo of themselves with someone they love and are looking forward to seeing ‘when this is over.

I’m happy to say that the photos sent were awesome. And now, for your listening and dancing pleasure .. may I present the debut of this timely tune ….

When This is Over – is dedicated to all of our friends and to future days. These photos represent all of the people, places and events we are missing during these days of COVID 19. Special thanks go to Brenda Meecham Armstrong, Michael Bar, Pat Blythe, Bianca Brynda, Arlo Burgon, Paul Christopher Caldeira, Louise Boucher-Chartier, Lauren Davis, Sheila Douglas, Amanda Flaherty, Lynda Francis, Craig Hastings, Sharon Kaczmarczyk, Peter Kashur, Linda Kennedy, Barbette Kensington, Gina Letros, James McBay, Annalee Orr, Honey Novick, Elke Ramstead, Hap Roderman, Tara Scott, Scott Sutherland, Greg Simpson, Sylvia Surk, Phyllis Taylor, Sheila Horne-Teixeira, Louise Tokar, Teresa Verity and Headly Westerfield

Manufactroversy – Measles and Vaccines


CDC measles graphI’ve been off the grid for several days with no time to research or write. But I can assure you that my absence was not due to having measles! I was vaccinated as a child, my children were vaccinated, and their children have been vaccinated. In fact, due to the wonders of vaccines, measles had actually become extinct in North America by 2002.   

iron lungFor those who weren’t around in the 1950’s or earlier, a vaccine may seem silly and old fashioned. But people my age and older remember growing up when children could still get polio; most of us had friends who had spent time in an iron lung, or who were still recovering, if they’d been lucky enough to survive.

smallpoxAnd most of us knew someone with scars left from having had smallpox. Edward Jenner invented the very first vaccine, for smallpox, in 1798. Before that, 30-35% of people who caught ‘the pox’ died, while the rest were left with horrible scars, usually on the face, and possibly blindness, limb deformities or osteomyelitis. When smallpox was finally eradicated in 1979, it had already killed an estimated 300–500 million people in the 20th century alone .The disease is now effectively extinct; the last known case was in 1977, in Somalia.   

(for more information on other horrible diseases eradicated by vaccinations, please read here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eradication_of_infectious_diseases)

vaccinationOur parents were more than eager to protect their children from these horrors. And when vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella appeared, they were added to what we were given. Why would parents let their children suffer, if there was an alternative?

Vaccination (or inoculation) is essentially the administration of a material made from the antigen (antibody generator) of the disease you wish to avoid. That material stimulates the immune system, which either completely prevents an individual from getting the disease, or at the least, weakens the impact of the disease.

In a way, it’s sort of how homeopathy works, where a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people is given to sick people in hopes of curing similar symptoms. But homeopathy is considered a pseudoscience, and is not effective beyond having a placebo effect.

The real science of medicine, on the other had does work. And until a British medical researcher, Andrew Jeremy Wakefield, wrote a now discredited 1998 paper claiming that there is a link between the MMR vaccine and the appearance of autism and bowel disease, most of us were simply happy to ensure our children lead healthy livretracted-lancetes.

(Not only was the study discredited, when his results were never able to be reproduced, but a 2004 investigation identified undisclosed financial conflicts of interest to do with his research. He was also charged with misconduct by the British General Medical Council when it was found that autistic children had been given invasive procedures, like colonoscopy and lumbar puncture unnecessarily.)

Unfortunately, former Playboy nude model/MTV host Jenny McCarthy, heard about this study, and believed the theory, citing her own autistic son Evan as proof positive that Dr. Wakefield was correct in his findings. She became a vehement activist and promoter of alternative autism treatments, and pushed for research into the possibility of environmental causes.

jenny mcCarthy CNNApparently disregarding the updated information on Dr Wakefield’s misconduct, and despite what now seems to be a misdiagnosis of her son’s illness (seizures more consistent with Landau-Kleffner syndrome, often confused with autism,) McCarthy took to the airwaves, beginning in 2007, spreading her beliefs before mass audiences, including the respected Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live and Frontline.

a lie can travelWith such a high profile, her stance became very popular. And as hard as it is to get a ball rolling, it’s just as hard to change its direction. There are now millions of people who treat her three books on autism as bibles, despite the misinformation they contain.

It has been said that that McCarthy’s “unfounded claims that vaccines cause autism have been one of the greatest impediments to public health in recent decades.” Her short 2013 stay as a co-host on the talk show “The View” was highly criticized. McCarthy’s credibility rating remains high, despite her anti-vaccine stance. Since The View is largely aimed at parents, many believed further discussion of the discredited theory would endanger the public.

a lie doesn't become truthIn an open letter article in Time Magazine, senior writer Jeffrey Kluger criticized McCarthy, saying, “Jenny, as outbreaks of measles, mumps and whooping cough continue to appear in the U.S.—most the result of parents refusing to vaccinate their children because of the scare stories passed around by anti-vaxxers like you—it’s just too late to play cute with the things you’ve said. You are either floridly, loudly, uninformedly antivaccine or you are the most grievously misunderstood celebrity of the modern era. Science almost always prefers the simple answer, because that’s the one that’s usually correct. Your quote trail is far too long—and you have been far too wrong—for the truth not to be obvious.”

Many who followed the misguided theory pointed to a correlation between an increase of many conditions that used to go by other names now being called autism and the administration of the MMR vaccine. The fact is, we are now more informed and able to recognize the span of autism spectrum disorder. It is that ability to provide a better diagnosis that has created the apparent rise in the number of autism cases.

As early as 2007, Skeptic.com had already laid out the truth about the discredited theory.

“During a question and answer session after a talk I recently gave, I was asked for my opinion about the vaccine/autism controversy. That was easy: my opinion is that there is no controversy. The evidence is in. The scientific community has reached a clear consensus that vaccines don’t cause autism. There is no controversy.

Science-vs-BSThere is, however, a manufactroversy — a manufactured controversy — created by junk science, dishonest researchers, professional misconduct, outright fraud, lies, misrepresentations, irresponsible reporting, unfortunate media publicity, poor judgment, celebrities who think they are wiser than the whole of medical science, and a few maverick doctors who ought to know better. Thousands of parents have been frightened into rejecting or delaying immunizations for their children. The immunization rate has dropped, resulting in the return of endemic measles in the U.K. and various outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in the U.S. children have died. Herd immunity has been lost. The public health consequences are serious and are likely to get worse before they get better — a load of unscientific nonsense has put us all at risk.”

The facts are that research shows that the vaccinations do not contain materials that cause autism. There have been over 1 billion vaccines given, and study after study has shown that there are no negative long-term consequences.

autism speaksLast week, Rob Ring, chief science officer at Autism Speaks, said in a statement posted to the group’s website. “Over the last two decades, extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism.The results of this research are clear: vaccines do not cause autism. We urge that all children be fully vaccinated.”

surgical masksNow, I’m all for freedom of choice. Parents who are concerned about their child receiving a vaccine SHOULD talk to their paediatrician, and make an informed choice. If that choice is not to vaccinate, then, for the sake of ‘the herd’ – the millions of others who may be affected by that choice – families who opt out of vaccination should be isolated from those they may contaminate.

Stop it might be measlesMeasles are very contagious. Even hours after an infected person sneezes or coughs, everyone who is in the area is potentially affected. And that includes babies too young to safely receive a vaccine, and the elderly, who may have come to the end of their immune safety. About three out of 10 people who get measles will develop one or more complications including pneumonia, ear infections, or diarrhea.

Does that seem fair? Does it seem right that someone who ‘feels’ that their child may develop … MAY develop … a problem .. a one in literally a million chance .. should potentially be allowed to let their child impact upon other people’s health?

prohbitingWe live in a world that has outlawed everything from scented toilet paper to peanut butter in schools, and smoking anywhere. The receptionist at my medical clinic has to wear a face mask all winter because she won’t get a flu shot. Much as I hate the restrictions, I respect those who have lobbied to protect everyone, as opposed to those who chose to follow their own conscience, whether their information is correct or incorrect.

I don’t get to smoke in the park; you don’t get to subject others to your unvaccinated child.