Wednesday, February 4, 2015

And the air! It's poisonous too...


     Children should not drink water.
     Water is deadly to them, and I don’t just mean drownings, which claim 700 young lives every year.
     Water is poison. Many children who drank water, whether out of fountains or sippy cups or plastic bottles, almost immediately died in car accidents and fires, or contracted cancer. One hundred percent of the children who succumb to falls had drunk water within the previous 12 hours.
     But Neil, you might argue, is this not a post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy? The phrase — for those not up on their Latin — means “after this, therefore because of this.” It’s where you link event A to event B happening before it, suggesting one caused the other, when there really was no connection. I eat Shredded Wheat for breakfast and then my dog runs away? He must hate Shredded Wheat!
     Au contraire, I’d reply (French: “on the contrary”). To grasp the danger of water, just look at vaccines. For years, vaccines saved millions of lives, preventing children from contracting polio, diphtheria, smallpox, whooping cough, mumps, measles.
     Then, in one of those odd confluences when the extremes of the political spectrum wander so far afield they meet at the outer reaches of reason and find themselves in agreement, parents on the far left, squishy liberals who don’t want their babies exposed to scary chemicals, and paranoiacs on the far right, who distrust anything the government does, decided to refuse to let their children get vaccinated, both wielding the identical logic that I use to condemn water (a pose I will now drop, since it’s so annoying. How can people sincerely embrace such utter idiocy? I can hardly stand to pretend).
     For years, the trend of avoiding vaccines was largely ignored — America has a weakness for indulging stupidity when draped in the mantle of religion or sincere belief, as if sincerely subscribing to idiocy is a defense. Everything is an opinion, a belief; nothing is solid or real. The problem was allowed to simmer, since most kids get vaccinated, though that number dropped. In some states, 15 percent of kindergarteners haven’t been vaccinated; nearly 100,000 nationwide.
     And now its inevitable fruit: in January, 102 cases of measles, a once-banished childhood illness now raging back. Is 102 cases a lot? Between 2001 and 2011, an average of 62 cases were reported each year. Which means we had more cases in January than are seen most years.
     A few points to keep in mind:
     1. Vaccines don’t cause autism. You could use the same argument that anti-vaxxers use to forbid water or “Spongebob” or any common activity. There is no link. One study that suggested a link was found to be in error.
     2. The diseases these vaccines prevent are still out there — with the exception of smallpox — and the more children who aren’t vaccinated, the more will become sick.
     3. Politicians encourage this because they’re evil. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said parents “need to have some measure of choice” when it comes to the issue. Tea Party darling Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said vaccination is “a personal decision for individuals.” That is because freedom sounds good, to their unpatriotic, government-hating base. Freedom to not be vaccinated is like freedom to jump the turnstiles on the L. It isn’t freedom, it’s a free ride on the backs of others.
     What we are seeing is a shredding of American society. Where once our country had a draft, could call upon young men to give up two years of their lives and risk being killed, and their parents were proud of them, now a pinprick administered to tots is asking too much, and parents dream up a carnival of imbecility as justification while ignoring the solid medicine. Where once we trusted our leaders, trusted science, we lazily sink lower and lower into denialism, moving past a useful skepticism into a knee-jerk disbelief in any general practice. Public policy is now a plot, a delusion, and whatever daft notion we catch wind of becomes the secret knowledge that sets us apart from the gullible herd.
     Liberals ignore history to romanticize a simple past, pushing for natural childbirth, ignoring that women dying during delivery was a big part of nature’s plan. Conservatives fear science, are reluctant to see mankind doing what only God is supposed to do. God can put us in proximity to the measles virus, and then let us build up an immunity to it; man can’t. God can warm the atmosphere and cause climate change; man can’t. God can mutate genes in plants; man can’t. The left joins them here, their Whole Earth Catalog, off-the-grid mentality rendering them as fearsome as medieval villagers.
     But the fact-based world catches up. Always does. As we’re seeing with climate change. As we see with this measles epidemic.
     Freedom does not mean freedom from consequences. You really feel your kid should not be vaccinated? Fine, don’t vaccinate him. But don’t send him to school either. That’s the law in Mississippi, of all places. No measles outbreak there. Plenty of kids are home-schooled by their fanatic parents. My bet is most won’t pull their kids over vaccines. We’ve made opting out of society on a whim too easy. Time to make it more difficult again.

20 comments:

  1. I vaccinated all my children. I think the anti-vaccination people are mistaken. But I 100% support their right of choice, whether for religious, personal, philosophical or whatever their reasoning. I am against any punishment, sanctions or exclusion on the basis of refusal to vaccinate. Anyone has the right to refuse to consent to any medical treatment. I don't like the Republicans, but if the Democrats are going to oppose personal liberty on this, I might even vote Republican in 2016. Choice on abortion, guns, and vaccinations. I also agree with them more on the environment/climate nonsense. And at least Rand Paul is nominally anti-war.

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    1. You do realize that everyone needs to be vaccinated in order for it to be effective?

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    2. Yes, but I am not arguing effectiveness. I am arguing for choice and liberty, which I think are far more important values. As I said, I don't agree that it has been shown that vaccines cause autism, and I am not a religious person, so I have no personal religious objection. But I support other people's rights, as a matter of principle, and will not support any politician who opposes choice on this issue. In other words, I probably agree with you on the facts and science, but respect the right of others to disagree and believe what they want to believe even if I think they are wrong.

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    3. Are there any limits to your argument for freedom and liberty? We've got a public safety issue, wherein a person's liberty to make foolish choices affect not only themselves, but also other people's children.

      I thought that even in the most virulent strains of libertarianism there was a recognition that something must be done for the common good.

      But this is sheer folly. At this point, what won't you sacrifice for the liberty of people to harm themselves and others?

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    4. Just out of curiosity, Mr. or Mrs. First Anonymous, where did you stand when AIDS emerged? Lots of people didn't believe that AIDS was transmitted through sex and continued dangerous practices for years despite the preponderance of evidence that they made them vulnerable. Was that OK? Was that also a matter of "choice and liberty"?

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    5. lst anonymous, you aren't being logical about the need for the vaccine and how it works and consequences.


      3rd anon

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    6. you are no democrat, lst anon

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  2. I really don't think the Republicans have gone far enough on vaccine choice.

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  3. I think you let Rand Paul off easily Neil. In addition to singing the libertarian anthem designed to please his political acolytes he committed a "Bachman," passing on a totally unsubstantiated suggestion that vaccinations cause mental illness. Even worse than the loony Congresswoman, who might plead lack of scientific training if not common sense, the man is an eye doctor, a profession that requires scientific training. He seems to have had fewer unsavory associations than his daddy, but this is to my mind totally discrediting.

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    1. I have noticed Paul, like Bachman, has a tendency to deny he said something even when shown tape of him saying it. So therefore anything stupid that Paul says was caused by Bachman.
      W.R.

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  4. Love the Libertarians. Freedom for all. I know what's best for me and you can do whatever you want too. Rand Paul for Emperor of the World!

    John

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  5. As the Daily Kos points out, the Supreme Court decided this issue, correctly, in 1905.
    From the first Justice Harlan's opinion for the Court in Jacobson v. Massachusetts:

    "The authority of the state to enact this statute is to be referred to what is commonly called the police power,-a power which the state did not surrender when becoming a member of the Union under the Constitution. [...] According to settled principles, the police power of a state must be held to embrace, at least, such reasonable regulations established directly by legislative enactment as will protect the public health and the public safety. Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1, 203, 6 L. ed. 23, 71 [...] We come, then, to inquire whether any right given or secured by the Constitution is invaded by the statute as interpreted by the state court. The defendant insists that his liberty is invaded when the state subjects him to fine or imprisonment for neglecting or refusing to submit to vaccination; that a compulsory vaccination law is unreasonable, arbitrary, and oppressive, and, therefore, hostile to the inherent right of every freeman to care for his own body and health in such way as to him seems best; and that the execution of such a law against one who objects to vaccination, no matter for what reason, is nothing short of an assault upon his person. But the liberty secured by the Constitution of the United States to every person within its jurisdiction does not import an absolute right in each person to be, at all times and in all circumstances, wholly freed from restraint. There are manifold restraints to which every person is necessarily subject for the common good. On any other basis organized society could not exist with safety to its members. Society based on the rule that each one is a law unto himself would soon be confronted with disorder and anarchy. Real liberty for all could not exist under the operation of a principle which recognizes the right of each individual person to use his own, whether in respect of his person or his property, regardless of the injury that may be done to others. This court has more than once recognized it as a fundamental principle that 'persons and property are subjected to all kinds of restraints and burdens in order to secure the general comfort, health, and prosperity of the state; of the perfect right of the legislature to do which no question ever was, or upon acknowledged general principles ever can be, made, so far as natural persons are concerned.' Hannibal & St. J. R. Co. v. Husen, 95 U.S. 465, 471 , 24 S. L. ed. 527, 530 [...]"

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    1. Ordinary people (not just Libertarians) when purchasing real estate are affronted when told that their ownership contains restrictions and obligations and that they cannot do whatever they want with it whenever they want. Rules concerning safety, health and property values limit the absolute ownership of their castle. Strangely disappointing, but eminently fair, given that the burden on us may be a benefit for our neighbors and vice versa.
      John

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    2. Oh, c'mon, Neil, who are we supposed to believe -- you and the Supreme Court or the first anonymous commenter of the day? You'll have to admit, it's a toss-up, especially when Anonymous helped illuminate us with regard to his/her scientific wisdom by also taking issue with the "climate nonsense". ; )

      "What we are seeing is a shredding of American society." Ya got that right, and that's a particularly powerful paragraph in this fine column. It's amazing that we've come to a point where demands for absolute personal liberty are morphing into unwitting support for anarchy. Pretty sure that that's not what the hallowed Founding Fathers whom the freedom-lovers think they're emulating had in mind.

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  6. So, hypothetically, the 'sky is falling' doomsayers from last fall actually got something right and we now have 1.2 million cases of Ebola wreaking havoc on the globe (a CDC 'worst case number). Vaccines are being pushed for all Americans - not only to save their lives but to stem the spread of the disease, How many of them do you think would say 'no'?

    RC

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  7. Based upon some of these responses, the shredding of our society that you spoke of is in full fury. The ignorance of some of these comments is mind boggling ("the environment/climate nonsense", for example; really?). It all goes back to the failure of our education system, which does not teach people how to think or reason. They just blow in the breeze of rhetoric and emotion and believe whatever resonates with their own deficiencies. So sad!

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  8. Well said, Mr. S.

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  9. Neil, I saw a news item yesterday describing a situation that has a family relationship to the "shredding" you spoke of. There's a bill in the Indiana Senate that would allow employers to discriminate in hiring using religion as a test, even if they receive public funding. This bill was motivated by an Indiana court denying Indiana Wesleyan the right to impose their religious mandate on employees while the school was receiving federal monies. The mandate requires employees to be Christian, and to abstain from gossip, pornography, alcohol, and dancing (among other things). Laws like this, if passed widely, and if linked up with the Hobby Lobby decision, could tend to establish whole areas of our society subject to different laws than the remainder would be...a sort of cottaging of legal regimes.

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  10. The great Charlie Pierce chimes in.
    http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/The_Anti_Vaccination_Left_And_Why_It_Should_Shut_Up

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