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Anti-reality Purgatorial Time Loop

March 14, 2019

So where the hell was The Morning Heresy yesterday? Well, you see, I went down to the Maine State House to testify in a hearing on LD 798, a bill to end non-medical exemptions to vaccination requirements.

Little did I know that I would wind up trapped in eight hours of anti-vax insanity, a kind of anti-reality purgatorial time loop. I documented my experience in an 8-hour Twitter thread, aided by the live-tweeting of the proceedings by Jason Lemieux using the official CFI account.

Here are a few of my “highlights”:

  • Committee chair just said we can’t have any food or drink other than water but one of the Representatives totally has a bottle of orange soda. #letthemeatcake
  • First person to speak in opposition of 798 (doesn’t want to end non-medical exemptions), a representative with an alternative bill, was unable to pronounce the words “philosophical” or “medicinal,” which you can take as you will.
  • I mean literally unable. Could not force his face-parts to make the word sounds.
  • I am unable to hide my jaw-dropped expression as this is spoken in a legislative hearing. How do these people live with themselves?
  • You know maybe antivaxxers should all just set up their own compound where there are no diseases and no one ever gets sick because something-something toxins…call it Terminus.
  • Oh cool the Baptist pastor is here to tell us vaccines are bad. “I am a simpleminded man,” he literally said.
  • Current speaker described herself as a “naturopathic physician,” and I literally slapped my own face when she said it. Hers is a made-up credential, she might as well call herself a wizard. And here she is offering testimony against vaccines. Civilization is a failed experiment.
  • Antivax speaker just compared Amazon taking antivax propaganda off its platform to Kristallnacht. People here nodding in agreement. I need to get out of here.

And all that’s just a taste.

Julie Zauzmer at the Washington Post reports on CFI’s Translations Project, and talks to the translator-in-chief Jana Lenzova, who says:

If you get enough people to talk about these ideas, if you convince people it’s okay to think about religion, to criticize religion — if you get a critical mass of people, you can probably change something, change the situation in these countries. … It’s a bit ambitious, but maybe not impossible. I don’t mind what other people are, but I think they should have access to all the information so they can make up their own minds.

The AMA is urging the big tech platforms to do more to stop the spread of antivax propaganda:

With public health on the line and with social media serving as a leading source of information for the American people, we urge you to do your part to ensure that users have access to scientifically valid information on vaccinations, so they can make informed decisions about their families’ health. We also urge you to make public your plans to ensure that users have access to accurate, timely, scientifically sound information on vaccines.

In Rockland County, New York, site of a staggering outbreak of measles with 145 cases, antivax parents are suing to allow their kids back into public schools so they can make things worse. The county attorney responds with a variation on “hell no”:

[T]he right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose the community or the child to communicable disease or the latter to ill health or death. … These religious exemptions run the gamut from references to organized Christian doctrine to a generalized spirituality. As the case progresses, we expect several of the exemptions to be challenged as not evincing a sincere religious belief against vaccination.

Amazon removes books that promote “cures” for autism through pseudoscientific and often deadly means.

Another thing CFI doesn’t like about Trump’s budget request: a promise to let discriminatory faith-based adoption agencies go on discriminating with their blessing:

“The standard for adoption and placement in foster care has always been clear – the best interests of the child,” said Nick Little, CFI’s Vice President and Legal Director. “That should be what matters. Can the prospective parents provide a safe, loving, and welcoming home for a child? The Trump administration is here placing the beliefs of an agency above the needs of children. Religious or nonreligious, that should be acceptable to no one.”

Now available online is video of the New York TimesCarl Zimmer from CSICon 2018 talking about heredity and how we often misunderstand it.

California suspends the death penalty by order of Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The Pentagon begins enforcement of Trump’s transgender ban. The world is a terrible place.

According to PRRI data, a solid majority of Americans support nondiscrimination policies for LGBTQ Americans, and that includes slim majorities of the religious groups that are most hostile, white evangelicals (54 percent) and Jehovah’s Witnesses (53 percent).

Lauren Gill at The Appeal reports on how a Federal Bureau of Prisons official, John Caraway, used prisoners to do landscaping work at his church, for which prisoners were “worked to death” in the Texas heat and paid less than 4 bucks per day. In other words, this guy took prisoners of the federal government and used them as slaves for his church.

SNL‘s Pete Davidson did one of his only-vaguely-amusing-if-you’re-standards-aren’t-that-high bits on “Weekend Update,” and he made a joke about the Catholic Church, which, as you might have heard, has enabled the mass sexual abuse of countless children over untold generations. So of course, the Church thinks the real villain is Davidson, and whined about it. At “Ask the Atheist,” Jim Underdown says:

Their response to the skit is unfathomable chutzpah. The acme of self-delusion.

You know the old definition of chutzpah: A kid kills his parents and then asks the judge for mercy because he’s an orphan.

Speaking of which, George Pell is sentenced to six years in prison, which isn’t nearly enough.

George Will talks to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro about the Catholic Church’s sex abuse crisis and the sheer scale of the crimes:

Asked whether this might be, cumulatively, the worst crime in U.S. history, Shapiro says: perhaps, considering the power of the guilty institution, the scale and prolonged nature of the crime, and the “sophisticated criminal coverup.” He speaks of charging the guilty — when possible; many predatory priests have died, and statutes of limitations shield others — “the way you would typically charge the mob.”

Former priest and accused sexual predator John Capparelli is found shot dead in his home in what police are considering a homicide.

Two bishops in Baltimore are barred from “priestly duties” over sexual harassment claims. Seems to me that sexual harassment is among priestly duties, if precedent is any guide.

This is going to blow your mind. It turns out that alt-med laboratory tests carried out by alt-med advocates (you know, the ones that always show how great alt-med is) are full of crap!

A Hindu man in New Zealand, told he was buying lamb from Woolworths (I guess Woolworths is a grocery chain outside the U.S.??), winds up buying and consuming beef, and now wants the store to pay for him to travel to India for purification. reports:

“According to my religion, I have to go back to my country and do sacred things for four to six weeks, and be purified by priests, so I can continue on my religious path,” he told the website. “It’s a long process.”

At Skeptical Inquirer online, Annika Merkelbach interviews former “wellness” Instagrammer and current science communicator Pixie Turner, who says:

Pretty much every time I post anything, someone twists my words and accuses me of saying something I’m not. Certain topics elicit more anger than others though, like sugar or animal products or celery juice.

Tanya Basu at Daily Beast checks in with scientists and the reality-based community for their aghast reactions to Netflix’s decision to give Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop a show.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is clearly not that interested in being a part of the reality-based community, as he gleefully appears on antivax conspiracy theorist Ben Greenfield’s podcast, and tweets, “Appreciate all you do to simplify the mountain of research focused on increasing one’s healthspan! Grateful for you.” Hashtag barf.

Nancy Salzman, the “prefect” of the Albany-area cult Nxivm, pleads guilty to racketeering, while the cult leader/sexual predator Keith Raniere is charged for sexual abuse of underage girls.

Betsy DeVos to federally-funded private schools that want to use those funds to pay for religious organizations to provide educational services: Go right ahead, I won’t look.

AHOY Comics adopts the Jesus-as-superhero comic after it is nixed by DC Comics. So thanks to a savior, Second Coming gets a second coming.

Andrew Fraknoi, Astronomy Professor at the University of San Francisco and a Fellow of CF’s Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, wins the 2019 Space Educator: Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Space Club.

Tyrannosaurus rex probably had a big fluffy poof of feathers on its head, which I think makes it scarier, and its babies looked like toothy little ducklings.

Quote of the Day

Turns out this religious ritual will give you human T-cell leukemia virus type 1:

One ritual involves striking the forehead with a knife and then passing it along to other men. Another involves striking the back with a chain of blades or other bladed implement. One man said that when he did it, the blades being passed around were soaked in a bucket containing an over-the-counter antiseptic solution. But that is inadequate to prevent spread of HTLV-1.

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Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is.