Conspiracy Monday: Doctors Want to You to be a Communist and Kill Your Grandmother!

The lies, distortions, and conspiracy theories being used to frighten Americans away from universal healthcare are really getting on my nerves. While there are some legitimate concerns about U.S. healthcare reform, the astroturfing efforts being carried out on behalf of corporate insurance interests are based almost entirely on scare tactics and misinformation. Just a few of the factoids that are floating around:

Socialized medicine is the slippery slope to socialism, or communism, or facism. If you really believe this, it means you have been so thoroughly brainwashed by rightist propaganda that you’re pretty much beyond hope of recovery. Nothing will convince you that health care is not just a privilege or a decadent indulgence, so I’m not even going to bother. Let’s move on to arguments that aren’t completely retarded…

The elderly will be denied care, or even euthanized against their wishes and/or the wishes of their next of kin. At best, doctors will pressure family members to let the patient die – to save money.

This would violate the whole Hippocratic thing they’ve got going on, but if you really insist on believing that most health care professionals are psychopaths in lab coats, there’ s not much I can say that will convince you otherwise, is there? I’ll just skip it. Here’s the bottom line: Whether they’re being paid by insurance providers, the state, or patients themselves, doctors still make a lot of money. Every service they provide puts more money in their pockets. So they don’t want to talk their patients out of receiving more health care. If anything, Americans should be concerned about doctors providing more services than are strictly needed. Which brings us to the next argument…

People will take advantage of the system by seeking treatment for minor complaints, and/or become irresponsible about their health.

Good old-fashioned fear of doctors keeps most people from taking advantage of free health care. And people will not dance around on rooftops or stick forks into electrical outlets just because they know there’s some free health care waiting for them. As for those of you who are concerned that AIDS patients will receive free treatment when they’re clearly godless mucksuckers who should just die? Fuh cough.

Universal health care means fewer doctors, a lower standard of care, and longer waiting lines at clinics and hospitals.
No. Though Americans are being told horror stories about the endless waiting times at Canadian hospitals, the truth is that such lineups occur mainly in busy metro-area hospitals or clinics – just as they do in the U.S. and other countries. The average Canadian clinic is indistinguishable from American clinics when it cames to wait times and quality of care. Having grown up in the States and having lived in Ontario and Alberta for the past decade, I’m not just guessing. I have had no problem receiving timely, high-quality health care in Canada. And I don’t have to live in fear of losing my insurance coverage.
As for doctors, where are they gonna go? The U.S. has been siphoning off our Canadian doctors for years, but U.S. doctors will just have to stick around, won’t they?

Doctors will be told where to live. Show me a single Canadian or European doctor who has been ordered to live or not to live in a specific area, and you’ve won this one. Doctors can live where they please.

Taxes will increase. If tax hikes are more troubling to you than the lives of uninsured Americans, fine. You have to live with yourself.

Doctors will be told how they can treat their patients. Um, they already are. There are standards, regulations, and laws already in place to control how doctors treat their patients. A single-payer healthcare system isn’t any different. No procedures will become off-limits just because taxpayers are picking up the tab.

Medical innovation will slow to a crawl or grind to a halt, because there will no longer be sufficient financial incentive. We might see fewer worthless pharmaceutical products like this one, but there will still be a huge market for life-saving and life-enhancing procedures and products. The major pharmaceutical manufacturers might make fewer billions for the first year or two as consumers adjust to the new system, but I think they’ll survive.

Conspiracy Monday: Masonic vaccines and other stuff

I hesitate to call the following a “conspiracy theory”. It’s more like “completely clueless and misinformed rambling.” An elderly woman caller to a Canadian radio show, who gives free all-day seminars in Vancouver, had this to say about vaccines and the NWO:

She began her rant by saying that most of us are completely ignorant of history and what’s going on around us. She must educate the masses before it’s too late.

– “There is absolutely nothing scientific about vaccines. If it’s true that being exposed to a little bit of a disease makes you immune to it, why do you get a cold and then get another cold later on?! A vaccine has no antibodies! So how can it help your immune system?” She seemed to believe that all viruses contain live viruses, and that you will contract any disease the vaccination is designed to prevent. Like many anti-vaccination hysterics, she does not fully grasp what vaccination even is or how it works.

– “We have an explosion of autoimmune diseases, which happened after we started shooting all these vaccines into children. Now if you were going to do genocide, where would be the best place to start?”
Host: “Um, with children…?”

– All flus, most enzymes, and HIV/AIDS come out of U.S. labs.

– Patenting vaccines and gene sequences is wrong, because they are natural. It’s an Illuminati plot. The host gently tells her that THEY didn’t exactly push this through; there were many court battles involved, but she’s already halfway through the next part of her spiel by this time.

– “The dumbing down of America is being done with vaccines.” Viruses in the vaccines attack the “mylar sheath”, and cross the blood-brain barrier to cause brain inflammation/encephalitis. Most vaccinated infants die in hospital, thanks to vaccines. (I don’t know where she’s been living; Canada has low infant mortality rates)

Whew. Sorry about the babies, but this a relief. I don’t even have a Mylar sheath. Oh wait, yes I do. Oh well. I’ll just go to MEC and get another one.

The woman finally tired of educating the igner’nt masses about the evils of innoculation, and moved on to the “Illuminati agenda”.

– “When Russia reorganized its elite, they did it through secret societies. The Masonic orders. They are everywhere. They have literally infiltrated every organization, and are Trojan horses within those organizations.”

She promises that her next free seminar will tie together HAARP mind control, chemtrails, laser weapons that incinerate people, and many other skeins of the Illuminati agenda.

– Martial law is months or weeks away. “It will be like Stalin’s Russia, or that guy in Chile, what was his name?”
Host: “Pinochet?”
“Yeah, yeah. Pinochet.”

You’ve been warned, folks. Protect those Mylar sheaths by exposing yourself to viral diseases without any protection! Watch out for those Russian Freemasons!

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup

Here are just a few of the bizarre bits of nonsense I’ve encountered this week:

  • “You can treat just about anything through the ears,” said a friend who had tiny adhesives stamped all over both of his ears. The adhesives, called “seeds”, are placed on acccupressure points. Every so often, he has to squeeze each one to help them do whatever-it-is they do, which will somehow lower his cholesterol. As the ears are mainly cartilage, I don’t see why the seeds wouldn’t be just as effective if placed on the nose or the knees. Or why they would be effective at all, for that matter. “But it’s an ancient practice!” you might say. Yeah, well, ritual human sacrifice is ancient, and I’m not putting any stock in that, either.
  • Yet another conspiranoid warned me about one of the most sinister, the most fascistic, the most evil things the Illuminati criminals have dreamed up yet: The Codex Alimentarius. Gawd, even the name sends chills down the spine. What does it do? Does it involve high-tech new torture techniques that would make waterboarding look like a Sunday in the park? Is it a Satanic grimoire full of demon-summoning spells penned in the blood of virgins? Um, no. It’s a set of food, drug, and veterinary guidelines adopted by the World Health Organization back in the early ’60s. The guidelines are voluntary. They’re often used to settle international disputes over what’s safe for human consumption and what’s not (as with the “black-hearted chemicals” exported by China, for instance). The only reason people object to this perfectly sensible set of guidelines is that in some countries, it has been used when deciding to classify nutitritional supplements, herbal remedies, etc., as drugs. Typically this means that the products have to be properly labeled with all ingredients and safe dosages. If you’re selling a non-medicinal herbal concoction and claiming that it cures everything, you might be required to re-label/re-package your product. It does not typically mean, as other conspiranoids have told me, that armed SWAT teams will break into your health food store and confiscate all the vitamin C. It just means that non-pharma drugs have to be proven safe and effective, then appropriately labeled and marketed. Not a big deal, people. These guidelines have been around for decades, and I’m not seeing any decrease in the amount of snake oil available at every supplement/health food store.
  • A chiropracter in my neighborhood is advertising “laser stop-smoking therapy”. Like the ear-seeds, this “therapy” relies on accupressure points. The pulsating light is absorbed by the skin cells at these points, stimulating endorphin production. This eliminates urges to smoke or eat, while relieving stress. How does this differ from traditional accupuncture, which might not even work? Well, it doesn’t. It just sounds a lot fancier, and it appeals to people who are not overly fond of needles. Respectful Insolence has a good post on “cold laser therapy”.
  • The same conspiranoid who warned me about the Codex Alimentarius also informed me that Katrina survivors housed in trailer camps are really prisoners in lockdown, because they can’t return to the camps once they’ve left. Duh. Of course you can’t bip in and out of the camps whenever you feel like it; why should the government be paying for your housing if you’re spending half your time at a relative’s house? You have to prove that you don’t have a secondary residence in order to be housed for free. It’s just common sense. (BTW, even non-conspiranoid sources are pumping out alarmist stories about how the FEMA trailers are poisonous. What they won’t tell you is that all pre-fab homes have formeldehyde in them. This poses no serious health threat to the average person. And as for the domestic violence and gang activity that’s cropping up in the FEMA trailer camps? Show me one trailer park that doesn’t have identical problems.)
  • Alex Jones and company have been freaking out over H.R. 645, a bill to “provide temporary housing, medical, and humanitarian assistance to individuals and families dislocated due to an emergency or major disaster”. Obviously, this would be a good thing. But Jones et. al. are freaked out by the part of the bill that says the facilities can be used “to meet other appropriate needs, as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security.” Admittedly, this is a bit troubling because it can be broadly interpreted. However, most rumours of American concentration camps turn out to be right-wing conspiracy theories based on misunderstandings, and they’ve been floating around since the 1930s. Let’s face it, if the U.S. really wanted to install a secret gulag system, they wouldn’t be telling you about it.

Christine Maggiore (1957-2008): A Sad and Inevitable End

I have just learned that Christiane Maggiore died on December 27, at the age of 52. My condolences and sympathy go out to her only living child. She did not have to die so soon.

Maggiore’s friends and supporters say her six-month bout of fatal pneumonia was in no way related to her HIV/AIDS. They insist she could not have died from HIV/AIDS because HIV is not a disease, does not cause AIDS, and does not have to be medically treated. Despite the ongoing denial, it seems Maggiore met the same unnecessary, agonizing death to which she consigned her daughter in 2005.

Diagnosed as HIV+ in 1992 (along with a former boyfriend), Maggiore became a poster child for a small but vocal movement of people, most of them HIV+, who claim that the media spreads mininformation and propaganda about an imaginary AIDS-HIV connection, and that AZT is more harmful than AIDS. Maggiore established a foundation to spread this message.
She and her husband, Robin Scoville, had two children. While pregnant with daughter Eliza Jane, Maggiore appeared on the cover of Mothering magazine cover with “NO AZT” written on her pregnant stomach, and was cheered by rock concert crowds when she spoke out aginst the prevailing HIV/AIDS theories. She breastfed her kids and refused to have them tested for HIV/AIDS, insisting the diseases can’t be transferred from mother to child by any means. For herself she sought only alternative treatments.
It’s a curious fact that HIV+ people who don’t inform their sex partners of their staus are routinely charged criminally, while HIV+ moms are not.

In 2005, 3-year-old Eliza Jane Scoville developed a bad cold and an ear infection. Very reluctantly, Maggiore followed a pediatrician’s advice and gave her daughter amoxicillin. Within days, Eliza Jane became wan and listless, then suffered some sort of attack in the night. Her parents frantically called 911, and the toddler was rushed to hospital. She soon died.
Maggiore immediately blamed the amoxicillin, for it was the only drug Eliza Jane had ever ingested. Both parents maintained she had been perfectly healthy until then.
An autopsy revealed otherwise. Eliza Jane had full-blown AIDS and had died from related pneumonia. Even faced with copious medical evidence, Maggiore vehemently denied her child had AIDS. The coroner’s findings were politically motivated, she said. But she did have her son tested, for fear he’d be taken away if she didn’t (he is HIV/AIDS negative).

Like her mother, Eliza Jane Scoville did not have to die so young. She was sacrificed so that her parents could make a point.

Maggiore’s untimely death could serve as a hard lesson for HIV/AIDS denialists and people who reject the germ theory of disease. I hope they will benefit from that lesson before they, too, die preventable deaths.

I couldn’t resist sharing…

This has been popping up on a lot of blogs, but I couldn’t resist sharing…
A Stephen Colbert-puppet rant on Jenny McCarthy, from The Rant Puppets.
This is not meant as a slam of Ms. McCarthy herself – just the pseudoscientific, fear-based campaign of which she is the most prominent member. For more info, see stopjenny.com.

Good Model, Poor Role Model

I’m relieved to see a long-overdue website aimed at the most visible anti-vaccination scaremonger in America: Stop Jenny McCarthy.

That a bisexual nude model famous for her gross-out behaviour can reinvent herself as a role model for parents of autistic children and as a vaccine “expert” says much about our culture. It’s not that I have anything against Ms. McCarthy on a personal level – I think she’s gorgeous and fun, and I applaud her for taking such an active role in her son’s upbringing at a time when many celeb parents are relying on round-the-clock nanny service. It’s just that with all the real medical experts and autism researchers out there, it strikes me as a bad idea to give airtime to someone with no medical training, no postsecondary education, and no qualifications as a medical advisor. McCarthy has appeared on Larry King Live, Entertainment Tonight, and Oprah to air her views on the link between childhood vaccines and autism. Her story of “healing” her son through alternative therapies (a casein/wheat-free diet and probiotics) has also been on the cover of People and other supermarket magazines.
While McCarthy stresses that she is not anti-vaccine, she does publicly encourage parents to take advantage of religious exemptions for childhood vaccinations because vaccines contain mercury, antifreeze, and other ingredients that can cause autism. To date, every one of her statements about the hazards of vaccines have been demonstrably false.

The bottom line is that children who are not vaccinated often suffer and sometimes die from diseases which can be prevented by vaccines, while children who are vaccinated rarely suffer or die from these diseases. There is no link between autism and vaccines. Very few vaccines contain mercury, contrary to what Ms. McCarthy has said (some contain anti-freezing agents, to keep them from freezing). Anecdotal evidence from parents with no medical background is not a sufficient reason to avoid childhood vaccination.

McCarthy’s prominence in the anti-vaccine movement has somehow lent it an air of legitimacy that it does not have. As more and more parents decide that vaccination is too risky, we will see rises in dangerous diseases like polio and measles. This has already happened in other parts of the world; when religious leaders in several African countires told parents it is against God’s will for their children to be vaccinated, polio outbreaks resulted. This was one year after the disease was eradicated in Egypt.
My sister-in-law, a public health nurse, has told me that parents have been protesting in outrage when their unvaccinated children are denied entrance to local public schools. One mother couldn’t comprehend why her son should be kept out of school “just because he didn’t get a stupid polio shot.” Perhaps if these parents could spend some time with people suffering the devastating effects of polio and post-polio, they wouldn’t be complaining.

For more information on the public health dangers posed by the anti-vaccination movement, please see Dr. Steven Novella’s article in the Nov. 2007 Skeptical Inquirer. This issue also contains a brief article by Dr. Richard G. Judelsohn explaining the benefits of vaccines.

The Hazards of Magical Thinking

I’ve talked about the perils of paranoia, and now it’s time to examine the problem of magical thinking – irrational causal reasoning. Like paranoia, magical thinking appears to be on the rise these days. And magical thinking can be dangerous. The Xhosa and Thembu tribes of South Africa nearly starved themselves into oblivion because some a**hole ghost told them to sacrifice all their cattle. Many an alchemist poisoned himself in his quest for gold or immortality. Bridget Cleary was beaten and burned to death by a husband who suspected her of being a malicious fairy. Belief in the efficacy of lucky talismans or rituals can lead people to take risks they normally wouldn’t even consider.

Now, there’s probably little to no harm in believing you’re an elf, wearing a QLink pendant, or practicing feng shui. But here are just a few examples of how magical thinking can go seriously, seriously wrong…

Fatal exorcisms: Untrained or inexperienced people who diagnose possession and attempt exorcisms have killed possessees, either by withholding food and water or by using violent means to dislodge the demons.
– In 1973, 19-year-old Anneliese Michel died while being exorcised by two priests. It subsequently came to light that she had stopped taking her medication for epileptic seizures.
– Father Daniel Petru Corogeanu of Romania starved a nun to death when he lashed her to a cross for days in an attempt to get the demons out of her.
– In 2000, Pastor Luke Lee of New Zealand killed Kum Ok Lee in the course of an exorcism. At his trial, he calmly assured the court she would rise from the dead. Also in New Zealand, in 2007, 22-year-old Janet Moses was drowned by family members who believed they were cleansing her of a curse.
– In 2003, 8-year-old Terrance Cottrell Jr. was smothered to death by a pastor during an exorcism.
– Last year, Ronald Marquez beat up his daughter and tried to perform an exorcism on his 3-year-old granddaughter. Police summoned to the scene by neighbors found Marquez with the child in a headlock, his daughter huddling nude and bloody in a corner. They Tasered him, which resulted in his death.
– In February of this year, Jan Clark murdered his wife after performing an exorcism on her. He claims the demons entered his body and forced him to kill her.

Baby-tossing: As reported recently, parents in India consider it lucky to pitch their infants 50 feet to the ground from the rooftop of a mosque. Do I really have to tell you what’s wrong with this?

“Reptilians steal babies”: Belief in a race of ultradimensional or extraterrestrial lizard-like entities that preys upon human beings is causing great emotional distress for some people. Kinesiologists Michael and Stephanie Relfe believe their first child was stolen from Stephanie’s womb by Reptilians (they also believe Michael worked for the government on offworld colonies). Reverse-speech analyst Peggy Kane says she has been raped by Reptilians from the lower astral plane, and that a close friend was brutally murdered by them while he was a guest in her home. Psychic alien abductee Ted Rice believes that as an 8-year-old boy he was taken into a spaceship with his grandmother and forced to watch her copulate with a tall, reptoid alien disguised as his dead grandfather. When the woman prevented this creature from raping her grandson, she was warned she would die in two days’ time. She did, Rice said. The late Karla Turner, author of Rice’s biography, thought her fatal cancer was caused by Reptilians. She also thought the reptoids had eaten Rice’s body and replaced it with an exact duplicate made from organic materials obtained during cattle mutilations! Peggy Kane also says many humans have been replaced by clones, after their real bodies have been horrifically tortured and consumed by the Reptilians.
And it gets worse. In 1999, professional scam artist Diazen Hossencofft managed to convince a clique of followers that his ex-wife, Girly Chew, was a Reptilian priestess in disguise. They abducted and murdered her at his request. Hossencofft also persuaded various women that he could cure cancer, and keep them eternally youthful with a serum he had developed. He told some his young son was a super-kid genetically engineered by NASA scientists. (This case was the basis for the CSI episode “Leapin’ Lizards”.)

Taking health advice from visionaries and mystics:
– The Conscious Development cult led by Texan Terri Keanely (formerly Hoffman) has been linked to several suicides, murders, and suspicious deaths, but one of the most disturbing stories is that of Hoffman’s third husband, Richard Donald Hoffman. He committed suicide in 1988, leaving behind a video explaining that he had been diagnosed with inoperable cancer. However, no trace of cancer was found in Hoffman’s body during autopsy. His children allege that Terri Hoffman persuaded their father he had cancer by revealing visions of his imminent death.
Keanely is currently one half of MoneyForce Press and co-author of The Colors of Money: Finding Your MoneyForce.
– Brazil’s Joao de Dios (John of God) is not a doctor, but he can channel dead doctors to perform surgery through him (unlawfully, I might add). Some of his surgeries take place only on a psychic level, but others are hands-on, invasive procedures that involve real instruments. These don’t resemble any known medical operations. ABC News reported in 2005 that one patient had forceps shoved up his nose and violently twisted. Needless to say, Joao doesn’t do follow-ups. Yet he boasts of healing 15 million people in 35 years. As James Randi points out “Working 8 hours a day, taking no lunch hour, 6 full days a week for 35 years, taking no holidays at all, he would have to “heal” ONE PERSON EVERY 21 SECONDS of every minute of every hour of every day he worked, with no time off, and no failures!” Busy guy.
Ask yourself, what would happen if Joao collapsed during a surgery?
– Mother of five Michelle Mingo starved her infant son to death in 1999 because her sister-in-law had received a vision telling her Mingo needed to purge herself of her “ungodly vanity” and prescribed a dangerous diet regimen for both mother and son.

Indigo/psychic children: Thousands of parents believe their children are the next step in human evolution, endowed with marvelous powers: ESP, telekinesis, mediumistic ability, the gift of listening to trees (shades of The Ramones), etc. How are these children going to feel when, as adults, they gradually (or suddenly) realize that they’re just plain ol’, run-of-the-mill human beings? This is much bigger than Santa and the Tooth Fairy. These kids are essentially being told that they’re supernaturally gifted, super-human, or just not human at all. That’s a huge misconception to get over.

Not to mention, magical thinking can lose you a heap o’ money:

– It has been estimated that Scientology Clears will have spent between $50,000 to +$300,000 in auditing and other costs in order to reach that level. For these prices, you can get psychoanalyzed (which is all auditing is, anyway, in a cruder form) and rent dozens of sci-fi movies. Same diff.
– Many have fallen for the Black Dollar (or Wash Wash) scam, but some have lost their life savings after being convinced by psychics that their money is cursed.
– Money spent on Kabbalah Center merchandise, QLink pendants, feng shui consultations, aura cleansing, firewalking workshops, and other dubiously effective products, treatments, and lessons could instead be invested in things that will benefit you directly. One example: Madonna spends the rough equivalent of one person’s college loans on Kabbalah Water every year.
– Psychic surgery can cost hundreds of dollars, not including travel, meals, accomodations, and bribes paid to customs officials.
– A 2-hour family session at A Place of Light, a center for “intuitive children” and their relatives, starts at $75. The day program for preschoolers costs $50 per week, though there is a discount if their siblings can speak with the dead or something. Factor in travel costs (the center is in Massachusetts) and you’re looking at some serious cash.