Jul 10, 2012

What A Difference Two Months Can Make

Back when the bill known as S.199 passed the anti-science, anti-vaccine, pro sugar pill crowd was giddy about the result. The angry blogger and practioner of the junk science known as "homeopathy," Jennifer Stella, wrote on her blog,
"This is a win. It would have been even better to defeat the bill completely and totally and utterly, but we still have the philosophical exemption in Vermont." May 6, 2012
Within a few days Stella's irrational exuberance had cranked up further and she the said,
The vaccine industry went home with its tail between its legs after suffering an enormous and embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Vermont legislature last week.

The well monied effort by Big Pharma went down in flames with the defeat of S 199 which would have eliminated the right of Vermont parents to refuse vaccinations based on philosophical reasons.
May 8, 2012
Stella had plenty of insults to go around for those she sees as the enemies of liberty, like the State of Vermont's Health Department and the nefarious schemers at "Big Pharma" whose plan is to dose an unwilling population of thoughtful parents.

What a difference a couple of months can make. Last week Stella wrote of her "big win,"
"The outcome of the vaccine bill was not to our liking, but we took it as a win to at least have the exemption kept." July 4, 2012
Perhaps that is because Stella has come to see that she isn't quite the legislative doyen that she and her cohorts have come to believe her to be. She continues,
"but we took it as a win to at least have the exemption kept; with the understanding that more opportunity for public dialog and comment would be during Rules making for the Act (157).  We had lingering concerns but were assured this would shake out during the Rules Making process."
"Unfortunately, we were shocked to learn recently that the VT Health Dept. (VDH) under Health Commissioner Harry Chen has skipped that part of the process and has either allowed or directed rule changes with no rules making process at all. Is he serious?  In an election season for Shumlin (Harry Chen is Shumlin's appointee)? This is totally unacceptable."

"After reading what they have put out, we have more questions than ever before, and as far as we know, there has been no legal review the material. It seems that this is no longer an issue over whether vaccines should be compulsory or not - it is now a matter of potentially free speech and the exercise of a Vermonter's religious rights and legal rights (since an exemption is legal). How many are willing to let this medical political nightmare now open the door to compel a person to read, sign and believe, or else? This is more than whether or not your child is vaxxed to schedule."

"One major red flag for us is that the evidence-based educational material that was called for in the act, has now turned into "Required Parent Education," had no public review, appears to be coercive and is not at all scientific in nature."
Whew! Where to begin? Probably with the cognitive disconnect that permits a practioner of junk medicine like Stella to label something as unscientific without actually explaining what specifically is not scientific about the VDH's rules changes or specifically what constitutes a legal rules making process. Stella and her fellow "dialoguers" did have an opportunity to make their feelings known and I can't seem to find any statutory requirement for a do over no matter how "unacceptable" she finds that to be. I've looked at the VDH form and find nothing that proscribes speech or religious rights in any manner that would violate the 1st Amendment as she alleges.

Furthermore, Stella seeks to link Gov. Shumlin to Dr. Chen's action in an election year on the basis of Chen being a member of Shumlin's administration. First, this comes dangerously close to political lobbying that she and her group are not registered with the state to be doing with regards to matters potentially before the legislature. Maybe the session is over but you'd think that Stella would hold herself to the same high standards that she's annoited herself to set for others. The guilt by association tactic that Stella and her allies continue to use cuts both ways.

One very troubling discovery I've is that the posts above have been cross posted by Stella to a blog site that is a haven for misogynistic, racist enablers, segregationists, anti-Semites, homophobes and secessionists where she serves as a board member. Is she going to disassociate herself from these types or will she grant herself an exception that won't apply to Gov. Shumlin and his associates?

Stella's full post is replete with unsubstantiated accusations, such as that her website has been "hacked" by "Big Pharma" and, just like her science, Stella offers no verifiable proof of her claim. Stella also makes a big deal in her post that "Big Pharma" has plead guilty to fraud when in fact most of the cases she refers to are settlements, not unlike the case she didn't mention of a recent $5 million settlement made in a class action case against the largest "Big Quacka" dealer in sugar pills that homeopaths recommend, a company mentioned by one of Stella's associates in her travel book. The suit stated that Boiron,
"falsely advertises that Oscillo has the ability to cure the flu because it contains an active ingredient it claims is proven to get rid of flu symptoms in 48 hours."
The lawsuit also stated that the listed active ingredient in the "Big Quacka" company Boiron's Oscillococcinum (Oscillo) "is actually Muscovy Duck Liver and Heart ... and has no known medicinal quality.". The settlement also requires that Boiron agree to make specific changes to its marketing, including adding to their packaging notices like
"These ‘Uses’ have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration."
Why is it unsurprising that what is an indetectable amount duck liver is promoted as a cure for the flu by a "Big Quacka" company and that Stella doesn't include information about this class action settlement by a "Big Quacka" firm in her attack?

Information on how you can receive a part of the settlement if you were scammed by this "Big Quacka" fraud may be found here.

May 15, 2012

Guilt by Association

An association fallacy, more commonly known as "guilt by association," has been used by the Vermont anti-vaxers at the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice (VCVC) in their attempts to smear opponents of their position regarding recent and potentially future bills before the legislature.

The smearing works like this: A legislator proposes legislation inimical to some VCVC member's business interests, like, say, a homeopathy practice that discourages vaccinations and promotes costly, and according to peer reviewed studies, ineffective homeopathic "remedies" and "treatments." One might argue that the homoeopaths have a principled interest, just as one could argue that the legislator, despite his or her associations, has principled interests in the legislation that they have either supported or proposed but to the anti-vaxer what counts is using every "fact," no matter tenuous, to paint the legislator in a negative light, even if the "fact" has no direct connection to the legislator or the legislation.

In the case of the S.199 legislation, anti-vaxers have sought to connect Sen. Kevin Mullin's (R-Rutland) membership in an organization called ALEC to his proposed legislation. Here's how the smear was presented at the VCVC site on Tuesday, May 8:
"S 199 was introduced by State Senator Bill Mullin who just happens to be the Vermont chairperson for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is a lobbying organization that works for the benefit of Big Business that provides it with its generous funding."

"A complaint was recently filed against ALEC by Common Cause charging that the lobbying organization is evading Federal tax law by posing as a tax exempt charity all the while spending millions of dollars each year lobbying for hundreds of bills in state legislatures all across the United States."

"In keeping with the ALEC modus operandi when pushing pet legislation, S 199 passed with dizzying speed in the Vermont Senate..."
See? No "fact" presented connects the organization, ALEC, which has had an unresolved complaint lodged against it, directly to S.199 or Sen. Mullin's legislative proposal. Just, you know, a collection of dots that are connected for the reader. What the writer for VCVC didn't bother to include amongst the vaguely related "dots," so conveniently arranged for connection, is what Sen. Mullin has said about his work with ALEC just last year:
"Mullin said he doesn’t use ALEC language in his legislative proposals."

“'They create model legislation, and I haven’t found a lot of that real helpful,' Mullin said."

"What he does appreciate is ALEC’s involvement with private sector businesses. 'If you ever want to create jobs and boost the economy, you want to talk to people who do that,' Mullin said."

“'If you want to come to good decisions, you have to hear from all sides. You have to work with people — liberals and conservatives (and others); and come to your own judgment about which way to go…In my case, I listen to constituents, and I go from there.'”

From the August 18, 2011 piece by Ann Galloway at vtdigger.org
Not quite the smoking gun (or dots) of collusion, as VCVC's writer would want us to believe. As for the desire to "hear from all sides?" What nefariousness should constituents infer from that, I wonder? I've look high, low and all over the Internet and I can't quite seem to find legislation being proposed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) or anything resembling the vaccine legislation that was proposed or passed here in Vermont, despite the ominous observation that "In keeping with the ALEC modus operandi when pushing pet legislation, S 199 passed with dizzying speed in the Vermont Senate..." Again we're left to wonder, what should be made of that absence of fact?

So, for instance, what then might be made of the fact that an administrator of VCAC also serves as the Vermont State Director for the National Vaccine Information Center, which has as a stated goal to "expand vaccine exemptions?" Or should be made of the fact that the administrator maintains a blog at a website that known segregationists, bigots, racists and politic extremists call home? More on all that in a future post.

Perhaps more troubling is the threat that comes at the end of the VCVC post on the matter. Vermonters have a long history of legislative discussion and thereby searching for common ground in matters of public policy. No so, according to some anti-vaxer activists:
"Will the Vermont legislature have another go at eliminating the philosophical exemption next legislative session? Not likely, say S 199 activists, who promise heated efforts to unseat the bill’s sponsors so that they are not returned to office after the Fall elections."
Periodically, revanchist political efforts are mounted in Vermont. The most recent that had any impact was the anti-civil union fundamentalists who ousted a number of longtime legislative members who themselves had stellar records of representing their constituents. Their replacements didn't do so well, showing a single issue focus and an inability to effectively govern; they were out in one term. A recent similar effort by a secessionist group was remarkable only for its complete lack of success with no appreciable support from Vermont's voters. Perhaps the memory of single issue activists is still too fresh in the minds of most Vermonters. Nevertheless, there never seems to be a shortage of vindictive activists who feel that the politics of payback and personal destruction are appealing to the electorate.

Oh, and apparently the anti-vaxers have yet to read what was passed in S.199. More on that, as I continue to say, in a future post.

Guilt by association? From what I've been finding, if that's to be the standard used by the anti-vaxers, they're going to have a lot to answer for.

(VCVC post here)

May 8, 2012

Vermonters for Vaccine Truth

The Vermont legislature ended its 2012 session this past Saturday evening.

One issue that came up during the session proposed elimination of the philosophical exemption for vaccination of school age children, known as bill S.199. A group that opposed the bill was formed calling itself "Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice" (VCVC). The group is comprised of many members of Vermont's anti-vaccine, homeopathic community including the State Director in Vermont for the euphemistically called National Vaccine Information Center, a name that according to some was carefully chosen to suggest a governmental connection; the National Vaccine Disinformation Center would be more accurate, appropriate and truthful.

Nationally, the anti-vaccination movement, or anti-vaxers as they are commonly known, has taken a three pronged approach to thwarting appropriate medical efforts to raise the level of virus or disease immunity community wide. (Note that I've said "raise" rather than to imply that 100% immunity is the goal; anything that falls short of that 100% figure is exploited by the anti-vaxers as somehow demonstrating the complete ineffectiveness of vaccinations generally - more on that in future posts.)
"The anti-vaccination movement (AVM) is at least two-pronged: one prong denies a causal connection between vaccines and the eradication or significant reduction of diseases like smallpox, polio, measles, and rubella; the other prong perceives vaccines as causing diseases, e.g., it claims that the MMR (mumps-measles-rubella) vaccine causes autism. Either way, the AVM proponents oppose vaccination against disease."

"One might consider a third prong of the AVM to be those who advocate homeopathic "vaccines" or isopathic preparations for such things as meningococcal disease, the "flu" childhood illnesses, malaria, and HIV. Such people offer magic water in place of an actual vaccine developed and properly tested by scientists. They believe the water has been energized and has a selective "memory" of molecules long gone in the homeopathic dilution process. Most homeopathic vaccines are nothing but water or inert substances and cannot protect anyone from anything. They endanger people's lives when they are offered as protection against diseases like malaria. They are sought out by people who do not trust real vaccines and who live according to the principles of vitalism and magical thinking. Thus, we might well say that those who recommend homeopathic vaccines are part of the AVM since, in effect, they oppose real vaccination against disease."

The Anti-Vaccination Movement
First off, homeopathy is quackery. It is neither a science nor true. Studies of homeopathy show that its results are the same as those of placebos. Homeopathy is aptly known as a "pseudoscience."

At its heart homeopathy requires the suspension of rational thought. Naturally, that was the strategy used by the anti-vax activists of VCVC. That and a few lies thrown in for good measure, also an essential part of the "medical" kit of the homeopathic activist community.

In addition to promoting extremist, pseudoscientific, junk "medicine" whose foundation is based on pseudohistory, the Vermont anti-vax crowd has allied itself with the wingnut political fringe of Vermont's body politic. More on this in a future post.

Despite the fact that the anti-vaxer goal was for complete defeat of S.199, across the Internet the forces of anti-vaccination are alive with hubris laden posts about what what they perceive to have been a complete victory. Complete victory would have been a scuttled bill. The legislation that was passed contains additional provisions that should help Vermonters who may likely be harmed by the anti-vax forces in the future fight back. It definitely isn't a done deal. Those provisions will be examined here as well in future posts. Less fortunately, that same legislation contains in its final form a provision that will assist anti-vax parents in limiting the potential to be held accountable for their irresponsible behavior, a provision (Sec. 2. 18 V.S.A. § 1122 (a)(3)(D)(c)(1)(2)) similar to that which, ironically, the anti-vax crowd complains about with regard to the pharmaceutical industry.

Over the coming weeks and months this blog will reveal some of the nonsense proposed by Vermont's homeopath activists as well as the likely harm their activism exposes all Vermonters to, along with the vested financial interests of some of VCVC's anti-vax leadership, or as I like to call them, the agents of the multi-billion dollar industry many call Big Quacka, that were undisclosed during the House and Senate discussions. These interests are of the sort that usually require registration as a lobbyist but at the very least should have been explicitly disclosed to Vermonters and their elected representatives. Hopefully, I'll be revealing what many already know in a less humorless fashion than the anti-vaxers usually display.