Category: Culture

Why are scams more common on the Right than the Left?


Click to enlarge

Since the tea party burst onto the political landscape in 2009, the conservative movement has been plagued by an explosion of PACs that critics say exist mostly to pad the pockets of the consultants who run them….A POLITICO analysis of reports filed with the Federal Election Commission covering the 2014 cycle found that 33 PACs that court small donors with tea party-oriented email and direct-mail appeals raised $43 million — 74 percent of which came from small donors. The PACs spent only $3 million on ads and contributions to boost the long-shot candidates often touted in the appeals, compared to $39.5 million on operating expenses.

….[Democrats] have mostly avoided the problem, though they also benefit from the lack of tea party-style insurgency on their side. That could change if the 2016 Democratic presidential primary inflames deep ideological divisions within the party. But on the right, this industry appears only to be growing, according to conservatives who track it closely.

And this problem isn’t limited just to consultants who set up PACs to line their own pockets. Media Matters reports that right-wing outlets routinely tout—or rent their email lists to people touting—all manner of conspiracy theories and out-and-out frauds. Here’s an excerpt from Media Matters’ list:

Mike Huckabee sold out his fans to a quack doctor, conspiracy theorists, and financial fraudsters.
Subscribers to CNN analyst Newt Gingrich‘s email list have received supposed insider information about cancer “cures,” the Illuminati, “Obama’s ‘Secret Mistress,'” a “weird” Social Security “trick,” and Fort Knox being “empty.”
Five conservative outlets promoted a quack doc touting dubious Alzheimer’s disease cures.
Fox analyst Charles Payne was paid to push now worthless stocks.
Newsmax super PAC boondoggle.
Right-wing media helped “scam PACs” raise money from their readers.

…So here’s my question: why is this so much more common on the right than on the left? It would be nice to chalk it up to the superior intelligence of liberal audiences and call it a day, but that won’t wash. There’s just no evidence that liberals, in general, are either smarter or less susceptible to scams than conservatives.

One possibility is that a lot of this stuff is aimed at the elderly, and conservatives tend to skew older than liberals. And while that’s probably part of the answer, it’s hardly satisfying. There are plenty of elderly liberals, after all—certainly enough to make them worth targeting with the same kind of fraudulent appeals that infest the right.

Another possibility is that it’s basically a supply-side phenomenon. Maybe liberal outlets simply tend to be less ruthless, less willing to set up scam fundraising organizations than conservative outlets. In fact, that actually does seem to be the case. But again: why? Contrary to Vogel’s lead, this kind of thing has been a problem on the right for a long time. It definitely got worse when the tea party movement created a whole new pool of potential patsies, but it didn’t start in 2009. It’s been around for a while.

So then: why is this problem so much bigger on the right than on the left?…It’s got to be something institutional, or something inherent in the nature of American conservatism. But what?

Ken Vogel probably grew up in the age of solid-state communications – instead of vacuum tube-powered radios. He missed the generations of Americans who were told by radio preachers to “place your hands on the radio and feel the warmth of God reaching out to save you!”

Of course they were warm. You could burn yourself on those suckers if you reached inside the radio – or first couple generations of TV’s – and touched the tubes.

True Believers accept authority easier than any skeptic. While folks on the Left often get there because of skepticism learned from watching a corrupt establishment lie about damned near everything. The veneer of lies was more than evident in that classic Republican candidate debate when the moderator asked how many didn’t believe in evolution. A few – the preachers – threw their arms up right away. The rest dragged their arms up as they looked out at the audience of True Believers. They knew they had to join in or be rejected by the idjits.

And so it goes. Want to buy some underwear woven with copper wires to aid your virility?

Expensive placebos work better than cheap placebos — Gotcha!

For the most part, there is no difference — chemical or otherwise — between generic drugs and their more expensive, brand-name counterparts. But that doesn’t mean they can’t have varying effects, especially if their users are under the assumption that expensive drugs are more effective.

In a recent study, researchers found a patient’s perception or expectations of a drug (based on how much it costs) significantly affected the drug’s efficacy.

“Patients’ expectations play an important role in the effectiveness of their treatments, and the placebo effect has been well documented, especially in people with Parkinson’s disease,” explained lead study author Alberto J. Espay, a researcher at the University of Cincinnati who is currently serving as a fellow with the American Academy of Neurology.

“We wanted to see if the people’s perceptions of the cost of the drug they received would affect the placebo response,” Espay added.

To find out, Espay and his colleagues gave a group of study volunteers two shots of a placebo drug for Parkinson’s disease. Of course, the participants weren’t told it was a simple saline solution. Doctors told them that they were receiving two drugs, one shot and then the second after the first “wore off.”

Prior to the shots, doctors told the participants each drug had proven equally effective, but that one was significantly more expensive than the other — one costing $100 per dose and the other costing $1,500 per dose.

Despite being the exact same saline solution, the “expensive” placebo minimized hand shaking and improved motor skills among the Parkinson’s disease patients more effectively than did the “cheap” placebo.

After eventually revealing the ruse, researchers found the difference in efficacy was most pronounced among patients who admitted to expecting an improved result from the expensive version of the drug.

The brain is powerful drug — one that researchers hope to use to improve treatments.

If you casually note the number of miraculous cures popular through history – you shouldn’t be surprised at any of this. Both the placebo effect and the belief in “getting what you pay for” are demonstrably strong. Combined in a society rife with ignorance, the sophistry is destined to have some effect.

Homeless adults – mental illness and cognitive deficits

Nearly three-quarters of homeless adults with mental illness in Canada show evidence of cognitive deficits, such as difficulties with problem solving, learning and memory, new research has found…

“This points to an often unrecognized problem for the segment of Canada’s homeless population that suffers from mental illness,” said Dr. Vicky Stergiopoulos, chief of psychiatry at St. Michael’s Hospital and a scientist in its Centre for Research on Inner City Health.

These are the skills that people need to follow treatment or support recommendations, maintain housing stability or successfully complete day-to-day tasks.”

Each year up to 200,000 Canadians are homeless. The prevalence of mental illness among homeless individuals is much higher than the rest of the population, with more than 12 per cent suffering from severe mental illness, 11 per cent having mood disorders and close to 40 per cent reporting alcohol and drug addictions.

All of the participants in Dr. Stergiopoulos’ study experienced mental illness. About half met criteria for psychosis, major depressive disorder and alcohol or substance abuse, and nearly half had experienced traumatic brain injury…

“The data doesn’t help us to predict whether someone will have cognitive challenges, but it does show that if they experience homelessness and mental illness, it’s very likely,” said Dr. Stergiopoulos. “It adds to our understanding about why people may have difficulty accessing or keeping housing.”

Dr. Stergiopoulos noted the study is important for those who work directly with disadvantaged populations because it highlights that adaptations and improvements need to be made to treatment and support options. Lack of engagement is not necessarily because someone doesn’t want help, but may be because they don’t understand how to access or make use of it.

At least it sounds like our Northern Neighbors are trying. Perhaps Harper isn’t as callous as his role model Ronald Reagan.

Every Republican’s favorite Tin Jesus just about single-handed created the tidal wave of homeless, especially those with mental illness. His efforts to crush the US Public Health Service and hospital system put thousands of the mentally ill on our streets.

Pic of the Day


Ebola handshake going strong as Ebola cases decrease

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and Dr. Peter Graaff, the World Health Organization’s representative in Liberia, are among the first to publicly use the Ebola handshake. It’s a trend that’s catching on.

When this new form of salutation was introduced in disease-torn west Africa in October, it was considered yet another way to temper the Ebola epidemic. Today, bumping elbows, hitting arms and knocking shoes — each considered an Ebola handshake — is the new normal, especially among young men.

It’s not a trend that’s going away anytime soon. As the three hardest hit nations — Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea — cope with the aftermath of Ebola, some are considering new ways to institute safer health practices. In parts of hard-hit Sierra Leone, where some 3,000 have died from Ebola, the handshake is law…

The Ebola handshake has even spread beyond the borders of Africa. Earlier this month, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was seen using the Ebola handshake.

Maybe this will help us all out with the flu, as well.

Melinda Gates’ response to anti-vaccine fools is education, history

On the heels of the measles outbreak at Disneyland, Melinda Gates of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation took aim at the vaccine naysayers who make these types of disease outbreaks more likely.

“We take vaccines so for granted in the United States,” Gates told the Huffington Post in a prerecorded interview published on Thursday. “Women in the developing world know the power of [vaccines]. They will walk 10 kilometers in the heat with their child and line up to get a vaccine, because they have seen death. [Americans have] forgotten what measles deaths look like.”

She added, “I’d say to the people of the United States: we’re incredibly lucky to have that technology and we ought to take full advantage of it.”

In response to the Disneyland outbreak, pediatric infectious disease specialist James Cherry told the New York Times the outbreak was “100 percent connected” to the anti-vaccine movement. “It wouldn’t have happened otherwise — it wouldn’t have gone anywhere,” he said.

The key is what the scientific community calls herd or community immunity. If every American of age was vaccinated, measles wouldn’t spread much further even if foreign travelers came into the country with the disease — as appears to be the case with measles.

Vaccinated people essentially act as barriers to measles outbreaks, since the disease can’t pass through them and infect other people. The awful truth of the anti-vaccine movement is that it puts the most vulnerable populations at risk: infants under 12 months of age, who can’t get vaccinated and are more susceptible to infection, and the elderly, who have a higher risk of death if they contract these illnesses.

Between religious nutballs whose anti-science hangups are reinforced by some dude behind a pulpit talking about an invisible dude sitting on a cloud in the sky — and conservative nutballs who indulge hangups that lead to unconcern about someone else dying from a condition we all can prevent – anti-science spookiness runs riot. They haven’t a clue.

Like that woman Melinda Gates talks about in the developing world, I grew up in a time and place where vaccines for many childhood diseases didn’t exist. Every spring we looked around at school to see who died over winter. Measles, scarlet fever, mumps, diptheria – all took their toll. Then we had the summer and polio to look forward to.

No – it wasn’t Africa or Asia. It was a factory town in southern New England. A town like every other in the United States at the time. No one was spared.

So, Melinda Gates’ response to anti-vaccine fools is education, history. My response to that is similar to Dr. King’s response when he was asked if civil rights laws would help bigots to love him. I don’t care if idjits love me. I just want to stop them from killing me and my family.

Pic of the Day

The four intrepid mammals stand close together underneath a specially installed heat lamp at the West Midland Safari Park near Bewdley, outside Birmingham.

Staff at the facility installed the special lights after temperatures plummeted leaving the inquisitive animals feeling the chill.

However, it did not take long for the four meerkats to learn that the light was also providing warmth – as well as a good show for visitors to the park.

Guys – are you a Stehpinkler or a Sitzpinkler?

choices, choices

A German judge ruled a tenant can’t be held responsible for floor damage resulting from urinating while in the standing position.

Dusseldorf Judge Stefan Hank sided with the tenant, whose lawsuit said the landlord refused to return $2,100 of his $3,300 deposit, alleging the resident’s urine had damaged the marble floor around the toilet.

Hank said the arguments from the landlord and a “technical expert” who confirmed urine was responsible for the marble tile damage were “credible and understandable,” but not enough to sway his opinion.

“Despite the increasing domestication of men in this regard, urinating while standing up is still widespread,” the judge wrote in his ruling.

Hank said the landlord should have warned the tenant of the floor’s “sensitivity” to urine droplets…

There has been a growing movement in Germany to convert “Stehpinkler,” men who stand while urinating, into tidier “Sitzpinkler,” men who sit to pee. Opponents of the movement sometimes use “Sitzpinkler” as a derogatory term to insult a man’s masculinity.

Har!

Surprising complexity, insights into global effects of wood fuel burning

The harvesting of wood to meet the heating and cooking demands for billions of people worldwide has less of an impact on global forest loss and carbon dioxide emissions than previously believed, according to a new Yale-led study.

Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, a team of researchers, including Prof. Robert Bailis of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, concludes that only about 27 to 34 percent of wood fuel harvested worldwide would be considered “unsustainable.” According to the assessment, “sustainability” is based on whether or not annual harvesting exceeds incremental re-growth…

According to the authors, the findings point to the need for more nuanced, local-specific policies that address forest loss, climate change, and public health. They also suggest that existing carbon offset methodologies used to reduce carbon emissions likely overstate the CO2 emission reductions that can be achieved through the promotion of more efficient cookstove technologies.

The study identifies a set of “hotspots” where the majority of wood extraction exceeds sustainable yields. These hotspot regions — located mainly in South Asia and East Africa — support about 275 million people who are reliant on wood fuel.

However, in other regions, the authors say, much of the wood used for this traditional heating and cooking is actually the byproduct of deforestation driven by other factors, such as demand for agricultural land, which would have occurred anyway…

The results stand in contrast to a long-held assumption that the harvesting of wood fuels — which accounts for more than half of the wood harvested worldwide — is a major driver of deforestation and climate change…

Emissions from wood fuels account for about 1.9 to 2.3 percent of global emissions, the study says. The deployment of 100 million improved cookstoves could reduce this by 11 to 17 percent, said Bailis, who also studies the factors that influence the adoption of cleaner cookstoves in developing nations…

“We need to be able to understand where these different components of non-renewability are coming from in order to get a better sense of the positive impacts of putting stoves into peoples’ homes or promoting transitions to cooking with gas or electricity,” he said.

Economics rules. IMHO The first reason to choose wood-burning for fuel is cost. There is none. Yes, there is the cost of labor-time; but, the discussion covers a majority of rural families who are self-sustaining farmers…with little or no cash income.

Cost factors of electricity, natural gas, butagaz, etc. aren’t part of the equation. These folks generally can’t budget to buy fuel. Income-generation from local/regional small-scale manufacturing or more efficient, more productive methods of agriculture offering surplus to sell can remedy that core problem.

A really big poll about Progressive Proposals

After 1,000,000 votes were cast in the Big Ideas Project, the Progressive Change Institute ran a national poll to see whether these ideas are popular with voters.

The short answer? Yes, they are!


Click to enlarge [really big .pdf]

583 (38.9%) of those interviewed identified themselves as Democrats, 382 (25.5%) as Independents, and 507 (33.8%) as Republicans.

Voters were asked to rate proposals on a scale of zero to ten where zero means they strongly oppose the idea and ten means strong support for the idea and a desire to see it become law. Zero to four represents opposition for a proposal. Five is neutral. Six to ten is supportive.

I love that the reality of modern communications snuck in and 25% of interviews were conducted via cell phoned.