In general, it is not a good idea to panic about anything. The panic itself often causes more harm than the original threat.
Crisis situations, real or contrived, lead to new intrusive laws that the public would never accept otherwise. We supposedly cherish freedom, but if we believe that the world will end if we don’t act NOW, then we may clamor for the government to save us. Cynical politicians bent on increasing their power never let a crisis go to waste.
Something like the Green New Deal—the end of our comfortable, prosperous lifestyle—takes a truly apocalyptic threat. But to eliminate our freedom to decline a medical treatment, the threat that “millions will die” of measles is evidently enough. Or if not millions (most older people had measles and recovered fully), a few especially vulnerable children, who can’t be vaccinated themselves, might catch measles and die.
There are several hundred cases of measles nationwide, more than in 2014, and bills are being pushed through state legislatures to eliminate all but very narrow exemptions to the 60 shots now mandated for school attendance.
In New York City, people are receiving summonses based on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s emergency order. Everybody, adult or child, who lives in four ZIP code areas must get an MMR shot or prove immunity, or face the prospect of a $1,000 fine ($2,000 if you don’t appear as ordered). Your religious exemption is overridden. The threat of 6 months in prison and the prospect of forcible vaccination were removed before a hearing on a lawsuit brought by five mothers. The judge dismissed the case.
Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot said that the purpose of the fines is not to punish but to encourage more people to proclaim the message that vaccines are safe and effective. Get it? If you say something to avoid a fine, that makes it true.
It’s about the need for herd immunity, they say. We need a 95 percent vaccination rate for herd immunity to measles. With only 91 percent or so we are having outbreaks! If we could just vaccinate another 4 or 5 percent!
Mayor De Blasio has a point about vaccinating everyone. Adults are getting measles because their shots have worn off. It is likely that we have survived for decades with a large part of the adult population vaccinated—but not immune. So where do the mandates stop?
Outbreaks have occurred in populations with a near-100 percent vaccination rate. Was it vaccine failure? Or was the vaccine not refrigerated properly? Or was a claimed outbreak real? One in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was called off when a special test, a reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) showed a vaccine-strain measles virus rather than a wild-strain measles virus. Some 5 percent of vaccinees may get an illness that looks like measles, but it is just a “vaccine reaction.” Can they shed live virus? Yes. Should you keep your immunocompromised child away from recently vaccinated people? Just asking.
Like all medical treatments, vaccines are neither 100 percent effective, nor 100 percent safe. Read the FDA-required, FDA-approved package inserts. Arizona defeated a law that would have required making these available to parents in obtaining informed consent. (You can get them on the internet.) Vaccine Court has paid out about $4 billion in damages—recently for two children with severe brain damage from encephalopathy (that’s brain inflammation) after a fight lasting about 15 years. Just incidentally, they had an autism diagnosis also. Parents bring their severely injured children to hearings. You won’t see these children on tv, only pictures of babies with measles. No “fear-mongering” allowed about “rare,” possibly coincidental problems from vaccines.
There are trade-offs with vaccines: risks and benefits. But in the panic about measles, the right to give or withhold informed consent—fundamental in medical ethics as well as U.S. and international law—is being sacrificed. And so is free speech. The AMA wants to censor “anti-vaccine” information on social media. I happened on a factual article by investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson, but was not able to retweet it because it had been removed.
The threat of infectious diseases is real and increasing. We need more robust public health measures, better vaccines, and improved public knowledge and awareness. Deploying vaccine police and shutting down debate will erode trust in health authorities and physicians, although more people may get their shots. But such heavy-handed measures will not defeat the enemy—measles and worse diseases.
Jane M. Orient, M.D. obtained her undergraduate degrees in chemistry and mathematics from the University of Arizona in Tucson, and her M.D. from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1974. Her views and opinions, if expressed, are her own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GCN. Her column can often be found at www.pennypressnv.com. Her column has been reprinted in full, with permission.
It sounds as if the famous counter culture alternative weekly has finally gone the way of the Dodo. After 62 years in print and one final year online only, the Village Voice has ceased the publication of new stories. Village Voice owner, Peter Barbey released a statement basically saying he couldn’t keep the publication in business due to harsh economic realities.
Most of the staff is going to be (or perhaps already has been) laid off with only a skeleton crew remaining behind to work on a digital archive of past stories.
This story is nothing new. The Village Voice joins a long list of familiar names that have abandoned print in favor of online only content - Jet, Computerworld, Vibe (who now prints only quarterly, I believe), Electronic Gaming Monthly (which has come and gone in print for the last decade and is currently gone). But that doesn’t mean they won’t be back.
About the only chance the Voice has is if it’s sold to a larger conglomerate that can eat up a bit of a loss to get it (print or online) back in shape. To outsiders (as in, those living outside NY) the Voice probably always seemed like a gossip rag but New Yorkers loved it and viewed it more as news that affected New Yorkers and a local info source for all sorts of counter culture shows, venues and art. I lived in NY for several years and let me tell you, that mag was revered in coffee shops around the five boroughs.
But the closing was to be expected, especially if you know anything about NYC (and / or currently live there). “Counter culture,” and I use that phrase in the common sense attachment of the word, has become more mainstream. Hot Topic flourishes in malls around the country sitting pretty next to a Footlocker or a Gap, while most brick and mortar alternative retail locations have faded (though I note that Trash and Vaudeville is still going strong on 7th street!). Even NY’s most famous alternative 24 hour restaurant, The Yaffa Cafe closed down a few years ago. (Which made me sad - I adored late nights at the Yaffa Cafe).
And so it comes as no surprise to me that the mainstay alternative press in NYC has finally closed down as well. And so after more than 60 years in publication the Village Voice is no more. Perhaps, a miracle buyer will resurrect the beloved alternative press but … I won’t hold my breath.
All good things...
Multiple sources are reporting that Louis CK made a surprise appearance at the Comedy Cellar in New York City on Sunday night. You may or may not know that at the height of his career Louis CK was accused of sexual harassment by multiple women. He sidestepped and denied the allegations for many years, finally telling the NY Times in 2017 interview:
“I’m not going to answer to that stuff, because they’re rumors. If you actually participate in a rumor, you make it bigger and you make it real … (CK then was asked, “So they’re not real?”) … They’re rumors, that’s all that is.”
Well, CK denied the “rumors” for years. Until too many women came forward and then he admitted that “These stories are true.” He was immediately fired from multiple shows, lost deals and had his recent film, “I Love You, Daddy” pulled from distribution. A film he wrote, directed, produced and starred in. The film also starred Chloe Grace Moretz and John Malkovich. The unreleased film is about an aging filmmaker (Malkovich) with an appalling sexual misconduct past and his new relationship with seventeen year old Moretz who happens to be Louis CK’s daughter. It’s unreleased but folks have still seen it. I mean, hell - I’ve seen it. And to be honest - it was okay. It’s even been nominated for awards! True story - the Alliance of Women Film Journalists gave it nominations and an award - winner of the Most Egregious Age Difference Between The Lead and The Love Interest Award and nominee for the Hall of Shame Award!
Way to go Louis! =)
Anyway. You can imagine the shit storm of negative social media and press Louis CK was going to get when he made a walk on surprise appearance. Keep in mind that Louis CK often did walk on performance in the past to the sold out room (115) of the Comedy Cellar. It’s just that this was the first one since the allegations broke almost one year ago.
Apparently, audience reaction was fairly positive. His fellow comedians performing that evening said it was “classic Louis” and “quite good.” Cellar owner, Noam Dworman verified that he received one complaint email but also, several supportive emails. So, it sounds as if the walk on show - was fine.
But for the most part celebrity reactions have been uniformly disgusted. Comedian Kathy Griffin tweeted: “You know how many talented women and POC comics are knocking on doors trying to get some time in front of audiences or powerful people in this business? And Louis just gets to glide back in on his own terms? Gosh, does it payoff to be in the boys club..the white boys club.”
Top Chef host, Padma Lakshmi tweeted: “Not falling for this Louis CK "triumphant return" narrative after years of him humiliating women who worked for & with him.”
I would even go so far as to say the vast majority of coverage of Louis’s surprise set was negative. Very, very outraged and negative.
But Louis was not without his supporters. A few fellow (male) comedians voiced approval. Marlon Wayans said, “It’s nice to see Louis out of comedy jail.” SNL actor and Emmy host Michael Che had a lot more to say.
He mocked the twitter outrage with, "'OMG! Can you believe that guy went on with his life?! (Yes, I can.)”
But Che’s main point was that the outrage was more about fame obsession gone wrong. Che wrote:
"What’s interesting to me about these articles against Louis CK performing again, is how important fame is to people. A lot of what I read says that CK shouldn’t get to be a ‘famous’ comedian anymore. Because to them, he’s still winning. Isn’t that strange? Meaning he can be shamed, humiliated, lose millions of dollars, lose all of his projects, lose the respect of a lot of his fans and peers, and whatever else that comes with what he did. But since he can still do a comedy set for free at a 200 seat club a year later, it means he got off easy. THAT’s how coveted fame is. Just because it looks to you like someone is 'getting off easy' cause they still have the perks you would kill to have, doesn’t make it so."
Okay. Maybe. Those are some fair points that I hadn’t considered.
I would push back though, that Che doesn’t seem to mention the shame, humiliation, loss of $$$ and loss of projects that all of the women suffered due to CK’s actions, the subsequent cover up and the strong arm harassment tactics to get the women to just shut up. A lot of them left comedy because of it. How are we to value their loss of $$$ and loss of careers. How do we offer them their “comeback?” Is that even a thing? Are you allowed a comeback for something you dropped ten years ago due to harassment against you? I mean, you might not even be good at it any longer - because you haven’t done it in ten years! So, what should we allow your “come back” to be? A check? How much should it be worth? Should it be based on the overall value of what you lost? How do we calculate that? Is your only “payment” from this ordeal that Louis CK no longer gets to work in comedy? Is that fair for all parties involved?
I mean, you can be cynical and say that had the women not been subjected to sexual misconduct and harassment - maybe they still wouldn’t have had “what it takes” to become a famous comedian. Okay. Well, what if some of them did have “what it takes.” Maybe one of them had the potential to become the next Tiffany Haddish (only the greatest female comic working today!).
Oh, man. That hurts my soul a bit. To think that a comedy powerhouse like Tiffany Haddish could have been lost to us because of sexual misconduct and harassment. That could have happened. And maybe it did.
Look, maybe Louis just “tried it out” to see what the reaction would be. And now that he sees the overwhelming negative praise, he won’t try it again. Or at least not for a long time.
Maybe he’s working out new material and planning a big come back and doesn’t care if social media is angry. We have no idea what Louis CK is thinking or if he has done anything (or nothing) to right some of his wrongs.
But something tells me - we’re about to find out.
At least eight people have been killed in a terrorist attack in New York City. Alleged terrorist, Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipovd, a 29 year old Uzbek-American, drove a rented Home Depot van onto a pedestrian sidewalk and drove for several blocks hitting dozens. Sayfullo then T-boned the van into a school bus. After the collision, Sayfullo exited the van with a pellet gun in one hand and a paintball gun in the other. He was shortly thereafter shot and captured by NYC police. He remains in custody.
Multiple sources report Sayfullo left a handwritten note at the scene of the crime, written in Arabic, detailing his support of ISIS.
Terrorists attacks by vehicle are becoming more common. In 2010, Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch published an article called, “The Ultimate Mowing Machine” and told readers to use trucks to "mow down" the enemies of Allah.
In 2014 ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammed al Adnani said:
“If you can kill a disbelieving American or European – especially the spiteful and filthy French – or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way, however it may be … If you are not able to find an IED or a bullet, then single out the disbelieving American, Frenchmen are any of their allies. Smash his head with rock, or slaughter him with a knife or run over him with your car (emphasis mine) or throw him down from a high place or poison him.”
Up to and including the October 31st NYC attack, there have been almost a dozen instances of radicalized Islamic extremists using trucks or vehicles to commit terror attacks. Most of these instances involve a Lone Wolf attack and while it's true that Lone Wolf attacks are extremely difficult to predict and prevent, they can be diminished.
In Daniel Byman's “Can Lone Wolves Be Stopped?” for Lawfare (online), he writes:
“One of the most important measures involves keeping Lone Wolves lonely: the less they can interact with potential co-conspirators, and in particular with dangerous groups that give them direction and training, the less dangerous they will be. Intelligence gathering and arrests of suspected cell leaders and targeting terrorist command and control via drone strikes is thus vital.
The Islamic State’s heavy reliance on social media to publicize its message and share information with recruits is a vulnerability as well as a benefit for the group. U.S. intelligence should continue to exploit social media to identify potential group members and to disrupt their activities. Such monitoring is particularly important when seeking to identify potential Lone Wolves or those with no direct international connection, as they may be encouraged by online operatives or post their intentions online as a form of bragging and belonging.”
Byman is a foreign policy editor and professor at Georgetown U. School of Foreign Service.
Note: This is a continually developing story and will be updated as further information arises.