Tag Archives: Ayn Rand

The evidence of things not seen

Several Republican presidential candidates, previously characterized as “top-tier,” have been withering away under the reflected glare of the Donald Trump campaign, or whatever it is. One of those unfortunates is Rand Paul, the junior senator from Kentucky. Previously, he looked like someone who could bridge the chasm between the GOP’s nuttier precincts and the mainstream. Now, he looks like someone who’s fallen into that chasm, his poll numbers barely above Rick Perry/Bobby Jindal territory. (RealClearPolitics’s averaging of recent polls: Paul in 10th place with 2.6%. He’s been on a steady downward trajectory since late June, when he briefly topped the field at 13.8%.)

But have no fear, Aqua Buddha fans: State Rep. Paul Dame is here to tell you differently.

It’s no secret that the Republican Party is in need of revitalization. … And while a number of candidates talk a good game about building a “big tent” party, it has been largely empty rhetoric. Everyone agrees that we need to do more – but I only see one candidate for president who is actually DOING it. And that is Rand Paul.

Dame, one of three Vermont lawmakers to endorse Rand Paul, paints an astoundingly rosy picture of his candidate heroically venturing into Democratic* strongholds and converting the unenlightened (read: liberals) to his Libertarian-Lite banner. He is “winning support from minorities” and “young people” and “many independents and even some Democrats.” His recent appearance at a VTGOP fundraiser attracted “nearly 100 people who attended their first-ever Republican fundraiser.” Dame praises Paul’s “boldness” for daring to visit Vermont, as though he had to smash through a Liberal Police checkpoint to get in.

*Well, Dame uses the pejorative “Democrat” formulation, as do most Republicans. It’s “Democratic,” boys.

Reading Dame’s piece, you can see Rand Paul as the contemporary embodiment of the Ayn Rand hero: the granite-jawed Braveheart inspiring the benighted commonfolk with his steely boldness and plain-spoken wisdom.

Yeah, but then you look at those pesky polls and face the fact: Rand Paul is not leading a movement. He is tanking, big-time.

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Pathways to Electoral Failure, Fringe Republican Edition

We have two stories today touching on a common theme: how not to appeal to the Vermont electorate. One involves a presidential candidate allying himself with a Republican moneybags with deep pockets and imperceptible electoral appeal; the other involves a young lawmaker on the rise who seems to be an acolyte of America’s Crankiest Novelist and America’s Most Notorious Ophthalmologist.

First, the candidate and the moneybags:

Yep, that’s Florida Senator Marco Rubio believing that Skip Vallee will “do great things” for his campaign. (Tweet was first noted by the Free Press’ Emilie Teresa Stigliani.) Well, Skip will probably do great things for Rubio’s bottom line. But as for strengthening his campaign, not so much. Rubio can be forgiven for not knowing the details of Skippy’s political rap sheet, being from Florida and all. But just in case he’s reading this blog, God only knows why, let’s do the numbers.

The high point of Skip Vallee’s political career was when he donated enough money to the Bush 2004 campaign to wangle himself the ambassadorship to the Slovak Republic. Aside from that, Skipper’s political career has been purely a figment of his own imagination. In his only bid for elective office, Vallee lost the 2000 race for State Senate in Chittenden County, despite what must have been the most expensive State Senate campaign in state history: he spent $134,000. And still lost.

Vallee has never run for office again — although he keeps hinting and nosing around, as if he can’t believe his proven unpopularity.

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The barely concealed extremism of an anti-vaccine group

We’re gearing up for another round of the philosophical-exemption debate at the Statehouse. As you may have heard, a State Senate committee is considering a bill that would remove the philosophical exemption for childhood vaccinations. Which has the anti-vaccine community’s knickers in a knot.

Well, they don’t call themselves “the anti-vaccine community,” but that’s exactly what they are. Vermont’s primary anti-vaxx group is the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice (VCVC). It publicly presents itsels as entirely focused on parental choice. From its website:

We are not “anti-vaxxers”… We are dedicated to preserving health choice and informed consent for parents and all Vermonters.

Vaccine movie posterProblem is, the leaders of VCVC just can’t help themselves. Their website prominently trumpets the work of, among others, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., an anti-vaxxer who promotes the discredited vaccine/autism canard and who has called vaccination “a holocaust.”

But if you want to see the real scope of VCVC’s nutbaggery, you ought to follow its Twitter feed. You’ll find links to every scattered anecdotal report of alleged vaccine harm, every fringey “scientific study” attacking vaccine efficacy or safety, every alternative-medicine type promoting their own agendas, and every rhetorical excess about vaccination, doctors, nurses, government, and science.

Here are a few choice examples. Reminder: these are communications from a group that claims NOT to be “anti-vaxxers.”

Let’s start with a ham-fisted attack on Vermont media for the unforgivable sin of reporting the science on vaccines, which is fully as probative as the science on climate change and evolution:

They’d probably call me a sellout too. Problem is, I haven’t seen a dime from Big Pharma. I just happen to believe the massive preponderance of scientific evidence. VCVC, on the other hand, searches through the flotsam and jetsam of junk science.

The study was published in the Open Journal of Pediatrics, one of many “open journals” created by Scientific Research Publishing (SCIRP), which offers “244 English language open access journals.” SCIRP is based on Wuhan, China, and has been accused of being a predatory open access publisher.

Predatory open access publishers don’t provide the editorial oversight of real scientific publishers; they aggressively solicit papers, publish them with little or no review, and then try to bill the authors for publication costs. In other words, their articles are not to be trusted. But if an article calls vaccination into question, VCVC is happy to accept it at face value and promote it.

More… after the jump. Continue reading

El Jefe brings a chicken to the doctor

Sometimes I wonder if John McClaughry is serious, or if he’s just trolling us all.

I don’t comment on his opinion pieces very often, because he’s so far beyond the pale that it’d be kind of like commenting on an alien civilization. One that considers Ayn Rand a creeping pinko.

Well, this time I’m pretty sure that El Jefe General is under the bridge, snickering. Because his latest effort, dutifully posted by VTDigger, betrays a woeful ignorance of our history. Or at best, a view of our history through coke-bottle-thick rose-colored glasses.

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 1.01.59 PMIn it, El Jefe calls for a return to those Good Old Days when health care was a matter of mutual aid instead of government intervention.

We’re not talking the days before Obamacare, or the days before Medicare. We’re talking pre-Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Because as we all know, FDR ushered in the decline and fall of True America. Take it away, El Jefe…

Health care a century ago relied largely on “friendly societies,” that first appeared in the UK as early as 1793. These were self-governing mutual aid societies that promoted ethical behavior, healthy lifestyles, and “the temperate interchange of social feeling” for the afflicted. They also provided medical care, sick pay, and funeral arrangements for members and their families.

… In the U.S. clones of the friendly societies began to appear in the early 1800s under the name “fraternal organizations,” exemplified by the Odd Fellows and the Loyal Order of Moose. These lodges established orphanages, hospitals, banks, schools, retirement homes, newspapers and insurance companies. They sponsored “lodge practice,” where the local lodge members selected and employed a doctor.

Ah yes, the Good Old Days, when all you had to do is join — freely, without a hint of coercion — with your fellows to ensure that all your needs would be met. McClaughry bemoans the repression of these free movements at the hands of the medical establishment, insurance companies, and, of course, the Big Bad Government.

El Jefe paints an attractive picture. Too bad it’s conveniently incomplete. If you were subject to the tender mercies of a “lodge doctor,” before the days of medical regulation and licensing, your life and health were probably in the hands of a quack or a well-meaning tradesman with little or no training.

Let’s just imagine a “lodge doctor,” even a well-intentioned one, trying to cope with the complexities and marvels of modern medicine. (Hey, let’s put him in charge of Ebola containment!)

For more, let us turn to one of my favorite texts: “The Good Old Days — They Were Terrible!” by noted historian/archivist Otto Bettmann, founder of the Bettmann Archives. Published in 1974 and still in print, it’s a breezy, compact deflation of cherished myths about the olden times. Many of which are dearly held by El Jefe.

“The country doctor of old… was actually no more than a venturesome prescriber. Because his diagnosis was based on guesswork his therapy was totally unreliable. Sometimes it cured — often it killed. …general practice in the United States was backward, commercial and often fraudulent.

“The lack of education and proper licensing exposed the sick to hordes of ignoramuses masquerading as doctors. More a trade than a profession, medicine attracted not the sons of the elite — who preferred law or theology — but mediocrities who saw a chance to get rich quickly.” 

Many of America’s “medical schools” were little more than diploma mills, offering a sheepskin after a few months of training.

“Doctors had little professional prestige; indeed many were considered ‘crude, coarse and ignorant, contributing to social butchery by keeping their patients ill.'”

This was American medical care during John McLaughry’s Golden Age of unfettered liberty. Considering all of that, I guess it’s no wonder that John’s little boys’ club, the Ethan Allen Institute, hasn’t hired its own lodge doctor.

Honestly, McClaughry’s essay makes Sue “chicken to the doctor” Lowden look like Anya Rader-Wallack.