Michele Bachmann: Pushing the Envelope of Stupid and Scary

Michele Bachmann is a congresswoman from Minnesota who is running for President. She’s one of the favorites of the Tea Party and has been a darling of the conservative press.

She’s also either crazy or stupid (or both). During the debate on the debt limit in July and August she promised to vote against raising the debt limit. She claimed this was the only way to reign in government spending. What she didn’t say was that voting against raising the dept limit wasn’t cutting up the government credit card, it was cutting up the statement after using the card. Fortunately she wasn’t successful.

On Monday night, September 12th, she was participating in a debate with others seeking the Republican nomination and disagreed with Texas Governor Rick Perry over the HPV or Human Papillomavirus. In 2007 Governor Perry signed an executive order mandating the HPV vaccine for 6th grade girls (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the vaccine for 11 and 12 year old girls) but also provided parents with the opportunity to opt out. The vaccine is critical in preventing cervical cancer, but many oppose it because one of the risk factors of cervical cancer is sexual activity. The opposition fears that by giving this vaccine to girls, it is tacitly giving them permission to be sexually active as teens and young adults. I can’t imagine an 11 year old getting the vaccine and viewing it as a green light to be sexually irresponsible, but that’s their argument. In any case Perry’s decision was one of the few I agree with.

In the debate Bachmann argued against the vaccine and hinted darkly that Perry signed it in return for a campaign contribution from its manufacturer, Merck. Interesting that she didn’t also tell the audience that while she was in the state legislature in Minnesota she voted for mandatory Hepatitis B vaccine, which is also often caused by sexual activity.

OK, so far this is just ordinary politics. Unfortunately Michele couldn’t leave it alone. The next day on the Today Show she claimed that she spoke with a mother in Tampa Bay who claimed the vaccine caused her daughter to become mentally retarded. Of course, we’ve not heard from the mother since.

This is where Michele becomes more than just an annoyance: this is where she become dangerous. I don’t blame her for wanting to be President or for criticizing one of her opponents, but she goes too far when she scares people needlessly. It’s hard enough being an 11 year old girl, and it’s hard enough to be a parent who hopes his or her daughter will be sexually responsible and safe. Parents have to make decisions that will balance their trust and fear and it’s hard enough without added pressure. When Michele Bachmann falsely claims that this vaccine will harm your daughter, it makes a bad situation worse.

Simply put, she’s wrong. She’s giving bad information to a vulnerable audience in the hopes that they will vote for her out of fear. It won’t work (there’s not a chance she will be our next President) but it may cause parents to make bad decisions out of the fear that she perpetrates. I wrote an earlier post on the people who spread lies about vaccines in the hopes that they will benefit. This is just another chapter in that story.

Shame on you Michele Bachmann.

And Now We Have Two (Cats)

Scully In a previous post I talked about the frustration with dealing with the local Department of Animal Services.

As you can see from the picture, it did have a happy ending. I returned on Thursday, September 1st and was actually able to take him home. Now I can be fully honest. When I went to pick him up and they told me he had to be neutered, they also told me that they would have to test him for feline leukemia. If he came back positive I could “pick another cat.” In other words, they would euthanize him. It wasn’t a great ride home.

When I brought him home we had to come up with a name. When Craig and Alison found him they suggested “Slugger” since he was found on a baseball field. Nancy at first suggested “Patches” due to his coat but I found that too common. My suggestion was “TrouvĂ©” which is French for “Found” but Nancy thought that was too obscure. We liked the idea of a baseball theme, and Nancy suggested “Scully” after now famous Los Angeles Dodgers announcer Vin Scully.

Scully came to us with a large measure of enthusiasm and purring, but also with an upper respiratory infection (ie, a cold). A kitten who sneezes constantly is always a cause for concern, but our veterinarian (Dr. John Hetzler) at Ark Animal Hospital believes it will take care of itself in a matter of days. It’s getting better, but still hard to take at 2AM.

You may ask how Scully is relating to our other cat, Missy. It hasn’t been the easiest of introductions but it seems to be working. Missy is playing the role of the older sister who is not happy about having a little brother, but she’s coping. They may end up as pals, but for the time being Missy is giving Scully a wide berth.

More later.

Reflections on The Day, 10 Years Later

Like Pearl Harbor and President Kennedy’s assassination, my generation will ask: “Where were you on 9/11?” I’ve been thinking about that day, and the last 10 years, for some time now.

The morning of the attack Nancy and I were getting ready for work. My parents were visiting from Virginia, and they were staying with us at the house we had purchased 5 months earlier. They were scheduled to fly home on September 12th. Needless to say they didn’t get home until that following Sunday.

I was still working for Vitas Hospice and that Tuesday morning I had to go into the office for a meeting. During the meeting (on the 9th floor of a building in Mission Valley) I noticed that one of my co workers kept steeling glances out the window. I guess we were all wondering if the attacks were really over.

I found many of my patients wanted to talk about Pearl Harbor because they were feeling many of the same things: what does this mean? What will happen next? What do we do now? In both cases we knew that this was the beginning of a long conflict, but in 1941 we at least knew who we were fighting against. When Franklin Roosevelt spoke to Congress the next day, it was clear: we were attacked by the nation of Japan and President Roosevelt asked for (and received) a declaration of war, in accordance of Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution.

On 9/11 we knew pretty quickly that we were attacked not by a nation but by a terrorist organization (Al Qaeda) under the leadership of one person (Osama bin Laden). We were also learning that Al Qaeda was located primarily in Afghanistan under the protection of a group called the Taliban. Afghanistan was in the middle of a civil war, but the Taliban controlled most of the country by 2001. We had known about all these groups going back to the Clinton administration. The Taliban were known as an Islamic organization that read the Qu’ran (Koran) in such a way as to subjugate and virtually enslave women. Worldwide human rights organizations had been publicizing these events for a while, but while they were committing these crimes in Afghanistan, they posed no immediate harm to the United States.

The Bush administration had a fundamental choice to make: do we treat this as an act of war and ask for a declaration of war against Afghanistan, or do we treat this like a crime and seek out and arrest those individuals responsible for this act. At the time I believed there was a good case to be made for a declaration of war. Our government demanded that the nation of Afghanistan immediate hand over Osama bin Laden and anyone else associated with the attacks, and they refused. I believed then, and believe now, that we could have reasonably declared war on Afghanistan.

But I also believed (and believe more strongly now) that this was better pursued as a criminal case. This is grist for another day, but our intelligence services had mounds of information on Al Qaeda and bin Laden, but they didn’t share this information with each other and there was nobody to put together the pieces to have prevented this. As a matter of fact, the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing predicted the attacks.

Given the intelligence we already had, I believe we could have found and prosecuted bin Laden within the next few months. But I believe the Bush administration committed a series of errors that historians of the next generations will find hard to imagine.

First, to the question of which direction, they choose neither. A declaration of war meant that anyone captured had to be classified as a prisoner of war and have the protections of the Geneva Convention. A criminal case meant that anyone arrested would have the protection of civil law.

Clearly the Bush administration did not want to be constrained by either and so they invented their own path. This allowed them to come up with terms such as “enemy combatant” and “extraordinary rendition.” It also allowed us to arrest anyone, anywhere in the world, take him to Guantanamo, Cuba and hold him there indefinitely with no access to justice. At least at the beginning they were held with no access to council, their own government, or any idea what would happen to them. Many of them are still there.

Unlike President Bush, I have enough faith in our justice system to believe that we could have brought them to trial here. My best example of this is the case of Timothy McVeigh. I don’t think anyone can reasonably argue that he didn’t have a spirited defense, or that justice was not served.

Now, 10 years later, I will give credit: Al Qaeda is greatly reduced and isn’t the threat it was. Osama bin Laden is dead, and most of its leadership is captured and unable to cause any more terror.

But we are still at war in two different countries: Iraq and Afghanistan. Again this is grist for another article, but I believe another mistake of the Bush administration is to focus not on Afghanistan, but on Iraq. Nobody seriously believes that Saddam Huessin had anything to do with 9/11, yet we invaded his country in 2003, dismantled the government, destroyed much of the infrastructure, killed thousands of civilians, and are still trying to get out.

And perhaps most troubling to me is the damage done to our reputation, and to our Constitution. President Bush claimed that they attacked us because we love freedom (they actually attacked us because of the presence of our troops in Arab countries and our support of Israel, but let’s not quibble). But what does this say about freedom when we hold people indefinitely and make up terms like “enemy combatant” for the express purpose of not having to deal reasonably with them?

I’m not sure if I’ll write on the 20th anniversary, but I hope we’ve restored much of what we’ve lost.