Republicans see Ebola, think DDT

by John Quiggin on August 24, 2014

I wrote not long ago about the zombie idea that the US ban on agricultural use of DDT, enacted in 1972, somehow caused millions of people elsewhere in the world (where DDT remains available for anti-malaria programs) to die of malaria. A thorough refutation is now available to anyone who cares to look at Wikipedia, but the notion remains lurking in the Republican hindbrain.

So, with the recent outbreak of Ebola fever (transmitted between humans by direct contact and bodily fluids), the free-association process that passes for thought in Republican circles went straight from “sick people in Africa” to “DDT”. Ron Paul was onto the case early, with stupid remarks that were distilled into even purer stupidity in a press release put out by his organization. Next up, Diana Furchgott-Roth, of the Manhattan Institute.
And here’s the American Council on Smoking and Health.

Checking up, I found that Furchgott-Roth was formerly chief economist of the US Department of Labor, a position I associate with sober wonkery. Others to hold the position include Laurence Katz, Jesse Rothstein and Betsey Stevenson, none of whom have ever said anything crazy, at least to my knowledge. But it turns out that all of these, and other sensible economists I’ve heard of in this job, were appointed by Democrats, while Furchgott-Roth was appointed by George W. Bush. The only other Repub appointee I could find, Morgan Reynolds, turns out to be a truther, who believes that that the mainstream versions of the JFK assassination, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the 9/11 attacks are all lies. Since Reynolds was appointed in 2001, and left the job in 2002, he was obviously not a known truther and presumably not a known conspiracy theorist at the time, but his publication list makes it clear that he has long been a rightwing crank. He’s currently adjunct scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama.

{ 116 comments }

1

A H 08.24.14 at 4:44 am

And yet these people have had far more practical political success than anyone on the Left. You could say that it has just been the plutocrats using them which led to their success, but Ron Paul has done pretty well for himself on his own terms. I really think the left has a lot to learn about political orginazation from the looney right.

2

bad Jim 08.24.14 at 7:51 am

Pelicans are once again plentiful in California, thanks to the ban on DDT.

Just to be silly, I’ll suggest there’s a significant overlap between DDT advocates and opponents of vaccination and fluoridation. The inconsistency of these stances is obvious, but never seems to be bothersome. Gold bugs may rail about the danger of fiat money, but when tax rates are involved the national debt somehow suddenly ceases to be a threat.

3

Sancho 08.24.14 at 7:57 am

#1

It’s not particularly complicated. Politicians of the right talk about the world the way most people see it: a jumbled mess of events and activities occurring on a grand scale and involving billions of people, which is reported with contradictory and unreliable information, often requiring extensive technical expertise to understand properly.

In that context, anything can be true or connected, and being human we tend to focus on he things that present threat. What Republicans have done is create a swirling, ever-present cloud of fear, from which they pick elements to suit the argument of the day. Sort of like demagogue Lego.

The left, of course, keeps trying to explain and point out the shape and limits of whatever is plucked from the fear cloud, but while they’re busy doing that, the right just moves on to the next alarm.

4

Monte Davis 08.24.14 at 10:04 am

“demagogue Lego”: stolen. The explicit tactical advice of Roger Bate on DDT rhetoric, like that of Frank Luntz on substituting “climate change” for “global warming,” is especially instructive. They don’t simply create zombie ideas; they selectively breed them, seek out receptive environments, and test them for growth potential.

5

Thornton Hall 08.24.14 at 10:39 am

I was arguing with a liberal Jew of Russian extraction who works at a super successful tech company about the Hassidic community in Brooklyn. I averred that her company would not exist but for the dynamic inventiveness of America caused by our tradition of diversity. My point was that America is great and successful because our diverse groups are forced to engage one another. Rock and roll and Google are both the direct result of African slavery and the struggle to get along. Enjoying the fruits of this innovation without also joining that struggle seems, to me, to be un-American.

Nonetheless, I would never judge an individual Hassidim for following our genetic predisposition to tribalism. Civilization is the process of convincing tribal animals that every human in the world deserves to be treated as a member of ones tribe. The easy way, the comfortable way, is to fall back into our genetic predisposition. It is the dark side of The Force, the easier softer way of giving into your hate. It will always be with us. But to chalk its success up to superior political skills is to give it far too much credit.

6

Brett Bellmore 08.24.14 at 11:05 am

” I really think the left has a lot to learn about political organization from the looney right.”

OTOH, the right has a lot to learn from the left about infiltrating and taking over organizations. That whole ” long march through the institutions” thing? You really nail it. To the point where the right ended up formulating “O’Sullivan’s law”: “Any organization or enterprise that is not expressly right wing will become left wing over time.”

Anyway, I think the usual Republican reaction to Ebola is, “Build the border fence, already!” You can’t keep out contagious disease if you have no control over who enters your country. As the rise of TB and Dengue fever along our southern border demonstrates.

Pity about the elder Paul; I think he’s starting to go senile.

7

matt w 08.24.14 at 11:18 am

“Any organization or enterprise that is not expressly right wing will become left wing over time.”

So one explanation for this is that the left wing is always infiltrating organizations unless they specifically organize to keep the left out, and another explanation is that organizations that don’t specifically organize to exclude non-right-wing viewpoints will eventually come to adopt non-right-wing viewpoints, because non-right-wing viewpoints are generally correct. (And a third is that the standards of “left-wing” in play here are inaccurate, and maybe a fourth is that the criteria for “right-wing” and “left-wing” and maybe “over time” are being used in a way to make this unfalsifiable; I would suggest that the Chicago economics department and Dallas Fed are exceptions by my lights, not to mention the US Air Force.)

You’re correct about the Republican reaction about the border fence, though — in fact some Republican representatives have specifically cited the danger that the child migrants might be carrying Ebola, irrespective of the difference between Central America and sub-Saharan Africa.

8

Brett Bellmore 08.24.14 at 11:27 am

Actually, O’Sullivan’s explanation is that the left is more intolerant than the right, so that left wing organizations actively exclude people on the right, while right-wing organizations don’t actively exclude left-wingers, so long at they do their job. But, of course, as soon as a left-winger in a right-wing organization is in a position to influence hiring, they hire only left-wingers.

Whatever the real cause, it’s obviously a real phenomenon.

“And a third is that the standards of “left-wing” in play here are inaccurate, and maybe a fourth is that the criteria for “right-wing” and “left-wing” and maybe “over time” are being used in a way to make this unfalsifiable;”

I don’t think it’s so much unfalsifiable, as locally relative. We don’t define “left” and “right” in America relative to the center of politics in Europe, but rather, the center of politics in the US.

9

Brett Bellmore 08.24.14 at 11:32 am

“some Republican representatives have specifically cited the danger that the child migrants might be carrying Ebola, irrespective of the difference between Central America and sub-Saharan Africa.”

Imagine that you’re an Islamic terrorist, and you want to pull off the next big coup, make 9-11 look pathetic. How better than to infect a bunch of kids with Ebola, and send them North from Mexico? Ebola has a long enough incubation time that, by the time symptoms became undeniable, they’d already have been spread around the country under current policy. So I don’t think the connection between illegal immigration and Ebola is crazy, though it might be speculative.

The connection between a lot of other diseases and illegal immigration, unfortunately, is neither speculative nor crazy. We’re going to be fighting TB and a variety of other nasty diseases we thought we’d beat, for decades, thanks to the efforts of Democrats to “elect a new people”.

10

Tim Chambers 08.24.14 at 11:56 am

Brett,

The problem with your notion is that is assumes a group of terrorists would be willing to risk exposure to Ebola to attain such a result. Not likely. Mechanical devices are much more easily controlled than communicable viruses. So your idea really is quite far-fetched, but then, so are most ideas of the party you represent.

11

Ronan(rf) 08.24.14 at 12:04 pm

The problems with Brett’s “Ebola terrorism” are too many to go into here.

12

Barry 08.24.14 at 12:14 pm

Brett: “How better than to infect a bunch of kids with Ebola, and send them North from Mexico? Ebola has a long enough incubation time that, by the time symptoms became undeniable, they’d already have been spread around the country under current policy. So I don’t think the connection between illegal immigration and Ebola is crazy, though it might be speculative.”

I guess Saddam’s WMD’s are no longer to be used by terrorists?

13

bobbyp 08.24.14 at 12:16 pm

“Whatever the real cause, it’s obviously a real phenomenon.”

That, sir, is utter bullshit.

14

Brett Bellmore 08.24.14 at 12:37 pm

“The problem with your notion is that is assumes a group of terrorists would be willing to risk exposure to Ebola to attain such a result. Not likely.”

We are talking here about people who use suicide bombs, aren’t we? The, “We’ll win because you value life, and we value death!” crowd?

“That, sir, is utter bullshit.”

Says the guy whose side is bolstered by a long list of foundations founded by conservatives…

15

bobbyp 08.24.14 at 1:10 pm

“Says the guy whose side is bolstered by a long list of foundations founded by conservatives…

Says the internet’s Joe McCarthy. You have a list? Produce it. Is is “long?” How many? Bring facts for a change, not assnine propaganda from PowerLine.
According to this lunatic dictum, just about every public corporation is, or is on the way to becoming, “left wing”.

Again, with emphasis: bullshit.

16

rea 08.24.14 at 1:41 pm

It is rather mind-boggling to realize that Ron Paul, who thinks that DDT can somehow be used to treat Ebola, is an MD

17

J Thomas 08.24.14 at 2:08 pm

#6 Btett Bellmore

“O’Sullivan’s law”: “Any organization or enterprise that is not expressly right wing will become left wing over time.”

As the right keeps moving farther right, right-wing organizations will turn into left-wing institutions just by not changing. They don’t have to be infiltrated at all.

18

J Thomas 08.24.14 at 2:09 pm

It is rather mind-boggling to realize that Ron Paul, who thinks that DDT can somehow be used to treat Ebola, is an MD

He has since claimed that his own organization misquoted him.

19

rea 08.24.14 at 2:29 pm

He has since claimed that his own organization misquoted him

That seems to happen to him a lot . . .

20

Glen Tomkins 08.24.14 at 2:39 pm

“Imagine that you’re an Islamic terrorist, and you want to pull off the next big coup, make 9-11 look pathetic. How better than to infect a bunch of kids with Ebola, and send them North from Mexico? Ebola has a long enough incubation time that, by the time symptoms became undeniable, they’d already have been spread around the country under current policy. So I don’t think the connection between illegal immigration and Ebola is crazy, though it might be speculative.”

This Protocols of the Elders of Zion level stuff, a blood libel against Hispanics. Polite counterargument against the purveyor of this filth is not an appropriate response.

21

MPAVictoria 08.24.14 at 2:43 pm

“As the right keeps moving farther right, right-wing organizations will turn into left-wing institutions just by not changing. They don’t have to be infiltrated at all.”

Bingo.

22

mattski 08.24.14 at 2:45 pm

the free-association process that passes for thought in Republican circles

This really says it all.

The only unifying principle behind right wing “thinking” is, don’t rustle me out of my solipsistic slumbers!

See here:

OTOH, the right has a lot to learn from the left about infiltrating and taking over organizations. …the right ended up formulating “O’Sullivan’s law”: “Any organization or enterprise that is not expressly right wing will become left wing over time.”

Few things frighten the right like creeping human decency.

23

MPAVictoria 08.24.14 at 2:50 pm

Brett you have just confirmed MPAVictoria’s Law – “99.457% of what right wingers post on Crooked Timber is ridiculous bullshit.”

24

Ed 08.24.14 at 3:11 pm

I will guess that the Paul argument is that DDT kills mosquitoes. Ebola is carried by mosquitoes. Use DDT, wipe out the mosquitoes, and you wipe out the ebloa carriers. While I strongly suspect this is really mistaken, its not nearly as crazy as people here are reporting it.

“I’ll suggest there’s a significant overlap between DDT advocates and opponents of vaccination and fluoridation.”

This is also incorrect. You are thinking the common and important feature in these arguments is the tin foil hat. But actually the most important variable is worship of technology vs suspicion of technology. DDT, vaccinations, and fluoridation is that they are all manifestations of technology. My right wing friends, who tend to be believers in progress with a capital P, think that these are all almost self evidently good things and anyone who opposes them are nuts. Anyway, I had thought that the anti-fluoridation side has pretty much won that argument and only the U.S. continues to insist on dumpling that stuff into the water supply.

25

J Thomas 08.24.14 at 3:23 pm

I had thought that the anti-fluoridation side has pretty much won that argument and only the U.S. continues to insist on dumpling that stuff into the water supply.

No, it’s an open question lots of places. The UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, Israel, etc do it.

Various places that don’t put it in the drinking water try putting it into the table salt along with iodine, and places there aren’t a lot of poor people can somewhat get by with fluoridated toothpaste. Places with bad income inequality can use fluoridated drinking water the same way we have vitamin-fortified bread. It tends to reach people that way who otherwise wouldn’t get it. But lots of places in europe don’t have that problem as much as we do.

26

Bruce Wilder 08.24.14 at 3:56 pm

Oh, good — a chance to pursue an old hobbyhorse of mine.

The weakness of the political Left — and the Left in the developed West is very weak — is due to their abandonment of what a political psychologist might call, authoritarian followers. In the U.S., the Democrats are moderate Republicans, the Republicans have been reduced to their own extremist wing, and political demoralization and non-participation claim the loyalty of the largest fraction of the potential electorate.

The Democratic Party of the 1950s and 1960s — the Democratic Party that could enact Medicare and implement it in less than a year — was the Party of the New Deal, and its core constituencies were the motley collection of out-groups, aided by the activist, regulatory state created in the New Deal and WWII: the Southerners, the poor, the working class, organized Labor, the Catholics and Jews, the blacks. The Great Depression and the Second World War were frightening times, and people were scared for plenty of good reasons. Defending the borders in those days meant the very sovereignty of the country was genuinely at stake. FDR, in the age of the great demagogues and the Great Dictators, had out-demagogued the demagogues in leading and organizing the people. His efforts were aided by a Left, a large part of which was oriented to organizing the working classes and oppressed minority groups. Left parties in much of the world were “Labour Parties”. The doctrines of non-violent resistance were developed in large part around an understanding of how authoritarian followers could be mobilized and how they would react to the political drama of revealed oppression that non-violent resistance would create.

The mirror image of the Reagan Revolution was the devolution of the Left into a politics of the college-educated professional classes, contemptuous of labor unions and allergic to any sign of racism, and oh so proud of its cosmopolitan embrace of abstract idealism.

Here’s the thing: if you homogenize any political grouping, so that it consists primarily of authoritarian followers, that group’s hyper-sensitivity to in-group/out-group distinctions, resentments and fear is going to make it aggressive and paranoid, and highly susceptible to take over by a leadership of cynical, unprincipled demagogues determined to dominate these followers.

And, if you homogenize a political grouping so that it has no authoritarian followers, it loses all capacity for disciplined behavior and commitment. There’s no one to do the soldiering. Not the image the Left has of itself, but the reality. For the moderate, centre-left, it is a recipe for the empty, self-subverting idealism of neo-liberalism, and a little further left, it becomes the weak tea of Ethics and Etiquette, where language itself washes out into abstract hand-wringing about inequality and climate change. If a right-wing collection of authoritarian followers sees enemies everywhere, a left-wing grouping without authoritarian followers cannot seem to find an opponent or take a stand and fight — everyone will agree and move forward by consensus as soon as we clear up the misunderstanding, the Right will listen to the science and become Left, etc. It’s all a big mystery why those people vote against their economic interest, etc.

Without some us-vs-them, without felt political solidarity as a foundation, there’s no operational basis for pursuing a collective, general or public interest, no basis for organizing institutions that will bind leaders to followers on any practical scale, commanding loyalty and engendering trust. Membership must have its privileges, and the state must, as a practical matter, be a membership organization, which serves a public interest, defined to some large degree by an operational focus on serving its membership.

Border and immigration issues tend to highlight the divide this political homogenization has created. Authoritarian followers react to open-borders idealism as a combination of betrayal and crazy impracticality. They literally cannot fathom the attitude or make sense of what motivates it and frightens them deeply, because it suggests no common loyalty the group, in this case, the nation-state, as a membership organization that takes care of its members. Authoritarian followers become metaphoric soldiers for security, on a similar psychological model to the one that guides real soldiers (and guides well-organized armies to devote so much leadership attention and resource to taking care of the troops — noting, of course, that badly organized armies sometimes become hell-holes, in which a dominating leadership abuses the soldiery.)

The neoliberal order is one that alternately abandons and abuses the lower half (really the lower 80%) of the social and economic hierarchy, and the centre-Left has no instinct for organizing an opposition from the abused and abandoned, let alone a conception for organizing and ordering a practical alternative for such an opposition to embrace.

We’re past the end of an era. The shiny ideals that functioned as beacons to lead people forward in a long-ago time are played out or thoroughly subverted and corrupted. People cling to ideas of what represents progress and a way forward, like free trade or economic growth, that no longer make any sense. The Euro has turned the European project into a suicide pact.

Pointing and laughing at highly motivated people on the Right, who have an unmoored sense of reality is not something that people identified with the Left should be doing lightly. We’re not moored to anything either.

27

Bruce Wilder 08.24.14 at 4:18 pm

Ed:

“. . . the most important variable is worship of technology vs suspicion of technology. DDT, vaccinations, and fluoridation is that they are all manifestations of technology. My right wing friends, who tend to be believers in progress with a capital P, think that these are all almost self evidently good things and anyone who opposes them are nuts. . . . I had thought that the anti-fluoridation side has pretty much won that argument and only the U.S. continues to insist on dumping that stuff into the water supply.”

If you wouldn’t mind a small personal inquiry, how old are you Ed? (I’m interested in placing you generationally.)

I read Ed’s take as a skepticism about technocratic authority.

If you trust the experts and the government, fluoridating the water supply is a cheap and sensible public health measure.

If trust has eroded and the government has been corrupted, then maybe not. Vaccinations might be a pretty good example. The number and expense of childhood vaccinations mandated by the government in the U.S. has multiplied, and it is not unreasonable to suppose that policy is driven forward by the interests of some unethical business corporations into territory where the public interest is not as clear as in the days of the polio vaccine and tetanus shots. It is, nevertheless, hard to organize popular resistance and capture the science at the same time, so the political impulse to better consider the risks can be diverted into cul de sacs, like the association with autism.

28

rea 08.24.14 at 4:19 pm

I will guess that the Paul argument is that DDT kills mosquitoes. Ebola is carried by mosquitoes. Use DDT, wipe out the mosquitoes, and you wipe out the ebloa carriers. While I strongly suspect this is really mistaken, its not nearly as crazy as people here are reporting it

That might almost make sense, if there was any evidence that Ebola is carried by mosquitos rather than spread by direct contact with an infected person.

29

Ed 08.24.14 at 4:21 pm

J Thomas @25, it had not occurred to me that the reason for the fluoridation of the water supply is the existence of alot of people so poor that they can’t even buy fluoridated toothpaste! Thanks for pointing this out. But is this really the case in Australia?

Its also interesting that the countries you listed are all Anglo-Saxon countries.

30

MattF 08.24.14 at 4:24 pm

It’s tough being a winger. When you’ve got a very limited repertoire of ‘facts,’ it becomes arduous, and even embarrassing to have to explain events in the real world. Worse, when those ‘facts’ all have to be derivable from divine revelation, it gets even harder.

31

matt w 08.24.14 at 4:32 pm

So just to clarify, at least two sitting Republican congressmen (Gingrey and Rokita) have expressed concern that the actual refugee children from Central America might be carrying Ebola. Not that some terrorist organization, SPECTRE or something, might in the future infect children with Ebola and somehow convey them to Central America to send them across the Mexican border, but that the current children, who have mostly been in the US before the Ebola outbreak and are coming from countries in which there have been Ebola cases, might be carrying Ebola.

To call this connection “speculative,” as Brett did in 9, is charitable indeed. Or maybe as Glen Tomkins points out the term is not “charitable” but “totally racist.”

32

William Timberman 08.24.14 at 5:03 pm

Bruce Wilder @ 26

I don’t think that pointing people at another enemy, however thoughtfully defined, will do the trick, unless maybe Krugman’s Martians put in a fortuitous appearance. As an organizing principle, demonization of the other has the advantage of inspiring dedication and perseverance, the willingness to face torture and firing squads, etc., but given the world we live in today, there’s no such organizing principle broad enough in scope to do the work we need it to do. Or so it seems to me.

The Right in the U.S. has its candidates — terrorists, blacks, gays, immigrants, liberals, uppity women — which it switches out whenever and wherever it sees organizational gains to be made, and power to be accrued, but the Middle East continues to dissolve on its own schedule, Ta-Nehisi Coates and the residents of Ferguson won’t shut up, the immigrants keep coming, even women and liberals are looking over the edge of the box constructed for them. On another level altogether, the oceans keep acidifying, species keep disappearing, and the global thermometer keeps ticking inexorably up, along with the human population.

The idea that we need to be more inclusive in our view of justice, more tolerant of human differences, and above all, more cognizant of both space and time in our conceptions of politics and the management of complex systems both technological and ecological is not a bad idea. The badness arises from the fact that it’s damned hard either to portray such an idea in simple terms, or to implement it in the face of all the atavisms that even inspired flesh is heir to. President Obama may be a tool, and Rand Paul a dolt, and the liberal Left suffering from what lately appears to be a terminal case of erectile dysfunction, but even the best and the brightest among us are baffled. How do you reverse the rot without breaking very important things, perhaps even suffering through a global dark age? Well, say some, you start small, and you start in a lot of places simultaneously.

Fine and good. Better people than me are doing exactly that. I keep thinking, though, that we need a definitional umbrella, a narrative, a story that extends and unifies the insights of the last couple of centuries, those that led us from the first struggles with revealed religion and the divine right to rule of people in ermine-trimmed robes step-by-step to the unlovely present. In moments of immodesty, I imagine us contributing minor chapters to this story. In any event, the solution to the dilemma that you’ve laid out for us here may be simply that once we have our story, or at least a good outline, we should stick to it.

33

MPAVictoria 08.24.14 at 5:05 pm

“A true measure of a president’s priorities lies hidden in plain sight in his budget proposals. Under that standard, Mr. Obama has been more committed to communities like Ferguson than any Democratic president in the past half century.”

http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2014/08/leftward-drift-democratic-party

Seems like we have been pretty successful in pushing the democrat party leftward without the racists and the homophobes…..

34

Bruce Wilder 08.24.14 at 5:11 pm

MPAVictoria: Seems like we have been pretty successful in pushing the democrat party leftward without the racists and the homophobes…..

There you go. Problem solved.

35

MPAVictoria 08.24.14 at 5:18 pm

Well good thing we are doing something about that by pushing the Democratic Party to the left then Bruce.

36

Ed 08.24.14 at 5:19 pm

“If you wouldn’t mind a small personal inquiry, how old are you Ed? (I’m interested in placing you generationally.)”

I was born in 1970.

I singled out water supply fluoridation because of the three (vaccination, GMO, fluoridation), the case that the authorities know what they are doing and have our best interests at heart is weakest. There are countries where the authorities have stopped fluoridating the water supply, but then there are countries that keep out GMO foods. I’m not aware of a country that has decided to remove vaccinations from the list of what is required, in the US it seems to keep growing.

Nor do I see any connection with climate change. The “official opinion” seems to be that it is a serious problem and maybe we will do something about it later. Then there is a sort of approved oppositional stance that its not even a problem.

37

MPAVictoria 08.24.14 at 5:19 pm

And of course hating on gays and blacks would definitely solve the problem quicker ….

38

MPAVictoria 08.24.14 at 5:27 pm

And of course the social liberalism, besides being the right thing to do Bruce, is not hurting the Democratic Party. Support for Gay Marriage is key to the coming Democratic Majority.

http://www.advocate.com/politics/2013/09/29/poll-youth-support-marriage-equality-abortion-rights-offer-republican-stumbling

39

J Thomas 08.24.14 at 5:47 pm

#29 Ed

J Thomas @25, it had not occurred to me that the reason for the fluoridation of the water supply is the existence of alot of people so poor that they can’t even buy fluoridated toothpaste! Thanks for pointing this out. But is this really the case in Australia?

The issue is not so much can’t but won’t. In the USA fluoridated areas tend to do better about cavities by statistical studies, but there could be room for bias — places that refuse to fluoridate may tend to be poorer or otherwise have worse habits and less dental care for other reasons.

Table salt with fluoride at about the same price as regular table salt might give results just as good and allow individual choice. But given the choice, lots of people refuse to buy fluoridated table salt which sort of defeats the purpose.

40

Bruce Wilder 08.24.14 at 6:14 pm

William Timberman: I don’t think that pointing people at another enemy, however thoughtfully defined, will do the trick

I’ve had to wean myself from New Deal nostalgia, a politics that worked, because a genuine external threat to the country helped to solve the problem of how to bind leaders to followers in a way that made the leaders behave well.

We have met the enemy, and he is us: Before the New Deal had WWII to make it work, it had a strong and realistic sense that a large part of the elite was a criminal class, which had to be contained, constrained and fought every step of the way.

I think people need to wake up to the reality that the globalized mega-wealthy have become the enemy once again. Marx mistook late feudalism for late capitalism. The divide et impera strategies of race and class and religion backfired in mass societies in the mid-20th century, forming a basis to organize mass participation politics and the welfare state. The last remnants of dynastic, feudal empire collapsed into a maelstrom a hundred years ago, as nationalism and liberal democracy struggled to organize society from the bottom up, to serve an ideal of a public good operationalized as a national good.

Today, the liberal welfare state is the neoliberal state — the Predator State as Galbraith fils called it — drained of life principle, of any sense of animating political solidarity, of serving a self-conscious People. I think Sheldon Wolin is right, that the U.S. is rapidly becoming an illiberal democracy, based on a politics of “inverted totalitarianism” which rests on keeping the mass of people in a persistent state of political apathy, bereft of any hope or trust that the government will help them. The Euro and centrist coalition politics are driving the European Project down a parallel path.

In the place where the social contract should be, we have at the moment an act of implicit extortion: the mass of people have to accept sacrifices and secular stagnation, or the alternative is immediate collapse and chaos. It’s preservationism at its most cynical. Keep the system going. “What’s the alternative?” And, it is also Obama. Not Obama, the person, of course, but Obama as he functions in our politics, to deflect, to defuse and prevent any rebellion or reaction from below from organizing to achieve political power. An Occupy that doesn’t simply beg to be noticed and taken into account by the powers that be, but aspires to be the power.

I think there was some glimmering in Ferguson of us v them. It was possible there and then because the old markers of race gave it recognizable shape, and if the old racial markers also let some people dismiss it, I think some of us recognized which side of the barricades, which end of the barrel of the gun we are likely to be on. I’m not pointing to a “new enemy”; I am pointing to the barricades and which side most of us are on.

41

Thornton Hall 08.24.14 at 6:34 pm

@Bruce Wilder
I know you tend toward fatalism, but I think if you look at a couple of contemporaneous features of American civilization, things that are quite changeable, you’ll perhaps be slightly more optimistic.

The two features are the professional, objective media and the academic conviction that if it’s not esoteric and useless, it’s not academic.

In the early 20th Century, Pulitzer ran newspapers officially aligned with the Democratic Party. In the second half, Pulitzer Prize winners Judith Miller and Bob Woodward took shorthand from W. Meanwhile, the universities that revolutionized agriculture and fueled the age of invention spent tuition dollars on football stadiums and Neoliberaleconomics, which, at the very least, was more useful than disciplines dominated by “post” this and “critical” that.

Both institutions grew sclerotic thanks to monopoly power. This is well documented in the case of the media. In the case of academia, the monopoly was the massive power of the college degree credential. Outside a couple of hard sciences, there is no empirical restraint on what is taught in college as long as the degree credential retains it’s power.

The worst example is economics, because of the mass delusion that it did have an empirical check. It was accepted that libertarians produced libertarian economic theories because that’s how the world worked. Who would disagree when the cost was the only thing that mattered, the credential?

But competition is here. The best thing about the Internet is the return of biased journalism. In the 90s I had to get my Rodney King news from white people. Now I can get my Ferguson news from black people. Like magic, what “objective” news would have called a riot is now known to at least some people as a protest.

In academia the competition is coming in the end of a business model. It is now cheaper to have a personal tutor with two graduate degrees than to attend a private university (based on adjuncts teach 20 course hours for less per year of tuition). That can’t go on. Soon the dissolution of the NCAA will end big time sports at all but the biggest sports universities. A hard rains a gonna fall.

42

Thornton Hall 08.24.14 at 6:39 pm

I should be more explicit. I think having a more biased media and an academy that must justify its existence in practical terms will both strengthen the ranks of progressive foot soldiers.

43

Bruce Wilder 08.24.14 at 6:40 pm

Ed @ 36: I singled out water supply fluoridation because of the three (vaccination, GMO, fluoridation), the case that the authorities know what they are doing and have our best interests at heart is weakest.

You really think the case for fluoridating the water is weak? I don’t want to argue it, I just want to draw attention to how different our perceptions of it are, and I imagine that it might have something to do with my belonging to the earlier Baby Boom generation rather than yours.

To me, fluoridating the water is cheap and effective. I’m trying to imagine a public official fluoridating for some corrupt, self-interested reason, and I can’t conjure it.

I have looked at vaccination and GMO, and I can see the dead hand of corrupt corporate interests at work, driving policy, possibly in ways that are detrimental.

The case for some of the more expensive vaccines now mandated is fairly weak on technical grounds.

In the case of measles, it’s a consequence of success — the incidence of the target disease is now so low that the vaccine can have more serious adverse consequences than the disease it prevents. That could be regarded as a genuinely, technically difficult policy dilemma.

One of the most expensive mandated vaccines is for a form of pneumonia, treatable by other means, the natural incidence of which is not that great a threat. That looks a lot like money pressing the boundaries of sensible public policy decision-making. It is really murky.

I honestly do not see a lot of murky with fluoridation. All kids have teeth. You might have a better case with other aspects of formulating commercial toothpastes — the controversy over Colgate Total’s use of an controversial antibacterial, for example. Do we trust the regulatory process there, where contending for-profit corporations take opposite sides? Could we trust it if the for-profit corporations were all on one side?

Again, I’m just offering my impressions to highlight the differences. I’m not interested in arguing the merits and don’t want to hijack the thread with an argument of the merits. The politics will shift in important ways because of different ideas about government regulation, political corruption and “trust” in science and technocracy.

44

William Timberman 08.24.14 at 7:02 pm

Bruce Wilder @ 40

I can’t disagree with a word of what you’ve written here, but as with most of what’s written on the subject, even as close to the tipping point as we appear to be, it’s more descriptive than prescriptive. It doesn’t tell us how to grab the levers and move them more than a notch or two. Which is an unfair judgment, I realize, in the sense that the guides history gives us about effecting fundamental change are not — and probably cannot be — fully applicable to our situation.

First, we are, as individuals, no so very different in significant ways from our forebears, and accordingly, our organizational instincts suffer from similar defects, which are often enough reflected not only in our fanciful plans for resistance, but equally in our proposals for new institutions to replace the old. Second, the scale is hugely different, a case where quantity really does have a quality of its own. Even in a state of total constipation, the neoliberal colossus has formidable resources which it can devote to repression, more extensive and more granular ones than any available to the Roman Empire, or even to the totalitarianisms of the recent past. If this weren’t bad enough, replacing this colossus with something more humane, and more responsive, means to replicate what it does well, on more or less the same scale, or risk implosion.

In short, are we to be disgruntled cattle of the neoliberal order, the stormers of its Bastilles, the wasp which lays her eggs in its bloated carcass, or all of these metaphors at once. No matter how it goes, we’ll be taking a lot on, and it’s hard to see far enough ahead to know what steps to take from moment to moment. Might as well try everything, I suppose, and see if any of it works. Damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

45

Thornton Hall 08.24.14 at 7:08 pm

@Wm Timberman
I really think the late 20th Century anomaly of “objective” news was a huge part of the Neoliberal Colossus that is rapidly disappearing.

46

William Timberman 08.24.14 at 7:23 pm

Thornton Hall @ 45

At this point, I’d characterize your observation more as sentiment-I’d-love-to-be-able-to-share than harbinger of things to come. If one replaces Walter Cronkite with the NSA, or Letters to the Editor with Brett Bellmore, what exactly does one gain?

47

Crust 08.24.14 at 7:46 pm

Sadly, I think Nicholas Kristof is with the Republican hindbrain on this one. At least, I don’t think he’s ever renounced this column.

48

casino implosion 08.24.14 at 7:47 pm

They say a conservative is just a liberal who has been through three bedbug infestations in 12 years.

49

Abbe Faria 08.24.14 at 7:54 pm

“DDT has never been banned in anti-malarial use”

Yes it has. The idea that a global ban in the 70s caused millions of deaths is nonsense. Your Prospect article pushing the reverse myth that DDT has never been banned in anti-malarial use is equally wrong and just as pernicious. Particularly when there through the POP convention there’s is an mechanism designed precisely to enforce a total global ban – that’s denialism of the worst kind.

50

Crust 08.24.14 at 7:55 pm

(By “this one” I meant the idea that agricultural DDT bans lead to more deaths from malaria, whereas in reality they slow the spread of resistance and therefore likely save lives. AFAIK, Kristof hasn’t jumped on the squeamishness-about-DDT-is-responsible-for-Ebola bandwagon. But anyway DDT is far from the only case with Kristof; somehow he has a soft spot sometimes for right wing liberal-bashing apologetics.)

51

Crust 08.24.14 at 8:02 pm

Abbe Faria @44, what are you talking about? The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) does not require a “total global ban”, in fact it has a specific exemption for malaria control. Per Wikipedia: “Co-signatories agree to […] limit the use of DDT to malaria control…” As I recall, DDT truthers tried to claim credit for the inclusion of that limitation, but that claim was bogus as well.

52

Bruce Wilder 08.24.14 at 8:24 pm

Thornton Hall @ 41

I don’t know that I’m a fatalist. I’m pessimistic, now. I think that’s dictated by circumstances.

Your narrative projection of the evolution of academia and media journalism, driven by diversity and competition, is plausible enough.

As you have probably surmised, I’m an institutionalist, and I think institutions have life cycles, and that they grow, age and evolve. I reject the idea of stasis in social arrangements; if there’s equilibria, they are dynamic equilibria, like the gyroscopic stability of a bicycle, powered by forward motion.

Your notion of the university as resting on its capacity to grant a rent-earning credential reflects only its most recent history, its decadent state. The older idea was that the university would rest on an endowment, a grant of lands and moneys, which would make it independent, an island of independent seekers of truth, a reservoir not just of expertise but of integrity. For a long time, the faculty of universities were expected to be ordained clergy, at a time when that was a marker of moral commitment and idealism.

The goal of university education was not a grubby credential, but entry into the society of educated people, a cadre of generalists, who could provide competent “disinterested” elite leadership for the society, for the country, as well as needed specialist knowledge.

The idea of endowing universities, to make them independent, has been revived and renewed many times. Cardinal Wolsey was using the proceeds from the Dissolution of the Monasteries to fund Christ Chuch, Oxford. The British colonies were competing to found colleges — it is sometimes forgotten that Harvard and Yale are, technically, state-founded institutions. The Morrill Act used land grants to encourage the foundation of State Universities, which were funded for many decades by state appropriations, though that’s faded now. Many religions have sponsored colleges and universities. Pulitzer was instrumental in founding the Columbia and Missouri School of Journalism, helping make journalism a profession. That’s universities are being suborned by corporate money and credentialism . . . well, these things age, die and are reborn. I’m fine with that. It makes me a little sad — I mourn the passing of friends and family these days as a regular occurrence, without any fear that the life will not go on — this is how life goes on, after all.

I agree with you that the new cost structures of the internet age and the reinvention of academia in their shadow are causes for hope. Lots of economic organization are being restructured — its inevitable. Journalism, too, may find a new life, from the same processes.

What bothers me a bit, and is worrying to me — though anyone my age is always worrying that they are just being an old fogey, becoming a bad version of their parents — is that essential values and architectural principles are being lost sight of.

In that sense, I cannot endorse your idea that consumer-dependence will be a good thing in the long run for academia or journalism. Finding independent foundations or bases for truth-telling introduces into the structure of political economy, an essential element of adaptability to changing reality. Without it, the society will become stagnant, and possibly brittle.

Education just doesn’t work well as a for-profit business. Though I tend to think that a decline in credentialism, because the value of the credential has been competed away, as is the case of law licenses, would be a good thing for the society; still, I’m skeptical that a demographic decline in literacy and education in the society at large would be a good thing. As part of the general policy of disinvesting in order to raise cash to pay bonuses to billionaires, the educational capital of the country will decline — I hope something happens to spur a reversal in some form.

“Objective” journalism was an advance in its day, an incremental improvement that came as a bonus to the consolidation of the big city press into fewer papers. The explosion of the newspaper business in the early decades of the 20th century — the glory days of Hearst and Pulitzer — that was an improvement and advance, too, as literate working and middle classes came up in the world. Those papers were economically independent of their major advertisers, because their most major advertising revenue was from tens of thousands of classifieds. Some of the scions of great families that took over the municipal dailies in the 1940s and 1950s did so with the public spirit of the war years. It couldn’t last, because nothing lasts.

I do worry that the current reinvention of the political economy is not going well in certain respects. It may be that there are constraints — the overpopulation of the world — that condemn the rest of this century, no matter how well political choice are made.

The openings for political change will come — they are always coming. I fully expect a renewal of acute economic crisis in the Fall, and political violence will rise in the U.S. for the remainder of the decade — just part of the established cycle. The Democratic Party is about to complete its long drawn-out generational change of leadership, and that will profoundly affect its character, for better or worse. I genuinely fear the return of the Republicans to uncontested power, every stupid folly from first decade of the 21st century, legitimated by the Democrats, but it seems baked in, that they will try.

53

Thornton Hall 08.24.14 at 8:30 pm

@46 I’d say all of the following are the direct result of the resurrection of biased journalism:
A. The counter-narrative that free-trade is not always good, even the liberal kind with compensation for the losers, doesn’t work as advertised. You would still find it easier to convince the editorial board of the Economist that the moon is made of cheese, and yet the narrative is very much out there.
B. Ferguson was peaceful protests marred by violence. The reaction to Rodney King was riots full stop (we were told).
C. The career of Joe McCarthy vs the career of Ted Cruz.
D. The declining influence of Sunday shows.
E. Alger Hiss vs Edward Snowden ??? (I don’t know enough about the first one to really make this claim).

54

js. 08.24.14 at 8:31 pm

DDT, vaccinations, and fluoridation … are all manifestations of technology. My right wing friends, who tend to be believers in progress with a capital P, think that these are all almost self evidently good things and anyone who opposes them are nuts.

What’s with the implication that opposition to vaccination and fluoridation are left-wing positions? This seems totally backwards. Yes, there are some hippie weirdos who are anti-vaxxers but lean left on some other issues. But from what I remember, the numbers just aren’t there to show that opposition to vaccination is a position held consistently and distinctly by people on the left. Beyond this, even if there were some such correlation, this wouldn’t at all show that such opposition fits naturally or comfortably with core commitments of the left. I mean, it’s all lies and paranoia, for fuck’s sake.

(I don’t know much about fluoridation, but I certainly don’t see any reason to oppose it. After all, any policy opposition to which is spearheaded by the John Birch Society can’t be all bad.)

55

js. 08.24.14 at 8:33 pm

Inevitable HTML fuck-up! First para is quoted from Ed @24; next two are me.

56

Thornton Hall 08.24.14 at 8:56 pm

@48 I think there is some room between credentialism and consumer dependence. I think the future of the university is tied up with the end of affirmative action simultaneous with the end of the sufficiency, for any purpose, of a high school education. The Michigan case about “qualifications” only makes sense because the Michigan Constituition draws a sharp line between guaranteed education and “higher” education. But the idea that only some people are qualified for post secondary education is absurd. I mean, even barbers go to 13th grade.

It’s hard to see when the baby boomers are still so powerful. They are totally deluded about college because in 1947 you could easily pay full tuition plus room plus board at UMass with the savings from a minimum wage summer job. Easy. But millennials aren’t going to lecture the next generation about poor choices and going to a college “I could afford with hard work.” All the future leaders of America are currently six figures in debt working at jobs that pay 30k. Yes, they will be lobbied by Tagg Romney, but money can’t change the generational reality of massive piles of absurd student debt.

57

Thornton Hall 08.24.14 at 9:00 pm

There is more than one way to check an institution. “Free markets” are one sort of reality check. But I think “useful for citizens” can once again be the criterion by which colleges are judged.

58

William Timberman 08.24.14 at 9:05 pm

Thornton Hall @ 49

Maybe my Cronkite/NSA shorthand was a little obscure, so let me try again. The great enabler of what you’re calling biased journalism is the Internet, and on the Internet no one has to suffer in silence the sophistries of The Most Trusted Man in America, the Voice of the Bourgeois Establishment, be he Walter Cronkite, David Broder, or whoever. In fact, as you point out, such titles have themselves become anachronisms.

If you look at icons like Walter Cronkite as mechanisms of consensus engineering, social control, etc., though, the NSA does a much better job, albeit at much greater expense to the treasury. (Then again, recent so-called reforms of the tax structure have forced the victims to foot the bill to a much greater extent than in Cronkite’s day.) What a delicious irony that the very vehicle of diversity of opinion, the Internet, has made it that much easier to catalog the types of dissent likely to be troublesome, and to locate and track their epicenters for possible future action.

The result, it seems to me, is a refinement of the techniques of social control pioneered by objective journalism, not their antithesis. And the beauty part, of course, is that those charged with the preservation of the status quo can now afford to let us have and express any opinions we care to, while using the much ballyhooed improvements to our liberties of speech to more efficiently monitor and fragment (Brett Bellmore figures in precisely here) collective actions based on any opinion which might pose a threat to that status quo.

Will it work? In the long run, perhaps not. If it’s true that ideas have force, and that the force of good ideas has a more lasting influence on the balance of power, you may have a case. In the meantime, there’s more than an idea or two at stake, and lots and lots of winnowing to be done before we reach a useful consensus on any issue in particular, let alone on the general welfare as a whole.

59

Thornton Hall 08.24.14 at 9:07 pm

@Bruce
Economic crisis this Fall? How do you figure? Inevitable stock correction combined with insufficient jobs recovery causing a negative feedback loop?

60

djr 08.24.14 at 9:09 pm

Ed @ 36

“I’m not aware of a country that has decided to remove vaccinations from the list of what is required”

Smallpox? More recently, the UK dropped routine BCG vaccinations against TB for teenagers in 2005, as the incidence of TB was so low that vaccination was no longer worthwhile except in high-risk areas. I’d be amazed if there aren’t other examples.

61

cassander 08.24.14 at 9:12 pm

@bruce wilder

>the Democrats are moderate Republicans, the Republicans have been reduced to their own extremist wing,

the idea that the democrats are to the right of where they were in the 50s and 60s is simply silly. There are about 3 issues on which there has been rightward movement since eisenhower was president, monetary policy, crime policy, and reagan/carter deregulation. Each of those was only a partial reversal of previous leftward shifts. Monetary policy moved to monetarism, not back to the gold standard. The various steppings up of criminal enforcement were laid on top of the due process revolution, they did not repeal it. And while there was some industry specific deregulation, general regulation of health, safety, civil rights, environment, etc. have continuously been expanded. In 1960, it was politically acceptable, if unfashionable to openly advocate segregation, to carpet bomb entire countries, and saw the left wing candidate get elected on a stridently anti-communist platform.

>To me, fluoridating the water is cheap and effective. I’m trying to imagine a public official fluoridating for some corrupt, self-interested reason, and I can’t conjure it.

oh, please, you are better than that. Not that I am opposed to fluoridating water, but at the very least the official in question might be doing it to get kickbacks from whatever company is providing the fluoride.

>Without some us-vs-them, without felt political solidarity as a foundation, there’s no operational basis for pursuing a collective, general or public interest, no basis for organizing institutions that will bind leaders to followers on any practical scale, commanding loyalty and engendering trust.

I agree completely, but draw an entirely different lesson from it. It is precisely progressivism that undermines the solidarity you seek. Your lament about the the decline of the independence of universities is a perfect example of this. For universities, or anyone, to be independent, they cannot be financially dependent on anyone. By having the state dole out a ton of money to universities, you have created a system guaranteed, in the long run, to drive towards a state that tries to manipulate the universities (to get their money’s worth) and for the universities to manipulate the state (to keep the money flowing). Hell, this is exactly what eisenhower warned about in his MIC speech, “The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.” Even before the left’s embrace of identity politics gave particularism a moral and ideological justification, you were building a system that simply couldn’t last.

62

Thornton Hall 08.24.14 at 9:13 pm

@54 I just don’t see the instrumentality that allows NSA control. Walter Cronkite passing along the daily body count, with theirs always so much higher has obvious implications. How does the NSA achieve that result today?

63

Piquoiseau 08.24.14 at 9:33 pm

“You know when fluoridation first began?…1946. 1946, Mandrake. How does that coincide with your post-war Commie conspiracy, huh? It’s incredibly obvious, isn’t it?”

64

William Timberman 08.24.14 at 9:37 pm

Thornton Hall @ 58

You’re not casting your net widely enough. This was never just about journalism.

65

Thornton Hall 08.24.14 at 9:43 pm

@57 the endless musing about being and nothingness that consumed the humanities at far too many institutions was caused by their dependence on government? Even as their dependence was radically shrinking????

66

Thornton Hall 08.24.14 at 9:46 pm

Not to mention the still dominant Friedmanism that is the backbone of every university economics department?????? That’s caused by the government????? Are you on crack?

67

John Quiggin 08.24.14 at 9:47 pm

Abbe Faria @49 What Crust @51 said. The global POP agreement includes a goal of eventually phasing out DDT. The big controversy around 2000 was whether or not to set a date, which would turn this from an aspiration to a commitment – the latter might be called a ban. The outcome was that no date was set.

To make the point obvious, DDT has been in continuous use since the 1950s, which is inconsistent with your claim of a global ban.

68

John Quiggin 08.24.14 at 9:51 pm

Kristof just manages to fudge the issue enough to avoid obvious and outright error, while giving far too much credence to the pro-DDT case. This isn’t unusual with him.

69

William Berry 08.24.14 at 10:28 pm

@Cassander:

From just glancing occasionally at your comments, I had already figured out that you were a Bellmorian nutbag, but this is ludicrous:

“[O]h, please, you are better than that. Not that I am opposed to fluoridating water, but at the very least the official in question might be doing it to get kickbacks from whatever company is providing the fluoride.”

Fluorides are common salts, and are incredibly cheap. It is inconceivable that the small amounts used in fluoridation would involve the kind of money that would tempt a public official.

BTW, I can’t accuse you and BB of taking down CT all by yourselves. Trolls will be trolls, after all.

No, it is the decent commenters of CT who waste time engaging you who are to blame for that. There must be gratification of a sort involved. Kind of a hobby, I guess, so whatever.

As you were.

70

Abbe Faria 08.24.14 at 10:56 pm

@ 67. Where did I ever claim a total global ban?

You, however, are the source of the myth that “DDT has never been banned in anti-malarial use”. Of course it has, and this is 100% wrong. While you are correct the US allows DDT use in disease control, plenty of countries which actually do have malaria problems – like Brazil for example – have total bans on all use.

“Abbe Faria @44, what are you talking about? The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) does not require a “total global ban”, in fact it has a specific exemption for malaria control.”

Crust @ 51. The POP convention aspire at elimination and does not have an general exemption for malaria control – that’s another Quiggin/Lambert trope designed to support the “DDT has never been banned in anti-malarial use” myth. The text of convention actually only allows use within WHO guidelines, i.e. all anti-malarial use outside of these is banned, not that anyone wants to admit this. Usually countries can and do routinely run disease control programs ouside of WHO guidelines – see the US use of untested ebola drugs.

Lastly, WHO in turn is committed to the conventions goal of DDT elimination (& that’s ignoring external presure from the UNEP), so because WHO guidelines are explictly written into the text of the convention, DDT can be banned at any time through the convention without renegotiation, simply by revision of these guidelines.

This is why I think Quiggin’s myth mongering is so pernicious. We have complete local bans on DDT in much of the world. We have a global ban on all anti-malarial use outside WHO guidelines. And we have a convention aspiring at and designed to enable the enforcement of a total global ban. But Quiggin and the leftwing press he’s influencing is insisting “DDT has never been banned in anti-malarial use” and there’s nothing to worry about.

71

cassander 08.24.14 at 11:03 pm

>Fluorides are common salts, and are incredibly cheap. It is inconceivable that the small amounts used in fluoridation would involve the kind of money that would tempt a public official.

some brief checking seems to show that fluoridation costs the US about a dollar a person a year. This means just about every state is handing out millions of dollars in contracts every year for fluoride. Are you really saying that no state representative or public works official in the entire country would consider taking 50k to ensure that a particular company got a contract for 11 million instead of 10?

>BTW, I can’t accuse you and BB of taking down CT all by yourselves. Trolls will be trolls, after all.

tell me, is there anyone more than an arms reach to your right that you don’t consider a troll? I’m just curious if you think honest disagreement with you is actually possible.

72

Dr. Hilarius 08.24.14 at 11:05 pm

Fluoridation conspiracy is traditionally a right-wing obsession, as per Dr. Stranglove. As a child, my very conservative Mormon dentist remarked that he quit listening to radio personality Paul Harvey after hearing him attack fluoridation as some sort of plot.

There are some on the “left” (more accurately, New Age-type health nuts) who have adopted fluoridation as a pet fear. As William Berry points out @ 69, there is no money to made in fluoridating water. There is a great deal of money and pain to be saved given that so many American lack any dental insurance.

And please, no one bother to cite to the National Academy of Sciences paper on the dangers of fluoride in drinking water. As the paper repeatedly states, it had nothing to do with intentional fluoridation for dental benefits, it was looking at naturally occurring fluoride, often at levels far higher than prophylactic fluoridation. Even then the evidence was inconclusive. More recent studies have been done in China but those studies are confounded by co-occurance of other poisons in the environment and water supplies, often from industrial pollution.

73

Thornton Hall 08.24.14 at 11:06 pm

Dude, if you’re going to the reasonable look, you might want to ditch the fluoride is crony capitalism nonsense. It could have made sense. Turns out it doesn’t. Walk away.

74

MPAVictoria 08.24.14 at 11:22 pm

“tell me, is there anyone more than an arms reach 100 miles to your right that you don’t consider a troll.”

There fixed that for you.

75

MPAVictoria 08.24.14 at 11:23 pm

Sigh. My HTML tags suck. Sorry.

76

John Quiggin 08.24.14 at 11:34 pm

Abbe Faria @70 “We have a global ban on all anti-malarial use outside WHO guidelines.”

In this use of the term, the US has banned drinking, smoking, driving, working and just about everything else except breathing, and maybe guns. All of these are banned if they take place outside legally enforced guidelines

77

John Quiggin 08.24.14 at 11:42 pm

The claim that the WHO can unilaterally ban DDT by changing the guidelines, without reference to the parties, is also false. Annex II to the convention states

Commencing at its first meeting, and at least every three years thereafter, the Conference of the Parties shall, in consultation with the World Health Organization, evaluate the continued need for DDT for disease vector control on the basis of available scientific, technical, environmental and economic information

(emphasis added)

78

cassander 08.25.14 at 12:06 am

@Thornton Hall

>Dude, if you’re going to the reasonable look, you might want to ditch the fluoride is crony capitalism nonsense. It could have made sense. Turns out it doesn’t. Walk away.

I’m not claiming it is, I’m not opposed to fluoridation. I’m just pointing out how ludicrous it is to assume that there is no possible way fluoridation could possibly be corrupt. Of course it can be, anything can be.

@MPAVictoria

>“tell me, is there anyone more 100 miles to your right that you don’t consider a troll.”

ah, so you use trolling not to define a behavior, but simply a as derogatory term for anyone you disagree with sufficiently. Well, at least you’re honest about the violence you’re doing to the english language and forthright in your bigotry.

79

Abbe Faria 08.25.14 at 12:13 am

That quote doesn’t even fucking mention the WHO guidelines, it just arranges for the parties to review the science and check on the need for a medical exemption every 3 yrs. The WHO is not a signatory anyway, so nothing in the treaty could give signatories power to write WHO guidelines (which btw would be the most outragous politicalisation of an independent advice giving body if it were true, not that it is).

80

MPAVictoria 08.25.14 at 12:14 am

@Cassandra
Oh come off it. You are obviously much, much more than an arms length to the right from most if the posters here. Pretending otherwise just makes you look unserious.

81

Abbe Faria 08.25.14 at 12:19 am

“All of these are banned if they take place outside legally enforced guidelines”

I’ll think you’ll find that’s pretty much the definition of ban, you know, using the law to restrict something…

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/ban

“DDT has never been banned in anti-malarial use”

“2. Each Party that produces and/or uses DDT shall restrict such production and/or use for disease vector control in accordance with the World Health Organization recommendations and guidelines on the use of DDT”

82

Ze Kraggash 08.25.14 at 12:42 am

@14 “The, “We’ll win because you value life, and we value death!” crowd?”

Actually, Mexicans themselves really do have a cult of death: Santa Muerte, and all that. Scarrrrry.

83

John Quiggin 08.25.14 at 12:48 am

@AF You appear to be confused as to the distinction between “restrict” (your defn) and “prohibit” (the dictionary definition to which you link). I had taken your pseudonym to be uninformative, but perhaps you are not a native speaker of English. If that is the case, I suggest you consult one. If you are a native speaker, I don’t know how to proceed further with this.

84

bad Jim 08.25.14 at 4:41 am

Bruce Wilder, concerning your #43: Immunization against pneumococcus in Africa also reduces levels of antibiotic resistance. I strongly disagree with your characterization of the measles vaccine; we’re getting outbreaks all over the country.

I want to apologize to everyone for bringing up fluoridation. The John Birch Society was very influential in my youth, and that particular bit of fear-mongering seemed especially ludicrous at the time.

It cannot be over-emphasized that, like anything else, DDT’s use has to be restricted in order to limit resistance in the target population.

85

Meredith 08.25.14 at 5:20 am

casino implosion @48: “They say a conservative is just a liberal who has been through three bedbug infestations in 12 years.”

I don’t know if current DDT is effective against current bedbugs, but to paraphrase Jesus, “The bedbugs are always with us.” We can’t change encampments anymore (the way Indians once changed encampments because the fleas had gotten to be too much). So, we’ve got problems. Welcome to the planet. Let’s discuss targeted use of dangerous chemicals like DDT as needed, intelligently. Let’s also learn to live with a few inconveniences, like maybe fleas or bedbugs now and then (though the latter are a more serious problem, I acknowledge — three in twelve years?!?).

86

James Wimberley 08.25.14 at 9:49 am

An additional note on Abbe Faria’s strange understanding of international institutions. The WHO is not an an “independent advice giving body” but a standard intergovernmental organisation, a survivor like the ILO of the League of Nations system that was inherited by the UN. Its Director-General, secretariat, and apparatus of expert committees are ultimately accountable to its member states – the same ones who wrote the Stockholm Protocol. By the nature of its mandate, the WHO staff and experts are conceded wide professional and operational autonomy. But major goals like the eradication of polio are political agreements.

I am a retired international (European) civil servant, so I’m not just recycling Wikipedia here.

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Ronan(rf) 08.25.14 at 11:02 am

I don’t really agree with anything Bruce has said above, but it’s a nice lead in to link to this

http://epicureandealmaker.blogspot.ch/2014/08/all-hail-and-farewell-trophy-kids.html

so true.

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Ronan(rf) 08.25.14 at 11:11 am

..actually, i dont know if it’s true. But it’s funny.

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Ronan(rf) 08.25.14 at 11:32 am

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Abbe Faria 08.25.14 at 11:42 am

James @ 86. No, you’re not just recycling wikipedia, if you were you’d be aware the WHO isn’t a “standard intergovernmental organisation” like UNICEF or UNDP, but rather an autonomous specialised agency. You’d realise the WHO isn’t “conceded” autonomy, but is entitled to it under it’s relationship agreement with ECOSOC. You’d also be aware that the WHO has a separate constitution and membership to the UN, which also isn’t identical to parties which have ratified the Stockholm Convention.

JQ @ 83. That’s really your excuse for never accurately informing people of the legal status of DDT in the, what, 8 years you’ve been shilling for environmentalists? Jesuitry around the word ban.

That’s not the message anyone who’s read anything you have said will have taken away. When you said “DDT has never been banned for anti-malarial uses” I think they’ll have gotten the impression that total bans such as in Brazil have not happened. When you said “It was agreed that the use of DDT for malaria control should be exempted from the [convention] until affordable substitutes could be found” I think people won’t have fully understood that the banning use outside WHO guidelines was enacted by the convention.

I’ve lost a lot of respect for you in this thread, I used to think you were honest but simply ignorant of the facts, now it’s becoming increasingly obvious you’re fully aware and calculatedly misleading people.

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Barry 08.25.14 at 1:21 pm

Bruce @43: “One of the most expensive mandated vaccines is for a form of pneumonia, treatable by other means, the natural incidence of which is not that great a threat. That looks a lot like money pressing the boundaries of sensible public policy decision-making. It is really murky.”

From what I’ve gathered (hospital policies), this is largely aimed at people aged 60+.

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Glen Tomkins 08.25.14 at 3:39 pm

91,

Bruce is probably referring to Prevnar, a newer anti-pneumococcal vaccine that is indeed recommended in the US for all infants. But universal vaccination is not recommended for children older than two, so it isn’t one of the mandated vaccinations for school attendance anywhere I’m familiar with, though some daycares require it. The reason for the age difference is that, while waiting for someone to develop pneumococcal pneumonia to treat it with antibiotics is a reasonable strategy for patients in an older age range, infections in general tend to get away from you quickly in infants and toddlers. “Treatable by other means” doesn’t hold up for the under 5 set.

You’re probably thinking of the older anti-pneumococcal, Pneumovax, which is indeed recommended only for the aged and those with certain medical conditions.

As for Prevnar’s cost, that’s entirely a function of our willingness to allow unrestricted rent-seeking in the provision of medical services. Cost of production is trivial. The huge difference in what we actually pay for it is a sacrifice on the altar of the free market fundamentalism that has become our state religion, and does not reflect any inherent expense of Prevnar vs other vaccines.

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James Wimberley 08.25.14 at 5:04 pm

Abbe Faria in #90:
The WHO is a standard intergovernmental organisation in that its top decision-making organ is an assembly of accredited representatives of member states, who appoint its chief executive and adopt its budget and main policy decisions by one country, one vote. Contrast the European Union (supragovernmental) or the IMF (intergovernmental, but weighted voting, and peculiar appointment of director).

The autonomy I spoke of is that of the Secretariat and experts. This is unusually high in the WHO – contrast the ILO or OECD – because medicine is a science, and doctors have enjoyed professional autonomy before it became one. You raise the irrelevant tissue of institutional autonomy. The WHO’s connection to the UN is formal rather than real; the WHO is much more powerful and influential than the ECOSOC that recognized rahter than granted its independence.

I don’t see what relevance the minor differences in the set of WHO member states and the set of states who adopted the Stockholm Protocol, or attended the diplomatic conference that adopted it, have to do with anything. They are both global.

When in hole, stop digging.

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Witt 08.25.14 at 5:28 pm

I’m breaking my Don’t Feed the Troll rule to point out that Bellmore at 6 is mistaken, lying, or under the illusion that we can somehow screen mosquitos at the border.

Dengue fever is not transmittable through humans.

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Abbe Faria 08.25.14 at 6:20 pm

“You raise the irrelevant tissue of institutional autonomy.

How is the question of institutional autonomy irrelevant? The POP convention gives legal force to WHO guidelines, so you must agree that who writes these guidelines and the independence they are granted in of some relevance?

“I don’t see what relevance the minor differences in the set of WHO member states and the set of states who adopted the Stockholm Protocol, or attended the diplomatic conference that adopted it, have to do with anything.”

The relevance is per #77 whether parties to the conference can write WHO guidelines acting through the convention. The answers No. Can the World Health Assembly write WHO guidelines? Again No, the WHO constitution makes clear it’s a policy setting body, not responsible for technical implementation. The fact these are different sets acting under different agreements is very important.

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JimV 08.25.14 at 7:07 pm

@Abbe Faria

It seems to me (not an expert, just reading what you and John Quiggin have written here) that you haven’t made a good case. As JQ indicated, you seem to think “restrict” = “ban”. By that logic, my blood pressure medicine is banned because it requires a doctor’s prescription – yet millions of people use it. Suppose one doctor, or group of doctors, or even a whole nation, say Brazil, decides not to use that medicine – that is still not a “total, global ban”. Your one point which has not been contradicted is that Brazil decided to ban DDT totally, but you have not shown how that was the result of the international agreement, or of WHO. In short, from an outside point of view, you seem to be making a big deal out of very little in an unfair way. I write this in hopes that you are a reasonable person who can reassess your position when you, as we all do sometimes, go astray in your thinking.

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Brett Bellmore 08.25.14 at 7:15 pm

I invite the rest of the commentors here to decide if,

“Dengue fever is not transmittable through humans.”

is an accurate way to sumarize,

“You can get dengue virus infections from the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected when they bite infected humans, and later transmit infection to other people they bite. “

My own opinion is that Witt is more likely half that, than an actual liar, though.

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J Thomas 08.25.14 at 7:42 pm

Brett, while mosquitoes don’t fly really long distances with their own muscles, they do get carried pretty long distances by wind.

If they dry out too much they die in deserts.

Still, if you want to put a fence on the border to keep out dengue fever, it needs to be a mosquito-proof fence, that will stop mosquitoes no matter how high the wind takes them.

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Brett Bellmore 08.25.14 at 8:02 pm

J, I will readily grant that preventing human carriers of Dengue from entering the US is not a 100% effective way of keeping Dengue out of the US. Will you grant that neither is it a 0% effective way?

In any event, Dengue most certainly IS transmitted “through” humans.

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J Thomas 08.25.14 at 8:27 pm

I will readily grant that preventing human carriers of Dengue from entering the US is not a 100% effective way of keeping Dengue out of the US. Will you grant that neither is it a 0% effective way?

Agreed. If we quarantined everybody coming into the country for two weeks and then paid extra attention if they showed any disease symptoms within that time, that would catch most carriers.

I’ve read that 80% of infected humans show no symptoms at all, but there’s only about a 5 day window when they can infect mosquitoes. So if you can keep them away from mosquitoes for those 5 days, which ought to be somewhere within the first 2 weeks, then that will mostly stop it.

To be safe we should quarantine anybody crossing the border into the USA for any reason, including our own diplomats and soldiers.

This would help with a number of other diseases too.

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The Temporary Name 08.25.14 at 8:45 pm

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Brett Bellmore 08.25.14 at 9:28 pm

J, one could classify border crossers into different categories based on the likelihood they are to be disease carriers. If they are traveling from a region where a particular disease is essentially unknown, or already vaccinated for it, no quarantine would be needed.

But, of course, you can’t implement ANY sort of quarantine system, whether rationally designed, or designed to be obnoxiously inconvenient, if you have no control over who crosses your borders.

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J Thomas 08.25.14 at 9:41 pm

J, one could classify border crossers into different categories based on the likelihood they are to be disease carriers.

One could do that. It would not be safe, but one could do it.

If they are traveling from a region where a particular disease is essentially unknown, or already vaccinated for it, no quarantine would be needed.

There is an unstated assumption here, that only one disease is important. That’s wrong.

If we could reduce the number of international travelers to a more reasonable number, that would have good health effects in itself.

Also, if we set up internal barriers and internal passports and made it much more difficult for Americans to travel from one biome to another — and also made harder for mosquitoes and other arthropods to hitchhike with interstate commerce, that would help a lot more.

If we could cut the travel a lot we would have a fighting chance to eliminate various STDs in many of our areas. Then test anybody who comes in for all known STDs during the quarantine period, and we’d have a very good chance to stay clean.

I think you’re onto something here, Brett. Effective border control would help us a whole lot.

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J Thomas 08.25.14 at 9:51 pm

Is this one of these?

arthropods
commerce
STDs

To be safe we should quarantine anybody crossing the border into the USA for any reason, including our own diplomats and soldiers.

This would help with a number of other diseases too.

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J Thomas 08.25.14 at 9:52 pm

The moderated word was hltchhike.

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J Thomas 08.25.14 at 9:53 pm

J, one could classify border crossers into different categories based on the likelihood they are to be disease carriers.

One could do that. It would not be safe, but one could do it.

If they are traveling from a region where a particular disease is essentially unknown, or already vaccinated for it, no quarantine would be needed.

There is an unstated assumption here, that only one disease is important. That’s wrong.

If we could reduce the number of international travelers to a more reasonable number, that would have good health effects in itself.

Also, if we set up internal barriers and internal passports and made it much more difficult for Americans to travel from one biome to another — and also made harder for mosquitoes and other arthropods to sneak a ride with interstate commerce, that would help a lot more.

If we could cut the travel a lot we would have a fighting chance to eliminate various STDs in many of our areas. Then test anybody who comes in for all known STDs during the quarantine period, and we’d have a very good chance to stay clean.

I think you’re onto something here, Brett. Effective border control would help us a whole lot.

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MPAVictoria 08.25.14 at 10:22 pm

“I think you’re onto something here, Brett. Effective border control would help us a whole lot.”

Lyndsey Nagle: Do I detect a note of sarcasm?
Frink: *with sarcasm detector* Are you kidding me? This baby is right off the charts, mm-hai.
Comic Book Guy: A sarcasm detector, that’s a real useful invention.
*Sarcasm detector explodes*

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bobbyp 08.25.14 at 11:02 pm

Just think of all the terrible things we could stop if we just a universal “no travel” ban(not a namby-pamby restriction) on all travel everywhere to any place for any reason. Combined with an aggressive “stop & frisk” policy we may be able to utterly stamp out human misery. Why, I dare say we could, at long last, rid ourselves of the fetid stink of the charge of latent authoritarianism as we declaim in unison: “Extremism in the defense of Liberty is no vice!”

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Brett Bellmore 08.25.14 at 11:02 pm

“One could do that. It would not be safe, but one could do it.”

It would be “safe” for a wide range of values of “safe”. You seem to be denying the existence of diminishing returns here. Quarantining travelers from locales suffering from active outbreaks of Ebola? High return, number of people impacted relatively small. Quarantining travelers from nations with 1st world medicine and no current epidemics? Low return, number of people impacted relatively high.

But, of course, you can’t distinguish these categories when you don’t know who is entering.

I think what’s going on here, is that you don’t want border controls, and so will only consider border controls which are unreasonable, in an effort to pretend all border controls are unreasonable. Not a particularly effective rhetorical device, but it probably appears persuasive to you, because you’re already persuaded.

110

Layman 08.25.14 at 11:15 pm

“But, of course, you can’t distinguish these categories when you don’t know who is entering.”

Only crackpots believe the number of illegal immigrants each year is anything more than a fraction of the legal entrants. I’m not talking about legal immigrants, but entrants of any kind, e.g. Tourists, business travelers, etc, which constitute the vast majority of people putting us at risk of disease. In light of that, if medical screening is a good idea, it’s a good idea whether we screen the unknowns or not. Don’t you agree, Brett?

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Ronan(rf) 08.26.14 at 12:09 am

I think it’s worth pointing out who Brett B is channeling here

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/495182739310936064

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J Thomas 08.26.14 at 12:47 am

Quarantining travelers from locales suffering from active outbreaks of Ebola? High return, number of people impacted relatively small.

Ebola gets a lot of press because we don’t have much in the way of treatment and it kills people. It can take 3 weeks or more to show symptoms, if you want to quarantine for Ebola it had better be a month. You might do better to find a blood test or something, but it could take a week or two after infection before the test shows positive.

The point of quarantine is not Ebola. It’s everything. There could be deadly diseases nobody knows about yet that will spread fast in nations that we think of as safe advanced nations. But the fast travel means tremendous numbers of people can get exposed before anybody starts dying. It hasn’t happened yet so we aren’t too worried about it. AFTER we get a great big epidemic that maybe kills tens of millions or hundreds of millions of people, THEN we’ll think about ways to keep it from happening again.

Quarantining travelers from nations with 1st world medicine and no current epidemics? Low return, number of people impacted relatively high.

You don’t know about the return concerning rare events. If it blocks ONE rare mega-epidemic then it pays for itself just from that. But we have no way to estimate the odds of that because the first one hasn’t happened yet. AIDS turned out to be so wimpy that it hardly justified the big scare we had from it. (And it was so slow that a quarantine would not have helped much at all, except that by making travel slow and expensive we wouldn’t have had so many victims traveling widely and spreading it wherever they went.)

I think what’s going on here, is that you don’t want border controls, and so will only consider border controls which are unreasonable, in an effort to pretend all border controls are unreasonable.

Actually, no. We have created a culture that’s like a giant, well-stirred culture medium. People travel so fast throughout the USA and Canada that if we get infected with something like the old post-WWI deadly flu, it will spread much faster and more effectively than it did then. So we have people watching for viruses that are like that one, when there’s no particular reason to think the next one will be that similar.

It’s all theory so we aren’t actually going to prepare for it until after it’s happened. I know that. But I want to argue that we ought to prepare even though there’s no possibility that we will. Kind of like climate change, that way.

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Glen Tomkins 08.26.14 at 12:55 am

If you want a really effective means of keeping sick people out of this country, close all the airports and only let people in who can prove a high state of health by trekking across a desert and swimming a river.

Even people who start off in perfect health to cross the Sonoran Desert often don’t make it, whereas any sick white person can have his moribund self wheeled on and off an airliner. The undocumented route also has the advantage of a built-in quarantine period, as air flights only take hours, but trekking can take weeks. The other threat posed by those damned air travelers is that you can’t control where they’ve been. Those feckless rich white people are often known to gallivant off to places where they actually have Ebola, then jet back to Europe or Japan on their way to the US, whereas the folks trekking in across the Sonoran Desert can be relied on to have never been within a mile of a jet plane.

It’s a plague of those damn, fat, lazy, rich white air travelers that is going to be the death of this country. No travel in or out of this country except by two-week trek through a desert, that’s what we need to keep us safe in the purity of our bodily essences. That’s the sort of control over our borders that we need to prevent diseases getting in, and it has the advantage over the ridiculous idea that we can seal the Sonoran Desert, that we actually could close down all the airports.

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NMissC 08.26.14 at 2:55 pm

I have a theory: The anti-troll steps that Lawyers, Guns, and Money undertook have driven the trolls away there and caused a major trolling uptick here.

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Glen Tomkins 08.26.14 at 3:22 pm

Yes! LGM has control over its borders.

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dilbert dogbert 08.28.14 at 3:33 am

MMMMMM?
When do we get to the awfulness of the government regulation that banned lead in gasoline. That surely must be a vast overstepping of government powers. I want the freedom to burn TEL. Maybe the lack of lead in gasoline is the cause of Ebola???

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