Monday, January 26, 2015

You can’t vaccinate against this

  Master curmudgeon H.L. Mencken wrote, "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people."

  Mencken wrote this knowing that, as societies go, ours is a beacon of higher thought and inquiry. At the same time, he bemoaned "the virulence of the national appetite for bogus revelation."

  Which brings us to measles and Disneyland.

  Through no fault of its own except for its embrace of huddled masses, Disneyland has taken a horrific hit -- ground zero for a seven-state outbreak of a disease that considered eradicated 10 years ago.

  The cause? Blame Google.

  That, and an alleged expert named Andrew Wakefield.

  British medical journal Lancet gets much blame, too, for publishing a paper by Wakefield in 1998 that pointed to vaccinations as a cause of autism. Lancet since has retracted the study, stating in no uncertain terms that Wakefield's claims are "proven to be false."

   Since then, Wakefield has lost his license to practice medicine in Great Britain. Far from contrite, he sought and found another place to continue claiming what the science will not support. That place? Well, Texas, of course.

   What was that about Google? How does it share the blame? Simple. The search engine assures that one can find a nation for any revelation, bogus though it may be.

   In light of the Disneyland outbreak, which has been blamed squarely on families' refusing to vaccinate their children, the Washington Post did a "where is he now" story on Wakefield and reported that he had found a "sympathetic community in his adopted state of Texas."

   As the Post's Terrance McCoy writes, those who refuse to vaccinate their children "frequently harbor a deep distrust of government." And as the magazine Nature wrote in denouncing Wakefield's claims, many who skirt vaccinations on such pretenses "often suggest that vaccination is motivated by profit and is an infringement of personal liberty and choice."

   It is revealing, in light of such assertions, that Wakefield's own profit was among the criteria leading other scientists to suspect the purity of his claims. He pocketed $600,000, for one thing, by way of attorneys who were suing vaccination makers.

  Ah, the profit motive; the prophet motive.

  For some reason thinking about all those people massing in Disneyland makes me think of another fantasy-filled attraction in California — this one at the resort of Racho Mirage. That's where the Koch brothers – Charles and Dave, recently invited Republicans who consider themselves presidential material to prove it to them.

   If they could pull that off, would-be candidates like Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz would have access to donor wealth beyond their wildest dreams.

   To do this, they would have to demonstrate their purity in rejecting all that science linking players like Koch Industries to climate change.

   You might say that like the state of Texas, the Koch petrochemical empire is a country unto itself – at least it is when it comes to spewing out carbon dioxide.

    Now, it's true that the core constituency these candidates will  court for the GOP nomination are inclined not to believe a word of what an overwhelming majority of scientists says about climate change and man's role. But we need to assume that most of the research on which Cruz and Rubio, et al., will rely on this matter will have been done by Koch Industries.

   Pursuant to that, the nation is in for some true enlightenment as Cruz assumes chairmanship of the Senate subcommittee that oversees NASA and Rubio chairs the subcommittee that oversees the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — NOAA. These are the agencies that just declared the year past to be the warmest on record.

  Disregard the science, America. Google up whatever suits you. Oh, and don't let a little fever spoil that planned trip to Fantasyland.

  Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

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